Disclaimer: X-Factor Investigations belongs to Marvel Entertainment Group Inc. as scribed by Peter David. The story references events from the issue 41-45, but diverges a slightly from canon events. At t Jamie "Multiple Man" Madrox and Layla Miller who appear here or any others that are mentioned belong to Marvel Comics; they are not mine.
Written for monimala's request in the 4th Round Multifandom Apocalypthon.
"I am Not Permanent (I am Only a Visitor Here)" by Karen
Perhaps it was the unavoidable effect of associating his arrival in this not so brave new world with the line from the classic Terminator movie, Layla, less cryptic than she normally could be had said: "Come with me if you want to live."
And despite everything maybe there was an off chance that he had not yet plumbed the depths of proverbial rock bottom quite yet.
"Where there is life, there is hope," muttered Jamie Madrox under his breath. "Really now after everything that's happened to think that I actually believed suicide sounded like an attractive option?'
His instincts and his better judgment were screaming at him to get out of the way but somehow he just could not summon the proper puppet strings in his brain to get his body moving. Layla had been yelling into his ear and together they dodged and weaved and avoided the deadly criss-crossing ribbons of laser fire from the big honking Sentinels that looming over them.
He had taken the now more mature Layla Miller by the hand and jumped head first from his current time into a future time-line: which would put him some eighty years hence, give or take a few decades.
There were far worse ways to die and given Jamie's tendency to brood, over analyze and imagine all sorts of possibilities, some good, but others equally bad or typically far worse; his mind was racing through the various scenarios even as his feet raced along the asphalt and concrete ground as they put as much distance as possible between themselves and pursuit.
Now that he was still very much alive presented them both with entirely different set of problems as well as choices.
A day or two later
She was grateful that both Scott and Ruby had given Madrox at least 24 hours to rest, wash up and become acclimated the time differation; in fact she did not mind that much at Ruby's half-hearted attempts to bait her as too just how 'intimate' their relationship actually was.
Jamie glanced at this older version of Layla and heaved a deep sigh.
Her hair was disheveled and there was a wariness in the deep blue of her eyes that had not been there before.
He could not help drawing comparisons and more importantly the differences between this version and the younger version of Layla and one his duplicates had disappeared on a one-way trip through a time-machine to become hopelessly lost in this future reality.
The dupe had died and he learned vicariously through the duplicate what had transpired leaving, but in the end Layla had been trapped here, trapped and without hopes of being rescued.
Jamie sighed and finger-combed the short cropped dark hair on his head. In the back of his mind he thought, 'It's funny how you never realize just how important someone or something is until its gone.' He filed that thought away and focused on what Layla was doing.
Layla smiled. "I don't know how I know." She shrugged her slender shoulders nonchantly and added with a smile that would not have been out of place on the proverbial cat that ate the canary," I just do."
"Here's something else that you might know," he added. "There's something reassuring about that attitude of yours. I am, look around, the whole world is trapped in some kind of dystopian future and you're the still the same infuriating, irrepressible, adorable know-it-all." He sighed. "Why is it, that's actually comforting?"
"Because we all need something to cling to; even if it's the only thing you've got." Layla smiled. "Same old Jamie."
"Hey, Miller," the ruby-skinned woman in the tight black leather outfit interrupted.
"The whole free world can go to proverbial hell in a hand basket, and there are some things that remain the same," remarked an incorrigible grinning Ruby Summers.
"Will you look up there now the powers that be, the politicians and what not are mandating mandatory testing to determine who is and is not a mutant. As if they could even control that or enforce such a ridiculous policy." Ruby grinned and stepped forward a few paces to lay a reassuring and conspiratorial hand on Madrox's shoulder. "You want to know something?"
"I got a feeling that you're going to tell me no matter what I say or do."
"Quite charming this one, Layla, isn't he?" Ruby remarked to Layla over her shoulder as the three of them high-tailed out of the immediate are. Dodging the strobe lights of patrolling sentinels and keeping to the cover of buildings.
"Definitely a keeper," replied Layla with a matching grin of her own in return.
