Jamie Madrox sits in his office of X-Factor Investigations, covering his ears. Around him, a violent argument is taking place. They won’t shut up, he thinks, trying to drown them out with his thoughts. Everyone’s throwing their opinions around like a cage of angry chimps tossing around their own excrement. And sooner or later, they’re all going to turn to him and they’re going to have to make a decision. And he sucks at making decisions.
So far, he’s managed largely to avoid it, because he’s always been able to have different groups of people doing different thing. They haven’t had to operate as a unit. But they’re going to need him to steer this boat… and all he can see are the shoals…
Being held back by Rahne, Rictor yells, asking Quicksilver if he’d really do it again. Knowing what he cost them, he has the gall to say that he’d do it all over again? When Rahne tries to calm him, Rictor tells her to take it easy. She’s got powers! All he’s got is memory! And it’s all thanks to this smug, unapologetic... Interrupting, Pietro tells Rictor that he’s sorry for his pain, if that means anything. When Rictor replies that it means jack, Pietro says so much for the sin of being apologetic.
Continuing, he explains that his sister’s life means everything to him. And they were going to kill her. Iron Man and the others… the ones who now cooperate with the government’s oppressive actions… they were going to put her down like a rabid dog. “Yeah?” asks Guido, “mebbe that wouldn’ta been such a bad idea! And mebbe we should do that to you.” Picking up Quicksilver by the costume, Guido accuses him of screwing up the world for the sake of one person. When Pietro replies that he didn’t know that would be the outcome, Guido counters that he should’ve.
Then this is what he should know, Pietro tells Guido. Thanks to the Terrigen Mists of the Inhumans… he’s able to restore mutants’ powers with his touch alone. However, he doesn’t know what would happen if he used that touch on someone who still has powers... such as he. Perhaps nothing. Now raising his arm towards Guido, Pietro suggests that perhaps he might explode into a million pieces. He would hate to find out. After a moment of considering, Guido returns Pietro to the ground and safely on his own two feet. With his hands on his hips and grin across his face, Pietro tells him he’s very wise. Especially since they need to be united against a common enemy.
Calling him a pompous clown, Monet tells Pietro that she thinks that, if they poll the population of Mutant Town, they’ll be agreed that the common enemy is he. Eying her in his periphery, Pietro tells Monet that he likes her. She reminds him of he when he was young. Full of piss and vinegar. But then… He took a shower? she asks him. He grew up and realized, he replies, coldly, that the world is full with hard choices. He’s made his. She’s going to have to make hers. Meanwhile, the government has retooled the Mutant Registration Act… and this time it’s taken root. Today, registration. Tomorrow, camps. The enemy you know versus the enemy you don’t. Pick your poison.
This said, the moment Jamie Madrox has been dreaded arrives, as the entire X-Factor organization, along with Quicksilver, turn to him. He continues to rub his temples, as they ask him for his take and what side X-Factor is on. Do they tell everyone what happened? Should they let “fast-feet” set up shop there? What about the Reg act? What about that? Finally making his decision, Jamie rises to his feet, takes his jacket off of the rack and leaves. “Yeah,” one of them says incredulous. “That helped.”
Exiting the building, Jamie finds Layla Miller standing at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for him. A thought suddenly occurring to him, he states, more in fact than question, that she knew. Yes, she did, she replies in a matter-of-fact manner. About the Decimation, he clarifies. Uh-huh, she rejoins. And she never told him, Jamie then says excitedly. To be fair, she counters, he never asked…
Reaching the bottom of the steps, he points his finger at her, telling her not to screw around. He’s not in the mood. When she replies that that’s not her fault, he asks what that’s supposed to mean. It means, she explains, she never asked him to trust her. He just did because he realized she was help. She told him she knew stuff she couldn’t tell him. Right, right, Jamie replies, remembering. And if she did, she’d die. Is he supposed to take that on faith too? In frank reply, Layla guesses that he’s going to have to.
Replying not necessarily, Jamie says, he could just… “Send her back to the orphanage?” Layla asks. There’s a cab coming down the street. He should go ahead and hail it. She’ll get in. He’ll be rid of her. “Go ahead!” The moments tick by, as the two stare at each other defiantly. Finally, a yellow taxi drives by, un-hailed by either party.
The taxi safely on its way, Layla tells Jamie really isn’t any good at making decisions, is he? That’s what he needs her for. To tell him what to do, or at least point him in the right direction. And what direction, he asks, should he go in now? North, she replies. Near the intersection of Buchanan and Broadway. It’ll help, she continues, make up his mind about the registration act, if that’s of any use. Oh, she adds as an afterthought, he should buy a hat on the way. A watch cap, preferably, and a scarf and gloves.
