Scott, Jean and little Nathan Summers are hot, exhausted, hungry. But one of that matter because they are together – they are a family. Jean is holding little Nathan – or “Nate” – in her arms, both of them atop a mule. Calling her “Redd,” a tired Nate asks Jean if they are almost there yet. Gazing at a distance, Scott assures him they’re exactly where they’re supposed to be. They’re “home.”
According to their transit disks, the unit designate: Dayspring has been travelling for three weeks. “Permission granted by Lord Apocalypse’s interprovince pilgrimage council for tertiary migration: cloister shade to the citadel of Coastcrest.” In truth, however, Scott and Jean’s journey began over two thousand years ago. Back then, in the last decade of the twentieth century, it was just the two of them. Scott Summers and Jean Grey – newlyweds enjoying a brief respite from their responsibilities as X-Men. A honeymoon cut short when they were psionically pulled into the future, and charged with the task of protecting Scott’s long-lost son, Nathan Christopher, from the X-Men’s old enemy, the mutant overlord called Apocalypse.
Over the past five years, Slym and Redd Dayspring – as Scott and Jean now call themselves – have hidden themselves among the sapien caste, living hand to mouth, fleeing from town to town, province to province, making any sacrifice necessary to insure the safety of the child destined to free an entire world from genetic oppression.
Scott helps Nathan get off the mule. Nate grouches that this is their third “home” this chronsect. Every time he starts fun-bonding, they start routing again. Jean claims that Coastcrest has been their target all along. Now that they’re here, they’ll be able to settle down for a while. Nate insists he liked the other place better, and the place before that betterer, and…
Jean reminds him that the law says that every ten years, every non-mutant unit must return to the city of their origin for a genetic scan. She tells him to give it a chance – this might be the best place to live. Nate agrees: they’re humans. He shrewdly notes they’ll never live anyplace nice. Holding Jean’s hand as all three of them walk to the city, he asks her if she and Slym ever thought about dumping him, like his real parents did, so that his diseases wouldn’t make it harder for them to fit in. “Oh, sure,” Jean scoffs. A day doesn’t go by that they don’t try to trade him in for something useful, like a blender or another schmule. Nate momentarily gulps, before he realizes she’s teasing – right? “Mostly,” Jean further teases him. Nate giggles. So… what’s a blender? he asks.
Watching them, Cyclops thinks it’s amazing. After everything they’ve been through, they’ve managed to stay together as a family. In many ways, that family began on the day Scott wed Jean. Yet in many other ways, this particular branch of the Summers family tree began years before that happy event. On the darkest day of his young life, Scott allowed a novitiate of the Clan Askani to take his infant son, Nathan Christopher, in order to cure the boy of a deadly Techno-Organic Virus. That most heart-wrenching of decisions would not have been easier had he known his own time-lost daughter, Rachel, was in fact the sacred Mother Askani, or that she had founded this neo-religion, and sought to have Nathan Christopher so that one day he would liberate an enslaved planet as the man called Cable.
But when the despotic genetic overlord and ancient enemy of the X-Men, Apocalypse, at last struck out against the Clan Askani, a desperate Rachel reached back across the centuries and psionically pulled her parents into the future so that her dream would not die with the Clan. Almost immediately, the disoriented pair was confronted by the Paladin Ch’vayre, a Prelate of Lord Apocalypse, the uncontested ruler of this future’s genetic hierarchy. Using variations of their respective mutant powers created for their new bodies by Mother Askani, the newly united “family,” such as it is, escaped from the remains of the Askani Hold with the unified goal of overthrowing Apocalypse. The key to that downfall is the child, Nathan Christopher Summers. Scott muses it’s not everybody who’s been given a second chance to…
He suddenly groans in pain, as his knee gives in and he lands on his bottom. The trip through time has taken him in another body, one which allows him control over his optic blasts for the first time in his life. But Scott was not here five minutes when he shattered his knee in the fall from the hold. Not fun, no… but a small price to pay for a man to finally have his son. He supports himself on his mule, straining to get up.
