(New York, Chelsea)
In a church in the dead of night, activities other than worship are being carried out. Standing at the head of the pews, an older man preaches to a different sort of flock, one that believes in the superiority of Homo Sapiens above mutants. He explains that Alaska was only the first step. According to their leaders, the mutant baby is still out there. Worse, the X-Men appear to have learned of the infant and are doubtlessly engaged in their own operations.
When one of the assembly asks their leader, Taylor, what that means for the rest of them, Taylor clasps his shotgun and replies that it means that they have to increase their vigilance. They can’t allow them to get the drop on them. A growl from above causes the Taylor and his men to immediately wonder if that has just happened. Crouching from the rafters, a werewolf-type humanoid bares its teeth and growls.
A moment later, the werewolf launches itself onto Taylor, causing one of the assembled armed men to proclaim it’s a mutant. “Y’think?” the exasperated Taylor replies. Quickly, all rifles in the church are trained upon the werewolf, which just as quickly pivots the captive Taylor, making him a human shield. Raising his arms, Taylor pleads with his men not to shoot! They’ll hit him! Before anyone can suggest another course of action, the werewolf tosses Taylor into his men, bowling them over. Less than a moment later, it races for the door, while Taylor yells almost too late for his men to go after and kill it. Balling his hand into a fist, he proclaims that he wants its furry hide nailed to the door!
Outside, the werewolf dodges the gunfire of men stationed on the street. However, the werewolf, as it happens one that wears a cross, leaps for safety someone passing by calls for the pursuers to get out of the way! Pulling a pistol, the man fires three times, each a direct hit on the werewolf’s chest, testified by sprays of blood. However, before anyone can press for the coup de grace, a pick-up truck veers between the werewolf and the hunters. From within the cab, the driver calls for the werewolf, whom they name Wolfsbane to get in. Jumping in the truck bed, Wolfsbane is driven to safety.
Left behind, Taylor calls for his men not to let it get away. As his men move to their own vehicles, the newcomer who shot at Wolfsbane approaches Taylor, asking if that is what he thought it is. Sure was, my friend, Taylor replies. A mutant. Clearly disgusted, the newcomer states that the freakin’ things are ruining the city for the rest of them. He then asks Taylor if he’s one of Stryker’s bunch, right? He’s been looking for them. Yeah? Taylor rejoins, asking the newcomer’s name. “Joaquin,” Rictor replies innocently. Joaquin Murrieta. His friends call him Jake.
Elsewhere, after some distance, the pick-up finally comes to a stop, with the driver speaking through the window back to Wolfsbane that they lost them. A moment later, Rahne has returned from her lupine to her human form, while the driver, Theresa, calls in to report to Cyclops. She informs him that Rictor’s in. They totally bought it. “Ach,” Rahne laments, regarding the three red splotches on her shirt. Stupid fake blood. She’ll never get these stains out. And the squibs sting like a son of a…
Elsewhere, Cyclops replies to Siryn that he copies her, loud and clear. He then asks about Wolfsbane, to which Siryn replies that she’s complaining that the squibs hurt. Bullets would have hurt more, he counters. As Cyclops signs off, he is joined by X-23 and Rockslide, the latter of which asks if they can talk.
(Dallas, Texas; Forge’s Aerie)
Opening his door, Forge welcomes Madrox, then asking who his companion is. Clad in a purple coat with matching boots and holding a “Hello Kitty” umbrella, the girl replies, “I’m Layla Miller.” Almost necessarily, Madrox adds, “She knows stuff.” Smirking, Layla glances at Madrox, asking if he notices she hadn’t had to say that in a while? Everybody keeps saying it for her. Isn’t that funny? Hilarious, Madrox rejoins.
Now turning back to Forge, Madrox asks if he wants to step aside and let them in out of the… rain? Jamie’s words trails as Layla walks through Forge, revealing him to be a hologram. Is this among the “stuff” she just knows? Forge asks. Smiling, Layla states that he had no shadow. Half the stuff she knows just comes from paying attention. As they enter the lab, Layla reminds Jamie that he could’ve had her umbrella. To this, Madrox replies that he’s not standing under a “Hello Kitty” umbrella, okay? He’s got an image to protect. “From whom?” Layla promptly inquires.
In short order, the duo enters a spacious chamber, filled with numerous devices and technology. Standing in the center of the room, upon the axis of an “X” lain flat upon the ground, is Forge, who welcomes Madrox and Layla. They’re dripping on his floor. When Jamie begins to reply that there’s not much he can do about that, Forge interrupts, stating that he’s on it. A moment later, a horizontal transparent panel shoots out from the duo’s left. Stopping before them, it emits a ray which immediately dries out both visitors.
