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Overview:

With Singularity Investigations’ plan revealed, X-Factor faces danger from a completely unexpected source as they race against time to save the lives of every non-mutant on the planet.

Issue Summary:

(years ago)

In a rural farmhouse in the country, the owners receive a visitor. Dressed in an impeccable suit, which contrasts against the simple clothes that they wear, the visitor is there to make a proposal to Joan and Daniel Madrox. His name is Damian Tryp. Receiving lukewarm response, Mr. Tryp tells the couple that he doesn’t think they truly appreciate how much his organization has to offer James… “Jamie,” one of them interrupts. “He prefers ‘Jamie.’”

Begging their pardon, he continues. If they have Jamie join the Singularity team, his future will be assured. They’ve actually been corresponding with Charles Xavier, Daniel explains, practically since Jamie was born… When Tryp replies that Xavier is not the right person to attend to Jamie’s needs, Daniel counters that he doesn’t know that he agrees.

That’s why he’s there to convince him, Tryp explains. He and Joan… they’re both scientists. People of learning. He would think their minds would be open to… possibilities. Their minds are open, Daniel replies. But he shows up there, out of the blue… somehow he knows everything about them and Jamie… But, continues Joan to Tryp, they know nothing about him… and he says he’s better qualified than Xavier… …Whom no one can dispute is the foremost expert on mutants, Daniel concludes. Well, Tryp rejoins with a wry smile, when did he say Jamie was a mutant?

For a long moment, Daniel and Joan Madrox consider Damian Tryp’s statement. Finally speaking, Daniel tells his visitor that he doesn’t understand. He said that he knew about his multiple powers. Obviously he’s a mutant! In the delivery room, the doctor slapped him and he split… From the moment he was born, Joan continues, it was evident. Except a mutant’s powers don’t present themselves when he’s born, do they? They surface when he’s an adolescent. How do they explain that discrepancy? How does Xavier?

When the best either can offer is that there are always exceptions, Tryp presses his point. Are all their scientific explanations that half-hearted and unconvincing? Let him tell them about changelings, he asks them. “Like the old legends about fairies and goblins switching our human babies for their own?” he is asked. Legends. Stories. The arena of “once upon a time” Tryp says. Very well: once upon a time… parents of children who were like Jamie… different… freakish at birth… They’d leave them overnight on piles of manure on Christmas Eve, hoping they’d be switched back. The infants died. The end.

“Homo superior,” Tryp continues, did not spring into existence overnight. Before them, there were being like Jamie. “Like myself.” Changelings, he continues, Replacement people. Killcrops… That’s his personal favorite. They were blamed for poor harvests. Heh. And ninety-nine times out of a hundred, they were murdered in infancy. But, nature is ever adaptive. “Homo killcrop” gave way to Homo superior, and the lethal change was buried until adolescence, upping the survival likelihood. Every so often, though, a Killcrop still… wait for it… crops up. Jamie, Tryp tells the Madroxes, is a genetic throwback to an even more dangerous time. His needs will be different. They dare not entrust him to anyone but him.

Having heard enough, Daniel Madrox thanks Damian Tryp for coming by… but they trust themselves to do what’s right by their boy. If she may ask, Joan interjects, out of scientific curiosity… “What is a Killcrop power?” Tryp finishes. They are varied, he explains. The most pertinent to them would be elemental manipulation. Winds, for example. Why, he could create a tornado that could kill the both of them, and no one would think it anything other than an act of God. “And who knows,” he concludes with a devilish grin. “Perhaps they’d be right.” With that, Damian Tryp bids the couple a “good day” and takes his leave.

Outside the house, Damian runs into the young Jamie Madrox, still in his pre-teen years and clad in the environment suit designed by his parents. Greeting Tryp with a question from what he overheard of the conversation with his parents, Jamie haltingly asks if he is not a mutant. Touching Jamie’s chin, Tryp replies that he doesn’t remember saving that. Does he remember him saying that? For that matter… does he remember him at all? His eyes now glossy under the spell of Damian Tryp, Jamie answers, “No.” Departing Jamie and the farm, Tryp replies that he didn’t think so.

