(South of Wales, 1347)
In a small village, surrounded by woods, cries ring out. A number of the village’s populace has gathered outside a house, bearing pitchforks and torches. The voices call for “him” to be brought out. Bring the creature out! Leading the rest of the mob, one man calls Andreas, within the house. He heard them! He instructs him to get his demon son out… or they’ll burn him out. Both of them!
Opening the door, Andreas asks the mob leader what he would have of him. They’d have that… thing… pretending to be human. “Aye,” another agrees. He’s the cause of all of this! Of all what? Andreas asks. Of his poor mother’s death in childbirth? Of the plague sweeping the whole of Wales? Of his lies and accusations of madness? Why not lay original sin at his feet while they’re at it. Showing his son, who stands by his side, Andreas asks them to look for themselves… terrifying a young boy out of his mind. He’s sure they’re ever so proud.
Undeterred, one of the mob replies that whatever killed his wife in childbirth years ago… it wasn’t that thing. It’s a changeling, another exclaims. He knows it! They all know it! And how is he supposed to know that? Andreas asks. “His strength!” the man yes. “The way the very air protects him!” When Andreas protests, the man continues, pointing out the child’s knowledge. Far wiser than any child has a right to be. A sure sign of a changeling. When the incredulous Andreas asks if he would condemn the boy because he’s intelligent, the man replies that they condemn him because they’re dying, thanks to an illness spat up by Satan, and he’s Satan’s spawn!
Explaining further, the man tells Andreas that they already killed all the cats, those evil creatures, and still the disease spreads. So, another chimes in, they have to look elsewhere. Retreating back into his house, Andreas orders them to look elsewhere. He’ll not sacrifice his son to their rantings! With this, he slams the door. Now safe inside, the boy clings to his father’s leg, asking him if he’s going to send him out there. Replying that he won’t, Andreas tells his son, Dai, that they’re just scared fools. Given time, they’ll come o their senses. He promises that…
Their conversation is interrupted as the ceiling suddenly catches fire. Outside, the mob has begun to throw torches onto the roof, setting it ablaze. Inside, “Dai” raises his arm toward the blazing ceiling, telling his father not to worry. He’ll make it stop! They want winds? He’ll give them winds! That’ll blow it out! Andreas tries to warn his son not to do anything, as he’ll only fan the flames – or spread them… to the rest of the village. Unfortunately, Andreas is too late, and the flames spread as predicted.
A moment later, Dai finds himself on a nearby cliff, high above the blazing village below. Startled at his sudden relocation, he wonders how it happened. Then noticing the flaming village, he wonders what he has done. “What you had to do,” a voice tells him. Turning around, Dai behold a man wearing strange clothes. Had he any knowledge of men’s clothing centuries hence, Dai would know the garments worn by Damian Tryp senior was called a business suit.
Exasperated at the sight before him, Dai asks the strange what he is. His face cold and hard, Damian Tryp senior replies that Dai will understand… eventually. He knows that he did. A moment later, birds fly by, fluttering through Tryp. Seeing this, Dai asks him if he’s a ghost. When the stranger replies “not exactly,” Dai then asks if he is dead. From the fire. When Tryp asks to what fire he is referring, Dai turns around, pointing to the village and asking if he’s daft. However, he is amazed at the scene of the village before him. No longer ablaze, the village is actually whole and untouched. Another glance brings yet another surprise, as he sees the mob from earlier, once again gathered before his father’s house, demanding that he turn over Dai.
Now convinced that he is losing his mind, Dai declares that he is dead. He’s dead and going crazy. This is the end… No, Tryp senior interrupts. As cliché as this will sound, he tells him – this is just the beginning.
Damian Tryp senior is lost in thought, staring out of the window to this office. His attention is returned to reality by the voice of his assistant, Ms. D, who tells him that he’s getting an early start today. She supposes the early bird catches the worm. True enough, he replies. Although, at the end of the morning, you’re just left with a worm in your mouth. Still, he continues, a day is a day. Lives can begin, end and change in a day. So each must be treated as precious.
Returning to the business at hand, he asks what’s on the docket. Looking over her folder, she informs him that he has a light morning, but the afternoon is packed. Oh, and personnel rang up. Professor Buchanan called in sick. Smiling at this, she then adds that, all these years, Henry’s never missed a day before. Sort of the iron man of Singularity Investigations. Stroking his chin in thought, Tryp senior replies that even iron men have chink in their armor. He then asks her to get Mr. C’s number. He may have a call to make.
In their house, Professor Henry Buchanan’s wife tries to console him. She tells him that this is insane. It’s eating him up. Agitated, he asks her if she thinks he doesn’t see it. Does she think he doesn’t… Calming down a little, he tells his wife, Alix, that he needs to think.
