Two thousand years from now, in Ebonshire
Madame Sanctity, one of the last of the mysteriously powerful scions known as Clan Askani, presides over a unique ceremony. Her novitiate, Aliya, is present. No truer test of her loyalty has she yet endure. All the pomp and circumstance is in the name of one young man: Nathan Dayspring. A mutant gifted with awesome powers of telepathy and telekinesis, here he takes but the first step of a life-long quest. One which will inevitably transcend time and bring him to modern era as the warrior called Cable.
There is an expression which Dayspring remembers from his youth. It comes from Olde English, the language of his adopted parents, Redd and Slym. “When you cast your bread upon the water it comes back cake.” It means that if you give your all to your fellow man, you will be amply rewarded. Though Dayspring never sought such a reward, it was not until now that he understood the meaning of this aphorism.
Madame Sanctity addresses the people of the fabled Ebonshire and all those who have journeyed across Eurasia to this holiest of havens. She proclaims that today is a day unlike other. For today, they have among them the last, best hope for their planet. He who they anoint as “the Chosen One” – Nathan Dayspring, the Askani’Son! Ecstatic, the crowd responds by chanting rhythmically: “Hail Dayspring! Hail Askani’Son!”
“Rejoice, my faithful flock!” Sanctity shares in their adulation, sporting a smile of insanity. She wishes to tell them of the last action of her lost Mother Askani on the day of their tragic fall. How she plucked a child from an era long, long gone and delivered him unto them, to awaken here as a bright and shining light, to lead them out of the darkness of the past, and away from the shadow which lengthens across the face of their future!
“Pipe. The woman fills their heads with pipe,” Nate protests upon hearing Sanctity’s sermon. Aliya is surprised: doesn’t he want to join in the adulation of his holy presence? “In a word – no,” he retorts. He explains he came here to learn. The fight the good fight. But her Madame Sanctity… he’s making him out to be some kind of messiah to these people. He understands he’s probably speaking some kind of blasphemy to Aliya’s ears… Aliya reveals she, too, shares his doubts of Milady’s actions. In fact, she’s often wondered… she doesn’t know if she should say… about Sanctity’s very sanity…
‘Strator Umbridge – posing as a humble, servile woman – interjects in their discussion and offers to take the “young master’s” cloak. Nate complies, but asks her to do him a favor and call him “Nate.” He’s never going to be anybody’s “master!” Umbridge asks him to forgive her; she meant no offense. “None taken, Umbridge,” Aliya allays her. She telepathically asks Nathan to open his mind to her so they may speak in private. How many times does she have to remind him? Since Nathan saved her life, Umbridge seeks only his approval. Maybe, Dayspring agrees. But he notes there’s something about her that isn’t quite… right.
Watching them recede in utter silence, Umbridge realizes they are having a telepathic discussion. Look at them – Askani trash, she disgusts. They think themselves so clever, talking in the mindspeak language! Arrogant pups! She wonders if they could so carelessly turn their backs on her, if they knew they had taken into the very heart of their precious stronghold one whose sole allegiance is to the New Canaanites. For after today, the last pathetic remnants of the Clan Askani will return to the stuff of myths and the Canaanites will seize the upper hand left abandoned by the defeat of the High Lord, he who was Apocalypse! She immediately decides to establish contact with her superior, Tribune Haight. She asks him if he can bridge.
Halfway across the Great Sea, the Canaanite fleet – an armada the likes of which the world has not seen since the fall of the mad despot Apocalypse – hastens on its path to Ebonshire. On board of one of the ships, Tribune Haight bridges Umbridge’s call, although her navigational signal is quite faint. Umbridge explains that she dares not transmit on a higher frequency, without risk of detection. Haight counters that it matters little. Within hours they will make the Cloister slaughter of years past, where the hated Mother Askani herself died, look like a peasant’s picnic!