A man, who passes by, halts at Scott’s sight. “Ill met, fellow traveler?” he asks Scott. Scott thanks him, but he’s fine. Curious, the man could not help but notice that their unit speaks Old Englishe… no? Cyclops nervously denies this; perhaps he heard them incorrectly. “Perhaps,” the man admits and wishes him “g’journey” as he moves on. Scott returns the wish. Jean whispers to Scott if this is trouble. Scott admits that there could be. They have to be more careful. Jean telepathically remarks that he tripped over a rock. How could…
Cyclops explains that he’s talking about using what they call Old Englishe in front of other people. They might find it more comfortable, true, but it marks them as outsiders when they’re trying hard to fit in. For the moment, when they need, they’ll communicate through their psychic rapport. She reminds her that the entire reason they’re hiding out here among the humans is to raise Nathan out from under the eye of Apocalypse’s ruling class. Jean also reminds him that this is the same reason they’re “returning” to Crestcoast, because the fractured remains of the Clan Askani came up for documentation which puts them squarely and safely in the lowest caste of humans. It’s funny, though, she doesn’t feel like the lowest caste, she banters and she and Scott kiss with passion. Seeing this, Nathan sighs and sits down on the soil. At it again, he grumps. He disapprovingly notes that these two are in perpetual motion.
The House of Apocalypse is only three hundred miles south, along a body of water once known as the Pacific. But for all its wealth, its excess, its singular pursuit of unbridled hedonism, it might as well be an entire world away. Most of the mutant ruling class would not have it another way. One among them, however, the first among equals, could not be any less interested in the party which defines and celebrates the privileges of his caste.
The man in question, Prelate Paladin Ch’vayre, enters the room, unwillingly causing uproar among the elite crowds attending the party. “By En Sabah Nur’s genes… it’s him,” an awestruck woman whispers. Her companion tells her to fear; she’ll handle him. Hearing them, a man remarks this won’t happen – nobody can handle Prelate Paladin Ch’vayre.
In a regal outfit, Ch’vayre looks around in unconcealed reprobation. Even without the empathic abilities of some of his peers, he can sense their thoughts. It is written plainly on their debauched faces. They do not care for him, any more than he does for them. These are times he wonders why he even bothers with this chattle.
A human woman hesitantly approaches him and suggests she offers him a moment’s alternative to his tortured thoughts. Ch’vayre brushes off the “gene-trash”: she can offer nothing to him. The woman hastens to clarify she meant no offense. She meant only to congratulate him on the anniversary of the extermination of the Askani sect. Ch’vayre sternly points out that his thoughts – tortured or otherwise – belong to him.
As do my failures, he thinks to himself. Therein lies the crux of his anger, doesn’t it? For all his claims of dedication to the Lord Apocalypse, En Sabah Nur, the truth is Ch’vayre failed him when Apocalypse needed him to smite the last of his enemies – when he led the assault on Askani Hold. And yet he could not. One man and one woman escaped. A small exception to total victory, he thought then. But one that has cost him dearly – for it prevented the total disintegration of Mother Askani’s hated fold. Somehow… someway… that couple manages to carry on the old woman’s teachings, allowing them to inspire the low-scans and frustrate his Lord and Master’s plan at their leisure…
A deafening roar is heard from outside the hall, accompanied by the display of a tremendous energy signature. The party guests are unnerved: it comes from the Master’s chamber! Some of them deduce they are under attack! It is the humans… it must be! They’re to be killed by flatscans!
Ch’vayre stresses that is impossible. In the name of the Apocalypse personified, he orders them to remain calm! Studying the faces of the guests, Ch’vayre is repulsed. To watch these pampered children of a sick and diseased aristocracy flee in terror! There was a time when Apocalypse’s vision of a world populated by the survival of the fittest, was just that. But that was before they became sloppy, fat and lazy. Before they were frightened by… the tantrum of a child?
Indeed, Ch’vayre has just walked to the source of the commotion and finds this was all the doing of a small boy – Stryfe. Vexed, Ch’vayre asks a servant woman, Magal, who is standing next to Stryfe, what happened here. What happened to the boy’s instructor? Frightened, Magal points at a charred skeleton on the floor and reveals that’s him. She tentatively asks if Stryfe cares to explain to his Lord Ch’vayre. “Explain? What is there to explain?” Stryfe snidely replies. His instructor told him to study, Stryfe told him “no” – end log.
Ch’vayre accentuates it is far from an “end log.” He has stressed this before – Stryfe cannot and must not randomly use his mutant power against anyone who displeases him! Stryfe wonders why. His instructor was just a low-lev. Not even a full mutation. Ch’vayre patiently explains that even low-levs have a right to live. The world according to Apocalypse speaks not only of “survival of the fittest,” but also that no source of mutation may be eliminated without the Holy Word. Stryfe has been blessed because he, above all others, has been chosen as Apocalypse’s successor… but he does not as yet have the right of extermination.
