Sitting cross-legged on the street curb in front of X-Factor Investigations’ building, Layla Miller quietly reads her book. Standing nearby are two former mutants, publicly revealing themselves as such by their “EX”-labeled armbands and jackets.
Within the building, Jamie Madrox and Siryn discuss news relayed to them by Cyclops. He informed them that Quicksilver might show up in mutant town and that he’s so dangerous that, if they see him, they should call in the X-Men and let them handle it. In slight disbelief, Guido asks Jamie if he’s sure. He means, back in the day, Quicksilver wasn’t his favorite guy, but “dangerous?” Hard to swallow is all he’s saying. Maybe he’s being railroaded.
As the group continues to speak, a white-haired but youthful man arrives before the building and considers it intently. Without taking her eyes off of her book, Layla picks up a rock and tosses it toward one of the two ex-mutants, hitting him squarely on the back of his head. Turning around, the injured man and his friend spy the white-haired man. Still not looking up from her book, Layla points to the white-haired man, informing the two that he threw it. The two then take off after the man, who runs down the sidewalk.
Emerging from the building, Madrox and Guido are still in conversation about Cyclops’ information. Madrox tells Guido not to sing sad songs about the guy. In the old days, he wanted to take a swing at him now and then, as much as he did. Considering another point, Guido asks Jamie why would Cyclops lie to them. To this, Jamie replies that he doesn’t know. When Guido then asks if he’s saying he might, Jamie rejoins that he doesn’t know that either.
Spotting Layla sitting on the curb, Guido goes to her. Noting that that’s a thick book she’s reading, he asks if it’s “Harry Potter.” Still refusing to look up from her book, she simply replies, “Atlas Shrugged.” Guido takes a moment to consider this before announcing that there’s a conversation killer. Joining Jamie on their stroll, he asks if there’s anything that kid does that’s normal. Thinking, Jamie replies that he saw her eating Cheerios and milk the other day for breakfast. Pretty normal. To this, Guido replies that that wasn’t milk. That was yogurt mixed with Evian water. Replying “okay,” Jamie announces that he guesses not.
Back up in the office, Theresa, Rictor and Monet lounge. As Theresa reads the paper, Rictor words on a crossword puzzle. Stumped by one, he asks aloud the clue of nine across: an uncomplicated ton. Floating nearby and doing crunches in mid-air, Monet replies, “simpleton.” Rictor thanks her for the answer, but Monet replies that she wasn’t helping him. She was describing him.
Finishing her article, Theresa remarks that she never though it possible that Jameson’s editorials could be even more obnoxious. She underestimated him. Asked what she means, Theresa replies that Jameson is crowing about this “super hero registration act,” saying the government’s finally listened to him. That this is a “necessary first step.” When Monet doesn’t follow, Theresa asks if he has given any thought to the “necessary second step?” Not really, Monet replies, reclining back in mid-air. She lives in the moment.
Rising, Theresa continues that the next step is shutting them down! Tossing the paper side, she informs her that they call it “erosion of freedom” for a reason. It happens slowly over time. Chiming in, Rictor asks what the X-Men’s take on this is. This thing has its roots in the Mutant Registration Act. Shouldn’t they present a united front, one way or the other. Theresa replies that she doesn’t know what’s up with the X-Men lately. For instance, when Scotty came by the other day… he seemed to recognize Layla, but then he acted like he didn’t.
Incredulous, Monet sits cross-legged in mid-air and mocks Theresa, asking if that’s it. That’s all she’s got for accusations? Maybe that’s enough, Rictor adds. That kid… dunno, could be a spy. Entering the room, Layla asks who’s a spy. When Rictor tells her to tell him, Layla replies that there’s no one that she knows of. When Rictor mocks her answer as “nice,” she asks him if he knows what’s funny about answers: finding them isn’t always the best thing.
Suddenly, the phone rings, and Siryn doesn’t miss the opportunity to remark that Layla usually tells them when the phone’s about to ring. Is she losing her touch? Ignoring the snide remark, Layla replies coldly that she shouldn’t take that. Not listening, Theresa picks up the receiver and greets the other party with “X-Factor.” Hearing that it is Jamie, she asks what’s up.