Replying with a “fine,” Jamie turns north, as instructed. But, he says, as he walks away, just so she knows, this isn’t over between them. That’s true, she replies. They’ll be arguing for a long time to come. Already on his way, Jamie asks back what makes her say that. “Cause eventually we get married,” she replies. Refusing to turn around, Jamie’s face contorts in embarrassed frustration before walking on.
Walking as directed, Jamie is lost in thought. He feels like his head is splitting in a hundred directions, which actually is pretty normal for him, but still… With all that’s going on, he thinks, he hasn’t even had time to think about the whole Tryp thing. Shortly emerging from a shop, with blue gloves, a blue scarf and a blue toboggan with a Mets logo, he ponders the means of both Tryps being the same guy. Is it possible they’re both dupes, like him? But… why is one so much older? Maybe one of them is a clone. That’s certainly possible. The technology exists. Hell, maybe it’s even commonplace. Spider-Man, he notes, seems to be in so many places at once. He always figured he was cloned at some point.
Madrox’s thoughts are interrupted by the cries of someone, ordering someone else to stay where they are. They’ve been identified and are under arrest for failure to comply with the superhuman registration act. Immediately realizing that this is what Layla had wanted him to see, Jamie wonders what she’s set him up for now.
A moment later, a masked man in gold armor and dreadlocks runs around the corner, yelling at Jamie to get out of the way. Immediately recognizing the man, Jamie swears, telling him that he’s Aegis of the New Warriors. Or are they just the old warriors now? Because of the new New Warriors… Exasperated, Aegis tells Jamie tat this isn’t the best time. Not far behind Aegis flies a minute sphere, with even smaller wings adorned at it’s ten and two o’clock position. Speaking with an electronic voice, it informs Aegis that SHIELD forces are on the way and will be there within seconds. He cannot escape!
As Aegis takes off, Jamie joins him on the run. When Jamie asks him what he did, Aegis replies that he tried to help people! But it seems being a “people’s champion” means a lot of jack-all around there. To this, he suggests that Jamie run out of there before they arrest him… “For what?” Jamies asks back. “Running?”
For living! Aegis replies. For being different. Hasn’t he heard? “Bias” – it’s not just for skin color anymore. Today the Reg acts just gets their names on paper, and the next thing you know, they’re shipping them off to war or rounding them up if they don’t go… Sensing the approach of the SHIELD agents, Aegis tells Jamie to get out of there. He’s got a force field. He’s got nothing.
Actually, Jamie replies, darting into an alley, he’s going to be the one who gets out of there. Being pulled in, Aegis asks Jamie what he’s doing. Helping, he replies. He knows: like heroes are supposed to.
Further down the alley, Jamie tells Aegis that the bad guys are supposed to be afraid of them. They’re not supposed to be afraid of the people they’re trying to help. Confused, Aegis asks Jamie if he’s a super-guy two. What are the odds, he asks. A moment later, the two have reached the end of the alley, much to the dismay of Aegis. Jamie, however, is not worried, telling the Warrior that it’s okay. Then asked how it’s okay, Jamie replies that it will be.
Back at the street, the SHIELD leader calls to Aegis within, instructing him to come out slowly and not to make any sudden moves. They have weapons that can punch through even his force field, but he won’t be injured if he comes out immediately. He must comply with the law, or they will be forced to…
The leader’s words trail, as another SHIELD agent asks the others if they hear something. Like… the ground rumbling. Sounds like… a stampede, another notes. Putting on his goggles, the leader instructs another agent to give him a video report from the ‘bot. When the agent complies, the leader sees a mass of moving green figures in the darkness of the alley. Wondering aloud what’s going on, he says that he thought only two people went in there… Their subject and a bystander. The subordinate replies that he is correct, but then adds that it’s… much more crowded now. A moment later, all hell breaks loose, as dozens of men in blue caps and gloves, with blue scarves covering their faces, run out of the alley, scattering to all directions.
Trying to remain calm in the face of such an unexpected event, the leader calls to all the racing figures to stop. Quickly realizing that none of them plan to comply, he asks one of his men to give him a thirty on Aegis. Unfortunately, the subordinate replies that he is not there – and that he must be one of these guys… Which one? the leader yells impotently.
As the original Jamie Madrox and Aegis, both with faces covered by blue scarves, make good their escape, the leader orders his men to start arresting. The only one captures, however, is one of Jamie’s dupes, sans hat, gloves or scarf. Incensed, the SHIELD leader informs the dupe that he’d better start talking or he’s going to have the worst day of his life. Life, the dupe laments. Don’t talk to him about life. Oh, God, he says, he’s so depressed.