Stryfe retorts he doesn’t feel blessed – he feels bored. He asks Ch’vayre if he’s done. Pointing his finger at him, Ch’vayre replies he’s not, and he will most assuredly not be done, until he has pounded into Stryfe’s overly dense skull that…
“Yes. He’s done,” a weak, fragile voice is heard, terminating the issue – the High Lord Apocalypse himself. “You were saying, m’Lord Ch’vayre?” Stryfe arrogantly sneers at him. A topic for another time perhaps, Ch’vayre says, conceding defeat. “Perhaps,” Stryfe remarks. Apocalypse urges his son to come to him and share with him his day’s trials and travails. Stryfe admits there’s not much to speak of, really. Father knows how Ch’vayre gets all sentimentalized over the livestock. It’s really quite charming, in an archaic sort of way.
Apocalypse’s form emerges from his huge bio-armor – his current host body is that of a weak, withered old man. Apocalypse reaches down to hold his foster son’s hands. He asks Stryfe to be patient with Ch’vayre. He does not have their power, and therefore lacks their perspective. But he, Stryfe, his little lordling, he can already taste their destiny on his lips. He can already feel the hunger welling up inside him. Stryfe will know but the shadow of the embrace they shall one day know for the rest of eternity.
Reaching up for Apocalypse’s embrace, Stryfe urges his “father” to hold him – and teach him all the things only one who has lived through the centuries can teach. “In time, child,” Apocalypse promises and caresses the boy’s face with his gnarled hands. He urges little Stryfe to run along and find something to amuse himself. Incinerate another instructor if he must, but Apocalypse needs a moment alone with Ch’vayre.
Left alone with his foremost Prelate, Apocalypse notes that Ch’vayre doesn’t like Stryfe very much… does he? Ch’vayre readily replies that his likes or dislikes are unimportant. Apocalypse urges him to speak openly. It is one of the few aspects of their relationship he still enjoys. He enquires him of his feelings about the boy. Ch’vayre stresses that, as his Lord says, he is but a boy. He believes he should be allowed to grow up in his own time. By accelerating his mutant abilities, Apocalypse is going against every one of the laws of natural selection he has lived by since…
“Since forever it seems,” Apocalypse confesses. Ch’vayre is right of course… but Apocalypse is running out of time. Each new body he inhabits burns out sooner and sooner. The more powerful he has become, the less these pitiful vessels can maintain that power. But Stryfe is different. The genetic son of Scott Summers and Jean Grey’s clone has survived the Techno-Organic Virus to which he was exposed. He’s everything Apocalypse’s ever wanted him to be. He is the personification of the tenet of survival of the fittest – and they will survive, he stresses. I will survive, Apocalypse emphasizes as he pensively walks out of the room. But at what cost my lord? Ch’vayre ponders in worry. Is Apocalypse prepared to stand back and nurture the child, as his Empire falls around him? What’s more… is Ch’vayre himself to just sit back and let it happen?
At the gates to the city of Coastcrest, Nate finds it hyperbolic. He doesn’t understand how Redd can use her mind to change the way he looks? Amazed to see his metallic arm – a result of his infection with the Techno-Organic Virus – appear as a normal human arm, courtesy of Jean’s illusion-making, he notes it doesn’t even hurt much anymore. As Jean has said before, it’s biorhythms. So long as they touch, she can help him control his physical appearance long enough to get them past the city’s vanguard.
Still excited about his superficially normal arm, Nathan wonders if what she said is true. That someday he’ll be able to control his body himself, so he can pass for normal all the time. Scott assures him that he can aim his sights a lot higher than “normal.” Jean agrees with “Slym.” It’s necessary for Nate to disguise himself because there are many people who fear and hate what they don’t. But she promises there will come a day, when Nathan will be accepted – respected – for who and what he is. Unsatisfied with her answer, Nathan wonders how he will know when. Jean shushes him. Speaking into his head, she tells him to save question three thousand and three for after dinner. Nate remarks it is so rage when she talks into his brain.
Scott, Jean, Nathan and their mule approach the entrance to the city. Upon seeing them, one of the vanguards named Bolt derisively notices these humans are worse than the Lemmings – they never stop. One after the other after the other… Bolt’s fellow vanguard chastises him for being rude. The humans are just doing as they’ve been commanded by the Lord High Apocalypse. They can’t allow the Homo inferior free reign of the planet…
The vanguard curtly welcomes the travelers to the proud city of Crestcoast. “Bright morrow, vanguards,” Scott returns the greeting. He claims it is an honor and privilege to return to the city of his birth. The vanguard is certain it is a pleasure to have him back. He asks for the credentials of Scott’s units. Right here, sir, Scott replies and readily hands him a card with the data: “Clan Dayspring, and one adoptee.” The guard asks him to give it him; he’ll scan it himself. As he takes it, he smashes it with his fist. “Oops,” he ironically exclaims – apparently, he doesn’t know his own strength.
