There was a time when Alex Summers couldn’t conceive of a situation where he’d ever use his mutant ability against another living being. But that was before. Before he took the codename Havok - and fought at his brother’s side as an X-Man. Before he was asked to lead X-Factor - the mutant activist group formed under the auspices of the United States Government. Before Genosha - a small isle nation whose infrastructure was forged through the oppression of mutates. As evident by the zeal with which Havok battles these Genoshan magistrates - it is clear that some things change. And some don’t.
In the catacombs beneath Genosha, Alex unleashes a blast of energy at the magistrates who approach him in small hover-craft. ‘Repat: You are in an unauthorized zone!’ one of the magistrates calls out. Wearing a bio-hazard suit, Alex exclaims ‘Blame it on my American up-bringing - but I don’t recognize Genoshan authority…or any other authority which tramples the civil rights of an individual!’. One of the magistrates fires something from their hovercraft, something which wraps itself around Alex.
‘Maybe you recognize the psionic web that prevents you from using your power, mutant? You used it more than once when you were a magistrate yourself!’ the magistrate reminds Alex. ‘Tell me, Summers, did you ever think then that you’d wind up on the other end of a neutron cannon…prepared to die in the sewers beneath Genosha?’ the magistrate asks as the hovercraft extends arm-like appendages which grab hold of Alex. ‘Actually, no’ Havok replies. ‘But then, I failed creative writing in college, too - so what do I know?’ he jokes, when suddenly, something - or someone - bursts up from the mucky water, and crashes in to the magistrate’s hovercraft, freeing Alex from their hold and knocking the magistrates into the water.
‘Ooooo - wait till I tell the rest of the team!’ a voice exclaims. ‘Guido? Is that you?’ Alex asks. ‘Ya was expecting Mighty Mouse?’ comes the reply. ‘Give me just a minute to slip into something more comfortable’ Guido Carosella a.k.a. Strong Guy remarks as the muck pours off him, while Alex asks his teammate how he knew where to find him. Strong Guy smiles as he explains that the walls are made of some kind of polymer, a black tar, only cooler. ‘I was looking for the escaped mutate as per your orders - and I heard the hoopla and decided to scope things out’ Guido explains. Grinning as he asks ‘Am I wonderful or what?’. ‘What’ Alex replies. ‘I said, “Am I wonderful or -” oh. I get it. Y’know, Al - you shouldn’t try and make jokes…you’re liable to sprain something’ Guido mutters.
‘Not to seem like a professional or anything…but can we talk about Mutate 24601?’ Alex exclaims. ‘We’re all looking for the poor guy. Just can’t seem to find him anywhere’ Guido replies. ‘Neither have I, Alex - but I may have done the next best thing’ the voice of Lorna “Polaris” Dane announces over the inter-comm system on the armor. Havok tells Lorna that he is picking up her signal, and asks where she is. ‘According to the map, I am here!’ Polaris replies. ‘What map?’ Alex asks.
At her location, Polaris tells Alex that, as near as she can tell, she has stumbled across sanitation central, which must be some sort of scanning system designed to keep tabs on sanitation workers when they are down in the tunnels. Lorna declares that the good news is, the scanner-map identifies them, in a charming sort of way, with “X’s” for X-Factor, “M’s” for magistrates, and even Mutate 24601 gets his own individual label. ‘Or at least as any being with a number for a name can be considered “individual”.’ Polaris adds. Alex tells Polaris that she is rambling, and asks her what the bad news is. ‘You decide, Alex. Wolfsbane’s about to meet up with a trio of magistrates. So does that make it bad news for Rahne…? Or for them…?’
Near the location of Rahne “Wolfsbane” Sinclair, the trio of magistrates trudge through the sewer. ‘What does it matter if he is a mutate?’ one of them asks. ‘X-Factor knows he might be contagious. Instead of fighting us for him - they should be helping us terminate 24601 before he can infect anyone else!’. One of the other magistrates mutters that he thinks it was a mistake to even let them into Genosha. ‘Not here ten minutes and they’re causing trouble! Far as I’m concerned, the only god mutant is -’ he adds, before his colleague interrupts: ‘My point exactly…give a mutie a mind of his own and he’s dangerous!’.
