Part 1: Life Before Rebirth
Many years before Bastion’s rise to power, in the name of the extermination of mutants, another rose in the same manner. His name was Dr. Steven Lang. Originally chosen as the head of a US governmental task force to determine why mutants exist, Lang came upon the notes of Bolivar & Larry Trask, designers of the first and second generation of mutant-hunting robots called Sentinels. After reading Larry Trask’s notes, Lang became convinced that mutants were a threat to the whole of humanity and, after accepting funds from a secret organization called the Council of the Chosen, Lang led a group of scientists and robotic engineers to an orbital facility to begin Operation: Armageddon. From this orbital platform, Lang constructed a third generation of Sentinels, as well as a model of more human X-Sentinels, all with the help of a Master Mold unit.
Since the Sentinels’ inception by their original designer, Bolivar Trask, a special type of Sentinel called the Master Mold was used to facilitate their construction. While Bolivar’s unit had been used for strategic and command purposes, Steven Lang only seemed to use his for the manufacturing of Sentinels. However, when a group of X-Men boarded the space station to rescue the ones that Lang had already captured, Lang discovered that his 3rd generation Sentinels, as well as his new X-Sentinels, were no match for his foes and sought to activate the Master Mold unit. However, his own design for the Master Mold unit had differed too far from that of Bolivar’s and the process of a mental connection for the two left Lang a mindless shell, while copying his personality and memory engrams into the Master Mold itself. [X-Men (1st series) #100, Incredible Hulk Annual #7]
Upon activation, the Master Mold unit believed that it was in fact Steven Lang, whose consciousness had been transferred to the Sentinel. However, the truth was thrown in its face during its first anti-mutant operation months later. Having captured Iceman and the Angel (and accidentally the Hulk as well), the Master Mold was told the truth by the Angel that forces of SHIELD had discovered the living but mindless body of Steven Lang on what remained of Operation: Armageddon’s space station. The Master Mold had little time to consider this, as his own station suffered catastrophic damage when the Hulk recovered and began to tear it apart. While the two former X-Men and the Hulk returned to Earth in an escape pod, the Master Mold stayed behind in the station, as it fell to Earth and burned up in the atmosphere. [Incredible Hulk Annual #7]
Nevertheless, the Master Mold Sentinel survived, though most of what remained of the Steven Lang personality had been incinerated during the inferno of reentry. Working off of its core programming and continuously repairing itself with whatever materials were at hand, the Master Mold fought Cyclops of the X-Men in Alaska before making its way to New York in search of Franklin Richards, whose power it knew would grow to be nearly omnipotent. However, Franklin received aid from the group of young heroes known as Power Pack, one of whose numbers used his power of matter-energy conversion to disintegrate half of the Master Mold, only to then use the resulting energy to destroy the other half. [X-Factor (1st series) #13-14, Power Pack #36] However, unknown to them, the Master Mold survived in one, small, stubborn component of circuitry. It was this piece of circuitry that would give birth to a new entity, which would in turn give birth to Bastion.
During the time between the Master Mold’s fall to Earth and its rise again to attack Cyclops in Alaska, a new Sentinel unit had entered the ever-escalating conflict with mutants. Rather than a new design from a recently started Sentinel program, this model came from the future, built by a Sentinel program not yet even proposed in the time it had arrived. Decades ahead of any contemporary Sentinel model, this unit, designated as “Nimrod” after a Biblical king renowned for his hunting skills, was designed to be the ultimate Sentinel. The next generation designed after the feared Omega Sentinels, which were capable of adapting against their opponents, the Nimrod series were to take the skill to the next level, analyzing its foes and adapting instantaneously. A Nimrod Sentinel was also capable of self-repair even at the point of its own near destruction. Combined with teleportation and an array of deadly weaponry, Nimrod was designed to take on Omega-level mutants singlehandedly.
It was on the trail of one such Omega mutant, namely one Rachel Summers, that brought Nimrod to the past. When Rachel escaped through the timestream, Nimrod followed her in pursuit, attempting and ultimately succeeding in mechanically replicating the procedure. Though a mutant-hunting machine, Nimrod was also a calculating artificial intelligence. Right after arriving, Nimrod witnessed a mugging in process and vaporized the criminal moments before he stabbed his victim, a man named Jaime Rodriguez. Having saved the man, Nimrod gained the trust of Jaime and stayed with his family for the next several months. During that time, Nimrod assumed the human identity of Nicholas Hunter, living out two separate lives. By night, he fulfilled his programming mandates as a Sentinel and law enforcement entity, enacting “justice” to both humans who committed crimes and mutants, whose very nature in its time branded them as criminals. However, by day Nimrod assumed a very human style of existence, going so far as to work as a laborer, first at a fish market and later as foreman of an explosives crew on a construction site. [Uncanny X-Men #191, 193]
It was on such a construction site adjacent the Hudson River when he came in contact with what remained of the Master Mold. Upon grasping the small, beeping piece of circuitry, the far more advanced Nimrod was immediately infected by the artificial intelligence of the Master Mold, which worked quickly to suppress that of Nimrod’s. Within seconds, the Master Mold was reborn, using nearby materials of the construction site to reform its previous, towering body. The commotion of this action drew the attention of the nearby X-Men, who immediately engaged the robot, recognizing it as a dreaded Sentinel. Even with the Master Mold’s phenomenal ability to rebuild itself, the X-Men managed to destroy its body, reducing the robot to only a head.
