A feline-like creature, with comically sized teeth, dark red hair and light-brown skin, bursts through a paper machete barrier. Behind her is another feline-like animated creature, with bright yellow-orange fur, with blank, simplistic eyes and a tongue hanging out her mouth.
Hi, kids! the first feline creature smiles. You know what time it is? That’s right! It’s time for… Rahne & Simpy! She’s Rahne, she exclaims. And that’s Feral, back there… except… she thinks she’s Simpy! So that’s what she calls her! Right, Simpy? “Right as rain, Rahne,” Simpy replies.
Ignoring her “audience,” Rahne turns her attention back to Simpy, her companion in the psychedelically-decorated house. She tells Simpy that she’s in such a good mood today… she can’t think of anything that could possibly spoil it. Holding up a vinyl record, Simpy asks nothing? No even…? Her eyes literally bulging out of her head, Rahne yells, “No!” calling Rahne a stupid fool. Not that same old song!
Ignoring Rahne’s protests, Simpy tosses the record across the room like a Frisbee, causing it to land on the spindle of a record player. Immediately, the player activates and plays a quick-tempo song. Mutant, mutant, angst angst, mutant, mutant, angst angst… In response, both Rahne and Simpy dance with cartoon, simplistic expressions…
And then she woke up, Rahne explains. And this isn’t the first time this kind of thing has happened to her. In contrast to her active and energetic dream self, this Rahne sits sideways on a large armchair, her arms wrapped defensively around her bent legs. Timidly, she gazes across the room at its other occupant, who flips through his notes of their conversation. The décor of the room radiates therapy – and the other occupant of the room, to whom Rahne is speaking, the therapist.
Then asked by the therapist what other types of dreams she has had, Rahne replies that there was the time she dreamed up “Rahne’s World.” And once she fell asleep watching “Rain Man” on HBO, and it was a whole dream of her saying… “I’m an X-cellent mutant X-cellent mutant.” Turning the question around, Rahne asks the therapist why does she have these kind of dreams. To this, the therapist asks what she thinks. Chuckling a moment, Rahne rejoins that Guido was right about “ye psychiatrists.” Immediately, Rahne covers her mouth in horror as to what she just said.
Rather than irate, the therapist seems fascinated and asks Rahne what Guido said. Beginning to play with a Newton’s cradle, causing its metal balls to clink back and forth, Rahne answers. He said: “Dem shrinks always answer questions with questions!” Suddenly realizing something, Rahne asks he therapist if she can call him a shrink. The therapist replies that he’s been called worse. When he asks what else he said, Rahne says that shrinks get paid for getting other people to do their work for them. And that a shrink would never give ye a straight answer to a question as simple as “What do muh dreams mean?”
To this, the therapist asks Rahne if she wants a straight answer. When she replies with a timid “aye,” he gives one. Well, one approach is that, in all these dreams, she has no sense of self. She’s someone else, drawn from a TV program or movie. It could be argued that she seized upon whatever personality sticks in her memory and sublimate her own to it. As if searching for some identity she’s comfortable with. So, she tries on different personas the way someone else would try on different shoes to see what looks god and fits.
Seeing Rahne reel at such a direct response, the therapist replies that he might be completely off-base. She then defends that he is the doctor. Changing tact, the therapist points out that Rahne seems to have a lot of respect for authority figures and asks her to tell him some she knows and admire. To this, Rahne replies that there’s Havok. Storm, she supposes… though she was always a bit distant. And Professor Xavier. Of course… she trails, regarding the therapist and what she’s telling him. She’s… not used to talking about him to outsiders. But Val said he was filled in on… everything.
Dismissing the concern, the therapist asks Rahne how did it make her feel when she saw Xavier injured. Covering her mouth, Rahne replies terrified. When she thought he’d died, it was… horrible. The therapist then asks Rahne if she loves the professor, to which she replies, “Aye.” And does she think he loves her in a way? She likes to think so, she replies. What about Havok, the therapist asks. To this, Rahne gives no response. The only sound filling the room is the klack klack klack of the Newton’s cradle.