(today)

He… what? Jamie Madrox asks. “Did you say…?” He disappeared, Guido repeats, completely flustered at the news himself. How could Buchanan have disappeared? Madrox asks. He was supposed to bring him to the bank, Monet reminds Guido, stick with him and bring his back! He’s made a mess of it…

Interrupting, her Jamie tells Monet to shut up or he’ll… Considering his next words, Jamie changes tones, apologizing. Returning to the subject of Buchanan, he asks Guido just to walk him through this. He brought him to the bank… And the bank lady said he had to be alone when he opened the lock box, Guido continues. Rules or something. These days, with the government breathing down every super-guy’s neck, he didn’t want to cause a scene. Cause them more grief. So he waited in the lobby. So, Guido continues, he’s taking forever. He asks the bank lady to check on him… next thing he knows, she comes back, white as a sheet, says he’s gone.

Great, Jamie laments. A locked room mystery. He sucks at locked door mysteries. Probably someone who phases, Monet suggests. Like Kitty does. Grabbed him.

Distraught as ever, Guido asks how could he have screwed this up, but Rahne tries to tell him it’s not his fault. Placing his arm around her, Guido replies that it’s nice of her to say. As she goes to reply that she’s not just doing so, Jamie notices Rahne suddenly tense. Her eyes wide, she looks at the hand Guido has placed around her shoulder, her nostrils flaring. Jamie hears a low growl from her throat. However, it’s when he sees her glaring eyes stare at Guido’s immense hand and her furrowed brow that he asks her “What the hell…?”

As her face begins to transform lupine, ever so slightly, Rahne glances up at Guido. She tells him that she smells blood on his hand. Traces of spittle. He wiped it clean, but the scent’s still there. His scent. Buchanan’s. Genuinely shocked, Guido ask Rahne what she’s talking about. He told her… Aye, Rahne rejoins. She knows what he said. Still shocked, Guido proclaims that this is nuts! Why would he have his body fluids on his hands? “That’s what I’d like to know,” Jamie replies. Calling out Monet’s name, he orders her to take him.

Half a moment later, Monet has leapt to Guido, her outstretched hand making contact with his head. As Guido bucks at the contact, Jamie silently notes that only she could pull this off. She’s got the strength to hang on… and the telepathic prowess to push her way into Guido’s mind. See what’s happening. Within Guido’s mind, however, the battle is as fierce as the physical one. Another Guido, one much darker than the other, yells at Monet to knock it off; get out of his head. Keeping this “other” Guido’s self company are the grinning and smiling forms of Damian Tryp, Sr.

Back in the real world, Monet has her answer. She informs Jamie that Guido’s been flipped. He’s working for Singularity. To this, she gives the coup de grace. She thinks he killed Buchanan.

A moment later, Monet finds herself thrown through the wall of X-Factor’s building and into the sidewalk outside by a roaring Guido. Before they can react, Guido then quickly grabs Rahne and tosses her into Jamie, knocking him against the wall. Though Jamie is knocked out, his newly-created dupe calls out to Guido. “You want a piece of me?!?? You wanna dance? Let’s dance!!! The darker Guido now very much in control, snarls a “fine” before attacking.

However, Guido himself is laid low by the sonic scream of Siryn, who knocks Guido off of his feet and into the already crumbling wall. Returning to her feet, Rahne thanks Siryn. Her “doggy-ears” will be ringing for a week, but thanks. A thought occurring, Siryn asks the group where Layla is. As weird as she is, she doesn’t deserve to get killed by a tossed Monet. Appearing out from behind the rubble, Layla thanks Siryn for her concern, but she is fine. But, she should know… she is so not cleaning this up.

Just arriving on the scene, Rictor views the rubble and spies Guido among it. Calling out to him, he asks what happened. Are they under attack? Who…? Much to Rictor’s surprise, Guido suddenly grabs Rictor’s head in his immense grip, then yelling to the rest of the team to back off, or he’ll bust him like a piñata. Attempting to appeal to Guido, Jamie tells him that he’s not in his right mind. Jamie’s right, Monet agrees. This, right here… It’s another personality. She thinks it was created via hypnosis. Her probe brought it to the surface. He can…

Through gritted teeth, Guido interrupts her, telling Money that, if she doesn’t show up, Rictor is dead. When Rictor then feebly points out that that’ll just encourage her, Guido then tells him to shut up too… Guido’s words are replaced with searing pain. As he grabs his ears, yelling as, all the while, black smoke begins to rise from his back. Dumbstruck at the sight, the rest of X-Factor can smell the hideous stink of charring flesh. Though there is no visible damage, Jamie thinks that it’s like Guido’s burning from the inside out.

Not taking his eyes off of Guido, Jamie asks Monet if she is doing this. Emphatically replying that she is not, Money adds that maybe Tryp is. A failsafe… The answer, however, comes from another quarter, as the team sees the black smoke approach the outstretched hand of Quicksilver and dance around his fingers.