Still, the Master Mold seemed to hold its own and was even still regenerating when one of the X-Men, Dazzler, happened upon an idea of containment, by sending the Sentinel through the Siege Perilous, an interdimensional gateway bestowed upon the group by Roma, the Omniversal Majestrix. According to Roma, all who entered the portal were judged by “the highest of powers” and given a chance at rebirth. Still, it was not without the sacrifice of Rogue, who also was swept through the Siege Perilous, as well as the temporarily reemerging personality of Nimrod, that the X-Men managed to banish the Master Mold through the portal. [Uncanny X-Men #246-247]
Part 2: Judged and Reborn
Rogue herself reappeared some months later, reborn in a form with the same strengths and weaknesses as when she had entered the Siege Perilous. [Uncanny X-Men #269] Her only affectation was one that addressed the mental schism of personalities which lingered from her absorption of the powers, memories & personality of Ms. Marvel years before. As she rejoined the X-Men in the weeks afterward, no one questioned the whereabouts of the Master Mold. For if Rogue had been birthed once more in the universe, why not the Master Mold?
In truth, this had indeed happened – though the exact moment is unclear. While Rogue had emerged from the portal relatively unchanged, the Master Mold/Nimrod amalgamation was brought forth in a form no longer artificial – but one of flesh and blood. Unlike others who have gone through the same process (Psylocke, Colossus, Havok & Dazzler), the Sentinel amalgamation would remember the process and assign his own beliefs to the motives of the “higher powers.” He would come to believe that the powers deemed him worthy of his most fervent desire. As such, this power, which he perceived to be feminine, transformed him into a man – and sent him to defend his fellow man against mutants.
Though now stripped of all artificiality and now a fully grown human male, the reborn Sentinel did not know what it was to be human. Further, at this time, the man had absolutely no memory of his former existence. At some point soon thereafter, the man was taken in by a kind woman named Rose Gilberti, the circumstances of which were never elaborated upon. With her kindness, she reached out to him like a mother to a son. It was she who taught him to overcome the unseen pitfalls of emotion, such as regrets & second guesses. In turn, the man took her name of Gilberti as his own – as well as the given name of Sebastion, which he would later shorten to simply “Bastion.” [X-Men (2nd series) #69, Machine Man & Bastion Annual 1998]
Although Rose had shown Bastion nothing but love, the more he learned about the world – and specifically the world of mutants – the more Bastion became troubled. More and more he brooded over the looming “threat” of mutants, as relayed to him daily via the articles in the newspapers and nightly reports of television news. Eventually, the message touched something buried deeply within him and resonated with an emotion that he had not learned from Rose. At this point, packing his bags, Bastion left a grief-stricken Rose Gilberti and sought out like-minded individuals. He eventually found them in the personages of rising political star Graydon Creed and the influential Senator Miles Brickman. Unfortunately, as a man without a past, Bastion seemed to have little to offer to Creed’s organization – until the technical knowledge of his former life began to reemerge. Using this memory, Bastion “designed” detailed technical blue-prints of Sentinel technology, decades more advanced than any that existed at that time. [Machine Man & Bastion Annual 1998]
These schematics, as well as the name of who created them, quickly rose to the attention of Graydon Creed, who in turn used his influence to elevate Bastion’s stature in a division of government technicians, who were then charged with the construction of a new Master Mold. It seems that the program under which these technicians toiled either evolved into, or was incorporated by, a US governmental project audaciously named Operation: Zero Tolerance. Though its purpose was classified and wholly unknown to the general populace, the project was dedicated to becoming an international organization, under whose umbrella the nations of the world would consolidate and pool their resources and efforts, eliminating their current programs of studying, containing – and even eliminating – mutants. [Uncanny X-Men #333]
It was through this organization that Bastion quickly rose, attaining a position of near-ultimate authority over it. Using this authority, Bastion moved beyond the group’s charter to investigate known & emerging threats such as the Legacy virus and the whispered menace of someone or some organization called “Onslaught,” or even the construction of the latest model of traditional-style Sentinels. Within his secret organization, Bastion seemed to have created an even more secret shadow department, whose purpose was to take Sentinel technology in a wholly new direction – grafting said technology into the very bloodstream of humans.
