It is a hot day in Detroit, the current city of residence of Jamie Madrox, who muses to himself that his new home gets a bad rap. He feels it really unfair to categorize an entire geographic region, tarring it with one brush… It just isn’t right. Except New Jersey, he then notes. New Jersey’s fair game ‘cause it totally sucks. And Cleveland. And Portland, Oregon. God, he hates Portland. But Detroit’s pretty okay, though admittedly it’s had its problems here and there…
In one such problem-laced section of Detroit, a low-income area, a young man who has risen up to a position of high income through criminal actions spies two people leaning against his very expensive car. As he approaches, one of the two – the former X-Man known as Darwin – asks his partner – the former X-Man known as Longshot – what does he think he’s doing? Pressing his luck, Longshot replies with a wry grin, calling Darwin by his given name of Armando. But, Armando replies, all that crap he’s saying… does he wanna start trouble? His arms crossed, Longshot replies that that is more or less the plan. Yes.
When Armando asks back why, Longshot replies that his powers have been a bit hit or miss lately and he wants to see where he stands. By trying to get himself killed? Darwin asks back. Now finding the two of them surrounded by the gang, Longshot asks Armando devilishly if he’s worried about getting killed. To this, Armando replies sheepishly with a “no,” just before being grabbed by the collar.
Bringing him threateningly close, the youth asks Darwin if he’s with this idiot. When Darwin then asks back what does he mean “with” exactly, the youth tells him not to be cute. He’ll try, Darwin replies, but it’s not always up to him. A moment later, Darwin finds himself being dragged to an open fire hydrant, at which his head is forcefully place directly into the water stream.
Watching this from a short distance away, another youth wonders why the newcomer is not struggling. Could he have drowned that fast? To this, another youth tells the one holding Darwin into the water that he’s waterboarding him. Maybe he passed out!
Hearing this, Longshot offers his own opinion, stating in a blasé manner than they should check his throat. He may have developed gills. Though confused, the assailant does just that – and to his astonishment sees that Darwin has indeed done so. Pressing the confusion, Longshot suggests to the youth that he should try drowning him in estrogen. He bets he’ll grow beasts. “You’re not helping, Longshot!” Darwin yells back. True, Longshot rejoins. But, in his defense, he then adds, he wasn’t trying to. Before Darwin can reply in turn to this, he gapes in horror as his youthful assailant brandishes a serrated knife and holds it against his face.
Elsewhere in the city, in the large house serving as the headquarters of XF Investigations, the new name of the former X-Factor Investigations, a middle-aged man informs Jamie Madrox and the very pregnant Siryn that he’s looking for his son, and he has reason to believe he’s right there in Detroit. Pressed for the reason why (and his name), the man replies that he’s Hector Munoz and, the matter of fact is that XF Investigations isn’t the first one he’s come to. He’s been searching for Armando for months. The last report he got traced him to Detroit, but that’s where the trail went cold. Also, he’s heard that XF tends to “specialize” in certain types of cases.
Feigning curiosity, Madrox asks him to do tell. Pressing, Theresa asks Mr. Munoz that, specifically, has he heard about them. Well, Mr. Munoz hesitantly replies, that they’re the people to come to with anything involving, uhm… Leaning forward to Madrox and covering his mouth slightly with one hand, Mr. Munoz quietly mouths “mutants.” In the same manner, though sarcastic in comparison, Theresa whispers in reply that he doesn’t have to whisper. Their office isn’t bugged.
In the surveillance van parked in an alley nearby, which is in fact listening in, Val Cooper asks what she just said. Sitting next to her, headphones on his ears as well, another surveillance tech answers that she said they’re not bugged. Well, Val replies snarkily, you have to love the irony there.
Taking her headphones off, Val repeats the name of “Armando Munoz” and wonders aloud that the name is really ringing a bell. Still listening to the conversation, the tech informs Val that Madrox is still trying to press him on his previous sources of information, but Munoz is remaining vague. Now hunched over a computer, Val quips that that’s always a good sign, when a client isn’t being candid right up front.