Amazed at his dryness, Madrox says he thought all Forge’s inventions were, y’know… weapons. Now he knows differently, Forge quips. Drawing Madrox’s attention to the daunting-looking device in the corner, Forge tells him it is a coffeemaker. Pour himself some if he’s so inclined.
Now getting down to business, he asks Madrox how much Scott told him. Not a ton, Jamie replies. Mostly that he had a little gadget designed for gathering information. Yes, well… this is it, he replies, continuing to fidget with a control panel. When Jamie asks what it is, he replies simply. “Time machine.” Well, actually, he then corrects, to be more accurate a sort of GPS for time and space. He calls it a chronal tracer. The next one’ll be more compact, but it works. Holding a steaming cup of coffee, Jamie says that he has an idea: make it into a Delorean. “Funny,” Forge replies in such a manner conveying the opposite opinion.
Changing the subject back to the device, he explains there’s the thing: time branches off into infinite directions. But after M-Day, all branches involving mutants… well… flatlined for lack of a better word. He searched countless futures for signs of mutants. Came up with squat. But, since the birth of the missing child, two branches have spiked. It bears investigation. Sipping his java, Madrox surmises that that’s where he comes in, what with him being an investigator and all.
(Sacred Heart Hospital, Santa Cruz)
“Accident victim!!” a paramedic yells, prompting a redheaded, female nurse comes to investigate. Asked what they’ve got, the paramedic pushing the gurney replies that the lunatic walked in front of the ambulance! They ran right over him. Hearing this, a nearby doctor is about to provide instructions to the nurse, whom he calls Amelia, when suddenly the patient speaks up. Through the oxygen mask covering his mouth, Logan inquisitively repeats “Amelia?” Would that be Amelia Voght?
As the doctor tries to make sense of what is going on, Amelia recognizes the man’s voice as familiar. However, once Logan removes the mask, telling her “Long time no see,” Amelia knows his identity immediately. Wolverine! Rising from the gurney, Logan begins suggest that they talk. However, he does not get far, as Amelia concentrates, transforming into smoke, much to the astonishment of her supervisor. As the dust that was Amelia exits via a nearby vent, Logan uses a communicator to inform Nightcrawler of the situation. Via the comm. Nightcrawler replies that they’re on it.
A short while later, as her smoke form exits a vent on the hospital’s roof, Amelia finds herself sucked higher into the sky by a wind. Transforming back to her human self, Amelia screams. However, the source of her discomfort, the weatherwitch called Storm, simply smiles. She tells Amelia that they simply wished to talk with her. They seek the Marauders… and since her former allies, the Acolytes, had close ties with them…
Interrupting, Nightcrawler suggests to Storm that perhaps she should let Amelia down. He thinks she will be going nowhere anytime soon. As Storm complies, Amelia finds hers now flung back downward, impacting harshly on the hospital roof a short distance from the waiting Storm and Nightcrawler.
She should not have run, Nightcrawler states, to which Storm adds that Amelia cannot protect them. Grimacing, Amelia calls them idiots, retorting that she wasn’t protecting the X-Men from them. But they know what? Fine. She’ll tell them the best place to find them, and her conscience will be clear. They’ll have brought it on themselves. They should pack something thermal, Amelia then tells them. They’re going to hell, and it’s frozen over.
Meanwhile, in Forge’s lab, Madrox tries to understand what he has been told. Forge is going to send dupes of his into the two time lines, have them poke around, and then come back with information? That’s more or less the plan, Forge admits. “Yeah, well…” one drawback, Jamie replies. Lately, his dupes aren’t predictable. They don’t always do what he wants them to do.
When Forge’s only reply is an emotionless stare, Madrox gives up the argument, replying that he’ll do his best. After two stamps of his foot, two dupes appear. Asking the two “what’ve we got,” one of the dupes states that he does what must needs be done for the greater good of mutantkind. To this, the other adds that he’s just a guy with a job to do. They can stand around and discuss it, or they can get to work. “I think we’ve got our men,” Madrox “prime” states.
Excellent, Forge announces, beginning to work with his console. They should get this rolling. First volunteer on the platform, please. When one of the two dupes complies, Forge activates the machine, which causes a swirling vortex of energy to manifest around the dupe, energy crackling like lightening in the center. As Forge begins to count down to ignition, the dupe proclaims, ’tis a far, far better thing I do now than I have ever… Before he can finish, the vortex and the dupe disappear.