The third magistrate tells his colleagues to can the chatter, and declares that mutants or not, X-Factor should not be underestimated. At that moment something - or someone - beneath the water lurches towards the magistrates. ‘You watch, at the rate they’re going, they’ll have the vote before the turn of -’ he exclaims, before gasping and declaring that something has got his leg. ‘Acch - and a very angry “something” at that’ a red-eyed Rahne “Wofsbane” Sinclair thinks to herself, before lunging from the water, knocking the other two magistrates aside.
‘Do not go falling down on me all at once, sirs!’ Rahne exclaims. ‘I was looking forward to watching ye squirm and suffer before I pry ye out of yuir custom-made tin cans!’. The magistrate held by Wolfsbane exclaims ‘You wouldn’t…would you?’, pointing out that if she punctures their suits, they might be exposed to the same disease which is killing the mutates. ‘You wouldn’t do that…would you?’ he asks. ‘Hmmm…let me think’ Rahne replies. ‘Yuir country is responsible for taking away muh mind…forcing me to stay in canine form…and bonding muh every thought and desire to Havok! Actually, I think exposing ye to the possibility of certain death…is the very least I can do!’ Rahne declares, before asking the other two magistrates where they are running off to. ‘Um…to get help?’ one of them mutters.
Nearby, Havok and Strong Guy are making their way to Wolfsbane’s location, and hear strange noises. ‘What do you make of that?’ Guido asks Alex, who replies that it is obvious Wolfsbane is outnumbered. ‘Let’s hope she can holdout until we’ve rounded this corner!’ Alex adds - but as they arrive on scene, Guido asks ‘What do you make of that?’, to which Alex replies that it is obvious Wolfsbane is doing fine without them. ‘Run away! ‘Outta here!’ the magistrates shout as they rush past Alex and Strong Guy, knocking Strong Guy over. ‘I’d say that was a fair assessment’ Guido remarks, while Alex calls out to the magistrates, asking them what they have done with Wolfsbane.
‘You’re kidding, right?’ one of the magistrates replies. ‘You’re kidding, right?’ Guido jokes, to which Alex angrily tells him that just for today, for five minutes tops, he would consider it a personal favor if he would forgo his trademark snide comments and “wit”. Suddenly, there is a massive growl, and Wolfsbane lunges at Havok, knocking him over as he tells her to calm down. Rahne just growls again. ‘That’s telling her!’ Guido jokes, while Rahne crouches on Alex and hisses and growls at him some more.
‘Rahne. Listen to me…it’s Alex. Al-ex Sum-mers. Your friend…Al-ex!’ Havok exclaims, telling Rahne that he wants her to calm down. ‘Your friend Alex wants to you calm down’ he adds. Rahne tells Alex that it would help if he stopped talking down to her. ‘I’m not Feral, ye know’ Rahne adds, referring to the X-Force member. ‘Losing muh mind the more canine I become. If ye be wanting me to mellow out…ye only need to ask’ Rahne tells him, shifting back to her more human-like form.
‘This mean you’ll program my VCR when we get home?’ Guido jokes, to which Havok tells him to shut up. ‘And while you’re doing that - run on ahead an have Lorna direct you to Madrox. Rahne and I have something we need to discuss’ Alex exclaims. Rahne looks anxious, before Guido runs off, wondering why it is no one ever feels they can have a serious conversation with him around. ‘Because no one can have a serious conversation with you around!’ Havok calls out after him. ‘That explains it’ Guido mutters.
Meanwhile, some ten miles away, at Genosha International Airport. Pietro “Quicksilver” Maximoff sits at a bar, several empty bottles of liquor in front of him, he drunkenly asks the bar tender for another drink - but as he hands his shot glass over the counter, a hand reaches out from behind and takes it from him: ‘I think you’ve had more than enough, Pietro’ a voice exclaims. ‘“When you can snatch the shot glass from my hand, grasshopper…it will be time for me to leave”!’ Quicksilver semi-jokes. Dr Valerie Cooper reveals herself to Quicksilver and tells him that it already is time to leave, adding that she heard him slurring his words when she came in. ‘You said “your shelf” instead of “your self”!’ Valerie tells him. ‘I meant “shelf”!’ Pietro explains.