“Yes,” Quicksilver states to no one in particular. “Just as I thought.” When Jamie calls out to him, Quicksilver tells him hello, adding that he’s looking well. After Jamie then asks what he did, Pietro replies that he’d been curious to see what would happen if he applied the restorative properties of the Terragen Mists to a mutant who had not lost his powers. His theory, he continues, was that there would be a sort of cellular feedback, like an overloaded sound system. He was right. Guido will recover, but probably be out for hours.

Taking this in, Layla asks if he’s saying he can take down any mutant… “Just by touching them?” Monet finishes. It seems so, Pietro grins. Interesting development, isn’t it? By the way, Pietro then adds, as a former mutant… and a close friend, Rictor is under his protection now. Anyone who abuses him will be dealt with harshly… by him. Pietro asks them to spread the word. Turning around and departing, Pietro tells X-Factor to enjoy the rest of their day.

A little later, the members of X-Factor lounge in their HQ, trying to take stock of their situation, while Rictor watches over the shackled Guido. Speaking of Guido’s hypnosis, Madrox asks if it’s like the Manchurian Candidate. Mocking this, Layla tells Jamie that she thought he only watched film noir. Yes, she tells him. She thinks it’s just like the “Manchurian Candidate.” At some point in the past, Layla continues as she goes for a PDA phone attached to the computer, Singularity made Guido into a sleeper agent. They’d control him by calling his phone and speaking some sort of code word. Examining the phone, she confirms, telling them that in the incoming calls on his phone list a number traceable to Singularity Investigations.

Cursing, Madrox laments that he should have realized. When Rahne asks how, he replies that Guido was different from the old days. Tougher - more threatening… He didn’t call people “blorks” anymore… He chalked it up to his having that fallout with Lila Cheney he wouldn’t talk about…

Interrupting, Monet suggests that it might be that he couldn’t recall what happened with Lila and was covering. His kind of thing could cause memory gaps. Like the other day, she continues, when they were talking about Sean Cassidy dying and he thought it was the actor. Guido would have known they meant Banshee. Instead of getting mad, he should have…

With the conversation moving to the subject of her father’s death, Theresa interrupts, yelling that that’s enough. It’s a team screw-up, she says. They can mea culpa themselves to death over it, or they can do something about it.

Agreeing, Jamie suggests that they figure this out. They know Singularity is involved in developing deadly virus. They know Buchanan was part of it, and now he’s dead. Still engrossed in the PDA phone, Layla points out that Buchanan had copies of his research in a safe deposit box. But, Monet chimes in, if there were copies, there have to be originals. Which are probably in Buchanan’s office at Singularity, Rahne then adds. Or maybe at his home.

Having heard enough and made a decision, Madrox tells Layla that he wants her to do research into Buchanan. Get his home number. See if he has a wife. Find a… Seemingly oblivious to Jamie’s instructions, Layla has already acquired the information and has placed a phone call on the PDA phone. Addressing Mrs. Buchanan, Layla informs her that she has Jamie Madrox calling for her. Asked in turn who she is, Lyla informs Mrs. Buchanan that she is Layla Miller. She kn… Incredulous, Jamie interrupts, telling Layla to just give him the damned phone.

A few moments later, Mrs. Buchanan tells Jamie that, no, Henry doesn’t every do S.I. research there. He always makes a point of keeping home separate from work. Then asked about that, she replies that he works in the S.I. building, thirty-second floor. But… certainly Henry could tell him that himself. The thought occurring to her, Mrs. Buchanan asks where he is and if she can speak to him.

Stammering at what to say, Jamie is quickly saved by Layla, who whispers “incommunicado.” Relaying that, Jamie adds that Mr. Buchanan is at a secure location for his own safety. Wishing to add more, Layla then whispers that “he’s” worried about her, which Jamie passes along.

On the other end, Mrs. Buchanan replies that she knows. He told her to pack her bags and start driving. She was almost out the door when he called. He had the right idea, Jamie tells her. Does she have a cell phone number so they can stay in touch? Receiving it, Jamie repeats the number out loud for Layla to write down. He then instructs Mrs. Buchanan to get on the road. They’ll be in touch.

After Jamie has hung up, Monet sarcastically states what was not said. “Oh, yeah, and by the way, your husband’s dead and one of our guys killed him. But don’t worry, we’ll prorate you for our services.” Uninterested in her dark humor, Jamie tells Monet “not now.” Right now, he tells her, they figure out a way to get into Singularity. Try to get into Buchanan’s workspace and his files, assuming they’re still there.