Not giving up, she tells him to talk to her. Tell her what’s going on. Is this about work? It has to be. Look, she tells him, it it’s just too much for him... they have money set aside. He can just quit and… Interrupting, he looks back at her with cold eyes. “Quit?” He chuckles at this idea. That’s right, he then says. Quit and find something else to… Standing up abruptly, he tells Alix that there’s no “quit” – doesn’t she get that? There’s no out! N resignation! No! Quit! They’ll… Interrupting, Alix asks what they will do. Frowning ever so slightly, he replies, “Disapprove.”
Thinking that her husband is being glib, Alix pleads with him. She’s his wife; he can trust her. Sitting back down, Henry replies that it’s not about trust. If he tells her what’s going on, he’s endangering her, and he won’t do that. Finally beginning to grasp the importance, Alix is more concerned than ever. If it’s that bad, she tells him, he has to go to someone. The police… The police are useless for something like this, he explains. The government then, she suggests. She has no idea of Singularity’s reach, he replies. They have people inside the government.
Well, Alix continues, not giving up, there must be someone he can go to. Some independent organization, some… Eying something on the front page of the paper, Henry’s eyes go wide. He interrupts his wife, telling her that he wants her to get out of town. Pack and go to her sister’s cabin in Seattle. She’s to drive there, pay cash for everything. Exasperated at the idea, Alix asks what about him. His eyes still glued to the paper’s front page, he tells her no to worry about him. Eying the front page of the Daily Bugle, with Jamie Madrox standing before a podium, he reads the headline: X-Factor to Gov’t: DROP DEAD. The caption below the photo reads, “Unpatriotic mutant team protests registration act.” “I think I’ve found help,” Henry tells his wife.
Jamie Madrox awakes in his bed with a great yawn. He half expected to wake up in prison, he thinks to himself. At the very least, he thought SHIELD would be kicking in their door… not just for their “up yours” press conference, but because he helped Aegis escape he other day. They gotta know it was him. Instead, nothing. Maybe they caught Aegis anyway and just decided to let him slide. After all, they already got their info for the registration act. Or maybe they’re watching to see if they’re part of an underground and nab more fugitives that way. The other shoe could drop on them at any time.
Rising out of bed, Jamie thinks that, if it does, he hopes it drops quietly. Stupid freaking headache. Geez… how much did he have to drink last night? Placing his robe on, he heads out the door to the hall bathroom. Well, he guesses he was entitled, he reflects. If you can’t get hammered burning every freaking bridge behind you, when can you?
As he walks, fastening his bathrobe, he thinks that it’s starting to come back to him. Bits a pieces. Weird. The whole team seemed so proud of him. Even the ones who disagreed with his decision. They said they respected him for making it. Said they thought it was gutsy that he stood up to Cyclops. “Gutsy,” he repeats in his head. How is it gutsy when your stomach is tied in knots?
Seeing that the bathroom is occupied, Jamie knocks on it, asking the occupant if they’re going to be in there long. Opening the door, the occupant replies that it’s all his. To Jamie’s surprise, the occupant is a duplicate. When he asks the dupe who he is, the incredulous dupe replies, “You, of course, you devilishly handsome fellow.” Replying that he knows, Jamie begins to stutter. How is he…? He means… when did he…? Replying simply, the dupe tells him that he bumped into a wall. Presto: him.
Now noticing the dupe’s pajamas and robe, Jamie asks about them. However, the dupe mischievously replies that he has his ways – then adding that they have an image to maintain. Can’t have the ladies seeing him so disheveled. Ruffling Jamie’s hair a little, the dupe tells him that that’s better. And now… Seeing the dupe begin to leave, Jamie asks if he has an appointment. Grinning wryly, the dupe rejoins that it’s more of a return engagement and walks to a bedroom door. Having had enough, Jamie tells the dupe that he’s right about that, and holds his hand out, reabsorbing his “Hef” dupe and “returning” him to his self. A moment later, Jamie has also absorbed the dupe’s memories of the previous night, much to his bewilderment.
Suddenly, Theresa emerges from the open door, wrapped in a robe and a smile. As memories race through his mind, Jamie stands in shock as Theresa gives him a seductive “Hello, there,” followed by a passionate kiss. Caught up in the moment, Jamie Madrox is more than happy to reciprocate.
Breaking the kiss, Theresa tells the dumbfounded Jamie that he… was… fantastic last night. “You too,” he replies, quietly. Moving to the now-unoccupied bathroom, she tells him that she guesses their previous relationship was just a warm-up, huh? “Guess so,” he replies sheepishly.
Still reeling from this, Jamie hears his name called from across the hall. Turning around, he sees Monet, standing in the doorway to her bedroom, wearing a long nightshirt. Without saying a word, she walks up to him, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing him deeply, lifting her leg so that her foot caresses his leg. Caught up in the moment, Jamie Madrox is more than happy to reciprocate.
