Dunfee Illinois, the past
The Principal’s office at Dunfee Elementary.
Addressing Mr. and Mrs. McCoy, an exasperated headmaster assures them that they love their son, Hank, but – he sighs - the teachers are at the end of their… The worried parents ask what the matter is and the principal suggests the caretaker shed some light on the matter. He tries to call him on the phone but doesn’t get a connection.
Outside, a few minutes later, the principal goes into detail. Hank is unquestionably one of the brightest boys who attend school. He doesn’t know what’s in his genes, but clearly it has made him very special. He doesn’t know half of it, Norton McCoy mutters. Though Hank favors the sciences, he’s an exemplary student in all subjects. He devours the texts as if they were comic books. The problem they’ve encountered is in finding a limit to his … delightful … inquisitiveness. Exhausted, he rubs his eyes, while the McCoys take in the scene of Hank taking apart the engine block of the school bus, while caretaker Willy curses him out. Hank somersaults up and lands behind Willy, taking away his screwing iron and adding that he isn’t done yet before he jumps back to the bus.
Hank has always been a curious boy, Edna starts to explain. They know that, the principal replies. Oh, do they. Apparently, Hank needs desperately to know how everything works. Everything. Poor Willy managed to reassemble the photo-copier, but only after he asked never to hear the words “Hank” and “Boiler Room” in the same sentence again.
Willy storms off in a huff, as Hank connects two wires which make the engine run again. Yes! he shouts happily and somersaults across the bus, shouting because the spark moves the pistons… because the gas fuels the engine … because the fan moves the belts…
A nursing home:
Because, because, because, the bedridden principal repeats. That’s what he remembers most about him, since he asked. He had to put on a show for Hank’s parents … but no principal could stay mad at a boy who so loved to learn. He misses the students. Hank’s visit has been such a pleasant surprise. One more thing… could he fluff up his pillow before he leaves? The Dark Beast grabs the pillow and asphyxiates the old man. My pleasure, he states.
Well, he admits to himself, as he steps outside the room and surveys the carnage he caused outside. The old man had the name right. He is Hank McCoy, just not the Hank McCoy he knew and wouldn’t that boggle his walnut-sized Homo sapiens mind. Stepping over the corpse of a nurse, the Beast thinks to himself that he doubts that anyone from Dunfee Elementary is familiar with the concept of alternate realties or with the notion that a man such as him might step from one reality into another… rife with new opportunity. As a refugee from a world ruled by Apocalypse, he left nothing of importance behind, save a rancorous subservience to Mr. Sinister that, in this timeline, he managed to avoid so far. As far as he can ascertain, this Sinister knows nothing of his presence. He means to keep it that way.
Despite his self-exiles, he continues to be a radical bio-geneticist of incomparable skill. He’s always looking for interesting things toe experiment on – he lifts the corpse of a nurse… and drops it after studying the pair of scissors she wore in her pocket. But not today. Today, he’s in a contemplative mood. As a transplant to this world, he has long known that it must boast its own Hank McCoy. Until now, he has been too consumed with other matters to give his double much thought. However, now that their paths are finally in danger of crossing, he finds himself consumed with the thought of who is the doppelganger and which is the real McCoy.
The Xavier Institute:
Hank McCoy is surrounded by a supersized hologram of certain molecule patterns. He was certain he’d deduced a telling pattern, but it doesn’t work, as one molecular chain stands alone. He tries to change it. As a result, things spin out of control. He reminds himself that he created this little microverse to find out things about the Legacy Virus, not to prove the little bang theory.
But a voice breaks his chain of thoughts and Hank saves the arrangement before the Danger Room switches to normal. Yes, Professor, Hank asks. Xavier commends Hank on using the Danger Room as a makeshift blackboard. Anything to give them a sharper insight into the Legacy Virus. Still, he had hoped Hank would be further along in repairing the Danger Room. Is he listening? Because the helix chain can’t support the fusion, Hank mutters.
Sam and Scott enter the Danger Room and Sam says it’s great to see him out of his lab. Because… yes , Hank shouts and races out. For as long as it lasted, Scott dryly remarks.
In the observation booth, Xavier tells Iceman that he worries about Hank. When was the last time he saw Hank relax? He thinks Lincoln was still in office, Robert jokes. He’s been Hanks best pal since forever and he’s never seen him so wired. His nerves are frazzled… judgment shot. He’s been trying to help him in the lab, but science is Hank’s game, not Bobby’s. Xavier asks him to be a friend. Provide him a sane voice. Keep his demons at bay.
