Nicole stands at the center of a stone bridge which straddles a stream running through Central Park. Standing at the side of the span, she picks up a stone that half the size of her head. Holding it over her head for a moment, she brings it crashing down on an object set on the stone railing of the bridge. Plastic shards shower to the stream below as a result. Following them, Nicole tosses the rock itself into the stream as well. Her task finished, she descends the arc of the bridge, returning to the city beyond.
It’d be nice if the bad guys wore black hats. Or maybe had horns. Or wore a name bade that said, “Hello, my name is: Evil.” I mean, some guys make it easy. Modok. Red Skull. Doc Doom. Scary, evil-looking guys. And you can be damned sure that whatever side they’re on… you want to be on the opposite. Guys like those make it easy to know what’s right. What’s wrong and what side to take. That’s why the Civil War was so hard on everybody. When it’s only good guys fighting, right and wrong get really blurry.
(some hours earlier)
Considering the introduction just made to him, Jamie Madrox repeats it. Mister… Huber, he said? Stretching out his hand, which Madrox accepts, the man replies that that’s correct. Josef Huber. It’s a pleasure to meet him.
Puzzled slightly, Madrox asks if he knows him. Who doesn’t know the renowned Madrox, the Multiple Man? Huber replies. “Madrox to Reg. Act: Drop Dead,” he quotes. A very memorable headline. Well, that’s the Daily Bugle for you, Madrox rejoins. It takes a true patriot to say “no” to his government, Uber replies. And to speak truth to power. May he sit? Taking another drought from his bottle, Madrox replies that, presuming his knees bend, he doesn’t see why not.
Considering this newcomer as he drinks, Madrox notes that he seems pleasant enough. Affable. He speaks with the sort of confidence that instills it in others. But the name… Huber… He remembers what his dupe said… the one who claimed to be “The World’s Greatest Detective” in Chicago… before the police filled him with more holes than a sieve. He said…
“I’ve been chasing leads… seeing patterns where everyone else sees only chaos. I know what’s coming. I know about Uber.
“Uber, Huber,” Madrox continues to consider as Huber lifts the glass of the drink he just ordered. Way too close for comfort. He means… could be a coincidence… and the dupe was pretty hammered… but still…
Detecting Madrox’s pensive mood, Huber notes aloud that he seems distracted. Engaged in an internal monologue? Taken aback slightly, Madrox replies that he was, yeah. How’d he know that? Jokingly, Huber replies that he knows a little something about internal voices. Yes, he does. Sometimes they can damn near overwhelm you, can’t they? They sure can, Madrox admits.
So, Mister Huber, Madrox says, changing the subject, what brings him to their little section of Hell? He’s not exactly from around there, he takes it? He’s German, actually, Huber replies. But he is also… in his own humble way… rather influential. He has a good deal of money, he tells “Mister Madrox.” His family it quite rich, always has been. But he also has… and this will not sound humble at all… a finely honed sense of morality. Of right and wrong.
Smiling slightly, Madrox thanks Huber for clarifying that. ‘Cause until he did, he had no idea what “morality” was. Told that he jokes, Madrox admits that he’s been known to. The bottom line, Mister Madrox, Huber continues, is this: the mutant population needs a lobby. Are they building a hotel? Madrox asks back. More like a foundation, Huber rejoins, not rising to the jest. Mutant have lost their power… but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a power base. They are going to make the very same that has abandoned him… berated him… invaded his privacy… They’re going to make the government mutantkind’s greatest ally.
Incredulous at this, Madrox asks if that is so. How exactly? Simplicity itself, Huber replies. The ESA of 1973. Recognizing the reference, he says it aloud. That’s the Endangered Species Act… Informing Mister Madrox that that’s right, Huber states that they’re going to have Homo superior declared an Endangered species.
Theresa and Monet stand among a throng of fans, all in adulation to the band performing on stage. The lead singers of the band are Wally and Molly, who sing about the “blessed judgment day” when God cut down the mutants. “For men were never meant to fly, with wings across the velvet sky, or read the thoughts of fellow man, or do the things that mutants can.”
Regarding the performers, as well as the fans who surround them, Theresa asks Monet what she thinks. Charming, Monet replies. The Fray should record a cover version. Then asked what she seriously thinks, Monet replies that she thinks the kids’ parents should be taken out and shot for filling their children’s heads with such bile and poison.
Overhearing the two through the noise, one attendee asks the Monet what the two of them are yammering about. Is she one o’them mutant huggers? Responding indirectly, Monet admits that she has shagged a few, to which the man asks what mutants have to do with carpets?