Breaking the kiss, Monet continues to hold her hand around his neck. Her eyes stare deeply into his. “Last night,” she tells him. Uh, uh, he rejoins. Leaning forward, Monet whispers into Jamie’s ears that now she knows why they call him “Multiple Man.” She will see him later. Count on it, she emphasizes.
Moving to the bathroom her self, Monet knocks on the door, telling whoever is in there that they had better now be taking a shower. Calling back from within, Theresa tells Monet to hold her water. Still thunderstruck at the last few moments, Jamie tries his best to make good his escape.
Moments later, he reaches the top of the stairs, but pauses before descending. Waiting for him at the bottom is the young Layla Miller. To Jamie’s nervous and apprehensive eyes, she seems to be waiting for him expectedly. As he cautiously descends, she declares him to be a dead man walking, then informing him that the downstairs bathroom is free. Still uneasy, Jamie continues to walk down, trying not to look at Layla, who regards him curiously. Jamie finally stops when his curiosity gets the best of him.
Turning back up, he asks Layla if… she and he… Grinning innocently, she tells him of course, not. When he quickly thanks God, she then adds that she’s saving herself for their wedding night. Jamie Madrox is beyond speechless.
Whistling to himself, Guido Carosella strolls down the sidewalk of Mutant Town, listening to a walkman. Rounding a corner, he is bumped into – most violently for the other man – by Professor Henry Buchanan, who is knocked off his feet. Still on his knees, Professor Buchanan quickly informs Guido that they want to kill him. Taken aback for a moment, Guido then asks who is. “They do!” the professor exclaims, pointing to a car, which has stopped abruptly before them. Oh, yeah, Guido snidely quips, he’d like to see them try. When he then sees a rocket launcher emerging from the window’s backseat, he then remarks that he didn’t wanna see them try that much.
Moving quickly, Guido positions himself between the professor and the car. A moment later, the rocket fires and the world erupts into flames behind Guido, in an explosive BA-THROOM.
The explosion is heard from within the kitchen of X-Factor Investigations by Rahne and Jamie. When Rahne rhetorically asks what the hell that was, Jamie informs her that it was an explosion. “Oh, you think?!” she yells back. Racing to the front door, they are joined by Theresa in her Siryn costume, who asks them if they heard that. Still incredulous, Rahne asks if she’s kidding. They heard it in Brooklyn! Reaching the bottom of the front steps, Jamie beholds the visage of the still-intact and alive Guido, though his clothes and skin are charred and covered in ash. Beside him is the relatively unscathed Professor Henry Buchanan.
Panicked, Jamie asks Guido if he’s okay and what happened, though Guido promptly responds with a “what?” When Jamie repeats his question, Guido apologizes, saying that he can’t hear him, as he’s got a ringing in his ears on account’o somebody fired a frickin’ rocket launcher at him from, like, ten feet away!
A short while later, as Guido is getting himself cleaned up, the rest of X-Factor tries to calm down Professor Buchanan, who – interestingly enough – works for Singularity. Bringing the professor a cup and saucer, Layla tells him “decaf, no cream, no sugar.” When the professor asks how she knew, Siryn sarcastically informs him that Layla knows stuff. Though agreeing with Theresa, Layla tells her that, in this case, she was just saying they only have decaf, and they’re also out of cream and sugar. She’ll do a grocery run later, she then adds.
Annoyed once again at the young girl, Siryn asks Layla if she knew that Guido was going to get himself shot up by a bazooka. Actually, no, Layla replies. It’s kind of strange. She almost never knows anything about him. Weird, huh? Not as weird as she is, Siryn rejoins, with a crooked smile. That’s true, Layla replies, thoughtfully.
Finished cleaning up, Guido joins the rest of the group, asking what’s up with the “prof.” In response, Jamie tells Guido that they were hoping he would tell them. Sensing it’s time to explain, Professor Buchanan tells the group that here’s the thing: He’s a micro-biologist. Mostly, his work for S.I. has been forensic, but for the past year they’ve had him working on… a virus. Narrowing his eyes, Jamie asks what kind of virus. One that would target and kill mutants, the professor replies.
Hearing this, Jamie’s voice lowers. In disbelief, he says, “the Legacy virus?” When the professor doesn’t seem to understand, Jamie’s voice raises to a shout, as he grabs the professor by the collar, yanking him up out of his chair. “You’re re-creating the Legacy virus?!? What kind of inhuman slime are you?!?” As Guido and Theresa try to calm him, Jamie refuses. He tells her to take it easy. She didn’t die from it. She…
Shocked back to his own senses, Jamie calms himself down. Closing his eyes, he reminds himself that the man’s not inhuman. He came to them for help. He obviously wants to stop it. Get it together, Madrox, he tells himself. Succeeding in doing so, Jamie apologizes. It’s just… they’ve faced a nightmare like this before, and it’s very… Emotional? Guido asks. Yeah, Jamie replies. It’s an emotional issue. He then asks the professor to accept his apology. Continuing to straighten his coat jacket, Professor Buchanan hesitantly does so.