Pietro then declares ’With my accelerated metabolism, do you have any idea how much alcohol I have to consume in order to get this drunk?’ An odd expression falls over Valerie as she remarks ‘I take it things didn’t go very well during your “love getaway” with Crystal?’‘And I take it it’s none of your business!’ Quicksilver exclaims, telling the glamorous Valerie that just because she is X-Factor’s Government Liaison, and responsible for the team’s mental and physical welfare, it doesn’t mean…. Where was !?’ Pietro asks, losing his train of thought.
‘Alone’ Valerie tells him, putting a hand on Quicksilver’s back. ‘Vulnerable. You were at the point in the conversation where I tell you that there are some things in life destined not to work out’. ‘”Some things” do not include my wife and daughter!’ Quicksilver shouts, leaping up from the bar stool, he knocks several bottles to the ground. Quicksilver tells Valerie that the two have known each other long enough now to know what his life was like before he became a husband and a father. He declares that he spent the first half of his life protecting his sister Wanda from a world that feared and hated them - and was admittedly unprepared when Wanda found happiness with the synthetic Avenger called the Vision.
Quicksilver continues, telling Valerie that he finally allowed himself a love for the first time in his life when he met Crystal - the most self-assured person he had ever known. ‘Looking through the eyes of love, I saw that world as a brighter place…one filled with hope and promise’ he exclaims. ‘A place where I could raise a daughter - be more of a father than my father was to me’. Pietro then hiccups, and remarks that he always forgets there is a reason he doesn’t drink. ‘I hope I did not say anything I should not have’ he adds, before hiccupping once more.
‘Are you serious? You just went from giddy to angry to a crying jag…to stone cold sober in thirty seconds!’ Valerie points out, before helping Pietro back on to the barstool as he exclaims that the hangover should last another seventeen seconds. ‘Well, that’s not too bad’ Valerie tells him. ‘Not for you…but with my perception of time - a result of my mutant metabolism - it seems like an eternity’ Quicksilver replies, while a waitress cleans up the broken bottles on the floor. Quicksilver declares that he is accustomed to cleaning up after himself, so speeds over and brushes up the bottles before the waitress can finish. ‘Both figuratively and literally’ Pietro remarks. The waitress looks surprised, and tells Quicksilver that there is an opening for a bar back if he is interested.
‘”Bar back” indeed…’ Pietro mutters to himself as he and Valerie approach a cab. Valerie asks the driver to take them back to the hotel, and after stepping into the cab and sitting down, Quicksilver tells Valerie that he is curious why none of the others met him at the airport. ‘Are they involved in some crisis or another?’ he asks. ‘Not that I’m aware of’ Valerie replies, adding that she figured with everything that happened with Crystal, he could use a little quality time.
Valerie tells Pietro that sometimes she thinks he puts too much pressure on himself, trying to convince the rest of the world that he is not half the man his father was. Valerie’s face remains obscured from Quicksilver as she sits in the shadows of the cab, while Pietro exclaims ‘Let us pray I am nothing like the “man” my father was. Magneto fancied himself a world conqueror - cutting a swath through humanity so that mutants might thrive and prosper…even at the cost of genocide to the entire human race’. Valerie tells Quicksilver that doesn’t sound like him at all. ‘I apologize. I don’t know what I was thinking’.
Back beneath Genosha, James Madrox the Multiple Man trudges through the water, muttering ‘This was brilliant and a half. Stick me in a containment suit so I can’t use the one power I have - and then drop me into a nest of trigger-happy magistrates!’. The communicator is on as Jamie exclaims ‘Where did Alex go to leadership training…apexx tech?’. ‘Actually, Jamie, it was Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters’ Polaris replies. ‘They even let him keep his tools afterward’. Jamie asks Lorna if she minds, as he was indulging in the age-old tradition of “super hero talking to himself out loud in times of stress”.
‘And you were doing a wonderful job, Multiple Man’ Polaris tells Jamie, informing him that she only plugged in to the communicator to let him know that according to the sensors she has found, he should be right on top of Mutate 24601. ‘Man o man!’ Jamie mutters. ‘Do you see him, Jamie…Jamie?’ Lorna calls out, while Madrox approaches the withered mutate, lying face down in the water. Polaris contacts Havok, telling him that he might want to consider shaking a leg - both if them would be nice. ‘Lorna, please…as if I don’t get enough bad vaudeville shtick from Guido and Jamie’ Alex remarks, before telling her that he will get there as soon as he can.
