Jamie Madrox’s bearded, unkempt face goes slack as his jaw drops and his eyes widen in astonishment. His mind goes numb and his hand goes slack. He doesn’t even feel the gun slipping from his hand, though he has the presence of mind to thank God that the trigger isn’t cocked. Then again… right now he could take a bullet pretty much anywhere in his body and not feel it. A grown woman, Madrox then thinks. She’s a grown woman. It’s impossible.
Slowly, Jamie Madrox’s startled countenance turns to joy as a smile begins to come to his mouth.
“No…” he mutters.
“Yup,” she replies.
“Sure it can. Watch:”
“Oh my God,” they say simultaneously. See? Layla jests. She knew he’d say that. Because she knows st… Layla’s words trail as she is scooped off of her feet, Madrox’s arms encircling her and pulling her up to him as he exclaims her name. See, she smiles broadly, she knew he’d say that too.
Holding her against him, Madrox smiles, thinking how it’s a miracle. It’s… Suddenly his smile fades, as he comes to a realization. Wait… he tells her. She’s cold. No, not just cold. She has no body temperature. Now back on her feet, Layla looks up into Jamie’s eyes and gives him a succinct “nope.” And she doesn’t have much more time, either. This body’s charge will be running out shortly.
When Madrox begins to mentally stumble over the phrase “this body,” Layla explains, though with growing annoyance. It’s hard light, she states, a kind of holographic projection. She doesn’t have much time to explain. She keeps saying that, Madrox objects, about not having much time. Well, it keeps being true, Layla quips. Not to go all “Terminator” on him, she then adds, but… Holding out her hand for him to accept, she tells him, Come with me if you want to live.
As Madrox reaches out his hand to accept hers, she tells him excellent… and to hang on. This could get a little disorienting. As her body begins to transform, becoming a mass of blinding light, Layla tells Madrox that, just so he knows, if he winds up barfing… she won’t think less of him.
Lying a short distance away, Father John Maddox returns to the land of the conscious just in time to see Jamie Madrox become enveloped in a sphere of light… and disappear. A moment later, only smoke remains, slowly wafting upward. Though this veil of vapor, Father Maddox spies the shape of a man and calls out to him. Madrox? Is that…
In short order, Father John sees that it is indeed not his progenitor, but someone else, a dark-skinned man, with a shaven head. Despite the time of night, he wears sunglasses and a suit and tie, along with a long overcoat, in the pockets of which his hands are inserted. Taking the newcomer as someone entering the church at a poor moment, Father Maddox tells the stranger that now may not be the best ti… However, John Maddox’s words trail, transforming into a panicked “what…” when he sees the stranger produce a handgun from one of his pockets. A moment later, the trigger is pulled and a shot rings out in the church.
In the Detroit house which serves as the headquarters of XF Investigations, Theresa, Longshot and Rictor listen to the tale of a client. She’s afraid someone’s going to try and killer her, the client tells the group. Asked again, the client, named Lenore, replies that she knows how it sounds. Incredulous, Theresa asks her to come on. This is a replay of three months ago. “Someone’s trying to kill me.” That’s what she said.
To this, Lenore replies that she remembers. She also remembers that Theresa was pregnant. What did she have? Before Theresa can reply, Rictor jumps in, telling Lenore that she doesn’t like to talk about it. Stammering at the implication, Lenore begins to ask a further question, but Theresa jumps in, stating flatly that she lost him. When Lenore replies that she had no idea, Theresa rejoins that there was no reason she should. They should move on. When Lenore then tries to offer words of comfort, Theresa interjects emphatically. Lets. Move. On.
After a stammer of apology from Lenore, Theresa indeed moves on. Opening a case file, she tells Lenore that, when she last came in, she said someone was trying to kill her because she used to be a mutant. After Lenore confirms, Theresa continues that their investigation revealed it was her boyfriend making prank phone calls. Confirming again, Lenore adds that the dork thought it was funny. To this, Theresa remarks that he didn’t think it was funny when Guido threatened to put him through a wall. He sued them, she then notes. Not their happiest time. She talked him out into dropping it, Lenore defends. Closing the file, Theresa notes that it still caused their insurance to go up.
