Alone and unmoving, Layla Miller sits at a table in the morgue of X-Factor’s HQ, her gauntlet-clad right hand resting flat on the table itself. Silently and immobile, she stares intently on the red light glowing gently from the center of the back of her gauntlet.
From a distance, someone asks someone else how long she’s been sitting there. Days, the second person replies. She just…sits and she sits. And she sits, sits, sits, sits. Like a Doctor Seuss character. With that, the owner of the second voice, Theresa, places her hand on Layla’s shoulder and begins to console her. However, before she can finish a sentence, Layla coldly instructs her to remove her hand or she’ll do to her fingers what she did to Jamie’s. Immediately, Theresa removes her hand as instructed and retreats back to the owner of the first voice, Wolverine. “Leave her to me,” Logan tells her.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Shatterstar walks in to find Rahne and Rictor sitting at the table. Rahne is resting her head on the table, repeatedly says “aw God, aw God…” Asking what happened, Shatterstar is told by Rictor that someone unexpected showed up at the front door. He’ll never guess who. “God?” Shatterstar asks. Told no, Shatterstar guesses Justin Bieber, only again to be told no. When he then guesses Wolverine, Rictor is astonished and curses aloud. Rahne asks how did he know, to which Shatterstar replies that he tends to be everywhere. Not as much as Justin Bieber, but still…
Returning to the original subject, Shatterstar asks why Wolverine’s there. He hasn’t said yet, Rictor replies, but Rahne’s worried. Asked why, Rahne replies that bad things happen when he’s around. Usually t’her.
Back in her room of solitude, Wolverine tells Layla that he never got a chance to tell her… he’s sorry she got stuck in the future. How was that for her? Her eyes still glued to her gauntlet and the red light on it, Layla replies that she’s mostly over it. Down to once a week on the night terrors. Okay, well, Wolverine replies. That’s good then.
Changing the subject, Wolverine places looks at one of the drawers and asks if Madrox is in there. Told yes, he asks if he’s refrigerated. Dry ice, actually, Layla replies. Smart thinking, Wolverine says. To this he then asks what she’s waiting for exactly. Told she doesn’t know, Wolverine incredulously asks what, she doesn’t know. Nope, she confirms. With a look that belies her words, she asks “Exciting, isn’t it?”
Crouching next to her, Wolverine states as much as asks that she’s not talking to any of her teammates, is she? Lowering her eyes, Layla replies that the only one who’s talking to her is Theresa. Everyone else is steering clear. Asked why, she explains because of what she did to Guido. For Guido, she corrects. To… Guido, she then corrects again.
Elsewhere, in the building, Guido sits in a corner, his chin resting in his hands. Speaking to Longshot and Monet who stand across the room, Guido tells them that he ain’t gonna start eating their brains, y’know. Asked by Longshot how can they be sure, Guido replies that he ain’t dead. He just, y’know, doesn’t have a soul.
To this, Monet angrily asks him to pardon the hell out of them if they’re just a bit creeped out by it. When Guido states that there’s no reason t’be, Monet’s anger grows. No reason? He has no soul! No morality! No restraint! He’s like a… a time bomb of potential evil! Hearing this, Guido stands to his full, hulking height and gesticulates wildly. She doesn’t know that! There’s a bazillion bad guys out there who have souls! So why can’t there be one good guy who doesn’t got one, huh? Ever think that could be a benefit to this team?
Unconvinced, Monet asks how. However, the answer comes not from Guido but from Theresa, who replies that that he can do what they can’t. Or won’t. He can do the things that, if they did them, they wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. Things that need to be done even though they don’t want to. Things they’d be worried they’d go to hell over. Unmoved by Theresa’s statements, Monet asks if bloviating about hell isn’t usually Rahne’s thing. She’s Catholic, Theresa replies. They have some small experience with it. What? Muslims don’t?
Raising a finger in agitation, Monet asks Theresa if she’s giving her grief about being Muslim? Now? She was just asking, Theresa rejoins. Don’t be defensive. Returning to the question itself, Monet replies that, yes, they have a hell. They call it Jahannam and, believe her, thanks to Emplate, she’s had a preview of what it’d probably be like. Asked what her point is, Monet replies that she can do whatever needs to be done. She doesn’t need a freak to do it for her. Taken aback by this, Guido asks if she’s talking about him. No, Monet replies sarcastically, she’s talking to the freak behind him.