Wolfsbane bounds off down the tunnel, with Havok call out after her to wait up a moment. ‘Yes, Alex?’ Rahne asks. Havok points out that Rahne has not so much as looked him in the eye since they first learned that she was bonded to him when she became a mutate slave. ‘I need you to talk about what you’re feeling. I want you to understand that I’ll do everything I -’ Alex begins, but Rahne stops and spins around: ‘Will ye listen to yourself. “I need…” “I wan!” What about me, Alex? What about what I need?’ Rahne asks.
‘What about what I want? I need to have ye stop telling me whut I should and shouldn’t do - because I dinna kin which thoughts are mine any more…and which are those I’m thinking just because ye tell me to. What I want? What I want is the one thing ye canna seem to give me!’. Rahne turns away from Alex as he asks ‘My…love?’. Rahne replies no, telling Havok that she understands her “crush” was a side-effect of the bonding process. ‘What I want more than anything else…is to have my life back!’ she declares, before running down the tunnel, away from Havok.
Elsewhere in the tunnels, Polaris radios Guido, asking him if is sure he wants to wait in that intersection, as at the moment is all that stands between Jamie, the mutate and a plethora of magistrates. ‘Hey, Lorna, they don’t call me Strong Guy for nothing’ Guido mutters, to which Lorna points out that no one actually ever calls him Strong Guy. ‘So whose fault is that?’ Guido asks, before several magistrates, some in hover-vehicles and other sorts of armor, appear overhead. ‘Stop where you are, mutant! We have you surrounded!’ one of them exclaims. ‘That’s one way of looking at it’ Guido replies, before exclaiming ‘As one government employee to another…does your guys benefit package include full dental?’. ‘Why do you ask…?’ one of the magistrates replies. ‘No reason’ Guido tells him, before grinning wickedly.
At that moment, Jamie crouches down beside Mutate 24601 and lifts him out of the water. Jamie realizes that the mutate is still breathing. ‘Great. If I had been thirty seconds later, the poor guy would have been out of his misery’ Jamie tells himself, before calling Mutate 24601 “pal” and telling him that everything is going to be fine. ‘Pal?’ the mutate replies, while Madrox realizes that he is in cardiac arrest. ‘And the best I can do is a pep talk. C’mon, Jamie - not too long ago you used to be Doctor MacTaggert’s assistant - before I became X-Factor’s stand-up-in-waiting…I used to actually make a difference in people’s lives’.
Madrox begins performing CPR on Mutate 24601: ‘I know you want to live. You wouldn’t be trying so hard if you didn’t’ Jamie exclaims. ‘I can get your heart beating again…but you need to start breathing! I can’t do it…on my own…’ Jamie declares, while the deathly Mutate 24601 stares up at him.
Polaris contacts Jamie: ‘Don’t do anything -’ she begins, unable to finish her sentence as several magistrates close in on her. ‘Stop where you are, mutie!’ one of them declares. ‘We have you surrounded!’. Polaris takes to the air, a magnetic shield around her, she exclaims that she is not one to criticize, but that she has been eavesdropping on every one of their dramatic entrances: ‘And you people are in desperate need of new material!’. Lorna tells them that they are not creative, to which one of the magistrates suggests they let their actions speak for them: ‘By perforating your filthy mutant frame with our lasers?’ he suggests. ‘Knock yourselves out, people!’ Lorna replies, as the lasers don’t hit her, she takes flight, ‘No, I meant that literally knock yourselves out’ she tells them. ‘Not to self: Maybe we can get Val to sponsor Guido’s “snappy comeback” seminar after all’ Lorna tells herself.
Meanwhile, Jamie frowns as he exclaims ‘Ah, who am I kidding? I haven’t had to do anything “on my own” for as long as I remember’. Nervously, Jamie removes a glove, and punches his hand against a nearby wall, creating a dupe. At first there is silence between them - between Jamie Madrox and one of his countless “duplicates” that are his to create out of thin air, and command by the strength of his will. ‘You didn’t have to do that, you know’ the dupe exclaims. ‘Of course I had to, you idiot! We’re a super hero, remember?’ Madrox exclaims. ‘Now wipe that expression off my face and start heroing!’ he orders his dupe, who kneels beside Mutate 24601 and begins performing mouth-to-mouth, while the prime Madrox presses down on Mutate 24601’s chest.