Stepping in, Theresa asks the man what if she said she was a mutant. He wouldn’t hate her, would he? As he begins to reply with a “heck no,” Theresa presses. All of this talk of carpeting… it really puts her in the mood for a nice, expensive Persian rug. Now fully entranced, the man turns around and departs, announcing that he’ll run right out and blow his life savings buying her one. Walking the man depart with a grin on her face, Monet tells Theresa that she has a deep streak of cruelty. She’s starting to think they could be friends after all. To this, Theresa remarks that she doesn’t know whether to be flattered or frightened.
Later, after the concert, Theresa and Monet approach the backstage entrance, which is guarded by security. Unbeknownst to them, they are watched through binoculars as the Siryn-voice charmed man lets them through, saying that he’s sure the kids would just love to see them.
Once inside, Monet tells Theresa that she’s almost sorry she developed that mind-swaying power. There’s something to be said for punching one’s way in. Then sarcastically told she’s a real humanitarian, Monet counters that she hopes not. Changing subjects slightly, she asks Theresa if her plan is to use her “voice” to persuade the parents to turn the kids over to them. To this, Theresa replies that it seems the simplest, rather than informing them that they are there to enforce the court-granted visitation rights of their children’s grandparents.
As Theresa begins to hope that maybe, just maybe, the grandparents will be able to talk some sense into the kids, she is cut off in mid-sentence as a projectile from a rifle slices against her temple, knocking her out. Astonished, Monet has time to catch Theresa before she falls. She then quickly spies a sniper on a scaffold. She begins to threaten the sniper to try their luck on here, but instead is attacked from a different direction when someone appears from behind and places a cloth soaked in an anesthetic. As she begins to lose consciousness, Monet’s attacker points out that that bullet could have one into her friends brain instead of just creasing her skull Be happy they let them off easy.
(X-Factor HQ, New York)
Entering the gym, Rahne finds Rictor finishing up his hundredth push-up. When she immediately notes that he seems healthier than he was, he tells her that it’s thanks to her, “Corazon.” Unfamiliar with the term, she sheepishly reminds him that her name is Rahne. Is he having memory issues? Sitting on the floor while regaining his breath, he tells her it’s a term of endearment.
Aye, about that, she replies, uncomfortably. That… may not have been the best move on her part. Standing up and approaching her, Rictor tells her not to sell herself short. She has some great moves. Rather than taking the compliment in its sentiment, Rahne becomes more uncomfortable and turns away from Rictor. The truth is, she tells him, she felt sorry for him. Rictor considers this for a moment in silence before eventually replying “Okay. So?”
Taken aback, Rahne’s demeanor changes from regret, to astonishment, to anger. What does he mean, “so?” He means, Rictor replies, that he’s okay with it. If that’s how she has to justify it to herself… Now even angrier, Rahne rejoins that he doesn’t have to justify anything! She’s not ashamed! Part of her is, Rictor replies. As Rahne turns, he presses. He thinks she was operating entirely on instinct, and she doesn’t want to admit it. ‘Cause instinct is where her wolf side lives, and even after all this time, she still hates that part of her.
Turning back to Rictor, Rahne is incensed and yells that he’s wrong and for him to shut up. Resolute, Rictor refuses to back down and replies that he’s not going to shut up, because he’s right. And she knows he’s…
Rictor’s words end abruptly, as Rahne grabs his head with her hand and pulls her toward her, their lips locking in a passionate kiss. Pressing forward, she moves him backward until she leaps upon him, her legs wrapping around his torso, their lips never parting. Unprepared for such an aggressive maneuver, Rictor loses balance and falls to the floor.
The moment is suddenly ended, however, by someone downstairs calling for Rahne. Calling back to the voice, Guido, Rahne asks what it is. In reply, Guido yells back that Jamie wants her down there. He’s got someone he wants them all t’meet. And bring Rictor if he’s up, he then adds. Glancing down to Rictor’s pants, Rahne states, “Ooooo, aye… He’s up.” When Guido then asks about Layla or Nicole, Rahne tells him that Layla went out for a walk. She hasn’t seen Nicole.
The conversation with Guido over, Rictor regains his composure and tells Rahne that she should head downstairs. He’ll be along… Rahne begins to discuss what just happened, but Rictor pushes her off. They can talk later, he tells her. Haltingly, she replies that that’s… that’s fine… They’ll talk later. From her vantage point of departing, Rahne cannot see the ripped section on Rictor’s shirt, where she clawed at his back. Nor can she see the cuts that went deep enough into his skin of draw blood.
