Standing on a roof, a man, his face wrinkled not just by his age but by the scales originating from his mutant power, looks upward and calls to someone named Shirley, asking if she sees what he does. Not enough that they’re living in a ghetto. That he’s gotten used to. But now, he continues, now the walls are back. Gazing up at the energy mesh which has surrounded his section of town, the man tells a Shirley – who does not seem to be present – that it’s like she said: this is what happens when you live long enough. Nothing new happens. You just watch the same history over and over.
Elsewhere in Mutant Town, a group of youths discuss what’s happening outside. Reporting what he’s seen outside, the youth named Dray comments that it’s calmed down – the whole jungle thing is gone. No giant rock and crap. When then asked about X-Factor, Dray reports that there’s no sign. Good, the other remarks. They were never any damned good. The lot of ‘em. Setting themselves up in their town. Acting like they’re their protectors. They don’t need their damned protection.
Commenting to this, Dray tells the first, calling him Roc, that he’s damned straight. They’re the X/M’s. They can look out for themselves. Mutant town is their turf. “Middle East Side, man,” a third of the group corrects. When Dray replies in confusion, the youth asks why he keeps calling it “Mutant Town?” Ain’t no more mutants. Should just call it the Middle East side, like other people… However, before the youth can finish his thought, he is kneed in the stomach by Roc. “We ain’t other people, man!” he exclaims. They’re the X/M’s! The Ex-Mutants! And they gotta remember that! That’s who they are! What they are! Mutant Town is their turf, and ain’t nobody taking it from them! Nobody! Not their turf… and not their names!
A short distance away, still within Mutant Town, someone within the comedy club named “Punch Line” attempts to tell a joke on stage. The person in question is a middle-aged woman, who smiles widely as she speaks into her hand-held microphone. Doctor says to this guy, she begins. “I’m sorry to say, I have bad news and worse news. The bad news is you have cancer. And the worse news is: you have Alzheimer’s. The guy sits for a minute and then says, ‘Well at least I don’t have cancer.’”
After a few moments of silence, the woman begins to explain the joke, pointing out that the guy’s got Alzheimer’s, so he doesn’t remember… Before she finishes, someone from the audience yells that she stinks. Addressing herself now as Paula, the comedienne laments to herself that she’s on fire tonight. To this, the heckler adds to their earlier statement that she really stinks. C’mon guys, the would-be comedienne replies. Have a heart.
Back in the Power Plant, Madrox continues to try CPR on the lifeless body of Taylor, pleading repeatedly for him to come on! As Guido kneels next to Madrox, Siryn stands a short distance behind. Speaking to Taylor’s words about his dying triggering incendiary devices throughout Mutant Town, Siryn suggests that maybe he was lying. Then asked back if she wants to roll those dice, Siryn is forced to admit not especially, no.
Yelling over to Rictor, who sits at the Purifier computer system some distance away, Madrox asks how he’s coming. Terrific, he replies, eying one of the many computer terminals towering before him. Give him about a day or two and he should be able to figure out how this whole things works. He’s no techno-dummy, Rictor then adds, but c’mon! Arcade’s in a league of his own.
To this, the newly arrived Monet suggests that they ask the man himself. As he is floated to the ground, held aloft by Monet’s iron grip on his white suit’s jacket, Arcade quips that they should remember that violence has never solved anything. Perhaps, Monet retorts, but right now she’d settle for it being an end unto itself.
Immediately, Madrox instructs Monet to scan his mind and find what they need. Rip it apart, gray cell from gray cell if she has to. She’s been trying, Monet replies. She’s not getting anything. She thinks he’s got some sort of cybernetic blocking device implanted. Hearing this, Rictor approaches with a clenched fist, suggesting that they do it the old-fashioned way. Now speaking directly to Arcade, Rictor demands to know how they shut the system down. Okay… He’ll say this slowly to benefit the learning impaired, Arcade replies, straightening his coat. “Fail. Safe.” Which word did he not understand?
Incensed Rictor delivers a powerful left hook to Arcade, asking if he understand this, zangano. However, before Rictor can press, he finds himself staggered by the sight of Arcade’s face having fallen off, revealing the mechanisms of a robot beneath. Finally speaking, Rictor exclaims that that’s why Monet couldn’t get a read off of him. He’s just another stinkin’ robot! With this, Rictor kicks the severed face-plate across the room.