"Uh, ladies," griped Jamie, "I'm right here. I should know better by now than to be surprised how you know all of this stuff, am I right?" Jamie grinned and Layla after a few seconds returned it with one of her own.
"Welcome to the Summers Rebellion," added Ruby with a rather impish attitude a rather enthusiastic comradely smack on Jamie's back that nearly knocked him over and induced another bout of nausea.
"Sure, sure," Layla nodded. "Not a problem."
"Well, as I was saying, I'll let you in on a little secret. The government and the politicians, if you can make a distinction between the two, fondly believe that they're in charge when everyone knows it's really the damn Sentinels that are in control and if something is not done to prevent them from happening…." Ruby trailed off meaningfully.
Layla nodded and Jamie did too after a few seconds hesitation. "We get the idea."
"I should hope so," another vaguely familiar voice interrupted.
Jamie slowly pivoted around causing the pinching sensation n the back of his neck no end of grief to find himself staring face to face with Scott "Cyclops" Summers, albeit one that was at least two or three decades older than the one that he had left behind in his own time-line; and he had a metal hand, and other metal body parts.
"Miller," Scott interrupted. "I'm certain that you both have, uh, an awful lot of catching up to, but for now, let's make this reunion as brief as possible."
"Scott! Jamie exclaimed and before he had the chance to even begin to over analyze his actions or the wisdom of doing so Jamie rushed forward and clasped the other man in an exuberant bear hug.
"I hate to interrupt the love-fest, but we really need to get out of here," said Ruby is a more subdued tone than she had previously used.
"Agreed." Layla and Jaime replied almost simultaneously.
Two hours later having taken a subway train to what Ruby and Scott referred to the nerve center of the Summers Rebellion Layla had admitted to him that despite whatever else was wrong with the current time-line at least they still managed to keep the mass transit system, or the economy of the country would be thrown into utter chaos, Scott had explained to Jamie Maddrox exactly why he had been catapulted forward in time almost eighty years
The following evening
"I am not entirely sanguine about this proposed scheme." Jamie paced up and down the area of the abandoned warehouse that had now been converted into the base of operations for the rebels and cursed under his breath.
Layla strode forward and by grabbing him by his shoulders she turned him around so that they were now facing each other.
"Both of them have been fighting this war for longer than either of us can remember," remarked Layla, "And in my case that's mostly because I have not been around that long. In your case, it's because you just arrived in this time-line."
"I realize that," said Jaime, it's just that on my handy-dandy strange-0 meter this is pushing the envelope. People don't just vanish for two-seconds, poof right out of existence and then poof, reappear.
"Does he really want me to figure what's causing it?
"You heard him. You knew him back then, and despite, shall we say, despite age and a few 'cosmetic' changes, Scott is still Scott. He hasn't changed 'that much. He's dead serious about this," said Layla and then leaned forward to kiss him on the lips.
Jamie returned the kiss and then said, "I guess we're in for it now. Do you if they'll succeed?"
"I know a lot of stuff, Jamie," Layla grinned and then folded her arms across her chest. "But what gave the idea that I was a clairvoyant?"
"I…. I just thought. Jamie stammered and then gave up and shrugged helplessly. "I guest I just assumed."
"Well, you assumed wrong." And then with that impish grin back in place and her arms at her uncrossed she dazzled Jamie with an off-kilter grin that would not have been out of place on the proverbial Cheshire Cat. "Never make assumptions. Especially in a place like this. Hey, there's Hecate and I she's here then that means she's secured our ride. So it's time to go."
"Lead on, Macbeth." Jamie sighed.
A week into their travel that had begun at the outskirts of a small New Jersey suburban town the name of which Jamie could never quite remember. And in the grand scheme of things did not really matter since the incident that had occurred there and set in motion the chain of events that had led to their being in this future timeline occurred almost two decades earlier.
"Someone disappears for two whole seconds and you can't figure out why?" questioned Jamie incuriously.
"That's what we want you to find out," replied Scott.
Another week into their road trip and having made the decision to take the main interstate leading out of the Garden State and deliberately bypassing the chaos of New York City they were now somewhere in the Midwest. It was a pretty landscape if somewhat lacking in foot and motor traffic.