Immediately Forge calls for the next dupe, who hands his coat to his progenitor, thanking God that the other dupe is gone. Again, Forge repeats the previous procedure, creating a vortex which swirls around the dupe. However, as Forge counts down to the launch, a new variable enters the equation, as Layla runs toward the device and the Madrox dupe. Panicked, the dupe queries the youth what she is doing. “Stuff,” she replies, wrapping her arms around his waist. A moment later, the two leave the here and now, propelled through a purple vortex of energy, the duplicate yelling NOOOOO! as they traverse the maelstrom.
Back in the present, the prime Madrox yells out Layla’s name, immediately instructing Forge to reverse it. Reverse it right now! Resolute, Forge replies that he can’t. Both of them are one-way trips. Seething at this, Madrox asks how the hell is his dupe supposed to get back. They’re not, Forge replies coldly. When each of them vanished, a message was psionically transferred into their brain cells. Once they arrive, they’ll just know… When Madrox then asks “know what?” Forge replies that, as soon as they’ve gathered intel, they should kill themselves. Then the knowledge will be transferred directly to his mind, within seconds.
His mouth agape, Madrox takes a moment to digest this. Having recovered from the shock, he then grabs Forge by the shirt with one hand and balls his other into a fist. Cursing Forge as manipulative, he accuses him of condemning Layla to… Forcing himself out of Madrox’s reach, Forge tells Jamie that he didn’t condemn her to anything! She wasn’t supposed to go along. Angered further, Jamie begins to lunge, calling Forge a son of a…
Suddenly, Madrox’s eyes roll to the back of his head and he collapses. Immediately, Forge is at his side, calling his name repeatedly. There is no response.
Back at the mansion, Rockside laments to Cyclops that even Jamie’s involved. When Cyclops replies that he knows, X-23 reminds him that he hates Jamie Madrox. To this, Cyclops replies that he doesn’t hate him. He’s a valuable asset. And he was needed for a mission. Joining the conversation, Mercury asks when they are going to be needed. Also joining the discussion, albeit via a super-speed arrival, Surge asks if they are not valuable assets. When the startled Cyclops says her name, Surge quips with joy that he remembers her name.
Maybe their names, X-23 says, unsheathing her claws, but not their capabilities. Any annoying thing to forget in an emergency, Mercury then adds. Less abrasively, Rockslide agrees, asking Cyclops why he can’t give the new kids on the block a chance. Or maybe he thinks they just can’t take it, huh? In response to this argument, Cyclops opens his visor, releasing an optic blast which knocks Rockslide backwards and off his feet.
Nor responding verbally, Cyclops reminds them that he’s trying to oversee a war that’s being fought on half a dozen fronts. If he’s fighting a war, Surge interjects, they can help. And they will, Cyclops counters, but it will be where he says so, and when he says so. IF any of them has a problem with that, they know where the door is.
He’d do that? Hellion asks. Just let them go? After affirming, Cyclops then adds that he’d then go after them, haul them back there, and chew them out for abandoning their own species in its time of need… He then reminds them that “They also serve, who stand and wait.” When their time comes… they may well wish it hadn’t.
Elsewhere, at the Purifier’s church in Chelsea, NY, Taylor asks “Joaquin Murrieta” to excuse their security measures. If he wouldn’t mind looking toward his machine… Playing the part of the recruit, Rictor objects to the device Taylor is shining upon him, asking what the hell it is. Holding a pistol at Rictor, Taylor instructs him to stay where he is. When “Joaquin” begins to object, Taylor reiterates. He said… stay where he is. Please.
After a moment examining the readouts, however, Taylor’s demeanor changes. Declaring “excellent” with a smile, he tells Rictor that the mutant can be insidious. The might try to get one of their own in there as a spy. But the device indicates that his DNA is human. He has no powers. Remarking that it seems pretty high tech, Rictor asks Taylor if his group made it. Actually, Taylor explains, they developed it courtesy of an “acquisition.” Their resources are far more impressive than he can imagine. “Yeah?” the fake Joaquin replies, he can imagine quite a lot…
Suddenly, Rictor’s imagination is put to the test, as a wall beings to move, revealing a chamber beyond. Within it is a large warehouse, filled with crates and boxes of supplies, along with an arsenal of weaponry, large and small. As Rictor’s eyes widen in horrific bewilderment, Taylor asks if he didn’t seriously think that their entire New York operation was limited to this one church, did he? And here’s the kicker. This is one of their smaller bases. Wait until he sees Washington. It’ll blow him away.