Interjecting, Longshot notes to Lenore that he thinks what Terry is getting at is: how sure is she? When she tells them they won’t like it, Theresa replies that she thinks that’s a safe bet. Nervously placing her finger in her mouth, Lenore states that she just has this feeling that she’s being followed. Asked who is following her, Lenore replies that that’s the thing. It’s not just one person. Every time she looks around, it’s someone else. She knows how it sounds, she then adds, hearing Theresa provide an “uh-boy.” Asked if she really does, Lenore then adds that “Candy’s dead.”
Theresa considers the odd statement (during which time Longshot bizarrely notes that Alison always said candy was dandy). Candy, Lenore explains, was her best friend, who was a former mutant, like she was. Candy was found dead two weeks ago of a gunshot wound, which the police ruled it a suicide. When Theresa begins to offer condolences, Lenore interrupts. She was terrified of guns, she tells Theresa. She couldn’t even watch movies where guns went off. No way she did it herself. And right before it happened… she told me she thought some people were following her.
With a thin, incredulous smile, Rictor asks Lenore if it isn’t possible that… “She’s imagining it?” Lenore asks. Agreeing, Rictor remarks that she sees why it might come across that way.
“I believe her,” Longshot intervenes, his arms crossed and face stoic. Smiling at her defender, Lenore thanks Longshot for believing her, though Rictor is quick to inform her not to get too jazzed. Longshot also believes spam e-mail. He keeps trying to give their banking info to people who want to get money into the country. It’s true, Longshot agrees. He’s extremely credulous. Promptly told by Lenore that that’s stupid, Longshot replies that he can believe it.
Okay, look, Theresa relents, they’ll check into it. “We will,” an astonished Rictor interjects. Ignoring him, Theresa informs Lenore that they’re not exactly set up to provide around the clock watchdog services, but… Standing up, Longshot offers Lenore his hand and tells her that he would be happy to watch over her. Immediately, however, Lenore finds her attention drawn to Longshot’s hand and points out that he has four fingers. Actually, Longshot replies, he has eight. Or six plus two thumbs. The explanation does not immediate ease Lenore’s worries, but once she looks into his blue eyes, she quickly tells Longshot that she… would love to have him protect her. Seeing this, a short distance away, an incredulous Theresa rolls her eyes, asking someone to just shoot her now.
Back in Vermont, Father Maddox rolls to his side, just barely missing the gunshot which now blasts the floor of the aisle down the center of his church. Acting quickly, Maddox lunges for the gun left behind by Madrox, trains it on his assailant and shoots him in the leg. Brought down, the gunman groans for a moment and fires again at Father Maddox, who deftly dodges the two shots. Leaping pew over pew, he makes his way to the gunman and points his revolver at the gunman’s head, telling him not to move. However, move the gunman does – and quickly points his own weapon on the temple of his own head. “Cortex…” he mutters, just before pulling the trigger.
Having heard the gunshots, Father Maddox’s wife, Susan, arrives on the scene, only to find her husband standing over the corpse of a stranger. Exclaiming in shock, she asks “What the hell?” Not taking his eyes off of the dead would-be assassin, John tells his wife that he just showed up out of nowhere and started shooting. Then shot himself. Asked why, Father John Maddox replies that, God as his witness, he has no idea.
Elsewhere. The room is ramshackle… and old. The tiled walls are dirty and singed. However, amongst all of the disrepair are functioning monitors and, in the center of the room, a young woman named Layla Miller, lying unconscious on a reclined, full-body chair, with nodes attached to her head.
From outside the room, cries of men screaming and orders are followed cries of pain and death. Existing as an island of calm and serenity before the oncoming wave of chaos, the inert form of Layla Miller begins to crackle with electricity. As smoke arises from her clothes, Layla’s body is encompassed with light. When it subsides, Layla is no longer unconscious… or alone. Straddling her prone body, his hand resting on her chest is Jamie Madrox. As he takes in his new surroundings, Layla points out to Madrox that he’s kind of squishing her, y’know, things.
As he gets off of her, Layla spies something above and laments that they’re there earlier than expected. Looking up, Madrox joins her lament with an Aw, crap. Towering above them is a Sentinel, its right hand lifted above them and sparkling with energy. More mutant detected, it announces. As he eyes it with a sense of impending doom, Madrox notes to himself the irony of a suicidal guy opting for life by choosing to go with a woman who tells him to come with her if he wants to live… only to find himself staring down the barrel of a Sentinel.