Suddenly, a noise erupts outside. Choom! Choom! Choom! Immediately recognizing it for what they are – a series of explosions – Madrox screams at the inert corpse of Taylor, letting loose a string of profanities that are beyond his ability to hear. He’s won, Madrox thinks. They’ve lost. A few moments later, Madrox and X-Factor have bolted from the Power Plant, looking to do the only thing left: damage control.
Once alone once again, the prone Arcade robot begins to stir and sits upright, noting to no one that he thought they would never leave. Removing the robot faceplate, revealing his very human face beneath, Arcade jests a memo to himself: go back to using robot duplicated. That was a little too close for comfort. Best to hightail it out of there before they think to come back and try to lower the force barrier. He’s sure they’ll have plenty to occupy them in the meantime, considering…
From outside the area, neighbors of Mutant Town, watch as the once safe haven for mutants is now encapsulated in a dome, made of an energy lattice. The only thing within this dome that can escape through latticework is smoke, generated by the many burning buildings within. This night, the Middle East Side is burning.
At the street level, Valerie Cooper speaks on her mobile phone, telling the person on the other end that she doesn’t care if he’s in Cleveland on business! They are to get Stark’s iron ass over there! No, the president shouldn’t come, she then retorts to their reply. What’s going to do, veto it? They don’t need three million Youtube videos of him standing there looking as helpless as the rest of them!
Arriving on the scene, a group of firefighters begin to train their water hoses on a group of people on the other side of the carrier. Each of the people are ablaze, yelling in pain. However, though the stream of water hits the energy lattice, not a drop get’s through, much to their horror. Impotently, the firefighters watch as the four people burn to death just a few feet away. Having watched this with equal impotency, Val now speaks over the phone more softly and even more resolute: “Get Stark here. Now.”
Back at the headquarters of the X/M’s, Roc yells for Dray to close the door, the only barrier between them and a piece of burning wreckage just outside. Trying to stay calm, Roc tells one of his less-than calm cohorts that they’ll be fine. They just have to wait it out there. A moment later, however, a steam pip bursts, spraying Dray with scalding steam.
Elsewhere, still on a nearby roof, the wrinkle-face man has had enough of the site of his neighborhood burning and decides to move to street level. However, upon touching the door handle leading to the stairwell, he flinches at the scalding heat. Realizing immediately that the stairwell is one fire, the man turns around to regard the black smoke originating from the sides of his building. Not good, Nathan, he tells himself. Not good.
Elsewhere, still on stage at the Punch Line comedy club, Paula the would-be comedienne no longer stands upon it, but lies beneath rubble which has fallen upon her. When she pleads to him as he passes, fleeing a patron of the club only offers more the criticism of “you stink” before departing. Once alone, Paula sarcastically thanks the departed man. She appreciates that. Her name’s Paula, by the way. She’ll be there all week. Be sure to *koff* tip your waitresses… Big hand for ‘em… aren’t they great…?
Back at the Power Plant, Rictor has returned to the computer terminals. Taking a moment to regard Taylor, Rictor sneers that he’d kill him if he weren’t already dead. As he sits down in the chair again, Rictor takes a moment to wonder where the robot went. Must have had some sort of built-in self-destruct thing or something, he finally decides.
Returning to the keyboard, Rictor reminds himself that Madrox said the best way to be useful was to come back there, try and find a way to bring that barrier down. Otherwise they’re all trapped like freaking rats. So, c’mon, he tells himself, placing his fingertips on the keyboard. Make the Earth move.
Making her way through the black smoke which fills the lounge of the Punch Line comedy club, Siryn asks if anyone is in there. Speaking weakly from beneath debris, Paula replies nope. Nothing to see there… Move along… Despite the weak voice, Siryn makes her way to Paula, telling her to hold on. To what? Paula retorts.