“Who asked yes?” Pip asks, appearing from nowhere. Monet begins to note that she didn’t see him, but Pip interrupts. Does she think they know about souls? About death? Don’t make him laugh. Asked what he means, Pip explains that they’re talking to a guy who got killed a time or two hisself. Whose best friend got killed and came back. He’s had smackdowns with Death’s boyfriend… and he knows a thing or two about soul gems, including having lived in one fer a while. Trust someone who’s been around, sweetcheeks, he says to Monet, whatever she thinks she knows about the universe… she doesn’t know squat. This said, Pip goes to depart, but not before telling Monet to zip up her damn uniform: even he’s sicka lookin’ at her rack. With that, Pip slams the door behind himself, leaving Monet very much shocked. A moment later, Longshot gleefully points out that Monet just got “trolled,” earning a “shut up” in reply from her.
Back in the morgue, Logan asks how long Layla’s gonna be keeping him like this? Told as long as it takes, he notes that, even if he comes back, he got stabbed, didn’t he? His body… It’s repaired, Layla explains. Asked if it was magic, Layla explains a third year med student. They’re always happy to crack a cadaver. It’s easy to sew up internal damage when they’re no danger of bleeding out.
Considering this, Logan says that this is what he doesn’t get. Her whole thing is knowin’ stuff, right? So how did she not know this was comin’?
Sitting at the desk in her room, Layla writes in her journal. Journal Entry #227… Today we fought a demon calling itself Bloodbath. The battle wound up taking us to an empty studio lot in Los Angeles. There Monet and Shatterstar teamed up to kill him. It’s a shame Guido’s dead. I bet he would have loved squaring off against someone like Bloodbath. God, I miss him.
“Layla?” Logan asks. Shaken from her memory, Layla looks up. She;s being punished, she explains. Jamie died for her sins. Before Logan can question her, Layla continues. She knew what was supposed to happen. It was right there, right in her journal, when she read it eighty years from now. And she ignored it. She figured, one time, she could get away with it.
Crouching next to her again, Logan wipes tears from Layla’s face. Delicately but haltingly, he tells her that, as explanations go, it’s not the clearest. Be satisfied, she responds. It’s more than she’s given anyone else. Gotta admit he’s kinda surprised, Logan tells her. It ain’t like they’re that close. No, they’re not, Layla admits. That’s probably why. Maybe it’s because he understands the idea of being alone in a crowd. Of only pretending to belong when he knows in his heart he doesn’t. She can relate… to not relating. Get it? Receiving a “got it,” Layla returns her attention to the red light on her gauntlet. “Good,” she says somberly.
“Not good,” Madrox thinks to himself. “Definitely not good.” Though he stands in the ruined, shells of the once mighty skyscrapers of New York, Madrox’s attention is focused on a single corpse, one of another Jamie Madrox.
It’s gotta be him, he thinks to himself, or what’s left of him. Of another one. He’s being pulled from one world to the next through dead or dying alternate versions of himself But… what does it mean? Is it… Is that how his powers work? That when he creates dupes, hew’s pulling them from alternate timelines? And that it’s reversed itself now? That he’s now a dupe, being shunted from one place to the next? Does that even make sense? And why was Tryp the Elder in the previous world? Is he somehow connected to…
Suddenly, Madrox is interrupted mid-thought by what he immediately surmises to be an impact tremor. Something… somethings… just landed nearby. The vibration alone nearly knocked him off his feet. As he races toward where it seems the impacts occurred, Madrox thinks he will go on the assumption it’s not a T-Rex stomping around. Whatever it is, though, he’d rather see it before it sees him… Suddenly, another set of tremors knocks Madrox off of his feet, causing him to slips down an incline and to come to rest under a car, which has come to been elevated due to the fractured street pavement. Deciding to use the car as cover, Madrox notes that they are coming closer, so that’ll have to do.
Now with a moment to return to his previous thinking, Madrox worries that this could go on forever, him jumping from one reality to another… maybe the team knows this is happening. He bets they do. He bets that right now they’re working on finding a way to bring him home.
Back at X-Factor HQ, Monet asks Theresa to admit it. This has nothing to do with Guido and everything to do with her father. When Terry gesticulates wildly that that’s uncalled for, Monet replies that it’s entirely called for. Her “day” is dead, Terry rejoins. She’s accepted that. Now, yes, Monet admits, but she was in denial longer than most people were in mourning. To this, Terry begins to reply that it’s none of her business, but Monet interrupts, replying that it is! It’s her business when someone’s inability to let fo means that a dead guy is sitting in the rec room. “Yo!” Guido interjects. Certified by doctors as 100% not dead! And he’s got the hospital bill t’prove it!
Into this mix of emotions walks Rahne, accompanied by Shatterstar and Rictor. She asks Monet what she’s going on about; Theresa didn’t bring him back! Oh, great, Monet rejoins. Now the peanut gallery weighing in. To this, Terry replies that the “peanut gallery” has a point. Layla brought him back, not her! Unconvinced, Monet counters that Terry has the same mindset! She can’t let anything go! Layla would’ve brought back Madrox if it were up to her!