A couple of streets over, Aegis and the original Madrox reach a subway entrance. Though thankful, Aegis declares that Madrox must be out of his mind. He’s gotta be! Replying that he hears that a lot, he surmises that they’re in the clear. As Aegis approaches the subway entrance, Jamie tells him that, if he wants, he can bring him back to X-Factor headquarters… That’s an amazingly lousy idea, Aegis replies. He doesn’t want to get any deeper into this than he is. Referring to the entrance, Aegis informs him that there’re steam tunnels and such accessible through the subways. With any luck, he’ll find Captain America.
Ready to depart, Aegis holds out his hand in handshake and thanks Jamie. He owes him. He doesn’t owe him a thing, Jamie counters. Okay, good, Aegis replies. He’s not really sure hot he’d repay him, so… Later. Watching as Aegis makes good his escape down into the subway, Jamie considers Aegis’ action. He was just trying to help people. And they’re treating him like he’s a terrorist. It’s like being trapped at the Mad Tea Party. Still standing at the height of the steps, Jamie turns around and holds out his arms, intending to all back all of his dupes, remotely.
Elsewhere, the SHIELD leader continues to listen to the ramblings of the Madrox dupe, who informs him that he’s got an entire closet of the same outfit, so he doesn’t have to make clothing choices. It’s so boring, he just wants to hoot himself. Trying to get back the chaotic information, the leader informs the dupe that he’s been ID’d as Jamie Madrox. Is he the original or… Before he can finish asking, the dupe begins to contort, becoming thin and stretching, much to the SHIELD leader’s astonishment.
Elsewhere, back at the subway entrance, Jamie concentrates on recalling all dupes back to his position. He worries that he’s never absorbed this many dupes before in one shot. This could be a little tricky. Once it has been completed, Jamie reels from the absorption, which throws him off balance. Falling backwards, he falls down the flight of stairs and into the subway terminal, generating more dupes with every bounce. Once the bottom has been reached, one dupe announces that that was fun. Can they do that again? In unison, the rest of the dupes emphatically tell him “No!!”
At an empty boutique, Pietro informs the agent that this should work nicely. Calling him “Mr. Maximus,” she replies that she’s pleased to hear that. Correcting her, he tells her that his name is Maximoff. Maximus, he informs her, is an Inhuman madman with delusions of power. A little taken aback at this bit of information, the agent apologizes in a humoring manner, telling her client that she’s sure no one would think such a thing of him. Glancing to her direction, he tells her that she has no idea. When his nom de guerre of “Quicksilver” is shouted from the street, Pietro tells the agent, “Case in point.”
Both looking out the window, the agent asks if that is… Replying that he’s afraid so, he suggests that she leave immediately. They can become… violent… when provoked. More than a little concerned, the agent asks if he’s going to provoke them. No, Pietro replies. They’ll likely become violent anyway. Scandalous, really, how they carry on. Standing outside, fully clad in their costumes, are the Astonishing X-Men.
Yelling back inside, Cyclops tells Quicksilver that they know he’s in there. Agreeing, Wolverine adds that they can smell him a mile off, for starters. Well, some of them can, Kitty then adds.
When Cyclops then adds his suggestion that he surrender immediately, Pietro yells back mockingly, asking if he truly does. Very well, he announces. He will consider it. Hmmm. No, he finally decides. He then announces that a nice lady is about to emerge and for them to kindly let her depart unharmed. Emerging with her arms raised, she asks the X-Men not to hurt her. She doesn’t have any powers! Hearing this, the Beast asks Cyclops if she is aware that they are the good guys – right? Replying sardonically, Cyclops states that, these days, he thinks people wouldn’t know the good guys if they came up and bit them. Thinking that an interesting hypothesis, the Beast jokingly ponders whether he should put it to the test.
“They know,” a voice informs them. Startled, Cyclops looks over to see Layla Miller, who repeats that they know. X-Factor knows he lied to them about the Decimation. She didn’t tell them, she then adds. They found out themselves. She wishes they hadn’t, but… there it is.
Bending down to her, Wolverine tells Layla that she doesn’t know what she’s doing there, but she should run home to her folks. When he replies that she doesn’t have any folks, he s startled. She lied. In the… “other” world… she had parent. But not before, and not now. She had this nice dream of them, just before things changed back. Her mom was calling her, telling her it was time for school. Then she woke up, back in the orphanage. Back in the world she hated. Asked by Wolverine why she lied, Layla replies that she had to. When he counters that she didn’t, she did. But now the lies are falling apart… and X-Factor…
“…Is here,” Siryn tells the X-Men. Flanked by the rest of the team – Rictor, the now-fanged Wolfsbane and Monet – Theresa mocks that it was so nice of the X-Men to be showing them the respect they deserve, by telling them that they’d be coming into Mutant Town after Pietro. Wait, she continues to mock. They didn’t call. Maybe they should be, oh, waiting by the phone? Is that what he’ll be wanting then? Like a dateless Colleen on a Friday night?
