In the fallout from HOUSE OF M and following last year’s surprise hit film-noir series-- MADROX, a new mutant team is forged! X-FACTOR is an investigative mutant agency including Madrox—the Multiple Man, Guido—the Strong Guy, Wolfsbane—the shape-shifter, Siryn—the chorus girl, Rictor—the living earthquake, and GENERATION X’s Monet—the pompous witch. Drawn together in the heart of District X, this rag-tag band of heroes has a lot of answers to find, and fast!
BONUS: A key player from HOUSE OF M will play a major roll in X-FACTOR! (No, it’s not Wolverine—sigh)
Rictor stands on the snow-covered ledge of the building in Mutant Town that houses X-Factor Investigations. His breath hangs visibly on the air as he ponders his next decision.
Jamie Madrox AKA The Multiple Man provides the narration for this tension-filled scene. He explains that “X-Factor” refers to that unpredictable something. That unforeseen occurrence that changes everything in an instant. The things in life that you just don’t see coming. When that time comes and you don’t know how to handle it, that’s when you call X-Factor Investigations.
Jamie watches Rictor from a neighboring rooftop and wonders aloud what his old friend is up to. He wonders if this is a “cry for help” moment but decides that he doesn’t really believe in that and just finds this annoying. Still, since Rictor is a pal he can’t just stand around and do nothing. So Jamie does what Jamie does. He creates some dupes of himself to weigh his options. One particularly fatalistic dupe says it doesn’t really matter if he offs himself now since he’ll die in the upcoming nuclear holocaust anyway. Another thinks it should be Rictor’s choice and they shouldn’t interfere. Another insists that it’s too beautiful a night to die and that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Jamie decides that the last dupe has the right perspective to deal with the problem effectively. The dupe is enthusiastic about being chosen and rattles on about how appreciative he is.
Jamie orders the other dupes to toss the other across to the roof where Rictor is poised to jump. They toss the dupe who lands with a skillful roll. The real Jamie and the remaining dupes watch as the chosen dupe goes to talk down Rictor.
The real Jamie notes that the true problem with being a “multiple man” is that he can’t make up his mind on anything of importance since he can always choose every option by creating a new dupe to pursue each one that arises. No choice or direction is any more enticing since he never really has to choose just one.
The chosen dupe climbs down to where Rictor is contemplating his fate. He cheerfully says hello to Ric who asks what he’s doing there. The Jamie dupe says he’s there to keep him from doing anything stupid. Ric insists he not get too close and asks who sent him. The dupe replies that Rictor has made the nightly news. Ric looks down on the emergency crews and gathering onlookers and wonders if this is his fifteen minutes of fame. The dupe tells him that whatever it is, they can deal with it. Rictor explains that he’s not a mutant anymore and that that’s the one thing he can’t deal with.
Meanwhile at the Power Plant bar, Siryn is meeting with a young woman named Victoria. At Theresa’s request, Victoria has secured some information to help in taking down her boss, Mr. Manetta. Manetta was a con man whose schemes caused a lot of misery for the mutants in Mutant Town. Siryn tells Victoria that she’s done a great thing by taking this risk and that the lives of lots of people will be improved once Manetta is brought to justice.
Victoria reaches across the table and places her hand on Siryn’s as she confesses that she did it because of her love for the red-haired mutant. Theresa looks down in shock and gently removes her hand from under Victoria’s. She begins to say that Victoria will be joining the witness protection program and Victoria interrupts and asks if Theresa will be going with her. Siryn says that she never promised that. Victoria says she just assumed they’d be together given their feelings for each other. Siryn is thrown for a loop by this and tries to explain to Victoria that her feelings have to do with her voice. Victoria interrupts and gushes about how much she loves Terry’s voice. It’s then that Siryn notices that the pages Victoria brought her are blank. Victoria says this is impossible as Siryn realizes that it may mean someone may have switched them. Victoria panics as she realizes someone may be on to her.
At that moment, the windows shatter as a rain of machine-gun fires mows down Victoria. Siryn moves to Victoria’s side and tells her they’ll get an ambulance and she’ll be fine. She tells Victoria to stay with her but it’s no use. She dies in Siryn’s arms. In anguish, Theresa lets out a sonic scream of “NO!” that shatters all the glass in the area.
Back on the rooftop, Jamie’s dupe is surprised to hear that Rictor is now powerless and himself exclaims “No!”. Ric explains that 90% of the mutant population are now mere “saps”, homo sapiens. Jamie replies that he thought the popular term was “norms” and Rictor explains that he hates that terms because it implies that being human is “normal”. For him, normal was being a mutant and in perfect tune with the planet itself. He explains to the dupe that most thought he could just make the ground shake. In reality, he was linked to the planet and could sense every shift and movement in the earth around him. He could feel the planet’s power and now he feels like someone has stuffed his head in a bag. He confesses that before losing his powers, he pitied everyone a little bit because they didn’t experience the world like he did. Now, he’s no different than those he once felt sorry for except he knows exactly what he’s lacking in a way they never did. He ends by telling “Jamie” that he has no idea what it’s like to feel alone in a crowd. “Jamie” replies “You’d be surprised.”
At that moment, Strong Guy yells “Surprise!” as he leaps in front of the getaway car of the woman who shot up the Power Plant and killed Victoria. She manages to swerve out of the way but Guido grabs ahold of her bumper, which pops off as she speeds away. Siryn arrives and Guido expresses his relief to see that she’s okay since he saw the bar getting shot up. Siryn is clearly angry and tells Guido he was supposed to be providing back-up. He says that he was coming and that she had said show up at eight and that it’s only a quarter of. Siryn is still angry and tells him he could have known she’d get there early. Guido retorts that he’s Strong Guy not “Psychic Guy” and starts to ask why Terry’s so upset. She beats him to it and exclaims that Victoria is dead and that it’s all his fault. He tells her flat-out to go to hell and she says she’ll meet him there as soon as she’s cleaned up his mess. He twists the bumper angrily in his hands as she flies off.
