Two thousand years ago, Jean Grey, as Professor Xavier’s first student, was taught how to control her mutant power of telepathy. Two hundred decades later, she is passing on a similar set of lessons to a young boy who is her son in every way that truly matters – Nathan Summers, here known as Nathan Dayspring. The endeavor is not without its share of frustrations.
Training the boy, Jean patiently asks him to try it – again. Addressing her as “Redd” – Jean’s alias in this timeline – Nathan retorts it’s hard. He can’t. Jean shushes him and urges him to concentrate. Again. Nathan wonders why she can’t do it for him… like she always does. She’s better at disguising him than Nathan himself is. Jean gives two reasons: A) she’s not without him twenty-four hours a day, and B) he is fully capable of using his own mind to morph his body.
Nate’s face darkens. So that what? That the happy little Dayspring unit can keep passing for humans? So that he doesn’t embarrass his adopted parents? So they can keep moving from city to town to country to city, just to keep one step ahead of Apocalypse’s stage doggie, Ch’vayre? Jean points out that whether someone else calls you a “mutant” or “human” or a “red fish, blue fish, green fish, new fish,” nothing changes what you are on the inside. Nathan wonders what that is. What is he… on the inside?
Jean wonders to herself how she answers that. How does he tell Nathan he is destined to grow into the man called Cable? How does she explain he’ll have to spend the rest of his life leading a rebellion against Apocalypse; making one difficult choice after the next; constantly sacrificing his own personal happiness on behalf of a dream which began in the mind of Charles Xavier long before Nathan Christopher Summers was ever born? How does she say these things without revealing that Redd and Slym Dayspring are actually his parents, Scott and Jean Summers? The answers are obvious – she can’t. She doesn’t dare.
Now speaking to Nathan, she reminds him they’ve explained this to him before. So long as Apocalypse is looking for them, it’s necessary that they hide among… “Why doesn’t he hide from us?!” Nathan impatiently interrupts her. Why don’t go after him instead? Jean admits that someday they may. But for today… For today, I have to pretend I’m not a freak, Nathan bitterly interjects. Something more… something less than human.
Jean realizes that those sessions take more out of Nathan than he admits. Poor kid is exhausted. She tells him to come here and listen closely. Nathan yawns and complies. Jean assures him that no matter what happens to him in his life, the way he looks, the choices he gets called to make, the times he feels so alone he’s sure he’s the only person who has ever felt the way he feels at the moment, he should know he’s not a freak. He should always know there are people who care for him. Who believe in him. Who love him. Today… tomorrow… and yesterday.
As Nathan buries his face in her neck and Jean hugs him tightly, she contemplates how long it has been eight years since she and Scott were psionically yanked into this era. Through all the running, the hiding, the deceptions… she wouldn’t have traded a single moment.
Several miles away, in what was once the heart of this great city, tortured screams echo through the heart of the Citadel Apocalypse. And once again, as he has so many times in recent days, the man called Prelate Ch’vayre stands as silent witness to what he believes in his heart of hearts to be the death of a dynasty.
Nonetheless, Ch’vayre remains in place, silently watching the tortures inflicted on various humans by the sadistic Stryfe, the foster son and heir of Apocalypse. “Enough playing with your toys, Stryfe,” Apocalypse, currently possessing a decrepit, aged body, tells him. He urges Stryfe to share with them the latest manifestation of his psionic powers. Stryfe nods. Holding an abject, undernourished human slave by his hair, Stryfe asks him if he wants to live. The man stutters he does. Stryfe retorts he is not convinced.
Ch’vayre can barely conceal his disgust. Is this what Apocalypse’s goal for survival of the fittest has come to? In pain and suffering and cruelty… the slaughter of innocents for no other reason than amusement… all that their “master race” of Homo superior has to offer the rest of the world?
After killing the slave, a grinning Stryfe admits that was fun – but he laments the man didn’t even scream first. He hates it when they don’t scream. Apocalypse heartens him: he shouldn’t downplay his achievements. Every day his mutant abilities grow stronger. Soon he will be Apocalypse’s equal, as well as heir to the world which is his legacy. “G’morrow, child,” he bids him farewell for the day. Stryfe returns the greeting, as he leaves the room.