Elsewhere, Theresa and Monet find themselves in a darkened room, the only source of light emanating from the next room which outlines of the door leading to it. While Theresa is sitting in a chair, her hands lied behind it and her feet bound by the same rope which snakes from the back, and her mouth taped shut, Monet is only shackled by a heavy chain that connected to a brace on the floor.
Testing the chain, Monet asks Theresa what the hell her problem is. When Theresa is only able to respond with a muffled query, Monet points out that she is more injury-prone than anybody she’s ever met. She’s Irish for God’s sake. Isn’t here people supposed to have all the luck?
A moment later, the two are joined, as the door to the next room opens. Mocking them as their “hosts,” Monet asks if they mind telling her what these chains are made of. Then asked why, Monet replies that she, when she strangles them with them, she can shout, “You idiot! Don’t you know these chains are made of…” whatever. To this, one of the two men in the door replies that he doesn’t think he’ll need doing that.
Pressing, Monet asks if they want to at least tell her their names, so she can say derisive things about them while they’re gone. To t his, the second man in the doorway replies that he wouldn’t be so mouthy if he were her. Considering they could have killed her while they were unconscious…
Angrily now, Monet repeats her request for their names, calling them gutless wimps in the process. Or maybe the only way they’re not afraid, she continues, is if they have a cloth with a chloroform on her nose? So goaded, the first man, wearing a green body armor and a pistol in his right hand introduces himself as Solo. In contrast to Solo’s fair skin and red hair, the second man has silver air, with a highly tanned skin, over whose arms are a pattern of ornate tattoos. Introducing this man as his associate, Solo names him as Clay.
To this, Monet quips to Solo that, if he has an associate, in the interest of accuracy, shouldn’t his name be “Duo?” Replying in kind that that’s very amusing, he tells “Ms. Saint-Croix” that, if it’s any consolation, she damn near busted his arm evern through his armored suit. The next thing she busts of his, Monet rejoins, will be lower. When Monet then asks Solo how he snuck up on her, he replies that all his suits have light-refractive capabilities. Yeah, well, Monet replies, all her suits have designer labels. So bite her.
For what it’s worth, she continues, they’re on the wrong side there. Those kids are spewing venom, and they’re enforcing their grandparents’ court-granted rights. Undeterred by this, Solo replies that he doesn’t care if they’re spewing pea soup. What it’s worth is their paychecks, plain and simple, to protect those kids from folks like them. This was a warning, “Ms. Saint-Croix,” he then adds as he closes the door. Come around again… They’ll kill her. A moment later, the door closes with a Ka-Clik, plunging the room into darkness once again.
Meanwhile, back at X-Factor HQ, Guido sits on the couch, confused. “Endangered species?” He doesn’t get it. Then asked Huber what is not to get, Guido asks if the Endangered Species Act about Eagles and Pandas and stuff? Laws, Huber begins with a smile, are made to be interpreted, Mr. Carosella. His interpretation… and he thinks the fact will bear his out… is that Homo superior is, in fact, a separate species… And with its numbers having dropped, to… one hundred ninety-eight is it?
“Depends on who you talk to,” Guido replies uncertainly. Then asked by Huber “how so?” Guido replies that at it’s at most a hunnert ninety-seven now… ‘cept Siryn still don’t believe her dad’sdead, so she’d tell him a hunnert ninenty-eight. As Madrox and Rahne both proceed to rub their forehead in exasperation, an even more confused Guido asks what. What’d he say?
Breaking the tense moment, Rictor enters, asking what he missed. Immediately, Madrox introduces “Josef Huber” to “Julio Esteban Richter.” Stretching out his hand, Huber says hello to “Mister Richter,” only to be corrected that most people just call him “Rictor.” Smiling at the invitation to informality, Huber’s handshake becomes a strong pat on the back, which in turn elicits a howl of pain from Rictor. Through the subsequent pain, Rictor gives Huber the thumbs up and haltingly tell him that he’s very happy to meet him. When Huber then proceeds to ask if there’s something wrong with this back, Rictor denies it. He’s fine. Fine. It’s all good.
Immediately, Madrox silently detects something amiss. Something going on that’s not being said… A quick mental notation of Rahne’s over-attempt at being casual leads Madrox to the pieces of the puzzle. The realization made, he quickly tries to return the focus back to Huber.
