(years from now)
Clustered together in makeshift shelters beneath the surface of civilization, a few half-clothed humans attempt to eke out an existence. Some still wearing glasses and reading, they cling to a society that has left them behind. Others are more concerned with food, and hungrily share what little they are able to scrape out of what’s left behind by others. As a constant reminder of their plight, they feast beneath graffiti, which reads in large, scarlet letters – “no more humans.”
Suddenly, the repast is interrupted by arcing electricity, which ravages their bodies, killing them with only a few moments to scream in pain. The cause of their deaths are two figures, one male and one female, who are silhouetted in black, with only their fiery, electric-blue eyes flaring in the darkness. Continuing down the tunnel, the male calls for his counterpart to follow him down. A few moments later, they discover a larger room, a disheveled, crude laboratory, manned by two men in lab coats. In the center of the room is the elder form of Damian Tryp, floating over a concave hemisphere, his eyes closed and arms crossed over his bare chest.
Without a word, the female intruder opens her mouth and breathes fires, which engulfs both scientists. Making a straight line to the floating Tryp, the male reaches out for him, but finds his hand passing through. Suddenly, the entire base begins to self-destruct into flames, causing the two to take note. When they look back to where Tryp was a moment earlier… they find he is gone. Activating his wrist communicator, the male intruder calls in his report. “This is X-Factor unit 27. Target Tryp located and believed terminated.”
Speaking to Madrox, Rahne and Monet, the elder Damian Tryp explains that it is said that any sufficiently advanced technology will be indistinguishable from magic. The same could be said of sufficiently advanced biology. There is no scientific, rational means of explaining how on could just wave one’s hands and command the elements, or fly… or generate lightening bolts from one’s eyes. In the old days, the powerless “normal people” cried “witch” and burned or hung those who displayed such abilities.
In his day, however… in days to come… many, many years from now… the normal people just die. He is not a normal person. Never has been. When the humans were many and his kind was few, he continues, he despised them. But then the humans became few, and his kind many… and insane… Drunk with power, glorying their multitudes. He tried to warn them of their follow, he explains, but they did not listen. All right, actually… they did. They simple didn’t like what they heard. In fact, they didn’t like it a lot.
His greatest wish was for immortality, he continues, and he traveled far and wide, studied dark arts. Acquired much knowledge to achieve that aim. The old saying about being wary of what you wish for lest you get it is a very sage one. For a doomed race, humans excelled at sayings. Mutant powers can continue to mutate, given enough time. His being attuned to the elemental nature of the Earth linked him to their planet’s essence. He began to exist at all points in his own lifelines. A true “multiple man” if they will. His present and past forms are solid enough, since time has caught up with them. He is more… elusive… since the future remains mutable. There is, however, a problem.
His body – his very existence – has become unstable. So in the future, he developed machinery to perpetuate himself. Not unlike a feeble individual hooked up to life support. Thus does he continue to survive, aided by a small band of supporters… a band which, he fears, has shrunk to non-existence. They tried to protect him… he, an anomaly, existing simultaneously in all times but none. A living puzzle of quantum mechanics. Some people despise puzzles. Alexander the Great famously was confronted with the Gordian knot and “solved” it by hacking it in twain with his sword. His spirit lives on. “As do I.”
He has seen the future, X-Factor, he tells them. Their future. The future of all mankind. It is neither pleasant nor desirable. Nor is it one, he regrets to say… that he is, at the moment, a part of. “I am trapped between states of existence. I am neither here nor there. The reason for this… is because there are mutants. Lots of them. The reason there are lots of mutants… is you.”
As Madrox, Rahne and Monet look dumbstruck, the elder Damian Tryp tells them that he knows it’s a lot to process all at once. “It… certainly is,” Madrox replies, then adding that when you’re having that much manure dumped on you at on you at one time, the smell can be pretty over-whelming. Looking away slightly, Tryp rejoins that he suspected that he might have doubts. He is prepared to deal with them…
Suddenly turning into her half-wolf form, Rahne snarls with her fangs that she’s prepared to deal with him! Jamie attempts to wave her back, but Rahne is resolute. She tells him that she’s getting a whiff of a scent off of him. He’s not as “not there” as he’s trying to make them think! And, she continues, she’s betting he’s involved in what happened to Guido… which means…
Interrupting her, Tryp tells Rahne that one would think she’d have learned respect for her elders. Here, he says, let him grant her a peek at the shape of things to come. Quickly moving to Rahne’s position, Tryp reaches out his left hand, slashing the side of her lupine face with his fingernail, spraying blood. Rahne has already reverted to her human form when Tryp follows up his attack, tossing Rahne across the room. Madrox himself only has time to call out Rahne’s name before Tryp tosses him as well into several office chairs, generating a new duplicate at the same time. Temper, Tryp tells him as he does so. Hysterics will not aid him.