Retuning to the subject, Rahne asks the professor if he has any proof of what he’s saying. Proof that would tie Singularity directly to this. Replying that he does, the professor tells them he has memos. Notes. CD-ROMS. Things he smuggled out of the office… while he worked up the nerve to do something about it. They’re in a safe deposit box at the Manhattan Bank, over on 34th and 6th. Turning to Guido, Jamie asks if he would mind escorting the professor to the bank and retrieving his files. He can take his car. Replying with a quick “You got it,” Guido places his arm around the professor and takes him to the car.
As they depart, Madrox considers that this may be it. The opening they need to bring S.I. crashing down... and it just walked right into their laps. Provided he doesn’t scare him off.
In his office at the medical center, Pietro Maximoff welcomes Rictor. He informs him that he had a feeling he’d show up sooner or later. But he didn’t expect it to be this much sooner. When Pietro offers him a seat, Rictor refuses, telling him that he won’t be staying. He’s… he’s not even sure why he came. Leaning forward on his desk, stroking his chin, Pietro replies that he assumed it was because he wanted him to restore his lost mutant powers. That he wanted the earth to tremble before his mere gesture once more.
The thing is, Rictor explains, the way he hears it, when Pietro restores powers, it doesn’t go exactly... right. He doesn’t know what’ll go wrong with him if he gives them back. His process is screwed up.
The “process,” Pietro responds, isn’t screwed up. It’s people. He clearly doesn’t understand what’s happening. And he’s going to explain it? Rictor asks, incredulous. If he’d like, Pietro replies. This oughtta be good, Rictor retorts.
Standing, Quicksilver tells Rictor that he’s acquired this ability… for a higher purpose. Something greater than he has brought him to this place… to this task. Once there were far fewer mutants. They were great, powerful beings, with power and presence. Whether you agreed or disagreed with their intent, there was no denying their inherent greatness. But, he continues, in recent years, their number has swelled beyond control. Quantity has offset quality, diluting the nobility of their species. What he is seeing now – “M-Day,” the Decimation – it’s part of a divine test. And his role is to help administer it.
When Rictor then asks a test of what, Quicksilver replies “worth.” Those who are deserving of getting their powers back become whole… will receive them that way. Those whose powers are warped and twisted, well… that’s just a reflection of their own dark and undeserving nature. So, he continues, the question Rictor must ask himself is not “what will go wrong?” – it should be… “Will I be judged deserving,” Rictor finishes. Pointing his finger at Rictor, Pietro says, “You tell me.” In silent contemplation, Rictor ponders the question.
Riding in the passenger seat of Madrox’s Hummer, Professor Buchanan vocally realizes that he hasn’t actually thanked Guido for saving his life. However, not knowing Guido’s name, he trips over it. Introducing himself, Guido tells the professor that he’s Guido. Guido Carosella. Strong Guy, for what that’s worth.
When Guido then asks him if he’s comfortable, the professor replies that he is – as comfortable as he can be in a Hummer. Recalling the earlier altercation, he then asks Guido if his Mr. Madrox is always that… high-strung. It’s understandable, Guido replies, if you consider that he died from a virus kind of like what he’s talking about. Taken aback at this statement, Professor Buchanan repeats the word “died” and then adds that he doesn’t understand. Replying that he doesn’t blame him, Guido excuses himself from the conversation, as his phone is ringing.
Picking it up, Guido begins a one-sided, abrupt conversation. “Yeah? Uh-huh. Okay. I’m on it.” Speaking up, the professor interrupts, informing Guido that he shouldn’t be talking on the phone while driving. There’s a law against it. He doesn’t want to be pulled over. Seeming to ignore the professor, Guido tells his Buchanan that there’s a change in plans.
Without another word, Guido violently rams the phone into the professor’s trachea, causing it to emit a sickening crunch. As he bites his lip in increasing anger, Guido hits the professor again with his phone, this time impacting his upper chest. Dripping blood, Professor Henry Buchanan slumps into his seat, very much dead.
Replacing the phone back to his ear, Guido tells the party on the other end that “that’s done.” He then adds that he’s gotta hang up. There’s laws against talking on a cell phone. He wouldn’t wanna be pulled over. On the other end, Damian Tryp senior tells “Mr. C” that he’s quite correct. They wouldn’t want that.
Giving further orders, he tells Guido to bring the corpse to the rendezvous point. Now calling out to Mrs. D, Tryp senior instructs her to inform personnel that Henry Buchanan won’t be back. It appears he has moved on.