When Madrox asks him to elaborate about the idea for a “sanctuary,” Huber explains. When they get mutantkind declares an endangered species, the government, by law, cannot do anything to threaten them. They must provide a protected sanctuary, where mutants can reside safe from harm. Why, he continues, leaning over Madrox’s desk, there’s even a chance – if they can prove that it threatens the identity of mutant super heroes – that they can use it as a precedent to overturn the Registration Act.
Still in his chair, Madrox replies that this sounds like a stretch to him… Mister Madrox, Huber counters, the flat-back turtle is given full protection of the law. The black-footed ferret. The grand skink. Shouldn’t mutants be accorded as much respect… as a skink? From across the room, Guido replies that that depends. He should see some of the skinks he’s dated. When Rahne and Rictor, both sitting on either side of him, get up and walk away, Guido lowers his head in frustration. People used t’have a sense o’humor around there, he says. Sometimes, they’d even laugh.
Back in their prison, Monet’s labor against the chains continues. Cursing her captors and mocking their apparent belief that they are going to stay helpless, she tells her non-present captors to screw that! Cursing again, Monet finally succeeds and the chain snaps. A moment later, Monet bursts through the flimsy wooden door of hers and Theresa’s jail, calling for Solo and Clay. This isn’t over! not by a long… shot. Monet’s voice trails as she discovers that their prison is actually a small concrete bunker, set in the middle of a desert.
Back at X-Factor HQ, Monet’s words ring through Huber’s skull, as well as the voices of others. Seeing their guests as physically pained, Madrox says his name inquisitively and asks what’s wrong. Huber, however, is engrossed in trying to remove the cap to his bottle of pills. When Madrox persists, he backhands Madrox out of pain, knocking him back and generating a dupe in the process. Newly created, the dupe opines that Huber seems to be suffering from a disorder of the serotonergic control system. When Rictor clearly does not understand, the dupe elucidates: “a migraine.”
The dupe then begins to prescribe them finding a darkened room, but Huber regains his composure. Downing pills directly from the bottle to his mouth, he tells the group that he’s fine. He’ll be fine. It’s… nothing he cannot handle. As before, the noise of the voices begin to subside until they disappear altogether.
Elsewhere, Layla stands at the center of a stone bridge which straddles a stream running through Central Park. Standing at the side of the span, she regards a simple device made of plastic: a pregnancy test. Speaking only to herself, Layla says that she means, she always knows. That’s her thing. If she doesn’t… then she’s just… some girl.
Suddenly aware of the presence of someone else, she turns to regard Nicole and asks what she is doing there. Haltingly replying that she followed her, Nicole asks her not to be upset. How can she possibly be upset about having her own stalker? Layla asks. She’s gotta say, she then adds, she’s getting pretty tired of having a creepy little girl around who isn’t Layla Miller.
Changing the subject, Nicole asks Layla what she’s going to do about the pregnancy test. Returning her attention to it, Layla responds that it’s hard to know what’s right. She can’t believe she’s asking this… but what does she think? To this, Nicole replies that, honestly, she thinks Mister Huber wants her to die. Confused at this, Layla begins to ask what that is supposed to mean, but she is suddenly beaten senseless when Nicole hits her across the head with a slab of loose stone masonry. Unconscious, Layla falls onto the edge of the bridge, and a moment later falls into the water below.
Now alone, Nicole holds the stone over her head for a moment and then brings it crashing down on the pregnancy test, which she had set on the stone railing of the bridge. Plastic shards shower to the stream below as a result. Her task finished, she descends the arc of the bridge, returning to the city beyond, leaving a blood Layla Miller floating face up in the water, amidst pieces of broken plastic shards.
Regarding the X-wing jet they are in, which soars over snow-capped mountains, the Beast tells the Dark Beast that he travels in style. No, the Dark Beast replies, he travels discretely, whenever possible. But this is a long haul and there’s no viable alternative.
Changing the subject, the Dark Beast tells “Henry” that they’re friends now. All smiles and slumber parties and shared secrets. “Drink this.” When Hank regards the outstretched glass vial the Dark Beast is offering, asking what it is, the Dark Beast replies “holy communion.” His own extracted cordical cells. Acetylcholine and a catalyst he likes to call AZ-3194-T. It’s liquid memory. He can spend three month reviewing his paperwork, or drink this and know what he knows.