They are leaders, Tryp continues, referring to them both. They should conduct themselves accordingly. Beginning to rise, the newly generated duplicate is in panic. Swearing to himself, the dupe proclaims that the stuff Tryp is saying… he can’t take it! Keep him away! The original Jamie tries to calm down the duplicate, but he is inconsolable. Sprinting out the door, the duplicate disappears into the hallway, his voice trailing. “You calm down! I need to get out of here! I need to…”
“Order a pizza? For delivery? Yes, I’ll hold.” As she is placed on hold, Layla Miller sings along with the hold music. Woman, the way you went your way, getting under my skin, bum bum bum da dum… Reaching out to the phone console, Layla presses line two and makes a second call. Verifying that she’s reached Doug’s Hardware, she says hello to “Doug” and tells him it’s Layla Miller. Getting to business, she asks if he can shoot her over a pair of bolt cutters, like, now? Sighing at his response, she tells him okay, fine. “Good-to-Go” to win in the second race, 40-to-1 odds. Now when can she… Ten minutes? Outstanding, she tells him. Bye.
Reaching over to line one, Layla asks the pizzeria if they are still there. Finding that they are, Layla orders one regular pie, extra cheese. 367 Greenwich Avenue. Thirty minutes? Outstanding. Bye. Continuing to sing, Layla dials another number, shortly informing the party who answers that she would like to order a pizza to be delivered. Do they still have that thirty minute thing going? Outstanding, she replies to their answer response.
A strong wind blows down the street outside the Singularity building. Women struggle to keep their dresses from blowing up, as firemen and employees of Singularity wonder where this hurricane-like gust came from. Trying to regain control of the chaotic situation, FBI Agent Brody orders his men to get those people back away from the building. Back!! Turning back to whom he was just conversing with, Brody tells Damian Try Sr. that he’s going to have to ask him and his people to clear he entire area while… Agent Brody’s voice trails as he finds himself alone, the owner of Singularity Investigations having disappeared.
Back in the evacuated building, Damian Tryp Jr. congratulates his “father” on the distraction. He thought he’d appreciate it “my son,” Sr. replies. Turning to the subject of Alix Buchanan, Sr. asks his Jr. if she is being attended to. Replying that she is, Tryp Jr. adds that she’s being transported to a secure location. Good, Sr. rejoins. She’ll be valuable leverage. Repeating the word “leverage,” Jr. asks if his father thinks… That they’re under attack? Sr. asks. It’s always safer to proceed on that assumption. He’s betting it’s X-Factor. And he’s thinking they should take them down permanently. Moving to the elevator, Tryp Jr. replies that it’s about bloody time.
In the building’s security room, Rictor calls out to Theresa, telling her to come back to the computer station at which he sits. There’s some stuff in there she should be checking out… He thinks this may be related to the virus they’re trying to stop. It says “test subjects” – and he recognizes some of these names... They’re former mutants.
Not receiving a response, Rictor calls again over the wireless headset, even calling her temporary codename of “Screaming Mimi.” Is she copying this…? Finally responding, Siryn tells Rictor that she heard him. She’s just… a little distracted. It appears, she continues, that Singularity Investigations is rather well armed. When Rictor asks how well armed, Theresa replies “pretty darned,” as she gazes upon an arsenal room, containing automatic rifles, pistols, rocket launchers, machine guns and bombs.
On the 32nd floor, Monet checks Rahne’s pulse, informing the panicking Madrox to calm down. She can’t sense a thing if he’s this frantic. His brow furrowed in anger, the elder Damian Tryp informs Monet that what she will sense is that the young lady is in deep shock. She will recover. Humanity, however, will not, he continues, if they persist in their course to safeguard the former mutants. When Monet asks what he’s talking about, Tryp replies that she’s talking about the fact that, once having learned the truth behind the Decimation… X-Factor was instrumental in restoring the mutants to their powers. At a time when the X-Men did nothing, X-Factor got the job done, and thus became revered by all mutants.
But, he continues, they did not know what they unleashed. They tilted the balance in the other direction. “No more mutants?” Try “No more humans.” They unleashed chaos, but he senses it is better to show rather than to tell. And tapping her psychic powers will enable him to… As Tryp reaches out for her, Monet recoils, telling “Casper” that he’s not getting his ghostly hands on her. Fortunately enough, Tryp replies, he doesn’t have to.