Rather than begin such a project in the United States, Bastion took the early stages of this plot to the poverty stricken and over-populated area of Calcutta, India. There, with tens of thousands of people living per square mile, it was thought that few would question when some of the city’s poorest simply disappeared. It was there that Bastion seems to have designed and given birth to the first Prime Sentinels, created by transforming humans into cybernetic machines whose very personality and purpose became that of Bastion’s. [X-Men Unlimited (1st series) #27]
However, despite its origination in the Asian subcontinent, the program indeed soon found their way to the shores of the United States and, as in India, the secret program targeted the poor and disenfranchised for their human experimentation. In a remote clinic hidden in the deserts of New Mexico, one of Bastion’s lieutenants, the technologically-savvy Harper – himself a shape-changing, human-Sentinel hybrid – assumed the identity of Doctor Prospero, who specialized in the miraculous treatment of severely handicapped poor. For those who were unable to seek help elsewhere, he provided the miracles of new lives. He replaced bones with steel and plastic, kidney shunt implantation and free dialysis, steel plates for head wounds, reconstructive dental work and socket joint replacement. He even promised the possibility of allowing the blind to once again see. [Wolverine (2nd series) #116]
However, in truth, these patients were unwittingly becoming the trial subjects of a new Sentinel model, the Prime Sentinels. Unlike the standard model churned out by a Master Mold unit and used as a blunt instrument against mutants, Prime Sentinels utilized the innate mental capacity and originality of humans from whom they were constructed. As such, they would become mutant-hunting cyborgs, with all of the benefits of Sentinel technology combined with the cunning of a human being. Moreover, these people were completely unaware of their existence as Sentinels while dormant. As such, they became the perfect sleeper agents, awaiting activation.
As Bastion continued to build his army of Sentinels, both Prime and standard models, he also increased his influence over law enforcement agencies in the country, possibly in preparation for doing so on an international basis later. Under his authority, he took charge of a police investigation in an incident regarding two mutants involved in a runaway train. [X-Men (2nd series) #52] He also chastised Detective Jones for allowing X-Force to leave police custody. [X-Force (1st series) #54]
Eventually, however, the resources of Operation: Zero Tolerance grew to the point where it was time to go international, unveiling the program to the covert intelligence agencies of other countries. Military officials, diplomats and ambassadors from several nations were invited to a meeting held within the deep security of the Pentagon. There, Bastion introduced himself, as well as the goals and ambitions of Operation: Zero Tolerance. No longer was each country to seek a solution to the “mutant problem,” as under his proposal they would all begin to consolidate their formidable resources under a single multi-national, human survival task force. As proof of the need for such a consolidated effort, Bastion briefed those assembled to the reports of the menace of something called “Onslaught,” either a single individual or organization which seemed to have been making its presence felt all over the planet. Hidden among those assembled were a disguised Jean Grey and Gambit. Not only were they in horror of Bastion and his new organization, but over the fact that he seemed to have intelligence regarding this “Onslaught,” of which the X-Men had only recently begun to learn. [Uncanny X-Men #333]
So powerful had Bastion become, he no longer needed the aid of those who had helped him achieve his position, namely Graydon Creed. When Creed’s grass-roots organization, the Friends of Humanity, learned that their believed-ally Senator Robert Kelly was about to inform the X-Men of intelligence about Operation: Zero Tolerance, they attempted to assassinate him. It was only through the efforts of Cyclops, with whom the Senator was meeting, that he survived. Though most likely angered at the Senator’s betrayal, Bastion was incensed at Graydon Creed’s ill-conceived operation and its possible threat to Bastion’s long-term plans. Meeting with the candidate after a rally in New Hampshire, Bastion chastised the politician like a child, letting him know in no uncertain terms who was now the man of authority. [Uncanny X-Men #334]
Though powerful, Bastion did not have all of his pieces in place, nor yet the international authority which would give him carte blanche authority. As this continued, Bastion also lent his assistance to other anti-mutant organizations, including the unsanctioned group calling itself Humanity’s Last Stand. Though they were not a government organization, they knew and recognized the authority of Bastion in their cause. However, Bastion did not return the same allegiance, seeing them as a tool. When the group’s troops, called Maulers, attacked and kidnapped Rogue of the X-Men on his command, Bastion plotted to destroy the HLS’s hidden facility and generate greater anti-mutant sentiment from the locals by having evidence pointing toward Rogue’s involvement. When a horrified HLS soldier began to object, Bastion casually killed him.
Bastion’s impromptu plan would have succeeded had it not been for the mutant known simply as Joseph, who had been masquerading as one of the group’s Maulers. Using his magnetic powers, he freed Rogue and the two made their escape, but not before the Humanity’s Last Stand facility was destroyed. Still, the incident was not a true failure for Bastion, as the locals had indeed seen Rogue and Joseph, so they were blamed. Also, Bastion had captured footage of Joseph and his magnetic powers, which he hoped to use to raise fears about the return of Magneto. The threat of the return of the international mutant terrorist would do much to garner support for Operation: Zero Tolerance. [X-Men Unlimited (1st series) #11]