Jamie watches his dupe talking with Rictor and says into his radio communicator that “he seems to have things in hand.” Jamie explains to his unseen ally that his dupe is keeping Rictor talking and no one jumps to their death in the middle of a sentence. He urges whoever he’s talking to to get there quickly nevertheless. Jamie notes that he himself has a perverse side that probably would commit suicide in the middle of a sentence just to be funny. Recently, his dupes have been manifesting as aspects of his own personality. This new aspect of his powers has him questioning the worth of “Jamie Prime” now that he’s providing himself with competition.
On the rooftop, Jamie’s dupe is explaining the dynamics of X-Factor Investigations to Rictor. He notes that he started out small with Strong Guy and Wolfsbane helping out part-time. Rictor is surprised to hear that Rahne is involved. “Jamie” goes on to explain that he recently got a million dollars and increased the size and scope of the operation. He won the million on a game show. When asked to “phone a friend” he called his dupes who were busily researching the right answers to the question. Rictor asks what the million dollar question was. “Jamie” tells him it was “Who wrote ‘Mefisto in Onyx’ and that he knew right away it was Harlan Ellison.
He goes on to explain how he’s been sending his dupes out to learn new things and how he’s amassed an array of knowledge and skills as a result. He tells Rictor he used the money to buy the building where X-Factor Investigations was set up. He also set up bigger offices and some apartments for himself and the new operatives he’s hired on. He admits that they aren’t up to code, but the authorities steer clear of Mutant Town or what’s left of it. Rictor jokingly refers to it as the “Great Power Outage of 2005” and asks why they aren’t investigating that. “Jamie” replies “Who says we’re not?!?” and divulges that they got tons of calls from ex-mutants and it’s one of the cases they’re working on. Rictor asks who exactly “we” consists of.
“Jamie” provides a quick roll call: Siryn, who has recently discovered she can use her voice to enthrall others to adore her when she is completely calm. He notes that it only works on humans but that they’ll gladly sacrifice themselves just like with the sirens of myth.
At that moment, Siryn catches up with the escaping shooter and uses her scream to drive her car into a light post. The woman gets out of the car, gun in hand. Siryn taunts her and begs her to try to shoot her. The woman refuses and turns the gun on herself to Siryn’s horror.
“Jamie” continues his roll call and mentions that M joined too. Rictor thinks he means the character from the Bond movies. “Jamie” clarifies that he means Monet St. Croix AKA M. Rictor seems put off by this, referring to her as “Supergirl-meets-Veronica Lodge” and notes that she looks down her nose at everybody. “Jamie” replies that it’s a really cute nose though. Rictor wonders if this is a sales pitch to try and get him to join. “Jamie” replies that they’d love to have him. Rictor reminds “Jamie” that he’s not a mutant anymore to which “Jamie” replies that 99% of detectives in the world aren’t mutants. Rictor says that he’s not a detective either.
As “Jamie” begins to reply, an amplified voice from below calls up to Rictor and calls him a “flaming idjit”. Rictor looks down and says a weak hello to Rahne Sinclair, who is standing down below with a megaphone. She is angry and asks him if he knows what’ll happen to him if he commits suicide. She heatedly explains (in exhaustive and gory detail) that it’s a mortal sin and he’ll spend eternity in hell being tortured endlessly by demons if he goes through with it. He meekly retorts that in Japan it’s regarded as an honorable death. Rahne does not let up a bit and asks him if this looks like Japan to him. She asks if he sees any Shinto shrines or if there’s a Toshiro Mifune film fest up the street. He admits that he doesn’t. She affirms that it’s because they aren’t in “Bleedin’ Japan!” She ends her tirade by asking if he knows where he is?
This same question is echoed by Siryn who is asking the same question of young Layla Miller who has just shown up at X-Factor Investigations. Siryn is sitting with her feet on the table staring at a shot of liquor she’s poured for herself. She asks what the girl wants and Layla introduces herself. Siryn bitterly says that she answered “who” not “what” and Layla asks the Irish mutant if she’s going to drink that. Siryn says no. She explains that she’s an alcoholic and only gets to stare longingly at it and dwell on the fact that a young woman is dead because of her. Guido chimes in and says that he thought it was his fault. Siryn apologizes for how she unloaded on Strong Guy, who says he’s been called worse (by her on occasion). He begins to explain that he has some info on the shooter, but Layla interrupts and finishes his sentence. She explains that the woman was an operative from Singularity Investigations, a security agency for the rich and famous. Guido asks who Layla is and how she knew this. Layla introduces herself again and announces that she’s joining the group.
Outside, Rahne continues to provide detailed descriptions of hellish torture via her megaphone until Rictor gives in. “Jamie” helps him to his feet and asks if he’s okay. Rictor says he guesses he is and asks if “Jamie” is the real thing or a dupe. He confesses to being a dupe and how Jamie Prime thought it best to send a more optimistic aspect of his personality to talk Rictor down. Ric doesn’t fully get it and the dupe goes on to explain that he’s not really the optimistic side of Jamie Madrox. Rictor seems surprised as the dupe explains that he just tricked Jamie Prime into thinking that. The dupe smiles widely and explains that he’s really the perverse side of Jamie’s psyche, the part that compels Jamie to do the unexpected. He draws Rictor in close and whispers to him that he’s the unpredictable side of Jamie’s nature, the fly in the ointment… the x-factor. With that explained, the dupe shoves Rictor off the rooftop.