In his lab, Hank obsesses. Where is the justice in having withstood the most gargantuan menaces, only to have their ultimate foe be an infinitesimal bug? He thinks of the victims the virus has cost them so far. Revanche, Jamie Madrox, Illyana Rasputin… how many more mutants are likely to succumb to this menace? Answer: none. Not if he has to spend every night and day puzzling over this. He will find a cure for his friends. He must, for if he can’t, their blood is on his hands.
He is unaware that the Dark Beast has hacked into his computer, following his every calculation. He grins, finding that Hank seems to be closing in on something but he is not yet where the Dark Beast needs him to be. McCoy injects himself with some substance, causing a few genetic alterations, intending to find out more about his mundane counterpart.
Later, at a diner where the Dark Beast meets Hank’s ex-girlfriend, Mindy. He’s changed the bubbly, Mindy tells him. The TV cameras made his fur seem bluer. As she touches his hand, her fingers slide over a ring. Ow, she suddenly exclaims. Apparently, the fur is rough as well. That was like a pinprick. She asks what he’s been doing and why he left the Avengers. He’d rather not bore her with the details of his sordid life, he evades her question. He’s more interested in talking about her now. He really has changed, she jokes. She’s flattered he even remembers her. She tried to make sure they had some memorable times, but he just… Does he remember the fair? As if it were yesterday, McCoy smoothly answers. But he’d love to hear it again…
Mindy recalls how the two of them and a couple of fellow students had gone to the fair, sitting down in a boat getting ready for the Tunnel of Horrors. Hank states in his usual ten-letter word way that he doubted this conveyance would palpitate their senses in the way proclaimed by the boisterous barker outside. With a sigh, Mindy tells him that she would get his pulse pounding one way or the other.
As glowing skeletons are hanging from the ceiling, Mindy moves closer to Hank, telling him she feels so safe in his arms. A physiological response to sudden stimuli, no doubt, he explains. Stimulate me, Mindy demands with closed eyes, waiting for a kiss. As she opens her eyes, Hank is elsewhere, examining the way the monsters are constructed close-up. Haaaaank! She shouts, exasperated. Then he shows them how the other effects are caused by simple holography, causing one of his friends to shout that they don’t care. Next, he tries to take apart a skeleton, until two carnies dressed as Frankenstein’s monster and the Mummy throw him out.
What did he have to do that for, his friends ask angrily. Because it was positively illuminating he enthuses. Did they see? The Count lunged because they interrupted a photocell. The witch swooped from the ceiling because… Because, because, because, Mindy repeats exasperated.
Because, because, Mindy repeats suddenly sweating. That’s all he ever cared about back then. So what has he been up to since? Biochemical research mostly, genetics, mutations, diseases, that sort of thing. Mindy suddenly starts screaming, as boils break out on her skin. What’s happening, she asks, panicked. He wouldn’t worry, McCoy tells her, revealing that his ring has a fine needle. She won’t suffer long.
Mindy starts to vomit and becomes horribly bloated, as she touches a waitress. The woman tries to calm her down saying she has some nurse training. Suddenly, the boils break out on her skin, as well and in the rest of the panicked establishment. McCoy calmly takes his leave. How about that, he thinks. Dinner and a show. That’s entertainment.
Back at the Xavier Institute, Hank’s lab.
Okay, Lucy explain something to me, Iceman asks, as he ices up some parts of a huge device. Glady, Beast replies. Today, he says this is some sort of high-faluting electron microscope. Correct. Today, he says it’ll let him find some precious clues in the heart of the virus RNA. Correct. Today he says Iceman’s job is to keep the circuitry superconductors frosted, so they won’t overheat when he goes for his subatomic peek. Correct. Last week he said this very machine was too crude and dicy to be used safely. Correct. Just checking, Bobby states.
Bobby ices the cables up, as Hank starts the machine. He’s getting some insights, while Bobby finds that something is not right. He starts hurting as the cables overheat. Bobby starts screaming in pain, while Hank insists that he’s almost there. He finally relents, grabbing Bobby and pushing him away. He hopes he can still salvage the rest of the experiment, but it blows up in his face and he hurts his head crashing into the wall. He awakes a short time later to Bobby cooling his head with a snowball and telling him to put that down in his report: “when obsessed, subject forgets to be agile.”
As Hank moves back to his computer screen, Bobby tells him that they all know this is serious stuff, but nobody expects him to save the world over night. He does, Beast replies silently. Bobby didn’t quite understand him. Beast admits that Bobby is right, he has become quite wedded to the lab. Perhaps a change of venue is exactly what the doctor ordered. How about a game of scrabble? Bobby walks ahead outside the lab, as they discuss the rules, only to have Hank shut the lab door before his nose and return to his work.