In the time left behind by Madrox, a container ship cuts its way through the sea. On one of the upper decks, a man holding a sophisticated, hi-tech weapon asks his fellow sailor if he thinks Karma will let him hold on to this. Receiving a reply of “not bloody likely,” the man replies “nuts.” Changing subject, the second man rests against the railing, noting that he can’t believe it went this smooth. Another five hours and home. Then the Karma truck meets them at the docks, they transfer the load, and they take some serious R&R from the money they’re making off this shipment. Still holding the weapon, the first man rejoins that they deserve it. They definitely deser…
Stopping in mid-sentence, the man with the weapon asks the other if he hears something. Receiving a reply that he does and asked what it is, the man with the weapon replies that it sounds like something… falling? Looking up, both men see a figure high up in freefall. In the intervening seconds, the figure comes closer and more discernable, a massive shape with a smaller one clutching the larger’s back. Had the two known the two individuals, they would have recognized them as the mutants known as Strong Guy and Darwin.
A moment later, the two impact the deck of the ship, plunging through the cargo hold and the keel at its bottom like a cannonball shot straight down. The resulting hole in the ships keel made manifest by the fountain of seawater, the crew gather around the spectacle and wonder what the hell that was. In short order, their questions are answered when Guido and Darwin emerge through the hole they created.
Clasping the headset comm., Darwin reports that they are in, though they missed the water. Asked how that is possible, seeing as there’s about a million square miles of it, Darwin begins to reply but halts when he spies a weapon being trained on them. Yelling for Guido to get behind him, Darwin takes the brunt of the first blast and is quickly reduced to a humanoid-shaped series of boils.
The deed done, the man from the upper deck holds the gun he had been admiring before. Declaring it outstanding, he orders the others to get the rafts. The weapon, he tells them, will take about a minute to recharge. By the time it… His words trail as he sees a blur out of the corner of his eye. In reality, it is the hand of Monet, who grabs the man by the collar, lifting him high above the deck and causing him to drop his weapon.
Yelling at him, the fist of her free hand threatening him, Monet asks the man what he shot her with. When he does not answer right away, she reiterates emphatically. What was it?! Some kind nerve disruptor, he finally replies. Kills anything with a nervous system! Now growing more defiant, he tells Monet that he doesn’t care what kind of mutant power her little friend had… he’s dead! If he is, she rejoins, he’s going to have company in a moment.
Calling from the deck below, Darwin tells Monet that it’s all right. He’s fine! Asked how that’s possible, Darwin replies that apparently he evolved into a sponge, and sponges have no nerves. That’s true, Guido agrees. Y’never see Spongebob Squarepants takin’ Zoloft. Tossing the former gunman aside, Monet replies that that’s hardly the point. He was supposed to drop to the side of the boat. Capture it intact.
Hovering next to the two, her arms crossed in annoyance, Monet reminds them that Val Cooper’s people hired them to capture these crates of weapons, not sink the cargo to the bottom of the ocean. With a wry grin, Guido points out that these weapons were developed mainly to kill guys like them. Is she really comfortable with turnin’ the whole shebang over to the government? Considering this for a moment, Monet informs Guido that he does have a brain. Asked by him “who’d’a guessed?” Monet retorts that certainly not she. “Guido Carosella: Sentinel of Mutant Freedom.”
In the future, hand-in-hand, Layla and Madrox race to avoid the fiery blasts of their pursuing Sentinel. Approaching a wall, Madrox punches it and tells the resulting dupe to distract the robot. “How?” it asks, “with card tricks?” As the dupe runs off for cover, its progenitor tells Layla to get behind him. Incredulous, Layla points out that it’s about to unleash a full-bore laser blast that’ll cut through both of them. So he dies today anyway, Madrox retorts God’s a funny guy. Well, Layla replies, it she’s going to die… he’s the one she’d most like to have die with her. With this, Layla clasps her arms around Madrox body, hugging herself close to his back.
To himself, Jamie Madrox wonders how pathetic his life is that that’s the nicest thing a girl’s said to him in a month. It’s enough to make his head explode. Too bad he can’t make the Sentinel’s head explo…
Suddenly, the Sentinel’s head explodes, raining debris down around Madrox and Layla, who have to raise their arms in cover. A few moments later, as he gazes upon the remains of the Sentinel’s “face,” Madrox wonders aloud if his interior monologue did that. From above, a voice calls him and idiot, telling him that she did that. The source of the voice is a short-haired, blonde woman with dark red skin and glowing red eyes. “I’m Ruby Summers,” she introduces herself. “And let me guess: you’re new in town.”