His face not reacting to the sarcasm, Cyclops tells Theresa that now isn’t the best time to discuss this. They received a tip that Quicksilver is… They know, Rictor interrupts. He phoned it in. They figured it was the best way to get them out there so they can… chat.
Annoyed by the situation, Wolverine asks Theresa if they want to throw down with them to protect that silver-headed slimeball? He may be a slimeball, Theresa replies. He may be a totally evil monster. Calling from the empty boutique, Quicksilver asks Theresa if he knows that he can hear her. Ignoring him and continuing, Theresa tells Wolverine that Quicksilver didn’t pretend to be their friend, and he didn’t lie to them. Can he say the same?
Declaring this ridiculous, Colossus replies that they don’t have to defend their actions. They did what had to be done. And they’re going to do that now as well. However, before he can move into action, Cyclops tells Colossus to wait. However, Siryn has already moved into action and knocks the armored X-Man back with a sonic scream. His eyes flashing with annoyance, Cyclops asks the others if they don’t see. This is what Quicksilver wants! To turn them against each other! But, if they can’t see that for themselves… then they’ll drive the point home!
Opening his visor, Cyclops lets loose a scarlet blast of fury. However, rather than finding his intended target of Siryn, Cyclops blasts Jamie Madrox, who leaps before the blast, knowing full well that, while it is going to hurt, it will be worth it. It had taken dozens of foot-stompings and wall-poundings to produce as many dupes as he did in the alley. The concussive force of Cyclops’ blast, on the other hand… cuts right to the chase.
A moment later, dozens of Madroxes stand before the X-Men. While each faces displays a variance in countenance and demeanor, each stands united behind their progenitor. That all you got, Scott, he snarls. Huh? Want to take another shot? Make fifty more of him, he continues. Maybe a hundred? Bring it! Empower him! Make enough of him to kick their astonishing X-butts around the block all by himself, with the rest of his crew along to pick up the pieces. C’mon! C’MON!!!
Angered by the provocation, Wolverine begins to lunge, but is held back by Cyclops, who tells him to back off. When Madrox then yells that he trusted them, Wolverine snaps back that everybody lies. Agreeing, Cyclops adds that they couldn’t let people know the truth. It would’ve caused a worldwide panic. If everyone knew that a single mutant could recreate the world in her own image… obliterate powers with a few words… humans would have wanted to destroy any remaining mutants.
Almost foaming at the mouth, the lupine Wolfsbane counters that they’ve wanted t’destroy them for years. That’s nothing new. What’s new is that they didn’t trust them with the truth. They’re so interested in protecting people? What about the Registration Act? Pietro says the government’s far more dangerous than he could ever be. Where do they stand on that?
Considering all her time with them, Cyclops replies to Rahne, he’s think she would appreciate the importance of training… and the dangers of using powers without it. Emma already discussed it with Stark. Officially, they’re neutral. They have enough issues of their own to deal with. Besides… what sparked it was untrained heroes. Loose cannons.
Appearing in a puff of smoke, much to everyone’s surprise, Quicksilver says, “When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.” He explains that these are the words of Martin Niemoller, explaining why doing nothing encourages monsters such as Hitler, and his atrocities. Where is the vigilance one would expect from the X-Men?
Defiant, Cyclops sneers back that they don’t need to be lectured by him. And the US government and its representatives aren’t Hitler and his power-grabbing Nazis. Chiming in, Guido states that, as he recalls, Hitler didn’t grab power – he was elected.
A moment later, Quicksilver is gone again, much to the dismay of Shadowcat, who asks if anyone else if getting weirded-out.
Speaking back to Cyclops, Madrox informs him that he’s calling a press conference. He’s announcing hat X-Factor is opposed to the superhuman registration act. He’s going to say they think it’s wrong and that if anyone wants their aid in avoiding the government, they just need to ask. The X-Men have been lying to them ever since Decimation. Are they going to have their backs for this?
When Cyclops begins to reply that they can’t, Jamie interrupts, telling them to get the hell out of Mutant Town. Or it’s going to be “good guy” mutant versus “good guy” mutant, and they’ll have their own little civil war right there. Wolverine begins to agree, but Cyclops announces that they’re going, much to the shock of the rest of the X-Men. Colossus begins to protest, but Cyclops is adamant. They’re going.
To Madrox, Cyclops tells him that they’ll be monitoring Quicksilver. If he sets foot outside of Mutant Town, they’re all over him. Otherwise, he’s his problem now, 24/7. Enjoy your little kingdom, he tells him. And God help him when it all comes crashing down… because they won’t.
As the X-Men depart, Rahne asks Jamie if they just won. Dumbfounded by how the whole situation turned out, Jamie replies that, as God is his witness… he hasn’t the faintest idea.