Accepting the vial, Hank considers it for a moment and lifts it to his lips. A moment later, his eyes go wide and he falls to the floor, his face contorting in the sensations. “Edited highlights, of course,” the Dark Beast states, his guest writhing on the ground behind him. Even best friends don’t share everything. As the memories flood through him, the Dark Beast narrates what Hank sees. The Age of Apocalypse was another country, he tells him. They did things differently there.
In one memory track the Dark Beast introduces himself as “Doc” to a frightened child named Emily, clasping desperately to her mother. She and her mom, he tells the little girl, are going to visit with her in the lab today, aren’t they?
In another track, the Dark Beast is in an operation, working on a group person composed of multiple individuals as one entity. Holding a hacksaw, the Dark Beast instructs his assistant to tell their Lord and Master that, individually, Alex and Julie and Jack and little Katie are just curiosities. Fused together, they could become something really special.
In another memory track, the Dark Beast addresses a man who is being carried by two assistants. Addressing the man as Madrox, whose duplicates litter the laboratory, some in pieces, the Dark Beast tells him that he was worried about running out of test subjects until he met him. He’s like the answer to a prayer.
In another track, the Dark Beast snarls at his assistant, Mister Bedlam. “It!” he yells. Not “he!” They call the patient “it,” as in “it has just died because you didn’t have the damn blood pump on the right setting.”
In another memory track, the Dark Beast experiments on a redheaded woman clad in red, electrical volts coursing through her manacles his clasp her feet and hands. Describing the experience as wonderful, he tells Prelate summers that he could do it all day. Then asked by Cyclops what the point of it is, the Dark Beast regards the data on the screen and replies that the subject, Jean Grey, is astonishing. She does beyond mutation into some other category he doesn’t yet have a name for. Even on the microscopic level, each of her body’s cells is a ferment. A separate center of power.
He begins to muse about talk between physicists, about white fountains, the spontaneous outpourings of energy, or cosmic birth, but Cyclops interrupts him. He tells the Dark Beast to get to the point. He’s saying she’s unique. For the moment, yes, the Beast replies. But if someone were to culture some of her nerve tissue in a medium of…
In another memory track, the Dark Beast sits in a darkened room watching the images displayed on a wall before him from a projector. He tells the one operating the projector to show him the footage again. From the start. Seeing a young man, floating inn the eye of a swirl of energy, the Dark Beast states that it’s clear that Sinister was plotting against the Lord Apocalypse… probably for decades. And this was his secret weapon. A telekinetic mutant.
Noting the manipulation of the youth’s powers, the Dark Beast can tell that he’s not stopping the explosion. He’s just curving the shock wave – and the shrapnel - around himself. The control that must take… incredible.
Leaning forward, the Dark Beast realizes something else. He’s her son. He must be. Nothing else explains it. Not a birth son, but a vat-grown hybrid of her DNA with… someone else. And he has her powers. Her… morphology.
(present / reality)
Hank McCoy coughs and gurgles as he returns to the here and now. As he does so, the Dark Beast, still piloting the aircraft, explains that that’s his half of the bargain. Now what has he got to put on the table?
Still recovering, Hank calls his companion a psychopathic butcher. He had… no right to make him see those things. His attention still on the controls, the Dark Beast replies that he didn’t just make him see them, he made him feel them. And he hopes he’ll be just as open handed with him.
Changing the subjects, the Dark Beast asks to be told about the Greys, Jean and Nate. “They’re both dead,” Hank replies. Well, yes, the Dark Beast rejoins. But with that family, he’s found it’s best to get frequent updates. Exactly how dead, at the moment in time? Jean fell fighting Magneto, Hank explains. He caused an electrical surge in her brain. She died in Scott’s arms, a massive stroke. Nate, he continues, dispersed his being and his consciousness into every living thing on Earth. It was the only way he could stop an alien race from feeding on them.
Interesting, the Dark Beast replies, still checking the controls. If Nate Grey dismantled his mind and body by the application of his own mutant power… he can presumable be retrieved and reconstituted in the same way. Promptly told by Hank that he’s insane, the Dark Beast replies that he’s not. But he’s not averse to a little grave-robbing if that’s what it takes to get the job done. And, speaking of the dead, he continues, he thinks they’re there.
Eying their destination out of the cockpit, Hank tells the Dark Beast that it’s just an abandoned nuclear plant. On the face of it, yes, the Dark Beast replies. When you’ve done as much grave-robbing as he has, you learn a few tricks of the trade. But the first rule’s pretty obvious. Dig deep. With this, the jet begins to slow, coming to its final destination of the nuclear plant/government research facility in Alamagordo, NM where, according to its sign, trespassers will be shot.