On the other end, Jamie stands at a payphone, with a clearly panicked duplicate standing behind him. He tells Theresa that he knows this sounds paranoid… Trying to interrupt from behind, the panicked duplicate repeats to the original that they’re lying to them. All the so-called heroes! They’re out to get them! They’re jealous! Trying his best to ignore him, thought not his sentiment, the original Jamie continues, telling Theresa that he’s starting to wonder if maybe they’ve been looking in the wrong direction about the Decimation. Here’s what he’d like them to do…
After the conversation is over, Rictor asks Siryn what he said. Taken aback, Siryn replies that Jamie wants her to start talking to high-profile do-gooders, to find out if they know anything about M-Day. Questioning this, Monet asks if she means something the X-Men don’t already know about? Or maybe something they do know about and haven’t told them. Asked like what, Siryn replies, “like I-don’t-know-what.”
Turning to Layla, Theresa asks her for her thoughts. Yeah, Rictor chimes in. Is she holding back on them, like she did about Siryn getting hurt? Asking back if he would believe her if she told him, Rictor replies “probably not,” so he guesses there’s no point. Shrugging her shoulders, Layla gives an “okey-dokey” and leaves the office. As she goes down the stairs, she raises her arms upward, asking,” why are you making this more and more difficult? I’m just a kid for God’s sake.
Reaching the front step, Layla is greeted by Jamie Madrox – or one of his duplicates, wearing a brown suit. Surprised by the opening of the door, he says hello to the young girl and informs her that he was about to ring the doorbell. When she replies that she knows, he asked if she saw him. Replying that she didn’t, Layla informs him that they’re inside, one floor up, office on the right. Surprised again, he tells her that she’s not in his files. Should he know her? Nobody knows her, she quips, and then tells him to go on up.
As they pass, the suited Madrox tells her that he bets everyone tells her she’s an odd young lady. Couldn’t say, she says back, over her shoulder. She hasn’t met everyone. With the suited Madrox closing the door behind him as he enters, Layla Miller is left alone on the steps, standing before a very lonely street.
Nearby, as Siryn takes flight with a sonic scream from the X-Factor building, a shadowed figure watches from street level. Unheard by the screaming and rapidly departing Theresa, the figure apologies to her.
Back in the office, Monet no longer floats, or at least not completely. With her body still in mid-air, she has positioned herself upside down and appears to be balancing herself on one arm. Viewing this, the arriving suited Madrox is impressed, telling Monet that that shows a great deal of muscle control. Replying not really, she begins to explain – until she realizes who is speaking to her.
Lifting her arm so that now her whole body is floating upside down, Monet is confused by Jamie’s appearance. While Rictor is confused about his clothes, Monet immediately realizes that he’s a duplicate and asks such. However, the suited Madrox replies that he prefers the term “co-original,” actually.
Rictor asks if Jamie sent him back, maybe forgetting something, but the suited Madrox replies that he didn’t. As he reaches into his coat pocket, he tells them that he works for the government and he’s there to sign them up pursuant to the super hero registration act. Both Rictor and Monet are in incredulous humor at this, disbelieving him. Shrugging her shoulder, Monet mocks that he “works for the government.” A dupe walking in and starts tossing around orders like he’s the actual boss around there. Who the hell does he think he is? Starting his introduction fresh, the suited Madrox asks them to allow him to introduce himself. Showing them his badge, he informs them that he is Jamie Madrox: Agent of SHIELD. So informed, the mocking faces of Rictor and Monet turn to abject mortification.
Now sitting on the bottom stoop of the stairs, Layla is once again enthralled by her book. However, she does lift her head as an airborne individual proclaim to all who can hear that it’s a miracle. A frickin’ miracle! Standing, Layla sees one of the men from earlier flying under his own power, his arms spread wide in excitement. He tells her that Pietro did it! He can fly again!