Jean is shocked and telepathically addresses Scott. Cyclops doesn’t know – but he knows that without referents they’re so much gene fodder! He doubts the remains of the Clan Askani could help then. Now confronting the vanguard who destroyed their credentials, Scott politely asks him how they may enter the city without their papers.
Another vanguard, a blue-skinned, yellow-eyed mutant named Marl snaps and punches Scott. He argues that it’s not a human’s place to question one of mutant blood! The human should not think that just because they have been cast among the refuse, that they are refuse themselves! The vanguard who ruined the credentials finds it an honest enough mistake on the human’s part. The human assumes that anyone assigned to a rear water outpost must be the last of Apocalypse’s honor guard. He thinks they’re stupid. He incites Marl to hit him again – show him how stupid they are.
Nate rages and makes for joining the battle and defending Cyclops. Jean barely holds from cutting in: “Nate, please…” “Please not!” Nate snaps. Nobody slams Slym while he’s around! The vanguard advises the boy to stay out of this. This is between the State and the boy’s guardians… who they suspect to be enemies of Apocalypse. “On what grounds?” Cyclops demands. He claims they have nothing but respect for their genetic overlord.
“These people are liars!” a man caterwauls, joining the ruckus – the same man who had briefly talked with Scott outside the city. The man reveals he heard them speaking Old Englishe in the trail. They would not do so unless they had something to hide!
Marl remarks this sounds suspicious to him. He gleefully suggests they hit him again! Not just yet, the vanguard who destroyed the credentials replies. He suggests they hear what the human has to say for himself. Bolt cruelly notices that the flatscan couldn’t have come at a better time. They’ve been waiting for an opportunity to transfer out of this dump. If the human tells them what he’s hiding, they’ll be their Lord’s favorite gene line.
Scott contemplates that if his main concern wasn’t protecting Nathan, he’d show this yutz exactly what he’s hiding. Instead, pretending to be scared, he tells them this is all easily explained. His mate was raised by the Clan Askani as a servant. He assures them she never believed their tenets. But she is more comfortable speaking…
“Try again, flatscan!” Bolt retorts, unconvinced, beating him with a bottle. Marl notes that the Askani is long gone and they never spoke garble-glik – did they? The third vanguard replies they may have – but he hasn’t the slightest idea. He proposes they at least take the whole unit before Paladin Ch’vayre and see what he has to say. Smirking maliciously, Bolt suggests they see what’s left of the unit after they’re done with it! The telltale suggests they do that after he receives his award, no? “Reward, eh?” Bolt consider it for a moment. He never much liked turncoats but…
Nate acts without thinking, on pure impulse. Lunging at Bolt, he grabs his left leg and bites him hard. He demands he leave them alone! Aghast, Bolt screams that he bit him! This nothing mutt halfscan bit him! Nathan warns him that was nothing! Now, is he going to let them by, or…
Enraged, Bolt whacks Nate off of him and sends him flying. Nate lands in the arms of Cyclops: “Go limp, son… I have you,” Scott psionically tells him. Nate is puzzled by the word “son.” Scott reveals it’s an archaic term – he’ll explain it someday. For now, he has a more valuable lesson he needs to administer. His eyes fizzling with energy, the angry Cyclops gives them one last opportunity to let them pass – now.
“Not on your filthy lives,” the unnamed vanguard perseveres, unrelenting. Their unit is clearly their transit out of this dump. The Lord’s science staff will spend weeks at the dissection table, while the vanguard and his friends will soft-spot an assignment in the royal foyer! Cyclops wonders what he is talking about. What possible interest would they hold for scientists? “Because of him… de boy!” Bolt gleefully clarifies, pointing at Nathan and his now-exposed metallic arm. Nate apologizes to Scott for this. Scott tells him there’s no problem… they’ll be out of here in a moment.
Seeing his fellow vanguard charging up with energy, Marl is excited to see powers in use – they never use powers anymore! The vanguard tells Scott that, bad assignment or not, he and his companions are still their genetic superior. Which means there’s nothing they can do to prevent them from wresting the child from Scott’s cold, lifeless fingers. Having an epiphany, Bolt wonders whether by the looks of him, the little mutt is a mutant as well. Now prepared to use his powers to engage the guards, Scott asks Nathan to stand back. Jean adds they’ll only be a moment.