Ch’vayre addresses his Lord: “Sire?” Apocalypse sighs and asks Ch’vayre what it is. Ch’vayre clarifies it is about the boy – again. He feels he must point out, that by Apocalypse’s own “laws of natural selection,” by accelerating the boy’s mutant ability as he has, he is not only robbing Stryfe of his childhood, but he runs the risk of destroying any hope he might grow to become a…
Incensed, Apocalypse slams him against the wall. “Childhood?!” What cares he for this boy’s childhood?! Some two thousand years ago, he infected this boy with a Techno-Organic Virus, simply because he needed him to survive it… to prove he was worthy one day to serve as a vessel for his ageless power! Techno-Organic?! Ch’vayre muses, as he makes a connection in his mind – like the diseased, ravaged boy of the child from the Askani Hold?
Apocalypse explains that the boy’s sister, Rachel Summers and her accursed “Clan Askani” robbed him of ultimate victory then, taking the baby from his grasp. It was good fortune, indeed, that he learned the boy had been time-switched to this era. He destroyed the Askani, breaking the long peace, for their arrogance… and held him in his arms at last! But still, his enemies, the rebels, are everywhere. The battle is not over yet! Does Ch’vayre truly believe Apocalypse cares, for a moment, about the moment’s childhood? Ch’vayre should concern himself with stopping those who would rise against Apocalypse…
In the streets of the city of Coastcrest, Cyclops/ Slym is discussing with Prior Turrin. All Scott’s saying is that they need a clear idea as to what it is they hope to accomplish on this night’s raid. In his soft, sibilant voice, Turrin wonders why that is – because Slym feels too much blood has been lost of late? Perhaps he is right. Perhaps the time has come for someone else to take up the fight. Seeing Jean, he asks whether she will be joining them. Jean confirms that. She asks Turrin if she would excuse her and Slym for a moment. “Of course,” Turrin complies.
Jean psionically asks Scott if he’s up for a quick telepathic chat – husband to wife. Scott stresses they really should be going. They’re on a very tight timetable… Jean explains it’s about Nathan. Cyclops wonders what’s wrong. Isn’t his condition still in remission? He hasn’t noticed it getting…
Jean explains it’s nothing physical – it’s emotional. Nathan’s going through a tough time right now… and he needs his father to spend some time with him instead of running off on one secret raid after another, Scott completes her thoughts. You’d think that for someone who spent his entire youth in an orphanage, Scott would be a bit more sensitive to someone who’s going through the same feelings of confusion and alienation Scott went through when he first learned of his optic blasts. He resolves to go to Nathan now, explain to…
“Whoa, Scott…” Jean lets out an exclamation of surprise. She didn’t tell him this so he can start beating up on himself. Eight years notwithstanding, they’re both stumbling around in the dark here as far as parenting goes – but working together, they’ll pull this off. “Why don’t I doubt that?” Cyclops smiles and kisses her. He promises to talk to Nathan in the morning. In the morning, Jean repeats.
Turrin disapprovingly notices that for a unit unable to legally bond, they certainly spend a lot of time in a… perpetual clutch. Time which he suggests could be better spent in service to the rebellion. Jean wryly quips that if that’s Turrin’s way of saying she and Scott are on an endless honeymoon, he’s more accurate than he knows. Cyclops argues that, after five years, Turrin certainly can’t question their dedication to the battle to overthrow Apocalypse.
A fellow rebel, Skerrit, argues not all of them are as naïve as Turrin. He, for one, is curious as to why two tainted humans such as Slym and Redd are so interested in the affairs of those like them – who are not even allowed the opportunity to give birth to the favored caste, mutants. Jean assures him she’ll more than happy to explain the motivation of the Dayspring unit in detail after they return from this evening’s raid. Secretly watching this exchange from a tree, Nathan can’t believe it: Redd and Slym members of the Clan Rebellion?!
The rebels reach their destination within an hour. A series of forgotten tunnels woven throughout the very fabric of this once-thriving metropolis, provide the access they seek. It is here, among the labs of the Genetic Hierarchy, that the handful of people who would see the latest incarnation of Apocalypse brought to his knees, expect to find the means to free an entire world from his hundred-year reign of oppression.