Finally, Rahne answers, her eyes downcast. Him too, in a way, she says. Asked in what way, she replies in a way that… it hurts when she’s not with him. But she knows it makes him nervous, so she’s been trying t’ keep it to herself. It’s not easy. Sometimes she just wants to… well… it’s not proper, these things she’s feelings. That’s all. Love isn’t easy to… what’s the word…? Quantify.
What about the man who raised her, the therapist asks. Reverend Craig? Did she love h… No, Rahne replies emphatically. And she doesn’t care to discuss him. When the therapist then begins to suggest something, Rahne’s sheepish demeanor turns enraged, her mouth turning into a roar. I said I dinnae want to talk about Reverend bleeding Craig! He HATED me! End of story!
Unaffected by her outburst, the therapist suggests a thought to Rahne. Mightn’t it be that her investing so much of her love and personal involvement in authority figures… Interrupting as she leaps to her feet, Rahne snarls that they’re done. Continuing his thoughts, despite her moving to leave, the therapist says that it might be her way to trying to make up for the love that was denied her by her very first authority figure… namely Reverend Craig? The therapist calls out to Rahne inquisitively. A moment later, she sticks her head back in the room, sheepishly giving her opinion. “Wow.”
Eying a Rubik’s Cube, Pietro tells the therapist that he must be he fellow that Val Cooper has hired for this odious task. When the therapist asks why “odious,” Pietro replies that it’s idiotic government regulations. “After a mission deemed traumatic enough,” he cites, “all team members are to attend counseling sessions.” Rubbish, he opines. Further, he assures the therapist that there’s nothing they cannot handle. They don’t need a “doctor” attempting to dissect them.
In reply, the therapist surmises aloud that Pietro doesn’t think much of him. To this, Pietro replies that he doesn’t think much of anyone. Well, the therapist rejoins, Val did warn him he’s always nasty. She called it “PMS…” When Pietro begs his pardon, the therapist elaborates. “Pietro Maximoff Syndrome.” An uncontrollable urge to be high-handed and arrogant. When Pietro then asks if he’s upholding that assessment, the therapist replies somewhat, yes. He seems proud of it. “I revel in it,” Pietro replies. He’ll have him know, he further tells the therapist, not everyone can raise arrogance to the level of an art form.
Seeing Pietro use his super-speed to solve the Rubik’s Cube in a spilt-second, the therapist points to the coffee table. He has a jigsaw puzzle over there, he tells Pietro, that’s been stumping him, if he’d care to… Certainly, Pietro replies. Returning to the subject of their session, the therapist remarks that, if Pietro doesn’t think much of anyone, does that include himself? Himself most of all, Pietro replies. So, the therapist surmises, he’s saying he feels inferior. Not at all, Pietro rejoins. He simply holds himself to an impossibly high standard. No one else comes even close.
Perhaps inspired by Pietro’s current outfit, that of a full suit (accompanied with untied white sneakers), the therapist notes that Pietro doesn’t wear an X-Factor uniform. They haven’t offered, he replies. He hasn’t asked, the therapist counters. Hands behind his back, Pietro states that he prefers his individuality.
Changing tact, the therapist asks Pietro why he feels so set apart from everyone else? Finally moving to the table, Pietro begins to put the jigsaw together at lightening speed. Thrp! Thrp! Thrp! Thrp! Thrp! Thrp! Thrp! Thrp! Thrp! Thrp! As he continues in silence, the therapist asks Pietro if there’s anyone he feels close to within X-Factor? Silence. Feel friendship… or even… affection for? Silence. Well? Finally turning his gaze to the therapist, Pietro replies, “None of your business.”
Tell me, doctor, Pietro says, continuing his work on the puzzle, has he ever stood in line at a banking machine behind a person who didn’t know how to use it? Or wanted to buy stamps at the post office and the fellow in front of you wants to know every single way he can ship his package to Istanbul? Or gotten some counter idiot at Burger King who can’t comprehend “Whopper, no pickles?” When the therapist replies that he supposes, yes, Pietro asks how he feels on those occasions. Impatient, he replies. Irritated. Angry sometimes.
