Hanging upside down on the cross, Rictor is asked by his captor, who lurks unseen in the shadows, if he has any last words before they part company. To this, Rictor replies bluntly “Screw you!” Taking note of the ever shortening distance between the swinging scythe as it descends toward Rictor’s crotch, the unseen captor remarks that’s, well, going to be problematic, won’t…
Suddenly, the wall of the chamber erupts as Monet crashes though it. Immediately spying her teammate, Monet calls to Rictor, who thanks God it’s her. A quick moment later, Monet flies to the swinging scythe, wondering with a smile how Rictor gets himself into these kind of situa..
Unexpectedly, Monet falls silent as an electrical shock rocks her body as she touches the scythe. Losing consciousness, Monet falls to the floor, as Rictor calls out to her. From the shadows, Rictor’s captor remarks that Monet hardly seems to be in any condition to help him. To this, the captor then expresses surprise, announcing that Monet still seems to be alive. That was enough wattage to kill twenty grown men. She’s a spunky one, the captor remarks. Then turning back to Rictor, the captor asks what else does he have.
Within the control room, the captor’s client remarks that that was close! She could have… Interrupting, the captor (in fact the assassin known as Arcade) remarks that she could have done nothing. As can be seen, he was prepared for a rescue attempt. Listen, the client snarls, he has a score to settle with Rictor and his mutant pals! They cost him his position with the Purifiers! From what he has told him, Arcade replies, he did that all by himself, enlisting little Julio into his organization without properly checking his background. And besides… people don’t come to Arcade if they merely have “scores to settle.” They come to him to watch their enemies wriggle like worms on hooks.
Furthermore, Arcade muses as he plays with his “A” hilt-studded cane, he expressed more than just ire with dear Julio. He was positively fuming about the whole “Mutant Town.” His reasoning as to why they still present a threat was most compelling. He asserted that recent events have shown the mutant gene is still alive, well and capable of manifesting. Who better to cause that manifestation than a man and woman both of whom are carrying the recessive mutant gene? Best to be rid of the lot of them. So why settle on avenging yourself on Rictor… when with his aid, he can dispose of the lot of them? Why think small when you can think big? Why be timid… when you can be boulder?
Boulder? Boulder? Get it? (sigh) Never mind.
Elsewhere, the boulder about which Arcade jests continues to roll, still with Guido Carrosella embedded within its circumference. Though people continue to jump out of the path of the oncoming sphere, trees are not so able. As a result, the boulder – as well as Guido – continue to bowl them over. Turning over and over again, Guido quips that this is getting old fast. As he continues to try to pull his arms free, he exclaims in frustration as he sees a woman in the path of the boulder. Not alone, the woman is pushing a baby stroller.
Calling out to the woman, Guido shouts to her to move! Move it before…! His frustration reaching a breaking point, Guido yells for her to never mind, just as he breaks his arms free. Moving his arms ground-ward, Guido pushes against the ground when the boulder rolls forward. Pushing against it at that moment with an “Alleeyyyy-oooop!!!,” Guido manages to use his prodigious strength to propel the boulder skyward, up and over the woman and her stroller.
Seeing all of this as he continues to run after the boulder (and thus Guido), Jamie Madrox notes silently that they’ve never been more vulnerable. They’re down two members… every other X-group in the area has vanished… and their location is publicly known. At any give time, someone can attack them in some unexpected… Oh hell. Seeing the woman who was formerly in the path of the rolling boulder reach into her and withdraw an automatic rifle, Madrox leaps for the ground. As he avoids the onslaught of bullets fired by the woman, creating three dupes as a result, Madrox questions whether his internal monologue has to be that accurate?
Elsewhere, the scythe approaches ever nearer to Rictor’s crotch. Mocking this, Arcade remarks that that one missed by micrometers. He really does think the next pass is going to divide and conquer. Any last words as a man? Responding with actions, rather than words, Rictor exerts enough strength to break the plank on which his right leg is manacled. Then, as the scythe swings once more to his direction, Rictor pivots his leg, using the broken plank as a shield and blocking the blade. Viewing this sight as they enter the chamber, Siryn and a Madrox dupe are agape. When Siryn asks if he’s okay, Rictor sarcastically asks back if it looks like he’s okay.