Continuing his report, the tech adds that Munoz is stating that he doesn’t have any recent photos of him. Well, maybe they do, Val rejoins. A few moments later, she has indeed found the name of Armando in her computer. Cursing that she must be getting senile, she states that it’s…
Darwin, Monet states as she lunges on her side of the foosball table, Rictor trying to do the same on the other side. Asked by Madrox if she’s sure, Monet replies that the words came out of her mouth. Therefore, by definition, she’s sure. Once the mutant ranks thinned to less than two hundred, she made it a point to know everything possible about their remaining brethren. Names were the first order of business.
Considering this, Guido – in the middle of cutting his own hair, what little grows from the small patch on his head – inquisitively asks what was the second. Dryly, Monet replies political leanings – Mr. “I-Voted-For-Nader in 2000.” When the rest of the group begin to stare in shock at him, Guido explains that his mom owes her life to seatbelts. Anybody there got a problem with that? One by one, everyone replies differently that they do not.
Back to the story of Darwin, his father begins to tell XF Investigations (while Val reads from a computer file report) of the story. When Armando’s mutant powers first manifested, Darwin’s mom blamed Hector for his condition. As the marriage was already in trouble, this was the last straw and Hector left the family – driven away he claims. Now, Hector laments that he can’t imagine what his former wife must have put him through afterward. It’s all his fault.
Continuing, Hector adds that the fact is… if he hadn’t been a damned drunk, maybe they could have held things together. He doesn’t know. But he’s in recovery now, and he’s trying to put his life back together… and finding his son, doing right by him… that’s a huge part of it. Finished, he asks Madrox to please help.
“Some help, please?” Armando Munoz pleads from Longshot, as the knife-wielding youth has lifted him off of the ground. When Longshot incredulously asks Darwin if he can’t handle a mere knife, the youth yells back for him to shut up – “white bread.” He’s next! Hearing this, Darwin asks why isn’t he first? He started this! Just his luck, Longshot quips.
Ignoring the “white bread,” the youth tells Darwin that he’s decided just to leave a little mark so that… Stopping in mid-sentence, the youth sees that, rather than being cut, Darwin’s neck now has the consistency of rubber. When the youth then asks Darwin what kind of freak he is, Longshot replies with another quip, asking how many kinds are there? He’s genuinely interested.
Now realizing that they’re facing mutants, the youth yells to his gang to get Longshot. However, before he can do so, he it head-butted in the mouth by Darwin. Immediately released, he begins to run, telling for Longshot that it’s time to go. Though Longshot complains back that this was just getting interesting, Darwin instantaneously evolves this leg muscles for better running, and yells back that he’s had enough interesting experiences for one day.
Now left in the dust, the rest of the youths gang up on Longshot, one telling that at least this guy’s not going anywhere. However, a moment later, the group finds their target gone. Watching this from a short distance away is a short-haired, attractive, young woman. As the gang splits up to find their missing prey, she eyes one of the youths, who grins at her as he departs. “Hmmm’ing” to herself – or perhaps to someone on the other end of her earpiece comm.., the woman follows. A few moments later, she enters a dark alley into which she has followed the youth. However, the only person in the alley… is Longshot.
A moment later, Longshot too is not longer there, as he begins to change shape into the body and uniform of a Skrull. Mocking those he just departed, the Skrull warrior ridicules the humans, stating that they’re so easy to manipulate. How much they need them to show them the way. To provide the light for their darkness. True, many will fall along the way… but they Skrulls are mere gardeners. Yes… gardeners, trimming away the deadwood, shaping the vast hedges of humanity into a true topiary of…
A sound grabbing his attention, the Skrull warrior instantaneously returns to the form of Longshot. However, in short order, he notices the source of the sound: a small rate. Chalking up his actions to paranoia, the Skrull departs, not noticing the earpiece comm. taped to the ear of the rat, or hearing the rodent report “I knew it. I freaking knew it” over it.