As Siryn begins to lift the debris from off of her, Paula tells her to stop her if she’s heard this one… a pair of jumper cables walks into a bar… Bartender says, “Okay, I’ll serve you, but don’t start anything.” Ignoring the bad joke, Siryn asks Paula if she can stand. Not with her legs, Paula retorts. Undeterred, Siryn lifts Paula up and wraps her arm around for support. Detecting Siryn’s accent, Paula notes that she’s Irish and selects an appropriate joke. Leprechaun walks into a bar. He buys a beer that costs three bucks and only puts down two dollars. Almost rolling her eyes, Siryn finishes the joke: Bartender says, “Hey, you’re a little short!” When Paula curses slightly at this, Siryn replies that she should trust her. She’s heard every bar joke there…
Siryn’s words trail as the roof above the stage collapses in flames and smoke. Noting this, Paula remarks that she brought the house down! When Siryn then tells her to shut up – she’s a lousy comedian, Paula quips that at least she’ll die laughing. No one’s dying, Siryn replies. Hold on! With this, Siryn lets loose her sonic scream, propelling both of them through the building and out the window into the fresh air beyond. Unfortunately, the scream is suddenly interrupted by a series of coughs, which Paula immediately notes doesn’t sound good. A moment later, the two women – now no longer airborne – bounce on the street before coming to a stop.
Calling out to Siryn, who landed some distance away, Paula asks if she’s okay. Clutching her throat, Siryn haltingly explains that she got a little smoke in her lungs. Returning the favor, Siryn asks Paula how her legs are, to which the comedienne replies that she still can’t feel anything. She felt something break, she… Jeez, she says, something occurring to her. Can you do standup in a wheelchair? Might be a hook. Good God, Siryn laments. She never stops.
Grinning slightly at this, Paula explains that, before Decimation, she could make people laugh. Anything she said stimulated the pleasure centers. Now… now she has to work twice as hard for half the laughs. So she just shut her brain down… keep making jokes. You know what, Siryn asks, interrupting as she sees the blaze from the building expanding their direction. Now may not be the best time.
As Siryn then begins to lift her up again, Paula notes that it’s raining. No, Siryn disgrees. No, it’s not. While water indeed falls from the sky, Siryn quickly notes that it is not from precipitation, but rather from Guido, who has unearthed a fire hydrant and uncapped it. Having beaten back the flames from Siryn and Paula, Guido calls to her, asking if she’s okay. Receiving assurance that she is, Guido departs, looking for others to save. His next rescue is a woman, who leaps from her upper floor apartment, her small child in her arms, into the waiting arms of Guido, who catches her safely.
Inside the burning headquarters of their group, the X/M’s leader, Roc, stars up at Monet, the purple plumage of his feather-hair reflecting his anger. They don’t need her, does she hear? The X/M’s don’t need nobody! Smirking as she floats above him, holding the entire roof of the building as she does so, Monet remarks that that’s great to hear. Really. She’s impressed. Now they should get out of there before she changes her mind and lets this place collapse on top of their pointy heads!
Still trapped atop his roof, Nathan calls to Shirley, telling her it’s going to be okay. He’s going to be with her soon… Interrupting as he climbs onto the roof from its side, Madrox tells Nathan that he’s not Shirley… but will he do? When Nathan then asks if he can fly, Madrox replies that, no, he can’t. But, he then adds, pointing to a group of dupes who have formed a human pyramid on which he is standing, he’s got a kickin’ support system. From the bottom of the pyramid, one of the dupes asks if they can move this along. Please?
Back in the Power Plant, Rictor curses at the monitor, which displays an “Access Denied, Thank you For Playing” message. Stupid piece of useless… Stopping himself, Rictor corrects his words. No, it’s not useless. He is. Picking up the chair in which he had been sitting, Rictor continues his diatribe. Useless, powerless, useless! In rage, Rictor takes the chair and swings it on the computer, following it up with fists, pounding onto the controls. Suddenly, the message on the monitor changes, now reading “Oh Bugger. Systems Overload!!!”
Still in her same position just outside the energy dome, Val Cooper continues to obtain help via her mobile phone. She is interrupted, however, as one of her aides points out the sudden collapsing of the energy lattice. Without further instructions, the firefighters rush inside the area, racing to the fire and its victims. Returning to her phone, she tells the party on the other line to forget it. They don’t need tony Stark anymore. Hanging up, Val tells her aide that now she works on finding Madrox… and tell him how things are going to be from now on.