Obviously, Rahne opines, they go in at night. A little too obviously, Jamie counters. They’ll have security. They’ll have guards. A night shift. Probably even booby traps. They don’t need stealth. They need confusion and everyone gone. A situation where they can get in and out. In short… they need the element of surprise.

As the group continues their discussion, Mrs. Buchanan finishes her preparations, writing a note to the mailman for holding their mail until further notice. After carefully placing it in an envelope, she holds it in her mouth as she uses her hands – and shoulders – to carry her bags. However, as she opens the door, shock causes her mouth to open and the envelope to fall to the front step. Standing in the doorway is a youthful man, well groomed and in a brown suit. Smiling wryly, he introduces himself as Damian Tryp and asks if he can help her with those bags.

Outside the building which houses Singularity Investigations headquarters, emergency vehicles, including police cars, an ambulance and a fire truck, arrive on the scene. Emerging from the building, along with the rest of Singularity’s employees, Damian Tryp Sr. introduces himself to Agent Brody of the FBI and informs him that he owns the building. He assures the agent that this is nonsense. Assuring Mr. Tryp right back, Agent Brody tells him that they at the FBI take bomb threats very seriously. In this case, he continues, someone called them, Homeland Security, the fire department and the police.

Unconvinced, Tryp Sr. tells Agent Brody that someone’s having him off. Their own security systems are… It’s impossible is all he’s saying, he concludes instead, thinking better of his earlier line. So, he suggests, the agent can send his men home and… Interrupting Tryp, Agent Brody says that he doesn’t have a choice. They don’t have a choice. This has to be done by the numbers. Everyone clears out and they do their job. End of story.

As the agent and Damian Tryp Sr. continue their conversation, two firemen in hazard suits make their way into the building. Once inside, they soon find two Singularity security guards at their posts, watching feeds on security cameras. Yelling an inquiry as to what the hell they are still doing there, one of the firemen orders them to get out of they will have them arrested and dragged out! Acquiescing, one of the guards states that if he gets fired because of this, he’s suing the city. Giving the guard a sarcastic “whatever,” the fireman instructs the two to get down to the street like everybody else.

As soon as the two leave, one of the firemen says “perfect.” A moment later, the firemen’s helmets have been removed, as Theresa and Rictor no longer fear getting caught. As Rictor manipulates some controls, Theresa makes a call via her radio headset. Identifying herself as “Screaming Mimi,” she informs “Schizoid Man” that “Big Brother” is no longer watching or recording. They’re free to go. Meanwhile, high above the street outside, Monet floats toward the Singularity building, with Rahne and Jamie in tow. Replying that he hears her, Jamie tells “Mimi” that they’re on it.

A few minutes later, the three are inside the building from the roof and begin their descent. When Rahne asks him how long until the squads reach the thirty-second floor, Jamie replies that he’s hoping at least half an hour, since they have to clear the first thirty-one floors. As they find and enter the floor of Buchanan’s office, Monet asks Jamie if he does realize that calling in a bomb scare is… Oh, what’s the word…? “A felony?” he asks. That’s it, she replies.

So is generating a virus to kill mutants and hypnotizing someone into murder, Jamie then adds. He’s fighting fire with firemen. His conscience is clear. Moving up behind Jamie, Monet tells him that she loves it when he talks tough. As Monet continues on, a surprised Rahne asks Jamie if Monet just grabbed his “rump.” When he defends that she was pushing him aside, Rahne rejoins that it sure looked like… Trying his best to change the subject, Jamie suggests that they go.

A moment later, Monet has found the Buchanan’s office and yells to the others. Moving to the room, Jamie also notices that Tryp’s office is just down the hall. He’ll go down there while they… Jamie’s voice trails as he looks into the office. Likewise, Rahne and Monet are struck dumb by what they see. It is a familiar-looking older man, dressed in green robes. His hair is silver-grey and flows to below his shoulders. His beard and moustache are of like length.

Addressing Madrox by name, the old man tells him that he thinks he should remain. He’s been waiting for him. His name is Damian Tryp, he says. He wishes to explain to Jamie why he’s on the wrong side… Why Singularity is trying to save the future of mankind… and how X-Factor’s activities may well destroy everything.

This said, the elder Damian Tryp suggests to Jamie that he have a seat. There’s water in the fridge if he’s thirsty.

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