“Impressed, Columbus?” Haight asks his companion, a blue-skinned, disgruntled individual. Columbus bears witness to the dawn of a new era for them all. One where Canaanite rule will change the course of history – and return mankind to an era of prosperity unknown since the arrival of Apocalypse. Columbus grunts that if it makes Haight happy, then he’s content. It matters little, though, to the pirates and mercenaries Columbus brings Haight to the hidden land… as long as they get paid. Haight reassures him they’ll earn that gold and they’ll do it with a measure of respect that is due…
“Why, you lousy, stinkin’…” a voice is suddenly heard. Haight and Columbus rush to the source of the commotion. Exasperated, Haight asks Columbus what’s going in here; can’t he even control his own loathsome crew?! One of Columbus’ armored mercenaries – his features hidden – has incapacitated two fellow mercenaries. He introduces himself as “Plough” and reveals he overheard these two blokes he beat wanting to terminate Haight. Only he got to them first! Haight assures him that his efforts are laudable, then. He mentally keeps note to keep this “Plough” guy close by, when the warring starts…
At that moment, cloaked from any sensor the armada might have at its disposal, Stryfe, the Chaos Bringer – and unknown to him, genetically-cloned duplicate of Dayspring – flies right underneath the armada on his own small ship. Stryfe grizzles it’s sheer madness, that he, the rightful heir to the mantle of Apocalypse, would have to ride like some lowly tick, upon the backs of Canaanite dogs to reach Ebonshire! But it his destiny to reclaim the fallen throne, for he was chosen to carry on in En Sabah Nur’s name… and no uppity warlord will stop him!
Zero, the android and pilot of the ship, reports that it has logged one hundred and eighty-one minutes of Stryfe’s dissatisfaction – although it cannot fathom its value. Astonished, Stryfe wonders if that is sarcasm he hears in Zero’s voice; it truly is a remarkable creation. He warns the synthetic unit, though: offend him a second time and with a thought he will disintegrate every artificial cell in its body… is he understood?
Ch’vayre watches in silent despair. He wishes Stryfe’s dreams for conquest were limited to one android pilot and his feeble ancient teacher, Ch’vayre himself. Then, he wouldn’t dare contemplate switching off this ship’s cloaking device and learn how much more merciful it would be to this world if the Canaanites killed Stryfe now, before he could meet the last sister of the Askani and learn to master his power.
He suddenly realizes something is amiss. “Feeble is right, you useless fool,” Stryfe barks at him. Ch’vayre’s brain has so become so addled he forgets they are psi-linked and Stryfe knows his every thought – every traitorous, malicious, hateful thought. And since Ch’vayre no longer has a use for that empty shell of a mind, he knows he won’t mind Stryfe rearranging it! Lashing at him with ferocity, Stryfe literally fries his brain with but a thought. Ch’vayre utters one final cry before he drops dead to the floor.
Zero admits it does not comprehend Stryfe’s actions. Ch’vayre posed no real threat, yet Stryfe punished him without mercy; why? Because I could, Stryfe explains. And as Ch’vayre has suffered, so shall everyone who draws a breath suffer Stryfe’s legacy.
In Ebonshire, Nate clarifies that all he’s saying is that he’s not sticking around here long enough for Sanctity to turn him into some sort of mindless sycophant. Aliya only asks him that he does not judge all the teachings of the Askani and their core beliefs on… She pauses and a few seconds transpire. “On what?” Nate questions and turns around to face her. Aliya stands transfixed. Nate calls her name, only to realize she’s been mindwiped! The culprit telepathically taunts Nate: he was beginning to think he’s wasted his time on some kind of idiot. Incensed, Nathan demands the villain step out of the shadows and they’ll see which one of them is the idiot!
It isn’t the raspy voice which reveals to Dayspring that his “foe” intends no harm, but rather it is the sharp sting of a bo staff that reminds Nate his enigmatic mentor, Blaquesmith, has returned. After hitting him with the bo staff, Blaquesmith glowers at him. Did he or he not tell Dayspring his destiny lies here in Ebonshire? To educate himself in the ways of the Askani?
Nathan asks him where has been hiding. Did he know this great teacher he recommended is some halfscan with delusions of grandeur?! Blaquesmith reminds him that he never said Sanctity was the one. “Then who…?” Nate is at a loss – her, he asks, motioning at the still Aliya. “So then, which of us is the idiot?” Blaquesmith scoffs. Nathan insists it would have helped if Blaquesmith had told him she was the one. Why does everything he says have to be cryptic? Nothing is as simple as it seems, Blaquesmith snaps. Never – yet always. “See! You’re doing it again!” Nathan exasperates, his emotions betrayed by the sudden TK glow in his left eye. He promises that one of those days he’s going to crack open that head of his and…
Undeterred, Blaquesmith professes that the long path in Nate’s destiny begins with the first step. He wishes Nathan “g’journey” as his form begins fading away. Desperate, Nate asks him to wait! There’s so much he wants to ask him!