After they infiltrate the area, Jean admits it felt like this was too much easy. Turrin remarks that it doesn’t surprise him. Arrogance has long been a trademark of their most despised overlord. A rebel named Siddard adds that, besides, this is a hardly secured area. Sub-sub-sub-subbasement. A synthetic being (or “synthcon”) known as Gyak informs Jean that Siddard is correct. This section has long been forgotten. Classification: low security area, the synthcon confirms. To anyone but you, Gyak, another rebel remarks. After all, Gyak is the only synthcon in the world that can use a maintenance console as a back door to the complex’s lab computers. Gyak clarifies that it is but one in a limited series. But for their purposes, it does possess the abilities necessary to accomplish the task.
An intricate hologram is generated before their eyes. “Filos of the High Ground!” Skerrit exclaims – what is that? Gyak explains it’s a bio-centric hologram showing rendering of degenerating deoxyribonucleic acid-helix, Homo-sapiens specific. It supposes a large portion of this complex is dedicated to the creation and execution of an airborne virus reengineered for the sole purpose of retarding production of human DNA polymerase which will result in species cessation or extinction.
Nathan is, of course, clandestinely watching everything from the shadows. His life functions are the ones that’ll be ceasing if Redd and Slym find out he followed them here! But from their expressions, it looks like they’ve just seen a ghost!
That is, indeed, the case. A terrified Jean telepathically inquires Scott if he realizes what this is. Cyclops affirms he recognizes it from Professor Xavier’s files. It looks like Stryfe’s Legacy Virus! Addressing Gyak, Jean asks him how far they are from turning this hypothetical disease into a reality.
Gyak admits he possesses inadequate information at this time to venture such an estimation. It is clear, however, that the only obstacle inhibiting the release of the virus at this time is the failure of the virus to differentiate between human and mutant DNA. Unleashing the virus in its current state would no doubt result in the complete decimation of all life on the planet Earth!
“Not all life, synthcon!” an aggressive voice snarls as someone destroys Gyak with a blast. Prelate Ch’vayre appears, accompanied by a few soldiers loyal to Apocalypse. Ch’vayre proclaims that, as it has been ordained since time immemorial, the strong will survive! One of the rebels realizes they’ve been… “Set-up? Yes, flatscans,” Ch’vayre growls. Indeed they have. They have grown overconfident after so many months of “victories.” Awash with fear and fury from his hiding place, Nathan realizes this is too rabid. They need his…
Suddenly, he realizes he can’t move! A woman’s voice speaks in his head: “Nathan, stay.”
Below, the fight has begun. One of Apocalypse’s soldiers launches an attack against Skerrit. He’s long believed her master was too generous just by allowing them humans to live at all! Skerrit looks up, only to see Jean joining the fight. Jean tells him she’s got the soldier. Wounding her foe, she quips they can show him they can be at least as generous as his master.
Skerrit is chagrined to see she again merely wounded one of them! Once… just once… he’d like to see her kill one of these mutated aberrations! Jean points out that the day they stop showing compassion for their enemy is the day they become the enemy. Of course, she secretly wonders what Skerrit would say if he knew both Scott and she are “the enemy”… that they are mutant themselves.
“What fools these… another day, another insurrection,” Stryfe puffs with disdain as he comes up from the shadows. Two of the rebels – Siddard and the unnamed man – are dead by Stryfe’s psionic powers before they even register the boy’s presence. With a sadistic smile, Stryfe announces that, despite Ch’vayre’s orders to take these people alive, he’d like this to be over quickly – and the remains of the rebels sent to his father, Lord En Sabah Nur, He who is the Apocalypse… one extremity at a time.
Turrin orders his comrades to fall back. He will seek to put some debris between them and their attackers. Cyclops sets out to do precisely that and releases his optic blasts on the roof ahead of them. He orders Skerrit and Jean to set the explosives. If nothing else is accomplished today, they’re going to destroy this complex! Seeing this, Skerrit is taken aback: is Slym one of them?! A mutant?! He doesn’t get it! Scott argues now is not the time to discuss it. Suffice it to say that not every mutant subscribes to Apocalypse’s racism.
From a distance, Ch’vayre calculates his next move. The rebels thought they were clever, barricading themselves farther into the complex. He has the torch-cannons ordered from above before they cause any more damage. Right away, sir, one of his men replies and promises the rebels won’t escape them this time.