Without further warning, blue arc of electricity shoot from Tryp’s forehead. Monet cries out and Jamie tries to dodge, except there’s nowhere to go, and the energy passes with through Monet and into him. For Jamie Madrox, the world shifts around him. There’s a rushing sound in his head, like he’s being thrown at high speed down a tunnel – and then he hears a voice in his head. His voice. Tryp-the-Eldest, Tryp-the-light-fantastic. And he’s telling Jamie that things happen for a reason. That the Decimation was part of the natural order. That their reversing of it went against it. That in combating the effects of chaos… they unleashed it even more.
Once again on solid ground, Jamie Madrox finds himself in what was once Times Square. Now in ruins, the cause of it is all around him, as a dozen of flying mutants wield unearthly energies, making havoc with the city. The bodies of several humans lie inert on the rubble strewn about him.
The meek don’t inherit the Earth, Jamie realizes. Mutants do. In this new world, the lessons of Charles Xavier are lost in a battleground of fire and fury. Absolute power corrupting absolutely. Conquering the humans isn’t that much of a chore. It’s accomplished easily enough. But it creates a power vacuum, and nature abhors a vacuum. So the mutants turn against each other, in a war that lays waste to the populace… to the world.
Speaking to the horrified Madrox, Tryp’s voice says, “Now do you see? We’re creating a virus to kill all the former mutants… so they don’t recover their abilities. It was either destroy them… or destroy you. We’re prepared for both contingencies. Either way, something has to go. Because the world of my future… it’s no world at all.”
Get out of my head!!!! yells Monet, returning herself and Madrox to the land of the here and now. His vision now bestowed, Tryp asks the two if they now see. Now, do they understand? Propping himself against the wall in order to stand up, Jamie replies that it’s lie. It has to be… all lies. It’s… Just rising herself, Monet coldly tells Jamie that it’s not. Her face turning to one of fear, she tells the startled Jamie that at least Tryp believes it’s not. That future… it… She tells Jamie that she’s going on nothing but instinct, but she… she thinks he’s on the level.
Still incredulous, Jaime asks Monet what she’s saying. That they just roll over? Let people die? Let… “No!” he finally yells. “Screw that!” Turning to Tryp, Jamie tells him that he may stink at making decisions, but not this one! He’s not letting people die! People are going to die whether he “let’s” them or not, Tryp rejoins. Beginning, he continues, with Alix Buchanan… the wife of the late, lamented Professor Buchanan. When this startles Jamie even more, Tryp says that he’s afraid so. You see… even as they speak, Mrs. Buchanan is being driven to a secure location. If X-Factor does not vacate this building immediately, her life is forfeit.
Meanwhile, a Singularity guard sits in an unmarked, white van, stopped in a traffic jam. When his partner returns and enters the passenger’s side, he informs the driver that he’s not going to believe this: Apparently, four pizza delivery trucks collided at an intersection, but it’s a Godawful mess. Traffic ain’t moving for blocks. Unconcerned by this, the driver replies with a “whatever.” It’s isn’t like their passenger’s going anywhere.
Unknown to either guard, the back doors of the van are swung wide open, a pair of bolt cutters propped against on of the open doors.
As they race down the hall, Rictor asks Siryn where they’re going. “Up,” she replies. She’s been tapping into the bomb squad’s talkback. They’re on the 18th floor. So they want to… Siryn’s words trail as a single dart impacts into her collar. Managing an “owww!” her eyes go wide in fright, as she mutters, “not again…” As she collapses, Damian Tryp Sr. grabs Rictor’s hands, causing him to drop the files her was carrying. Holding the gun that fired the dart, Damian Tryp Jr. tells Siryn that he’s afraid so. Another tranq dart to paralyze her vocal cords and mute her sonic power. Struggling as Sr. places his hands behind his backs, Rictor yells “Leggo!” Hearing this, Jr. mocks the famed “Leggo” strategy. That always works, he sarcastically quips.
Moving to the downed Siryn, Tryp Jr. grabs her by the hair and tells her he tried to give her a warning the first time. Apparently, it didn’t take. This time… When Theresa tries to respond, Tryp asks her if she has something to say. He didn’t quite catch it, he mocks. “Speak up, loud as you can.” Finally doing so, Siryn says, Kevlar… collar… you slimebag… You think I wasn’t prepared this time…?”
Realizing what she means, Damian Tryp Jr. has but a moment before the sonic scream of Siryn hurls him backwards. Acting quickly, however, Tryp Sr. effortlessly tosses Rictor toward Theresa, knocking her over. Rather than press the fight, Rictor and Theresa begin to flee, but are halted by Jamie, who is carrying the unconscious Rahne. Ordering them to stand down, he tells them they have to bail. There’s a hostage situation. Alix Buchanan…
Interrupting, Rictor points to he files on the floor, telling Jamie that they’ve got proof! Right there! They can… Interrupting Rictor in turn, Damian Tryp Sr. counters that what they have are confidential files that belong to Singularity. What the have are intruders who triggered panic just so they could invade their headquarters. Picking up the files and folders, Sr. states that he’ll take their legal position against Rictor’s anytime. The authorities are, what? – Ten stories below? He suggests they get out now.