Thunderstruck, Layla asks, more in a statement, “you… talked to him?” He let him lay his hands on him! He wasn’t supposed to do that?! Coming to a stop and hovering before her, the man asks what she’s yammering about. Explaining, Layla tells him that he and his friend were supposed to chase him and then he was gong to shunt into the near future to get away, and he was gonna wind up in the path of a truck and wham! He messed things up… dummy! Annoyed as well as confused, the man rejoins that he doesn’t know what her problem is, but he’s going to come down there to teach her some man…
However, before the man can do so, he loses control of his powers and rises into the sky. Crying in panic, he yells that he can’t land! No! No!!!! Nnnooooooooo Layla watches in silence as he disappears over the buildings before her. Sitting back on the stoop, Layla returns to her book. Her chin resting on her knuckles, she laments that she tries to do the right thing, and it turns out wrong. She knows that’s how it is for everyone else… but not for her. Is this some kind of sick joke?
“You gotta be kidding me,” Guido states. Taking off his glasses as he takes in his surroundings, Guido finds himself and Madrox in a basement of a building, with multiple tables cluttered by various bundled files, boxes of folders and various kinds of liquid containers. Taking all of this in, he tells Jamie that he’s lucky enough to cop skin samples from Type and Tryp junior, and he trusts ‘em to this dump? He said it was a lab! When Jamie replies that it is, Guido rejoins that it looks like a bomb hit it!
A thought occurring to him from his own words, Guido apologies to Jamie for bumping into him before, making a… A dupe, yeah, Jamie finished. He reabsorbed him; no big deal. Guido then notes that he was talking to him a lot before he did. What about? Nothing, Jamie replies. No big deal.
Joining the two, the owner of the lab greets them. Chiding that Jamie took his sweet time getting there, he informs him tat he’s not the only guy he does jobs for. He’s in demand. Replying sarcastically, Guido quips that he bets, ‘cause the place is so efficient. Then asked by the guy if he has a problem with the way he runs things, Guido tells the guy that the place is like something out of a 1950s B-movie! Who does he think he is, calling it “Modern Labs?” Well, Jamie explains, he probably thinks he’s the owner, Doctor Malcolm Modern. Raising his eyes in exasperation, Guido lets out a jeeeez…
Insulted by Guido’s tone, Dr. Modern tells him that, if he doesn’t want his help, just to say so… Stopping Dr. Modern, Jamie tells says that they do want his help. Guido there just doesn’t know he’s the best in the business. Still not convinced, Guido returns his glasses, asking what business that might be. Told emphatically to shut up, he apologizes half-heartedly for dissin’ his… whatever it is.
Extending his arms to both his bundled files and boxes of files, Dr. Modern explains that “this” is how he maintains confidentiality. If he kept everything organized, unauthorized people could come in and find anything in seconds. His way discourages spies. No system, just pure memorization. Sometimes doing stuff “wrong” hides that you’re doing something right.
Pulling out a file, he notes that it’s the one he’s looking for. When Guido remarks that the folder’s marked “weird,” Dr. Modern replies that that’s ‘cause what he found was weird. This sample he brought in… it’s like nothing he’s ever seen. When Guido asks what that means, Modern is clearly annoyed and spits back that it means that, if there’s anything like it, he hasn’t seen it.
Moving back to the file, he explains that there’s some totally new DNA markers in there, completely uncharted. Confused, Jamie asks if he’s saying – what? – that he’s an alien? He’s part of the human race, the doctor replies, though a subspecies, same as a mutant. But a different sub-species. Confused himself, Guido states that he thought mutants and humans were different races. To this, Doctor Modern replies that he never agreed with that thinking. History’s filled with too many clases of one type of human deciding another type weren’t human, usually followed by hilarity and death. Anyway, he continues, whatever this guy is… he ain’t like them and he or anything else.
So informed, Jamie assumes that that’s Tryp and asks about the other guy. When Dr. Modern is confused by this, Jamie asks about his son. Junior. Still confused, Dr. Modern replies that he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. The two samples he gave him… he just figured he was playing it safe. The two samples are the exact DNA matches. They’re the same guy.