Meanwhile, Cyclops continues his relentless attack with his blasts. Turrin wittily notices that Slym possesses quite the penetrating stare. Scott explains it’s called an “optic blast.” They never told him about their powers because they believed Turrin and the others would be safer if they didn’t know the truth. Turrin asks what that truth is, exactly. Scott replies they have a common enemy, even if it is for entirely different reasons.
Further from there, Ch’vayre chides Stryfe. He stresses that this is the very reason one does not go about killing in random. Had Stryfe not slaughtered the rebels’ comrades so savagely, they might have managed to corral them before they panicked. Not genuinely remorseful or apologetic, Stryfe asks him to forgive his boyish enthusiasm. His attention has already shifted to one of Apocalypse’s heavily wounded soldiers, laid on the floor. Scared, the soldier asks him what he’s looking at. Smiling sardonically, the young Lord confesses he was just thinking – once you’re already wounded, why not die anyway? He tends his hand to him.
Far above, Nathan is at computer console, when he hears the soldier’s dying scream from below. The woman telepathically implores him to forget the screams below him and concentrate on the console before him. Nate exclaims this is crazy… he doesn’t understand the first thing about ‘puters. The woman tells him to relax and open his mind to her. She will tell him all he needs to know. Nathan wonders if she will have to brainside him to do it. She gives her apologies: she has no time to be subtle. Nathan grumps that once she gets the chance, she has a lot of explaining to do…
He suddenly remains in awe, as, per the woman’s telepathic information, he generates a holographic overview of the whole complex. His benefactress shushes him. There is still more he must do.
Below, Stryfe catches a light from above. It looks like somebody is somewhere they shouldn’t be. He asks Ch’vayre to excuse him for a moment. “With all due haste, M’Lord,” Ch’vayre excuses him. Turning to the rest of his soldiers, he demands to know what is keeping those torch cannons! Even with the complex surrounded, there is always the chance they might escape, let alone the damage they could cause if…
“Trust me, Ch’vayre, if “escape” was our goal, we’d have been long gone!” Jean defiantly states as she turns up through the soldiers’ blasts, together with Cyclops. Ch’vayre is surprised: the rebels are taking the fight to them! He is even more surprised to recognize the man and the woman from the Askani Hold! “Redd” and “Slym,” please, Jean audaciously corrects him. Scott telepathically urges her to keep Ch’vayre angry until the others finish their work. Jean assures him she will do that – but if they die here and now, before they get to see their son and daughter again, she’s going to be fairly angry herself!
Above, Nathan muses that he almost understands what he did to those ‘puters. “Excuse me,” Stryfe intervenes and forcefully pulls him around. He knows everybody who serves his father and this boy is not one of them! Nathan realizes this must be Apocalypse’s offspring! Which means of his surviving this… “Just dropped considerably? True,” Stryfe hisses. Surprised, Nathan realizes Stryfe just read his mind! But more than that, it was like he was… thinking the same thoughts as him. How is that…
“Possible?!” both boys scream in unison. Clenching his teeth, Stryfe exclaims it’s not… it’s not possible. There is only one Stryfe… one heir to the throne of Apocalypse. There is only one Chaos Bringer! Nathan admits it’s true; he assures him being the Chaos Bringer was never one of his life goals! He is unnerved: if not for the hair and his diseased body… There is a certain similarity between them, no? Stryfe finishes his thought. “To your eternal misfortune, Nate,” he tells him. For he cannot bear to be anything less than… unique.
Raising him in the air, he begins psionically taking him part. Oddly, he can almost feel the pain he’s inflicting Nathan. Nate’s mysterious aide telepathically instructs him to concentrate. Stryfe is startled by this telepathic intervention. The woman instructs Nathan to allow all the power that is yours to command to flow through him. Pure; uncontrolled; unbidden. She tells him to look upon this and know: there is more to the psionic ability he possesses than even those who know him might best suspect. Following her advice, Nathan lets the psionic power cut loose and gush out of him, rendering Stryfe unconscious.