In shock as he looks at the photo of Darwin, Hector Munoz asks for confirmation that that’s Armando. The most recent photo they have on file, yes, Monet reports. When Hector then notes his pale skin, Monet replies that he’s constantly evolving in order to survive. Since he’s been living mostly in Caucasian environments, maybe his body felt the need to get whiter in order to blend in. Taken aback slightly, Madrox replies that there’s a cheerful commentary on society. To this, Hector Munoz points out to Madrox that when Eddie Murphy was nineteen, Manhattan cabs wouldn’t stop for him. Used to blow past him too, he then adds, referring to himself. That’s society for you. Don’t worry, Mr. Munoz, Madrox says, returning to the point of the job. If Armando is in Detroit, they’ll find him. Nothing’s going to distract them.
Without further ado, Theresa promptly announces to Madrox that his kid’s still using her bladder as a trampoline – she’s off to pee. Again. After she has left, Monet asks why Siryn needs to announce these things, to which Madrox replies that he thinks she’s trying to make him feel guilty. Then asked how that’s working out, Madrox replies that pretty successfully, so far.
Turning back to Hector as he walks him out, Madrox returns to his promise, only to be halted. Telling Madrox that he appreciated it, Hector tells him that Detroit’s a big place and that’s just the city itself, not counting the burbs. He means… is Madrox sure he’s got the manpower to get it done? No offense. Replying that none is taken, Madrox stamps his foot several times, creating dozens of dupes. As Hector watches the departing dupes, each with a copy of a photo of Darwin, he is told by Madrox that, when it comes to manpower… they’ve got it covered.
A short time later, Madrox and Guido are joined in a diner by Val Cooper, who wants to be told what this is about. To this, Madrox tries to rejoin with a joke that it seems to be a picture of Darwin, but Val cuts him off. She has an assignment for his agency. Playing with his beverage glass, Madrox replies defiantly that it’s going to have to wait, because they’re not forgetting Darwin and they’re shortstaffed. Leaning forward as offensively as Madrox’s defiance, Val rejoins that he can produce an army single-handedly. He doesn’t get to play the “shortstaffed” card.
When Madrox begins to rebuff, Val pressed. The only reason his group hasn’t been pressganged into the Initiative or just thrown into permanent holdup is… Interrupting, Madrox answers because they’re Americans with rights protected under the Constitution? Hearing this, Guido involuntarily spits out the beverage he was drinking. Leaning to Madrox, he asks him to warn him next time he’s gonna crack wise. Receiving an apology, Guido laments the joke. Rights. Jeez. What an imagination.
Unimpressed by the attempt at humor, intentional or not, Val tells Madrox that she’s not screwing around. Neither is he, Madrox replies, pouring more drink into his glass. She wants to haul them in? Try and do it. Maybe she’ll succeed, or maybe they’ll just disappear again and start over elsewhere. Or maybe… maybe she should think about just backing the hell off. They’ve been pretty good about taking care of the cases she’s come to him about. But she’s got to cut them some slack on the street-level business they acquire.
Mocking that she’s “got to,” Val asks back to Madrox what does he think the rest of his crew would feel knowing that their independence is just an illusion. That the O*N*E has him in its back pocket. When Madrox offers no reply, Val asks if he wants to tell them, or should she? Now rising to leave, Val replies that that’s what she thought. Twenty-four hours, she tells Jamie, to wrap up this Darwin business. And then she wants his head squarely in their game… or she takes it off at the neck.
As Val departs, Guido leans in toward Madrox. Telling him not to worry, Guido tells him he’s sure he’ll think of a witty comeback after she leaves. Like always. Dejectedly, Madrox replies with a sarcastic “thanks.”
Elsewhere in the city, Darwin has come to a resting black and leans against a building. He has a moment of respite, thinking that he has lost all pursuers, but nearly jumps when someone asks if he missed him. Relief turns to anger, as Darwin tells Longshot he’s an idiot. When Longshot then reminds him that he’s been in a fight before, Darwin agrees – but it’s one thing to land in a fight and another to provoke it.