“Not this guy again,” the thief complains through gritted teeth. Holding a bag of loot in one hand, he holds a pistol in the other. Swinging to his position before him is Spider-Man, attired in his recently acquired techno-suit. Recognizing the criminal, Spider-Man notes that he’s the crook he webbed up and left hanging of the cops a few years back. Remarking that he remembers him, the criminal fires a shot at the hero, which he easily dodges. Answering the thief, Spider-Man quips back that he actually doesn’t remember – it was just an educated guess.
Grabbing a little girl for hostage, the man tells Spider-Man to “educate this.” Spider-Man crouches to the pavement and tells the man to let the little girl go. However, he man replies that Spider-Man’s the one not getting away! He can’t wait until all “them jerks” have t’come clean with their IDs. That’ll be sweet! He’d better be livin’ in Fort Knox, ‘cause once guys like him find out who they are, guys like Spider-Man will be…
A sonic scream suddenly vibrates the man’s hand and weapon, causing him to drop it. Though disarmed, the man is more concerned about his hand itself, remarking that it’s broken. A moment later, Spider-Man is upon him, remarking that it now matches his jaw. A quick punch to the jaw later, and the crisis is over.
A few minutes later, Spider-Man has the man webbed and hanging upside down from a lamppost. His job finished, he swings to a nearby rooftop to greet Siryn, who congratulates him on the nice work. Giving the same to her, he compliments her aim, smashing his gun apart with that… what does she call it? “Sonic lance,” she answers. Not so good for aim, she then adds. Actually, she was going for his head. Unsure of how to respond to that, Spider-Man tells her good job, either way.
Changing the subject, Siryn tells Spidey that she heard what he was saying about the Reg act. Just another reason why it’s a bad idea. Replying that he doesn’t know about that, Spider-Man tells her that hundreds of people died because of the New Warriors. Whatever happened to taking responsibility? Taken aback, she asks if they got to him too. To this, he replies that nobody “got him.”
“Oh, no?” she asks. A guy climbed over a circus fence and reached into a cage to pet the tiger. The animal ripped his arm off. He sued the circus, saying they should’ve had a taller fence. He won. When Spidey tries to defend his position, Siryn gives another example. A burglar was climbing around on a rood, trying to reach a skylight to break in. The roof collapsed. He sued the homeowner and won.
Continuing, she says that the New Warriors weren’t responsible for all those deaths! The bad guys were! But, since the bad guys can’t beat us in the field, they’re trying to them through the courts and, now, through Congress… in a world that can’t distinguish between who’s on the side of the angels and who’s playing for Satan. And he’s okay with that?
Obviously not, Spider-Man replies. But is she okay with the public not being able to distinguish? Because he’s not. They have to know they’re on their side, and maybe the only way to let them know is to be honest. Still in disbelief, Siryn asks if he believes in honesty that much? Sure, he replies. Smiling broadly, Siryn begins to speak with her hypnotic voice, suggests that he be a sweetheart… a a and telllll her evvvvvverything about decimaaation…? Pleeeeease? Thoroughly entrances, he tells her “Suuure. You bet.”
Returning to the X-Factor building, Rahne passes Layla, still sitting on the front stoop. When Rahne asks the young girl what she’s doing out there, Layla replies “waiting.” When she then asks what she is waiting for, Layla replies that she’ll know when it gets there. Once again a little weirded out, Rahne continues climbing the steps and enters the building.
A few moments later, a slurred spectral voice calls out to Layla, telling her that it’s her fault. Looking up, she sees that flying man from earlier, his body now seemingly in the process of melting and drool coming from his mouth. All… your fault… he did this… toooo meee… caaaaauuuuse of yoooo…
Inside, Rahne finds Rictor and Monet hunched over a desk, examining some paperwork. Standing by the doorway, however, is Jamie Madrox, clad in a brown suit. When she asks him what’s going on, Jamie says hello and that it’s been, subjectively speaking, ages. Looking up from the desk, Monet tells her that he’s from SHIELD. Don’t ask. Confused, Rahne asks how he can be from SHIELD, but this only serves to set Monet off. She tells her “don’t ask” and she asks. If you don’t speak with a comic-opera brogue, Monet complains, she doesn’t understand a word you say.