Nate collapses to the ground, his infected arm morphing uncontrollably, liquid and unstable, much like his infected face. He agonizes: what is happening to him?! The lady in his head urges him not to fear what he is; what he became when he was infected with the Transmode Virus. Given time, his powers will develop naturally, his body and mind will be as one, and he will have no peer throughout the universe! Until that day comes, he should relax, and know she is here for him…
Below, Ch’vayre grunts that the rebels have caused enough trouble this day. He tells his men to find Lord Stryfe and fall back. He wants this entire complex leveled within the hour. One of his men asks what will happen about the research; the virus. Ch’vayre retorts that will be his responsibility. Watching Scott and Jean in action, he concludes these two are clearly mutants; why would they dare oppose him? Jean replies it’s a freedom thing; he wouldn’t understand.
Cyclops telepathically alerts Jean this isn’t like it was with the X-Men. They can’t both afford the risk of losing their lives in battle – they have Nate to worry about. Which means one of them – Jean – has to leave now before it’s too late. Jean replies that, as much as she appreciates the sentiments, as antiquated as they are, she just got the psionic signal from Turrin. Scott asks her if they’re ready to bolt. Sooner than later, she replies – Turrin says they have twenty seconds to get clear.
Mathus, one of Ch’vayre’s men, returns with the unconscious Stryfe in his arms. Shocked, Ch’vayre asks him what happened to the boy. Is he…? Mathus puts him at ease: alas, no. Stryfe is wounded somehow. He will recover soon. Ch’vayre orders him to bring him here – he will take him directly to the citadel. He commands Mathus to see that none of the rebels leaves here alive!
As she telekinetically lifts herself and the others in the air and begins escaping, Jean notices Stryfe. Surprised, she alerts Scott: that boy…?! Cyclops deduces this must be Nate’s clone – the one Rachel told them about. But they…
“’Tention, Redd!” Nathan shouts at Jean as she passes him by, telekinetically flying in the air. Jean is surprised to see him here! Nathan banters: if she’s leaving already, can he grab a ride?
Seconds after the rebels evacuate the base, the complex goes off in an explosion of phantasmagorical proportions. Turrin argues they have accomplished much this day. Though in the future, they might want to calculate a wider margin for error. Skerrit wants to know how the complex blew up that high. That was quite an explosion – more than the explosives they set. Nate tentatively suggests that was him – he guesses. Carrying Nate in her arms, Jean asks him what he did. As near as Nate can tell, he progged the ‘puters to self-destruct the place, top to bottom.
As they all land on solid ground, Skerrit admits that, at this point, nothing Daysprings do surprises him! Scott wonders how it was possible for Nate to do that – aside from the fact he shouldn’t even be here. Humans have been banned from high-end tech for years. He doesn’t think Nate ever touched a computer before today. Nathan fears they’re going to think he’s crazy, but explains he… had help. She showed him how to do it. “She…?” Jean questions. The lady in my head, Nathan explains. The voice he hears sometimes. Her name is Rachel.
Later, while the streets of Crestcoast are filled with the muted sounds of celebration, Scott steals a moment away in a quiet, secret place. He enters the place where Rachel is being kept. For the past eight years, he and Jean assumed Rachel was in an irreversible coma, totally shut off from the outside world. He should’ve known Rachel would never accept that. He thanks her, not only for what she did today, but for bringing them here in the first place. For bringing them all together as a family. He thanks her… and he’s sorry. Sorry he never treated her much like a daughter when he had the chance. He just wanted her to know how very proud he is to have been her father. He tenderly caresses her face. In case he never made it clear for her before, he loves her.
At that very moment, across the city, another man – Ch’vayre – is coming to a realization of an entirely different sort. He can no longer pretend not to see what his eyes have witnessed, nor ignore that which his heart knows is true. His entire life, he shared the same goals. He made himself believe what Apocalypse always claimed to profess: that the true strength of Homo superior, the reason for our vaunted position in the world, lies in the compassion and understanding of all life forms. But seeing Stryfe in action today, it is clear Apocalypse has a different definition of strength.
Any semblance of humanity is being extinguished from the boy’s soul, so that he might serve as an empty vessel for all that is dark and vile about their “Master.” While he accepts that it is too late to save the boy that Stryfe might have been, it is not too late to save the countless millions of innocents of every race who will suffer and die if the boy lives to become… the Chaos Bringer.