Elsewhere, Wolfsbane and Havok join Strong Guy in battling the magistrates. ‘You’ll excuse us or the assist, Guido’ Havok calls out. Strong Guy replies that “assist” might be a little strong. ‘Let’s just say you’re not getting in the way!’ he exclaims, calling Alex “Leader Guy”, he asks him if he would ever consider changing his name to that. ‘Maybe we can get a whole “Guy” motif going?’ Guido suggests as he punches one of the magistrates backwards, while Havok unleashes an energy blast at another, and Wolfsbane lunges at her opponent.
‘If I was going to take any new name at all - it’d be “Killed by his loudmouthed teammate Guy”!’ Alex exclaims as the trio run down the tunnel after taking out the magistrates. Guido smiles and remarks that “Havok” is a lot easier to say. Wolfsbane announces that, according to Polaris, this should be the last of the magistrates between them and Multiple Man.
‘Most of the last…but according to the sensors, I have the rest of them corralled and accounted for!’ Polaris exclaims as she wraps metal coils around the remaining magistrates. ‘This is tantamount to an act of war!’ one of the magistrates declares. Lorna doesn’t answer, as she catches sight of the sensor readings from across the tunnel - an “x” is now superimposed over the “x” that represents Multiple Man. ‘That can’t mean what I think it means - but my personal EM field is disrupting the signal, so I’ll have to worry about it later’ Lorna thinks to herself. She adds that Jamie is a grown man. ‘He can take care of himself’.
At that moment, Mutate 24601 wakes, and wearily asks ‘Why…did you…two help me?’. ‘Ixnay on the wootay alpay’ Madrox tells him. ‘That makes thr-’ Jamie begins to reply, but the dupe vanishes. ‘- er, two of us’ he finishes his sentence. Mutate 24601 looks up at Jamie and tells him that he did not want to die a lab rat, an experiment. ‘Was that so wrong?’ he asks. Jamie hangs his head as he replies ‘No. And I can say, in all honesty, that I’d feel the same way in your situation’.
Suddenly, Alex, Guido and Rahne rush towards Jamie, who is now carrying Mutate 24601 in his arms. ‘Relax, Jay, the cleanup crew is here. And me without my mop!’ Guido jokes, while Havok exclaims that they need to get 24601 to the medical facility as quickly as possible. ‘Once he’s back in quarantine, the magistrates will have no reason to want to terminate him’ Alex points out, adding that with any luck the geengineers will be able to help him. Madrox announces that according to everything his pal has told him, he is not looking for help. ‘He just wants to go peacefully. With dignity’.
Later, Alex, Lorna, Jamie, Guido, Rahne and the Genoshan President stand outside the room where Mutate 24601 is now lying, hooked up to life support. They watch him through a window as the President tells X-Factor that they have to understand something: ‘Genosha is not an evil place…rather it is home to two distinct races of people trying to get by as best they can’. She adds that it is true, in the past, the humans of this country sought to oppress the mutates - the slave race that were genetically engineered - but they are now trying to make amends, to create a better world.
The President remarks that sometimes they react to a situation in the only way they know how - with extreme prejudice untempered by compassion. ‘I want you to know how much I appreciate you people being on hand to keep us from compounding our errors in judgment’ the President adds, thanking X-Factor for showing Genosha that there is always an alternative. Havok frowns as he tells the President that if the truth were known, America is not always right on target in everything it does, either. ‘Which isn’t to say we’re going to allow you to ignore the question of you completely freeing the mutates from their mental conditioning’ he adds.
‘You have my word, Mister Summers. It will be our first priority after we’ve found the source and cure for the more immediate threat to the mutates’ the President declares. ‘Reads like a happy ending to me’ Guido smiles, before asking Madrox if he is planning to spend the rest of his life in the containment suit. ‘As my mother always used to say: “Why not take off your coat and stay awhile”?’ Guido exclaims. Hanging his head, Madrox replies that he wouldn’t know, as he never met Guido’s mother. Jamie removes the quarantine suit helmet, and Wolfsbane tells him that he looks like death warmed over. ‘More than you know, Rahne…’ Jamie replies, while biting his lip, and anxiously thinking to himself ‘More than you know…’.