Upon Blaquesmith’s exit, Aliya is thawed from her mindwipe, oblivious to what has transpired. Hearing Nate’s pleas for Blaquesmith not to go, Aliya assumes the plea is meant for her. She stresses she’s not going anywhere – Dayspring was the one talking about leaving. Nathan tries to explain that he meant… He pauses, realizing the futility in explaining: forget it. Aliya asks him if he’s all right. He seems confused. Nathan replies she’d be too if… P>
“Nathan,” Professor – the techno-sentient being plucked from Nathan’s chest cavity and realized as little more than a voice in Dayspring’s head, as well as his friend, advisor and lifesaver – addresses him. “Professor?! Now what?!” Nathan rather impatiently replies. Professor believes the colloquial expression is… DUCK! Realizing the imminent danger, Nate dashes at Aliya and pushes her to the floor: “Aliya, get down!” The roof comes crashing down their heads.
Aliya, in shock, realizes that Dayspring threw himself on top of her. All at once, he is both arrogant and self-absorbed, and yet in the pitch of battle, totally selfless and willing to sacrifice his very life. She wonders what sort of man he is. And why is it she wishes to know him more?
Outside, the Canaanite armada launches its onslaught against Ebonshire. “Today, will be a day unlike any other.” As the bombs drop mercilessly from the Canaanite armada, the irony of Madame Sanctity’s words is not lost on the innocents below. For in this action, the Canaanites have escalated their desire for conquest to a new level. Until today, they preached only for the good of humanity and the unity of all faiths. Yet this gathering of Askani worshippers in far off and carefully hidden Ebonshire posed no immediate threat to their realm. Assuredly, now that will all change. For the world will soon learn that they may have traded one fallen tyrant, only to be handed over to the mad workings of another.
“Nooo!” Madame Sanctity shrieks, at the sight of this catastrophe. She will not allow them to defile this holy shrine! They will not take away what the Bright Lady herself bestowed upon her. “You will not!” she telepathically screams and lashes at the attacking forces.
There will be those who survive this day that will never comprehend what happened. How the Canaanite pilots, seemingly without a will of their own – pushed by Sanctity’s psionic powers – crashed their ships into one another. Seeing this, the dismayed Tribune Haight tells Columbus that he will not have this! He orders him to restore order to his crew, now. Columbus admits he’s open to suggestions.
Watching the invasion, a delighted Stryfe sees this moment as an opportunity. Magnificent – the Askani witch spins psionic energy like straw into gold. He vows he must have her! He must be as adept as she and then surpass even that!
Meanwhile, Nate and Aliya are buried in the debris below. Nathan agonizes: he’s never held a telekinetic shield so long. Aliya thanks him for saving her life. Nate’s left arm begins morphing uncontrollably as his Techno-Virus flares up from the strain. Nate asks the Professor to help him – his guts are on fire. Professor reveals it’s analyzing the situation as they speak; the Techno-Virus is advancing too rapidly. By the Bright Lady! Aliya muses. Now she sees why Dayspring rarely uses his powers. She offers to help him. Nate refuses: he didn’t even want her to see him like this. He can control it… he knows he can! Clasping his arm, Aliya assures him she knows he can, too. She urges him to concentrate. He has the strength of will to make his own body do anything. Nathan notices that she… she sounds so certain…
Suddenly, Aliya is shot at the shoulder by someone – ‘Strator Umbridge. Touching, Umbridge sneers with regards to their discussion. She mocks that she’ll almost have difficulty deciding which of you to erase first – almost. Aliya reminds her that she owes her life to them! Yes, Umbridge agrees – and that almost makes up for her own stupidity for not killing Dayspring when she first encountered him.
Desperate, Nathan asks Professor to give him a fix on this situation, now! Professor appraises the circumstances. Nathan’s telekinetic energy is spent. His companion is severely wounded. Nathan insists that he needs options! Professor concludes that, basically, they have none. Umbridge scoffs that this must be very exciting for them. They’re all so fond of invoking the name of the long dead “Bright Lady”… and now they’re about to join her.
Before she proceeds, she is shot dead by someone – the guard called Plough, from Columbus’s crew. Pointing his gun at them, he supposes Dayspring and Aliya will want to follow him now. Nathan notes that it doesn’t look like they’ve got much of a choice. “Nay,” Plough confirms.