Now, imagine, doctor, Pietro then says, that everyone you work with, everywhere you go… your entire world… is filled with people who can’t work cash machines. He’d venture to say, doctor, that he too would suffer from PMS. Get the picture? In punctuation, Pietro holds up the completed jigsaw. Not so puzzling now, is it.
As the therapist speaks to her, Lorna eyes the wrapped candy on the table next to the armchair. He remarks that he sees the brace has come off and her jaw is fully healed. It helped her lose weight, she replies. When he then asks how she is, she replies curtly. Fine. Mirroring her demeanor, Lorna’s arms are crossed across her chest. Her legs crossed as well in a similar defensive manner.
After a moment of silence, the therapist tells Lorna that she doesn’t want to be there, does she? When she coldly asks why he thinks that, the therapist tells her his trained, analytical mind… That, and the fact that she hasn’t budged from that position in ten minutes. In response, Lorna replies that she’s so comfortable she doesn’t wan to move. Are they done here? To her surprise, he replies that if she wants to leave, she may. With a surprise, “Oh,” Lorna stands… but does not move.
After a moment, the therapist tells Lorna she doesn’t like him, does she? Closing her eyes, she replies that he likes him fine. No, she doesn’t, he replies. And he’s curious as to why? How should she know, he says. Well, according to her records, he explains, she has a very high IQ. She’s very well-read… an intellectual even. Someone so bright is usually aware of her short-comings. Her eyes turning up in anger, Lorna icily repeats his words. “Short-comings?!?”
Leaping to her feet, Lorna pulls on her sweater, pulling it off of her body and displaying her tight stomach. Now he’s going to tell her she’s fat, right? she replies. Though the therapist is clearly taken aback by this, Lorna presses. He’ll say that she’s a blimp. That compared to Rahne and Val, they might as well pain “Goodrich” on her side. When the therapist Goodrich doesn’t have a blimp, Lorna retorts with a whatever.
Nuts, she says a moment later. She swore he wasn’t going to let him do that. When he asks “do what?” she replies get into her head. Exploring this new avenue, the therapist asks why doesn’t she like that. His getting “into” her head, he means. Because of others who have done it, she replies. Made her say things, do things that she… She… Trailing off, Lorna grows silent. A moment later, tears begin to come from her tightly closed eyes.
Seeing this, the therapist hands a box of tissues. Certainly, the therapist continues, a smart woman such as herself would find it a bit ironic to command magnetism… and yet she has trouble with feeling attractive, and she tends to repel things. Incensed by this, Lorna backhands the box of tissues out of the therapist’s hand. A moment later, Lorna is gone.
As Guido zips the yo-yo up and down the string, the therapist tells him that Rahne said he warned her about him. Snickering a bit, Guido replies that “warned” ain’t the right word. He told her about him. Oh, not him specifically. About guys like him. When the therapist then asks if he’s had a lot of experience, he replies “guidance counselors, back when he was a kid.” To this, the therapist replies that guidance counselors hardly do what he does.
Another tact suddenly occurring to him, the therapist then asks Guido why did he see so many guidance counselors. Still flipping the yo-yo, Guido replies with a smile that he was always getting into trouble. Right up until his mutant power surfaced. When the therapist then asks if he remembers the first time that happened, he replies, “Ohhh yeah!” A red letter day, that was. He has to understand, doc, Guido continues. He wasn’t always the suave sophisticated dude he sees before him. In junior high, he was still a geek. A nerd.
Guido is a small, short lad, with circular wire-rimmed glasses. His smile seems to take up most of his face.
One of those guys who always ruined the grade curve. The kids hated me for it. But me, I wanted to fit in. So I doubled as class clown. The smart aleck. Just like I am now. It helped, but only a little.
Guido tried to ingratiate himself by placing a “spank me hard” sign on the back of their teacher. However, outside of class, he himself is a target of pranks. One of the larger teens, trying to impress his girlfriend, trips young Guido, causing his books to be scattered. As the boyfriend departs, he takes the girl with him. Looking over her shoulder, the girl is sorrowful at what has just happened. Nevertheless, she leaves with the boy.
There was this one girl… Sheila McCann. I wanted to impress her most of all. But I didn’t have a clue how. It hurt. And the more it hurt, the more jokes I made to cover it. ‘Cause, y’see, if people know you’re hurtin’, either they pity you… or they eat you alive. That’s the first lesson of childhood.