St. Christopher’s church:
Does he have anything to confess, the priest asks. The other tells him no need to stand on ceremony. He knows who he is. It’s been a long time, Henry, the priest agrees. The Dark Beast explains he came searching for answers about his condition. The human condition is an enigma, the priest agrees. No, his condition, his bestial countenance. How did he succumb to this?
The priest explains what Hank told him years ago. He’d left school to find his place in the world and took a job with the Brand Corporation. He was dedicated in his research. He was searching hard for what he believed to be the chemical cause of mutation. One day, he found something and… And he drank it, the Dark Beast interrupts. He consumed it because he had to know exactly what he created. He was transformed. He paid a terrible price for that knowledge.
Funny, he muses, the more he gets to know himself, the less there is to find out. What he needs is faith, the priest insists. Padre, the Beast replies, he grew up in a world that beat the faith right out of him. Then what does he believe in, the priest asks. What he can see, what he can taste, what he can touch… science. McCoy builds an explosive device and tells the priest that, if God does exist, he should tell him he said hello. The church explodes and the Dark Beast drives away, laughing.
Within his headquarters, under the sceptical eyes of Fatale, McCoy changes himself genetically, to look even more like the other Hank. He still has much more to learn about him, but he has one more test to undergo.
The country homestead of Edna and Norton McCoy, where they collect ridiculously huge vegetables. As they harvest them, Edna jokes whether they have the West Virginian soil to thank for the crop. Norton is abut to tell her she knows very well that it’s courtesy of Hank, when the Dark Beast shouts boo, coming out of the cornfield. Edna pretends to chastise him for scaring his father, but then hugs the man she believes to be her son.
He’s about to make an excuse as to why he came, when Norton tells him they expected he’d come by and see if his tinkering worked. This year’s the best harvest ever from his seeds. They invite him for dinner. Nice kitchen, he remarks, as he sees the kitchen where the gadgets basically prepare dinner by themselves and Edna reminds him that he built it. Sadie got a toaster from her son on Mother’s Day. Poor dear. Sadie? McCoy asks. His grandmother, his mother reminds him. His father bought her a toaster, she continues. McCoy leaves to see his father outside where he is using machine to have the wood cut automatically – a Christmas gift.
They need to talk the Dark Beast states. Norton agrees, adding there’s something not right with him. He’s acting weird, like he’s hiding something. What’s on Hank’s mind. He asks his father to tell him about the radiation accident that caused Hank to be born a mutant. He’s working on an experiment and needs to hear it again in detail.
Norton relates how he was involved in trying to stop a meltdown at the power plant and was dosed with a lifetime worth of radiation as a result. The docs kept that from him and gave him a clean bill of health, sent him home and only told him the truth when Hank was born and had hands like hams and feet like gunboats. Nevertheless, he was the most beautiful baby his parents had ever seen. Hank was clumsy at first and always a bookworm. Norman believes that his smarts aren’t a mutation. He just came by them naturally. Probably from his mother’s side. In time, Hank grew into his agility and enjoyed romping around. On the football field and all over, he turned a curse into an advantage and had his father think a thousand times of how proud he was of him.
Even after he mutated further into this form? the Dark Beast asks. Norton wonders why he’s so curious. It never had seemed to bother Hank before. Didn’t keep him out of the Avengers or that other group. Anyway, blue fur didn’t stop Hank from making something of himself, Norton continues as he packs more wood into the machine. He’s just glad Hank never blamed him for the way he is. Still, he is busy with the wood. The Dark Beast grabs an axe, ready to swing it. Norton suddenly states that he wanted to tell him, no matter how he would have turned out. His parents will always love him.
With a snarl, McCoy brings down the axe, only to chop a piece of wood next to Norton, instead of killing his “father.” Norton asks him what’s wrong, as the Dark Beast silently walks away still holding the axe.
He couldn’t kill them, he berates himself, as he drives away. But that doesn’t mean someone won’t die. He sees a passer-by, walking his dog. He opens the car window and stretches out his arm with the axe. Someone always has to die.
At the Xavier Institute, Hank is still locked into his lab, hunching over his computer with next to no results. Day twelve. Still hungry. Lab Journal looking tasty. Not amused, he tells himself that the virus doesn’t need sleep. Why should he? He has the molecules of the virus on the screen before him. Suddenly, before his eyes, a chemical formula appears, as well as the sentence because nucleotides bind covalently, answering one of his questions. Where did that come from? he wonders.