Outside, the glory that was Ebonshire, the world where the genetically-engineered vegetation run amok, now teeters on the brink of ultimate ruin. The fabled Ebonshire, where the last bastion of Askani teachings stood, is destroyed. The once legendary band of telepaths known as the Askani is reduced to one slightly mad member – Sanctity. Caught in the battle, she asks Mother Askani to give her strength. She asks to be the vessel of Mother Askani’s glorious rage, so that they may smite the enemy and protect these hallowed halls! From his ship, Tribune Haight orders his men to fire forward thrusters – now! “By the Bright La…” Sanctity whispers as she is seemingly obliterated in a searing sea of blasts.
Witnessing Sanctity’s death, Aliya is devastated. She asks Nathan if he knows what this means. Sanctity was the last repository. She was the only one who could remember Mother Askani. All the hopes and promises that kept the Clan Askani alive through the centuries… they’re gone.
While Dayspring and the others watch as Sanctity is consumed in a fiery mass, the reality of the situation is something entirely different. At the same moment, Sanctity has been clandestinely brought aboard Stryfe’s ship. Stryfe, dressed in a full-body armor, complete with a helmet and cape, quickly joins the dumbfounded woman. Lest she wonders, he made all these witnesses believe she has perished; a martyr to her beloved cause. Sanctity immediately identifies him as a telepath, and one of enormous psionic energy. Coming from her, Stryfe takes that as complete.
Livid with anger, Sanctity wonders he has removed her from the battle. With the merest whim, she could obliterate him! “Have a care to whom you speak,” Stryfe suggests. For he does not offer a life of slavery and servitude, but a place at the side of one who is fated to rule this planet.
To her surprise, Sanctity senses that Stryfe’s psi-signature is nearly identical to the Chosen One. Stryfe clarifies he does not know to whom she refers – but Stryfe was chosen by the En Sabah Nur himself. And, though he is the proper heir of Apocalypse and she is one of the hated Askani, he sees that she revels in her power. She asks her to imagine what they could do… together. He removes his helmet and faces her. Sanctity notices that his resemblance with the Askani’Son is uncanny! She makes the fatal decision and accepts Stryfe’s proposition: “We could do much, boy, much.”
Aboard the lead Canaanite ship, chaos prevails. Haight and Columbus flee amidst the commotion. Columbus ironically suggests to Haight to chalk this one up in the loss category. He reveals he can get them to an escape pod. Haight suggests he does it quickly, then. For he who lives to fight another day…
Plough suddenly blocks their way, dragging along his two prisoners, Nathan and Aliya. Plough tells Tribune Haight that they most want to split and run just yet; not without these two hostages. Haight is delighted with Plough’s achievement: can it be that, in an ocean of fools, a pearl? He notices he’s captured both the so-called Askani’Son and one of those telepathic witches! The Canaanite destiny may yet be fulfilled! Nathan retorts they’ve won nothing today. For the world will hear of their actions and know them for the evil they are. Amused, Haight can promise one thing: they won’t be hearing it from Dayspring. “Isn’t that right, Plough?” he asks. “We’ll see,” Plough enigmatically replies… and he shoots Columbus dead.
Shocked, Haight demands to know what the meaning of this is! The meaning is that Height has been had, “Plough” replies and reveals himself as Tetherblood, Nathan’s friend. He remarks that being in the same province with Haight makes him sick. But he can fix that, too… He is stopped short of shooting at him by Nathan. Nate stresses he wants him alive. Haight states that if Dayspring wants him to beg for his life, he’ll be sorely disappointed. Hardly, Nate replies.
Professor notifies Nathan that it has co-opted the escape pod; they can exit on his say-so. Nathan thanks the A.I.; he’s just got one last detail before they go. He proceeds to kick Haight in the face, knocking him out. He asks him to remember this, long and hard. “Today is a day unlike any other.” While both have suffered great losses, Haight’s will prove to be the greater. For today, a line has been drawn in the sand. It won’t matter if it’s called Canaanite, or Apocalypse, or if it takes any other name. He leaves Haight alive to tell his superiors that as long as there is a darkness on this land, where man, human or mutant, is oppressed for his beliefs or forced into slavery by birth, there will always be a light to cast out the likes of them. They will be known as the Clan Chosen and they will be led by the Askani’Son!