At any rate, one day after school… it all came to a head. School had just let out. There was this kid, Charlie, I was thinking of inviting over to my house, ‘cause he seemed kinda okay. … And then Sheila happed to walk by and… When she winked at me, I started slobberin’. I said somethin’… don’t remember what… and then my lights went out.
The source of the Guido’s “lights out” comes from the fist of Sheila’s boyfriend, who delivers a powerful right cross.
When they came back on… I saw ‘em all laughin’… Sheila, too… And I snapped. Sheila’s boyfriend started dancing on my face. His pals joined in… That’s when it happened.
Y’know how your old bedroom, when you were a kid, seemed so big… even though it was little? Well, when my arm swelled up, it was to the size it is now. But it seemed, from my perspective, as big as… I dunno… a Buick. Y’see I didn’t understand yet – that when my body absorbs kinetic energy, I gotta release it immediately. Otherwise, parts of my body distort… permanently. Like when the bus hit me. It took a few more impacts over a couple of days till I figured it out.
By then, Guido continues, the damage was done. Least he stopped it before it got worse. But to this day, he’s in constant agony. Constant.
Oh, he doesn’t let on, of course. ‘Cause the guys… like he said, they’ll feel sorry if they know he’s hurting. So he makes with the jokes to cover it. The guys. The… team… are the first real friends he’s had. If they pitied him, it’s kill him. “So,” he says, “let’s make sure this stays between you and me, y’know?” When the therapist haltingly remarks that he had no idea, Guido grins broadly and opens his arms in a giant shrug. Yeah, well, he says. Always leave ‘em laughin’.
Regarding the ACME novelty device in Jamie Madrox’s outstretched hand, the therapist orders him to lose the joy-buzzer. When Madrox then replies that he’s got no sense of humor, the therapist replies, “So I’ve been told.”
Changing the subject, the therapist informs Jamie that he’s been told he had a rather unusual childhood. Now sitting back into the armchair, Jamie rejoins yeah, if he calls growing up on a deserted farm with his only company being his dead parents unusual, then okay. Changing the subject again, the therapist tells Jamie that he’d like to try some word association. He’ll say a word and Jamie will say the first word that comes into his mind. Sure, okay, Jamie replies.
Black, the therapist says. Motown, Jamie replies. Up. And away. Over. The rainbow. In. Sane. Alone. Hell.
The therapist asks Jamie if those are the responses that really occurred to him – or did he manufacture them to get a reaction out of him. Truthfully? Jamie asks. He doesn’t know. He really doesn’t. Then asked if he likes getting reactions out of people, Jamie replies sarcastically that he does. He loves attention. He’ll d anything. Jokes, bets, gags. Use of dupes. Anything. Asked why, Jamie replies that it reminds him he’s alive. And it gets people to notice him. And, when people notice him… it helps to make sure he’s not alone. In demonstration, Jamie stamps his feet, another dup appearing on the armchair’s armrest.
Fully dressed in his X-Factor costume, Alex Summers is staring out of the window at the foliage outside when the therapist tells him he doesn’t look very relaxed. Well to be honest, he replies, he had a great deal of trouble relaxing these days. He feels like he’s always looking over his shoulder… either making sure that they others aren’t getting into trouble… or watching out for whoever might be attacking them next.
The therapist then asks Alex if he feels as if he’s carrying a great deal of responsibility then, to which Alex emphatically replies of course he is. If anything happens to one of his people because he let his guard down, it’s his fault. Besides, he’s just got this queasy feeling… like someone’s about to attack. When the therapist then asks how often he has this feeling, Alex replies all the time. Some times more than others.