Watching these new events from Arcade’s control booth, a panicked Taylor points out that Rictor’s getting away. Calm in spite of his client’s demeanor, Arcade rejoins that he’s not. None of them are. Although, should the unthinkable happen, there’s always the failsafe option. Not his first choice, he knows, but at least he’d have the last laugh. Now turning his eyes toward another screen, Arcade adds that he sees the citizenry appears determined to make a hasty exit. Can’t have that. No, they can’t.
The race by the captive “citizenry” toward escape is suddenly halted by a mesh of lasers, which crisscross in a web. However, undeterred, one of their number, a young girl named Kaitlin, points out that the space between lasers is enough for her to get through. Despite the warnings of another that it can’t be that easy, Kaitlin still attempts to traverse the barrier. To the horror of those behind her, Kaitlin erupts into flame, quickly reduced to cinders.
Some distance away, Arcade turns away from the monitor showing Kaitlin’s fate and glibly smirks to Taylor that that’s going to leave a mark. He then returns his attention to a monitor displaying the prime Madrox, suggesting that they see how he is doing. “Ooooo,” Arcade quickly remarks. Not much better than Kaitlin.
Indeed, dupes of Madrox continue to fall under the automatic fire of the rifle-wielding woman. Emotionless, she continues firing – all until the prime Madrox appears behind her. As he wrenches the rifle from her hands, Madrox remarks at the woman’s cold, dead eyes. It’s everything he can do not to kill her with his bare hands. Still, this does not stop Madrox from using the rifle as a club against the woman’s head. Much to Madrox’s surprise, the woman’s head flies off and rolls some distance away.
Overcoming his shock, Madrox examines the woman’s head, only to learn that she was just a robot. Considering a lifelike robot in an environment consisting of ever-shifting deathtraps. Though this differs from his standard amusement park motif he used to favor, Madrox quickly surmises that Arcade is behind their situation. That and he had his face and name scrawled on the big rock. That was also a tip-off.
Unceremoniously, the jungle suddenly begins to dissolve around Madrox, revealing the streets the city. As Madrox begins to wonder if this is a positive thing or not, one of his dupes staggers to him, seemingly wounded and pleading for help. Considering this, Madrox considers the ramifications of reabsorbing the dupe, knowing that it will hurt like hell and weaken him. However, before he can come to a conclusion, Madrox’s dupe straightens up, pulls out a pistol from his coat and fires a slug into his shoulder.
Bleeding, Madrox collapses to the pavement, silently cursing himself for being so stupid. He should have realized that he wasn’t feeling any psychic link to him… to it. It’s another robot. He let himself get distracted and now…
“Hey, there,” a voice comes from behind the Madrox robot. “Rock out.” With this, Guido uses a chunk of pavement to pound the robot, crushing it.
Elsewhere, Rictor climbs out of a hole in the street, Monet’s arm slung over his shoulder. However, as soon as he begins to clear the surface, he sees a vehicle bearing down on him. Acting fast, Rictor tosses Monet back down the hole to Siryn and the Madrox dupe, asking them to catch her. Unfortunately, the dupe did not hear and Monet lands atop him with a thump. Oblivious to this, Rictor leaps out of the way of the vehicle, only to see half a dozen more closing in on him. Standing alone on the street and surrounded, Rictor realizes impotently that no one is driving the cars.
Suddenly, as one car closes in behind him, a powerful beam of solid sonic screams bursts up through the street, knocking the car off course. A moment later, Siryn herself erupts through the newly created hole, quickly grabbing Rictor and lifting the two of them airborne with her screams.
A few moments later, a now fully conscious and angry Monet emerges from the hole, followed by the Madrox dupe. Through gritted teeth, Monet asks where’s the dead man walking who’s behind this. Ignoring her direct question, Rictor asks back if she’s okay, to which Monet abruptly rejoins that she’s fine. Is she sure? Rictor presses, considering her hair spread out in a fan due to static electricity. She sure got a hell of a jolt… Interrupting, she repeats that she’s fine, but then proceeds to call Rictor “Sam.” As Monet proceeds on her quest to find the one responsible, Rictor begins to ask Siryn and the dupe if she just called him what he thinks she did. However, Siryn interrupts, advising him to let it go. A wise choice, the dupe adds.