Turning to walk away, Darwin tells Longshot that this is ridiculous. He said he could bring him to Professor Xavier. He can! Longshot replies. He will! Then asked when, Longshot replies that he doesn’t know. That’s not how his powers work. He’s not a tracker. He just sets his mind on what he needs to have happen, and count on luck and random chance to guide him. Returning close to Longshot, Darwin replies that he doesn’t know that they can keep counting on that. Xavier is missing. He could be anywhere. He wants to help him. And, Longshot jumps in, he wants to help him help Xavier. He just has to trust…
Noticing an odd look on Darwin’s face, Longshot stops in midsentence and asks what’s wrong. Pointing to the attractive girl some distance away, Darwin replies that he thinks that girl’s been following them. He saw her back in the other neighborhood. Wondering to what girl he is referring, Longshot turns and his eyes immediately grow wide in recognition. Hearing Longshot exclaim, “Kly’bn’s loins!” Darwin asks if he knows who she is – and who’s “Klybin?”
Rather than receiving an answer, Darwin calls out Longshot’s name as he darts away at high speed, followed by the young woman. Calling over her earpiece comm., the woman announces that he spotted her. Replying back, the party on the other end sarcastically compliments her on her stealth work. Replying back to “Jennifer,” the woman tells her not now – and reports that they’re heading due west – and she’s to cut him off. However, before the woman can proceed much further, she is intentionally tripped by Darwin, who asks what’s going on. However, his only reply is a “not now” and a kick to his midsection.
Having left from the diner, Madrox takes a call on his mobile phone from Theresa, who reports that one of Madrox’s dupe called in. He turned up a positive sighting of Darwin, who was traveling with a guy who – from the description - could be Longshot, who apparently started a riot near the Cass Corridor. After Madrox replies that that sounds like Longshot, Theresa adds that they took off heading in the direction of midtown. Madrox begins to order Theresa to have Monet try to spot them from the air, but Theresa cuts him off, stating that she’s already on it. Madrox then replies to Theresa that he’ll have all dupes in the area converge.
After Madrox hangs up, Guido asks how he is going to have all of the dupe converge. When Madrox replies that he’ll let them know, Guido asks back how? By thinkin’ hard? Told “pretty much,” Guido asks if he can do that. “Guido…” Madrox replies ominously, “You’d be amazed what I can do.”
Nearby, having gotten past Darwin and almost caught up with the fleeing Longshot, the young woman produces a handgun from her handbag, yelling out for the fleeing quarry to hold it. Doing so from behind the protection of a car, Longshot also produces a pistol and demands back from the woman how dare she address him in such a manner! Has she no loyalty at all? With this, Longshot pulls the trigger and discharges an energy blast which sheers off of a stone statue. Ducking the volley, the woman answers “yes.” Just not to him! Following this, the woman emerges from behind the mailbox behind which she was hiding and fires her own energy blast, which knocks Longshot down via shrapnel from the obliterated structure behind him.
Before the woman can press her advantage, she is waylaid again by Darwin, how yells for her to stop it. Longshot may be an idiot, but he’s his friend. Pistol whipping Darwin before he can stop her, the young woman replies that no, Longshot’s not his friend. She then tells him not to make her kill him.
A moment later, however, the tables are turned when an airborne Monet knees the young woman in the face, replying to her that she doubts she could kill him even if she tried. She may he able to slap him around somewhat, but kill him? Unlikely. The boy’s a born survivor. With this, Monet then uses her strength to force the woman to the ground, her elbow against the side of her head.
Having recovered, Darwin races to Monet, calling out her name and gushes that he has her Vanity Fair spread! Trying to concentrate on her prisoner, Monet suggests that they do the autograph later, okay “evo-boy.” Gritting from the pain and her predicament, the young woman calls Monet and idiot and tells her she doesn’t know what she’s doing. Quipping back that she always knows what she’s doing, Monet tells the woman to stop struggling. She’s not looking for trouble.
“To bad,” a voice states from nearby. “You found it anyway.” In horror Monet looks up to see the She-Hulk running at her, an entire car in her right hand, ready to be used as a weapon.