As far as Layla was concerned she was accustomed to Madrox's ways and watched him as he blinked back the grit and sand that had built up in the crevices of his eyes and then used his free hand in order to switch gears.
He wondered if what he had seen was only the product of exhaustion, drunkenness and the afterimage of laser fire affecting his retina and his awareness of his surroundings.
"If the road was more heavily frequented," Layla said suddenly taking a sudden lurch down off a side road that took their electric car jouncing along a corn field lying fallow and then she continued: "It would only increase our chances of running smack dab into a military check point."
"Makes sense," he replied. "I hope Ruby does not really expect us to drum up more support for the resistance. You at least know a few people here."
"She's a Summers,." Layla said this as if it were quite self-evident and then added. "Taking charge and giving orders must be genetic." Layla grinned. "Don't look so glum. We're still alive."
Jamie reached up and rubbed the flat of his palm against the itchy and rather scraggly-looking brown beard on his face. "When we stopped at the 7-11 did you remember to pack a razor and some aftershave lotion?"
"Second box on the left," she replied.
"My left or your left?" he asked.
"Yours; and this is a solar-powered car so you can use the window as a mirror while I drive," she added.
The Black Hills, shortly before midnight
"Stop complaining so much, Madrox," shouted Layla. "It's not the end of the world, it just the end of the world as we knew it.
"I am just worried that it might be the end of us, if you know what I mean?" whispered Jamie.
"Of course. But remember, it's me, I would not have talked you into this and then dragged you half way across the flipping country because I like the scenery! I have an plan," she said.
"You have a plan?" he echoed.
"Have you gone deaf? Of course I have a plan. I just haven't thought of it; yet!" shouted Layla her patience finally exhausted.
"Oh, now I feel so much better." Jamie sighed.
"Whatever," Layla muttered and brushed a stray lock of blond hair away from her eyes. "Best guess, from the reports by the field agents. There's a Sentinel mass-assembly planet deep beneath the Mt. Rushmore."
At that instant a jeep pulled up and Scott and Ruby Summers, along with the two others who had been introduced to him as Hecate and Dameon.
"Nice of them to show up," Jamie muttered in aside to Layla.
"Stop griping. You're over analyzing the situation," Scott Summers replied. "Hec 0You're up. Use your powers to scramble the security force field around the complex. Ruby and I will then clear the resulting debris and the guards."
"You got it, boss," replied Hecate and stepped forward and began to crinkle and glow and before Jamie could clearly see the effect whatever it was that Hecate had on the electronic security systems.
Scott nodded as Hecate returned to a place in the line. "I don't need to tell anyone that this will be dangerous. Be ready for anything."
The climb down into the underground chambers beneath the monument that had withstood untold centuries of rough treatment at the hands of both man and nature were steep going and the narrow confines offered little in the way of hand and footholds.
It was a good thing that before their little detail had set out each had been issued survival gear and equipment packs. As it was the loose soil and rocks ground underneath their booted feet to the counterpoint of the loose metal implements rattling around inside of their backpacks.
"Remind me again why we agreed to come along on this little junket," whispered Jamie to Layla in a guarded whisper.
"Because we agreed to, and because I said so," Layla returned in an equally hushed whisper. "If you would stop complaining long enough, and heaven knows that I do so love your internal monologues, but think it about strategically, hit where they least expect it, and hit hard enough we just might be able to make a dent in the stranglehold the Sentinels have over our people.""It will be a major coup for the Summers Rebellion," Ruby added in a nonchalant tone over her shoulder and would you two kindly get a move on, I mean, if you could be bothered?"
"We're coming," Layla replied after a moment. "We're coming." She shrugged and reached up to finger comb the snarls out of her blond hair.
"Just do what discussed, okay?"
"Okay, okay," nodded Jamie, "but for the record I don't have to like it."
"I don't much like it myself, but we're stuck for the duration now," she replied.
The shadows cloaked everything in a gloomy half-light and if he was not already on edge from everything else he might have imagined that given the dimensions of the gigantic underground complex some of those looming shadows were moving. Layla, with a look, set him straight. There were worse things that went bump in the night, then went 'bump' in the night.