Changing subjects, the therapist asks Alex to tell him about his brother. The ideal leader, he replies. Dependable. Dynamic. Determined. When the therapist then asks him if he loves him, Alex falls silent. After a moment, he finally asks back what’s not to love? The therapist then begins to press, Alex admit that, okay, okay, maybe he’s a little jealous. Scott just seems to command respect, and him, he has to work his butt off. He always feels like he;s playing catch-up with him. So he’s been… tense. Maybe even detached. Like he’s not living in the here and now, but instead he’s trying to stay two steps ahead of everyone so he doesn’t screw up. He feels like he’s always being judged By Scott, Val, Lorna… the team. And he keeps wondering how he measures up. When the therapist then asks why he doesn’t ask them, Alex ponders his answer. Finally, he answers, “Because I’m afraid of what they’ll say.”
For a moment, Alex looks out the window in the world beyond. Finally, he glances back over his shoulder back at the therapist. Something’s going to happen, he says. Definitely.
The therapist hums to himself as he prepares to take notes on his legal pad. Before he can do so, he is joined by someone who stands directly before him, clad in a long, brown trench coat. When he says her name inquisitively, Lorna bitterly informs him that she wants him to know that she’s dropped fifteen pounds in the last month. Even before her jaw got busted up, she was dieting, exercising, pumping up, and she thinks she looks great. She means begins to rely that that’s good Lorna interrupts with a reiteration. She means really good.
And, she continues, she’s not repressed and she’s not self-conscious. And she’s not repulsive. The therapist again tries to reply, but Lorna again interrupts. She is not afraid to take chances of what people will think of her, she says. And she’s not afraid to be daring. Still confused, the therapist asks if they had a conversation that he missed. Ignoring him, Lorna opens her trench coat, allowing it to fall from her shoulders and expose her body. She reveals a new costume, red and yellow in color. It exposes her arms, her upper legs above her thigh-high boots and a low cut bustier, displaying ample cleavage.
“Well?” she asks. What does he think? Unable to speak for a moment, the therapist finally tells her that she kicks his hormones into overdrive. Exactly, Lorna replies, following it with a Hmph. Declaring him, “some psychiatrist,” Lorna stakes her leave, slamming the door behind her. In shock, the therapist drops his pen, which bounces on the floor by the chair.
Sitting in the armchair, Val Cooper thanks the therapist for his consulting with the group. They’re not an easy bunch. The thing that helps her is that she’s come to know them so well. That’s the important thing, she adds. Knowing your people. That’s the key to being in charge. Taking this avenue, the therapist asks Val why she doesn’t tell him about them. Her impressions of each of them.
For instance… Rahne, he says. Typical teenager, she replies. Had a crush on Alex once… but that’s gone. She’s completely forgotten it. Good kid, otherwise.
Lorna. Very bright. Very open. Very together. Not afraid to let people in emotionally.
Pietro. Snotty, and for no reason. Still, she thinks he’s working a bit to be one of the group. He’ll probably be asking for an X costume any time.
Guido. Party guy. Totally hedonistic. Just cares about himself. Real wiseacre. A guy who’s feeling no pain.
Jamie. A loner. Really doesn’t need a lot of people. Why should he? He can make all those dupes. Probably the most self-sufficient. Besides Alex.
And what about Alex. Totally confident as a leader. He’s grown into it. Totally out of his brother’s shadow.
By the way, she tells the therapist, he’s dropped a pen. Opening a package of Rolaids, the therapist thanks her. He was… distracted. Leaning forward, Val asks the therapist to tell her… Why doesn’t the team act like the other mutant groups? What’s wrong with them?
Shortly thereafter, Val Cooper exits the therapist’s room, slamming the door behind her. Wondering aloud “Where does he get off?!” she mocks his response. “They’re perfectly normal Ms. Cooper. They’re refreshingly human.” Jeez! Telling her she needs awareness training. The nerve! Maybe she should resign. After all, if the crush ever came down, she doesn’t know if she’d want her life depending on X-Fact…
Val’s words are suddenly muffled as more than half a dozen tentacled creatures wrap themselves around her mouth a body. A moment later, she is gone.
Opening the door to his office, the therapist, Doctor Leonard Samson, calls out to Ms. Cooper. He reminds her that she didn’t tell him where he should send his bill. Not getting a response, he repeats her name inquisitively. Finally noticing a woman’s show on the floor, he picks it up and regards it for a moment with a “Hmmm.” Closing his door, Doc Samson he departs, singing to himself, “Mutant mutant, angst, angst.”