“Sssssooner actually, if I havvvvve my way…” they all hear a sibilant voice. Recognizing the voice, the guards gawk in horror, their mouths agape. It’s him – Prior Turrin! The man in question approaches – a hybrid of flesh and machine, a man inextricably merged in a symbiosis with technology, wires and other paraphernalia sprouting from several parts of her body, the lower half of it comprised solely of wheels, his left arm resembling a giant bazooka. Literally, a man on wheels. Well met, vanguard, the techno-organic man exclaims – is there a problem? It is immediately clear to everyone present that despite Turrin’s soft voice and genial manner, this is an extremely dangerous entity.
The vanguards hasten to claim there is no problem; no problem that they now of; “problem” is too strong a word. Incredulous, the man who snitched Scott and Jean wonders what exactly the guards are afraid of. They’re of mutant caste, are they not? And this one is a human – barely. One of the guards rebukes him: surely even he has heard of Prior Turrin! The snitch is in disbelief: this…. thing… is Prior Turrin? But according to the holo-grids, he was presumed dead at the raid of Everfields… nearly three years past! How is it possible that he is here now?
“Me…? I attribute it to clean living…” Turrin scoffs. Addressing Nathan, he tells him to come. Unnerved, Nate turns to his Scott and Jean for confirmation. Scott psionically questions Jean, who notes that Turrin may look horrific, but she senses genuine concern for Nate – awe, actually. Relieved, Scott tells Nate it’s all right… he thinks Turrin is a friend of theirs. In the background, the snitch still argues with the guards about Turrin: what is wrong with them? Turrin is a convicted anarchist! Bolt affirms this – but Turrin is also the only endurable part of this whole city.
Turrin grabs Nathan, examining the boy for the guards. He concludes it’s a boy burdened by prosthetics – metal, not even synthetics, as Turrin’s. Hardly a reason for the guards to disturb Ch’vayre, he thinks. Why call attention to themselves and upset the status quo? Bolt grumps it’d be a download if they had no more Y chromes. The third guard admits that Turrin had always kept them maxed on the amenities. If they annoyed Apocalypse for no reason… The snitch can’t believe this! Turrin is blackmailing them?! Does he intimidate them by threatening to cut off their party supplies?! The guard retorts that he doesn’t know what it’s like to be posted to this festering pit. Prior Turrin could make it a lot worse if he could. He gives Scott, Jean and Nathan his apologies and opening the gate, welcomes them to Crestcoast.
Livid, the snitch refuses to accept this! He vows to take this matter directly to Apocalypse himself! For years now, there have been rumors of survivors of the massacre at the Askani Hold – of mutant traitors cloaked in the form of humans! Isn’t it crystal that this unit is…? The guard counters that he cannot conceive a reason why anyone would deliberately subject themselves to life within these city walls. Any more than he can picture a less threatening trio that unit Dayspring.
Turning to Turrin, the guard asks him what he and his colleagues should do about their powers, now that they’ve been primed? Turrin urges him to improvise and escorts the Dayspring unit into the city. Still carried by Turrin, Nathan watches as one of the guards spends his powers on slaying the snitch. There will be many sights such as these over the years. Nathan will count countless acts of cruelty, savagery and barbarism. Sometimes in the name of authority, sometimes on behalf of a cause. But more often than not, it will be as it is today – senseless. “G’journey, traveler,” Nathan wishes the now murdered snitch – whenever he winds up.
Inside the city, Cyclops thanks Turrin for his assistance. He must confess, there were not aware there were places where humans such as themselves lay claim to any power and influence. Turrin remarks it’s like a cadaver ruling the morgue. Crestcoast was once a major city. Now it is a tomb, where the walking dead come to die. Yet… it serves purpose.
Jean informs Turrin they forwarded a cargo several weeks ago. Turrin assures her it arrived unmolested. They will discover they are quite… efficient in all matters. “Such of disposing of that fellow traveler?” Scott dares to suggest. Wasn’t that a bit… excessive? Not when they consider what would have become of the boy had he been turned over to Ch’vayre, Turrin replies. They are at war here, for not only their future, but that of the entire planet. Sometimes, they are called on to make difficult choices, lest they be made for them. Or had the Dayspring unit not noticed Turrin’s friends? Pointing at the citizens of Crestcoast, Turrin stresses this is a dark world in which they live, and will remain so until someone arrived to lead them to a better place. Until someone can offer them hope.
Scott, Jean and Nathan glare at the wretched, hapless people of the city. Though these battered, broken, disillusioned, disenfranchised, hopeless and forgotten humans and synthcons and low-grade mutants cannot know it yet, hope has arrived.