As they navigated through the various chambers hearing the whirring and thrum of machinery at work Jamie realized with the suddenness of sucker punch to the gut that he was grateful that the mission he and Layla had been drafted into had not required an actual face to face to confrontation with the Sentinels. He had been in more than a few battles with the overgrown metal behemoths; and that had been in his own era, he would not like to think what the Sentinels of 80 years hence would be like.
"This is the spot," Ruby announced. We set the charges with a thirty five minute time delay.
"What do we do once the charges go off?"
"What do you think?" She replied with a roll of her eyes. "We run like hell. Tell me something, Miller, does your boyfriend have a death wish or what?"
"Or what," replied Layla with a shrug. "It's just a quirk of his. Pay it no mind."
The shrill screaming of proximity alarms going were almost but not quite drowned out by the first in the series of explosions. Jamie found himself oddly calm in the face of possible integration by lasers in the meantime his hear felt like it was rabbiting inside his chest. Layla reached for his hand an they began to run for the exist; faster going out than he had upon going in; with Ruby leading the way.
The crunching thud of heavy metal-shod footsteps pounding along in their wake as gigantic servomotors came on-line and the Sentinels immediately responded to the intruders in their midst. The gloom of the gigantic underground carven was at that moment illuminated by the eerie ruby-red glow of laser fire, and search lights.
"Run! And keep running!," shouted Ruby over her shoulder as they all ducked and dodged the falling debris while at the same she made a very quick head count to make certain that everyone on the small detail were still up and moving. Satisfied on that score Ruby kept running.
A lean shadow by the entrance to the tunnel leading back up to the surface separate itself and pulled out into the light. "Hecate?"
"Yeah, it's me," the other replied. "The boss'll have our ride waiting up top. You'd best hurry," she shrugged. "There isn't much time left."
"You don't need to tell me twice," Ruby replied and grinned. "Head up on up, you two," she offered to Jamie and Layla.
"What about you?" asked Jamie.
"Think about it. Who else to better cover our retreat, huh?"
"Okay, okay. Fair enough," he replied.
Jamie was still reeling from the blows he had taken and the ringing in his ears was not helping. The part of his nature that induced him to make the make the most outrageous comments and observations at inappropriate times was more than a little amused by the fact that stone likeness of the former President Teddy Roosevelt now sported a giant crooked scar down the left side of his face.
For her part Ruby Summers just grinned and winked. The gleam in her eyes was not entirely due to the power of her solar-powered optic blasts so much like those of her father's. In fact, she seemed as amused by the whole thing as he was.
Jamie shook his head to clear it of the inevitable cobwebs and forced most but not all of his concentration on the current situation. "So, if we averted the rise of the machines, does that mean that this time-line and those of us uh still-here will cease to exist?"
"Probably not. But at least it means that we've eliminated at least one of the many forces arrayed against us," replied Layla as she stood arms akimbo that familiar and slightly off-center grin plastered on her face as she stood only partially listening to the distant rumble and growl of explosions going off in the distance. "
"Wait," he said, "Forget I asked. Time-travel makes my head hurt."
"Hmm," murmured Layla stepping forward and wrapping her arms around his torso the movement causing the strands of her blond hair to fall forward and cover her eyes and held him as a tremor rocked the ledge on which they stood. As all around the ground shook and the after effects of a massive explosion pierced the silence and then remarked:
"I think I like you better clean-shaven."
"I think I like you better, well, words fail me," replied Jamie.
"That is certainly a first," said Ruby Summers.
"No one asked you for your opinion, Miss Summers." Jamie replied with a shaky lopsided grin plastered on his face that made it look as if his face could not make up its mind between a grimace and grin and had frozen somewhere in the middle of the two; but with Layla holding onto him Jamie felt confident that his sarcastic rejoinder aimed completely at random would pass muster. It did.
"Can I say it?" he suddenly asked.
"Say what?" asked Ruby.
"Score one for the good guys!"
Ruby sighed. "I guess I'll second that, but," she held up her hand. "Don't let this go to your head."