Would that be so bad, really, Longshot interjects. Yes! Monet proclaims. There are some powers people just aren’t meant to have! Things like this come back to bite you! Always! Chiming in, Shatterstar replies not always. They’re heroes. Death is just another challenge to overcome. But Layla didn’t overcome it, Rictor points out. She brought back, he doesn’t know, half a man! Offended by the term, Guido corrects that he’s all-man, pal! Wanna see these pecs in action? He wanna see him do a thousand one-handed push-ups? ‘Cause he’ll do ‘em! Smiling at this, Shaterstar replies that, actually, he would like to see th…
“Knock it off!” Rictor interrupts, growing ever more impatient. Considering the motive to Rictor’s emotion, Rahne points out that he’s just being this way because it’s Layla’s power and he never liked her! When Rictor points out that she didn’t either, Rahne counters that she respects her. It’s different. Shatterstar next chimes in, noting that Rahne has a point. Asked if he’s on her side, Shatterstar asks Rictor back why isn’t he? Why can’t he make up his mind about her? Oh, look who’s talking about making up minds! Rictor replies.
Ignoring the two, Terry redirects her attention to Monet, telling her that she’s just about had it with her holier-than-thou attitude! Incredulous, Monet asks that she’s lecturing her about being holy? Her, the one who thinks God’s out for her ‘cause she lost her baby? When the even angrier Theresa tells her not to dare bring that up, Monet replies that it’s too late. What’s she gonna go? Scream at her?
A distance away from the two bickering groups, Longshot asks Guido how is it different not having a soul. To this, Guido replies that, for one thing, James Brown just doesn’t do it for him no more.
Hey! Crazy People!” a voice booms throughout the rec room, rendering all parties mute. Standing in the doorway, Logan stands cross-armed. Looks like they got some differences of opinion here, he tells them. He gets that. Been having some of those himself lately with… friends. Reason he swung by, actually.
Had a feeling it wasn’t a social call, Terry replies. When Longshot then asks if this is about his falling out with Cyclops, Logan asks if he heard about that. Alison told him, Longshot explains. Asked if they still talk, Longshot replies not exactly. They were sexting and she mentioned it in passing. “Great,” Logan mutters.
Elsewhere, Madrox carefully peers out from under the car, trying to see whatever it is that’s coming. There’s a couple of them, at least, he believes. What they hell are they? Are they… Sentinels? Gotta be. So this is, what? A world where those mutant-hunting robots are back in action? And they’re trashing everything in…?
Suddenly, Madrox gets a better view of what is coming. “Aw no,” he thinks. “Are you kidding me? Are you freaking kidding me? Crap.” From his vantage point, Madrox can see who gigantic Sentinel-sized armored robots. However, rather than Sentinels, they are in the form and color of Iron Man armor. Yeah, Madrox silently laments. This day’s just getting better and better.
See, here’s the thing, Logan begins. A bunch of them left Scott’s Utopia and have relocated to the old homestead. Hearing this, Terry asks if he means that he decided segregating themselves from humanity was damaging to human-mutant relations. When Logan confirms, both Terry and Monet simultaneously reply that Jamie would’ve loved that… A moment of silence follows, as Theresa and Monet stare at each other, the two different women having voiced the same thought at the same time. Letting the issue drop, Terry clarifies to Logan that she means Madrox would not have loved that people were leaving Utopia, she means, but that people were seeing it his way.
Ignoring Theresa and Monet, Rahne asks Logan to cut to the chase. She’s been avoiding him, Logan replies to Rahne, and he gets why. He’s sorry she feels that way. More sorry than she knows. To this, Rahne tells Logan to save his sympathies. What does he want?
Basically, Logan continues, he wants to put them all on retainer. Aside from the fact that his guys can’t be everywhere, sometimes things are gonna come along that need a scalpel not a bludgeon. Investigate matters. Or really weird stuff off the beaten path. They have way more local contacts that the X-Men do… and can get things done under the radar. They’re a good team.
Mocking Logan’s description of a “good team,” Rahne sarcastically asks if he’s met them lately. They can pull it together, Terry opines. They have before. Still angry, Monet replies that right now she’s not sure they should bother. Yeah, Logan admits, he saw they were having trouble bouncing back after losin’ Madrox. So he took the liberty of asking some folks to come over. Give them some leadership help, if they want it. In fact, here they are now.
Incredulous, Guido tells Logan to wait a minute. “Leadership help?” Screw that! Emphatically agreeing with an “aye,” Rahne asks what does some outsider know about leading… X-Factor? Rahne’s words trail as she spies someone entering.
“Well… for starters, Rahne, we’ve done it before.” Havok says, standing next to Polaris, both with a traveling case in hand. “And hey… Guido… nice hair cut.”