Flashing his badge, Agent Madrox tells Rahne that Jamie dispatched him some time ago to study espionage. Val Cooper wound up putting him together with SHIELD. Her associates are doing their civic duty and complying with the super hero registration act. Horrified, Rahne turns to her Rictor and Monet if they don’t have any problems with this idea. Why should they, Monet asks. Rictor’s powerless anyway, and she’s got nothing to hide. That’s true, Rictor agrees. He saw it all, and she had nothing there to hide. Hearing this, Monet shoots daggers with her eyes at Rictor, who smiles maniacally.
On the front stoop, Layla apologizes to the melting man, telling him that she’s sorry this happened. It wasn’t supposed to. It must be because he’s the Scarlet Witch’s brother, and… and some tiny aspect of her chaotic power in his genes… so… so it’s harder to predict what…
Layla’s ramblings are drowned out by the cries of the melting man, who cries that he is going to kill her. However, just like his skin, his voice melts. After a few moments, his entire body collapses into a gelatinous puddle and begins to flow into the sewer grate. As it drips through, Layla watches in fascinated disgust.
Her musings are interrupted by the call of Agent Madrox, who is leaving the building, his business now concluded. He tells her she looks so serious, like she has the weight of the world on her shoulders. When she replies that she does, he asks her how she deals with that. “I shrug,” she replies.
Returning to the office, Jamie speaks with Siryn on his mobile phone. Why is his voice in and out, says, repeating her question. ‘Cause she keeps screaming to keep herself aloft in between sentences, so he keeps pulling the phone away from his eat! If she’d land, he wouldn’t have this problem.
In flight, Siryn holds her own mobile to her ear. That’s not a problem, she replies. The problem is that Scott lied to them, to him! To their bloody faces! When Jamie replies that maybe he didn’t know, Theresa counters that he knew! If Spider-Man knew, Cyclops bleeding knew!
But it doesn’t make any sense, Jamie replies. Why would Cyclops say he didn’t know how all the mutants lost their powers… if he and other X-Men and (my God) Pietro… were in the middle of it? It’s a cover up! Siryn announces. When Jamie then asks “why?” Siryn suggests they go to the mansion, kick the door in and ask. Replying that she’ll do not such thing, Jamie instructs her to meet him back at headquarters. Now! Theresa tries to argue, but Jamie tells her he’s not kidding around.
The call ended, Jamie realized that, if he weren’t so busy trying to control Siryn, he’d probably be having the same reaction. The whole team will, he then thinks. He just hopes they don’t run into any of them – especially Quicksilver – until this thing gets sorted out.
“I know you, don’t I?” says someone, as they approach Layla Miller, who is still sitting on the bottom step of the X-Factor building. Without looking up, Layla tells Quicksilver that, yes, he does. She’s his nemesis and he is hers. Placing his hands in his coat, Piero replies that she’s rather full of herself isn’t she? He has a daughter much like her. He did terrible things to her… out of love. Just imagine what he could do to her out of hate… or anger… or revenge… Or boredom, Layla interrupts.
He’d rather not, Pietro tells her. He’d rather help than hurt. Helping is good, Layla says, her eyes still focused on her book. Hurting is evil. Sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart. “Evil,” Pietro counters, is relative. She got in his way. To him… that makes her evil. Replying coldly, Layla tells him that she’s not evil. She’s the victim. Trying to do the right thing, whatever that might be. As is he, Pietro replies. No, Layla disagrees. He’s evil. But evil is impotent and has no power but that which they let it extort from them.
Changing subjects, Layla tells him that they’re waiting for him. It would be wise for her to stay out of his way in the future, Pietro then tells her. That would be the right thing to do, yes, Layla agrees. They’re agreed then, Pietro says, before ascending the stairs. Good day.
With that, he enters the building in search of X-Factor, leaving Layla still sitting on the bottom of the stoop. Arriving shortly thereafter are Jamie and Guido, returning from Doctor Modern’s lab, and Siryn, preparing to land on the roof, all three preparing for an unexpected collision of personalities and objectives.