A few blocks away, on the other side of the barrier, a host of rescue vehicles and workers stand transfixed, regarding the mesh of lasers blocking their way. Arriving to this scene is a limousine, out of which steps Val Cooper of O*N*E. Calling to the major in charge on the scene, she demands a sitrep.
Still eying the barrier, the major replies that it’s some sort of energy field which came into existence around the middle east side at approximately twenty-one hundred hours. Circles the entire perimeter there’s been at least one civilian casualty and he’s already lost two tanks that tried to cross the threshold.
When Val then asks if he’s heard from X-Factor, the major asks if that isn’t the mutie group that came out against the registration act. When she replied in the affirmative, he answers with “not a word.” Does she think they’re behind this? In reply, Val guesses aloud that they’re smack in the middle of it.
Back within the barrier, a cadre of Madrox dupes speak with trapped New Yorkers, while the rest of X-Factor takes stock of their situation. Among them, the still static-shocked Monet regarding the decapitated head of the female robot gunman. As a dupe asks he if she stuck her finger in a socket (referring to her hair), Monet addresses him as Cyclops and instructs him to step back. She doesn’t need him bleeding on her. When the dupe begins to reel, Siryn tells him just to do what she says.
Now speaking to Monet, Siryn asks if she’s sure this is going to work. As she fiddles with the exposed circuitry, Monet asks if she means jacking her comm. unit into this robot head to see if she can track where it’s receiving command transmissions from? No. Absolutely not. Clearly she’s just wasting her ti…
Suddenly, a deafening shreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee erupts from the head. A moment later, after it has subsides, Siryn – the lone one not affected – picks up the head Monet dropped. Considering it, she tells the other that the very high feedback indicates that the point of origin is close. When Madrox asks how close, Siryn turns her head toward the nearby bar, the Power Plant, and replies “very.”
A few moments later, the whole team bursts through the wall of the Power Plant. Inside, rather than a bar is an empty space, surrounded by various computer monitors, each displaying nothing save static. Sitting cross-legged on the floor before them is Taylor, who tells X-Factor to save the dramatic speeches. They just missed him. He had an escape hatch under that chair over there. Moving quickly, Monet declares that, no he doesn’t, and then tears the chair and the flooring below it up, then promptly flying in the newly created hole.
With sudden realization, Rictor announces to the man that he knows him. Taylor! He should have known the freaking Purifiers were behind this. Oh, he should have, huh? Taylor replies sarcastically before drinking from a glass. After Rictor yells for him to get up, so he can pound him, Taylor interrupts, rejoining for him to save his threats. He can’t hurt him. Not anymore. No one can. Not after the Purifiers expelled him.
Considering this, Rictor remarks that it’s because of him, right? He get’s to take credit for that. When Taylor replies that he’s welcome to take credit for killing his soul, Rictor scoffs. Right. As if a murderous slime like him has a soul. Casting down his eyes, Taylor explains that Rictor has no idea what he was before the Purifiers took him in. He was lost. A drug addict, drowning in his own filth. They saw his potential. They cleaned him up, believed in him. They restored his humanity. He’d have walked through fire for them. He thought he saw the same potential in him, Taylor then tells Rictor. He admits it. He fooled him. He had no idea he was a spy. Good on him. And now he’s had to pay for his practicing on his credulous simplicity. The Purifiers will not have him. He has no idea what it’s like to be isolated. Alone… without focus… surrounded by a threatening world.
Considering Taylor’s words, Madrox silently remarks that, actually, he has no idea what it’s like not to feel that way.
Continuing, Taylor remarks that, without the Purifiers, he’ll inevitable return to what he was. The thought… terrifies him. It’s unthinkable. He cannot go back or forward. Fortunately, thanks to Arcade and his “failsafe” plan, he shall have to do neither. When he’s then asked what he’s talking about, Taylor answers that it’s incendiary devices, seeded throughout “this pestilential have,” keyed to go off the instant his heart stops beating. When he dies, Taylor tells the astonished Madrox, so does Mutant Town.
Meaning he thinks they’re going to kill him? Madrox asks. If so, then he’d badly miscalculated. Now speaking with a shaky voice, Taylor replies that, no, no, he thinks he’s correctly calculated… the amount of poison… in his glass… that will be needed to… to… Unable to finish his sentence, Taylor goes limp and his glass topples to its side, dropped from Taylor’s lifeless hand.