An hour later, he arrives at the abandoned Brand Corporation building. His computer’s been bugged and he’s been taunted, he thinks angrily. Never figured he’d darken these doors again, he thinks, grimly swinging his flashlight about. He shouts out if anybody is there but gets no answer. He feels like a character from a slasher movie, entering a deserted building, armed only with a flash light… why do movie kids do that?
From elsewhere, the Dark Beast watches. Perfect control conditions, he gloats, just as he anticipated. His doppelganger is alone and tired. Hank enters a lab, where he sees huge hologram of the virus matrix – the puzzle pieces on his computer nearly assembled, but by whom? He reaches out to touch the hologram and is trapped, as a steel contraption springs up around him.
He knew it, a voice announces. He knew his curiosity would bring him right here. That is, after all, the nature of the Beast. The Dark Beast hangs gloating from the ceiling, face to face with the real Hank who demands to know who he is.
As of this moment… I am you. And you… are a major disappointment, is the reply of the Dark Beast. Hank angrily repeats his question and the Dark Beast replies that he is Hank McCoy and he is tired of avoiding a very powerful man. So tired that he’s decided to replace him in the X-Men and hide from the man in plains sight. He needn’t bother struggle, as he won’t get free. He is full well aware of what he –what they are capable of.
Who is that powerful man, Beast changes his tactic. The Dark Beast refuses to say but hints that Bishop knows and he really doesn’t want to be further than a gunshot away from him, should he remember. That much he feels comfortable confessing. It’s not as if Hank ever would have found out. He hoped they might have been allies but, sadly, Hank’s curiosity is stunted. He’s done an extensive study of his life and he’s shocked at the shallowness of Hank’s inquisitive nature. There are thresholds he won’t cross. He won’t make sacrifices for his research. For example, does he know what that smell is? It is the scent of votive candles and plastique. But he’d never wonders bout a thing like that. How about the prayer a priest screams as he starts to burn. Isn’t he curious about that? Of course not. Of the two of them, only one would wonder about the effects the staphellectis gamma bug would have on a thirty-year-old woman in the prime of her life…
You monster, Hank shouts as he strains. How could he be so - Evil? McCoy asks, as he holds up a syringe filled with something. Morality is subjective, he tells Hank. Science is absolute. That’s what makes it so appealing. Again, Hank disappoints. He will not be missed. Before he can use the syringe on Hank, the X-Man finally bursts free with a shout of denial. Oh, my stars and garters. McCoy observes mockingly. That is the phrase, isn’t it?
Don’t you mock me Hank shouts as he lunges at his doppelganger, who hits him straight in the face. McCoy attacks, announcing that he is his better half. Getting the upper hand again, Hank demands he stop speaking in riddles. Who is he? Someone sharp enough to lay a trap at the place where his curiosity got the better of him, McCoy replies and starts hitting Hank again. He has learned everything about him. Every little secret. As he continues, Hank stumbles upon his high school yearbook. It is open and the faces of his classmates are crossed out. Then he sees the program of St Christopher’s church. Church services have been cancelled, McCoy announces and his class reunion is going to be awfully thin this year.
The snap in Hank is almost audible. Hank McCoy is gone. Only the Beast remains. He wildly attacks his foe and the Dark Beast wonders whether her has pushed him too far or whether he still has a weapon. Hank has him pinned down and is about to snap his foe’s neck. McCoy urges him to do it, but if he does… he’ll never know where McCoy came from. He’ll never know Hank hesitates. McCoy grabs a pipe and slugs him in the face. He takes up the dropped syringe and injects Hank. Things go dark.
Later, he awakes shackled in a cell. McCoy is busy putting stone on stone, walling him in. He wanted Hank to see this, he announces. He has let him live grudgingly. He has places to go and people to fool. There’s always the chance he might need more data from Hank. Seeing him there, he wonders how far Hank’s imprisonment will set back the Legacy Virus research. Hank appeals to him: surely he must understand the danger of the virus to everyone on Earth – himself included. McCoy continues stating that this must seem medieval, but he always had a flair for the dramatic. He states that he knows all about Legacy. He’s made a few discoveries on his own. He bets Hank wishes it were higher on his agenda. Hank appeals to him one more. If they are two sides of the same coin, can’t they work together? Between them they might unlock the cure.
McCoy tells him not to waste his breath. He’ll need it in there. Only one more stone is missing. For the love of God, Hank demands, why is he doing this. Why? McCoy looks at Hank through the tiny last hole before walling it up.