Still holding the unconscious Rahne, Jamie narrows his eyes and informs the Messrs. Tryp that this isn’t over. They should count on it. “Oh, definitely,” Sr. replies. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Jr. adds.
After they have left, Jr. asks Sr. how they knew about the Buchanan woman. Replying that he has no idea, Sr. suggests that perhaps their future incarnation told them. No matter. It… Sr.’s voice trails as he notices something within the surveillance room, telling his son that it seems that they have forgotten something. Entering the arsenal room, they find a Madrox duplicate hunched over. When Sr. asks who he might be, the dupe replies that Jamie called him “gutless.” When Tryp sarcastically replies that he can’t imagine why, the dupe rejoins that he can.
Standing up, he informs Tryp that it’s because he fooled him. He does that. Messes with him… probably cause he’s pretty messed up himself. Does he wan to know why? he asks Tryp. Because he remembers. That’s why. He remembers him.
Continuing, his back to the Tryps , the duplicate explains that erasing memories is like erasing computer files. You think they’re gone… ‘cept they’re not. They’re just lots harder to find. But he found it… found the memory of him creating the storm that killed his parents. And that memory makes him what he is today. When Tryp asks back what that might be, the dupe replies that he’s that part of Jamie that compels him to do the unexpected. Turning around, the duplicate sports a makeshift vest of dynamite, which circles his torso. In his right hand, the duplicate holds a push-button detonator. Damian Tryp Sr. and Jr. look on in abject terror.
Continuing his proclamation, the duplicate tells the two that he’s the fly in the ointment… The spanner in the words. He’s unpredictable. He’s the X-Fac…
With the “klick” of a button, the upper floors of the Singularity Investigations building erupt in a fiery explosion.
Propelled into the air in the world outside, Jamie Madrox worries more about the sudden realization than his distance to the ground. Cursing repeatedly, Jamie suddenly remembers. Tryp was there… He was there, talking to his parents when he was a kid…
Jamie’s descent is suddenly halted as Monet grabs his wrist with her left hand, her right arm wrapped around the limp Rahne. Nearby, Siryn likewise has Rictor aloft with her sonic scream. When Monet yells for Jamie to snap out of it, he incoherently tells her that he told him that he… that he wasn’t a mutant… He’s… something else… He threatened them! He…
Trying to make sense of his ramblings, Monet asks Madrox what happened. He twisted loose from her! What’s… When Jamie replies, “He killed them…” she asks back who killed who. “Tryp,” Jamie replies. “He… He killed my parents.” It wasn’t a “freak tornado,” he continues. It was… was him. He must’ve been watching him for years after that, waiting… He killed them… and his dupe just killed Tryp… and himelf… “When the dupe died,” Jamie explains, “I felt it, and all the memories, they came… came flooding back… And the strongest feeling of all… he was… relieved… that they didn’t have to remember it anymore…
Disgusted at the surge of knowledge and emotions, Jamie asks Monet just to get him home.
Back at X-Factor’s HQ, Layla receives an interesting e-mail… from a Singularity account with an attachment. “Dear Layla,” she reads, “Here’s evidence of Singularity’s virus scheme. I’m trying an e-mail backup just in case we don’t manager to get the files out of the building. –Ric.”
“P.S.” she continues. “I still don’t trust you, you little freak.” Responding with an awww, Layla announces to Alix Buchanan that that’s so sweet.
Sitting behind, Alix tells Layla that she doesn’t understand. How did she know where she was to get her out? Where’s Henry? She… she… Shrugging her shoulders, Layla tells Mrs. Buchanan that she’s in shock. Does she know what’s good for that? Milk. Big glass of milk.
A few moments later, Layla stands at the open refrigerator, pouring milk into a glass. As she pours with a “ho-hum,” she is suddenly startled when a voice calls out to her. “So… You’re the reason we’ve had so much trouble,” the voice says to her. “We thought it was Rictor’s joining the group… but it was you. Standing before the frozen Layla Miller is the ghostly form of the elder Damian Tryp.
They should have been partners, the elder Tryp tells her. Instead, they’ve been operating at cross purposes. And now, his earlier selves are dead. Were he not trapped between time, he would be as well. Be wary, Layla Miller, he tells her. They know each other now. When chaos battles order, a balance is reached. When two chaotic forces battle… expect the unexpected.
With that, Damian Tryp has vanished, leaving Layla Miller alone, but still very much frozen in shock. Continuing to pour in her immobile state, her glass is now overflowing with milk, which continues to fall to the floor, forming a puddle as it splatters.