With the threat of Exodus extinguished, Cable and Blaquesmith still have the problem of one Nate Grey, a man with similar powers to Cable, only without the hindrance of a techno-organic virus to stifle this power. Blaquesmith is afraid that someone of such great psionic energy could tear asunder the astral plane, the very fabric of their world.
He tells Cable that his hand of friendship to the boy was rejected, and now the world will pay for his naiveté. He wants the boy exterminated, without hesitation. Cable understands, but disagrees. He calls to Nate Grey, who hovers overhead, and tells him that they had nothing to do with Exodus’s appearance here. He informs Nate that he can feel what Exodus did to him; his mind is racing, his power growing and he won’t be able to stop it.
Nate asks why he should believe Cable. Everyone on this planet has tricked or betrayed him; tried to kill him. He senses their thoughts and fears, and feels they are no different from the rest. Blaquesmith tells Cable that fate is their enemy today. Exodus’s appearance has made this situation far worse than it should have been.
Nearby, Threnody cowers behind a jutting rock. Her friendship with Nate makes her pray for his safety, but she also curses the part of herself, deep within, that almost hopes he fails.
Blaquesmith informs Cable that, if he hasn’t the stomach to kill the boy, then he’ll do it himself. He tells Cable that there is in their teachings, a failsafe of sorts, a way to eradicate one such as Nate. There is a price to pay. It can only be done once, and not without sacrifice, namely Blaquesmith himself. Cable hears his words perfectly clearly. “One such as him...?” Cable replies, “But you’ve said all along that Nate shouldn’t exist - that he’s an error in time!” Blaquesmith opens his arms as psionic energy flows through him, and tells Cable that he shouldn’t presume that, because he is his teacher, he has heard all the lessons.
Nate taunts Blaquesmith, asking him to take his best shot. There ain’t nothing that can stop him. Cable responds to Blaquesmith’s revelation by replying, “What you’re saying is… this failsafe wasn’t intended for Nate Grey - it was only meant to be used against me!” Blaquesmith turns, enveloped in his considerable energies, and asks if that matters now. He wishes Nathan a good journey and asks him to always remember their mission.
Nate attacks Blaquesmith, who appears to take the full force of the assault. Threnody senses that Blaquesmith’s life is nearing its end. After a powerful onslaught, Nate finds himself feeling drained from such an exertion, and ceases his attack. Cable knows that Blaquesmith’s psi-patterns are fading, but still feels that Nate Grey shouldn’t be put down like a rabid dog. His whole life has been spent running from people bent on using him but, if he doesn’t stop Nate and he loses control, he could fry the brains of people across the globe. God help anyone who is psi-sensitive. Sure enough, there are repercussions to Nate’s attack on Blaquesmith.
Holocaust, another survivor of Nate’s world, reels in pain from the activity in Europe. His companion, Sebastian Shaw, sees a weakness in Holocaust that he hadn’t noticed before, and wonders if, in this instance, he has become the dominant party in their alliance. Holocaust recovers quickly enough, and tells Shaw, “He lives, Shaw. Somewhere on this ball of mud, my greatest enemy lives.”
Psylocke is recovering from her injuries, received at the hands of Sabretooth, when she suffers in a similar fashion. Archangel tries to comfort her, but she has never experienced pain like this.
(The Xavier Institute, Salem Center)
Jean Grey has finally worked out what happened with Blaquesmith. She now knows they were mind-blocked, which is incredible. She knocks on the Professor’s door and tells Charles that Cable’s gone off to face Nate Grey alone, and they must act quickly. As she speaks, the battle in Switzerland hits her and Charles alike. She stumbles, knocking over a plant, but, for Charles, who is acknowledged as the world’s most powerful telepath, this is like a dentist’s drill striking a raw nerve.
With Nate struggling, Cable takes his chance to press matters. He punches Nate, not knowing how long he’ll have before his young opponent recovers. He’s figuring a telepath of this level hasn’t yet learned to complement that mental ability with physical prowess. As he strikes, he feels this is hurting him more than it is Nate. But, he can’t let his feelings… his empathy… stop him.
Nate is tougher than he looks and he asks Cable if that’s the best he’s got, ‘cause he hasn’t even started. He knows what’s in Cable’s head. He knows how he thinks that they’re both alike in lots of ways. Well, he’s wrong, because Cable doesn’t know jack about him. He blasts Cable, who is sent sprawling to the snow-covered ground. Nate vents his frustrations verbally. He tells Cable that he’s lost everything he had, everything he knew, only to find out that his own body is betraying him.
Cable picks himself up, and replies that he’s lived through all those things and survived. He asks Nate to look at his arm. “Do you think it’s for show?” Nate thinks that maybe he’s misjudged him then. Maybe he ought to listen to Cable. “Maybe… you ought to eat this!” Another massive assault surrounds Cable in psionic energies but, as they dissipate, Nate notices that Cable has disappeared. He looks around and senses his presence, but not the man himself.
Unseen, Cable appears behind him. He’s never tried this trick before. Blaquesmith calls it ‘stepping between the moments.’ It’s almost as if his own power is being augmented by an outside force. He taps Nate on the shoulder, and they continue their physical battle.
As they go at it amidst the falling snow, Cable continues trying his persuasive techniques, reaching out to Nate in the only way he knows. Nate talks about his loss and the way his body is betraying him, and Cable admits he doesn’t know why this is happening. However, those are the things that he lives with every moment of every day. Maybe they can help each other. Maybe not, but the harder Nate pushes him away, the more the chance that he’ll lose total control. Cable promises Nate that unless he backs down, he’s gonna put him down.
Nate congratulates him on his big speech, but isn’t in the mood for giving in. He smashes down on Nate’s head with his fists and tells him that he has guts, he’ll give him that. He doesn’t know how much more punishment Cable can stand and he should make no mistake: Cable is the one going down. Cable is struggling and knows he must push past his opponent’s rage and find a way to get through to him. He enters Nate’s mind once again, though he isn’t welcome in there. He shoves Cable out, and tells him he can do anything. Cable’s techno-organic virus begins to spread over his face as he takes everything Nate has, but he warns Nate that he never gives up.
Threnody, until watching everything in silent horror, begs Cable to help Nate, as she can sense her friend has been pushed too far. His life-force is slipping. Nate lets out a cry, before plummeting to Earth, drained of energy having pushed his powers beyond their physical limits. As powerful as he is, no human vessel was ever meant to contain such power. Cable has won, but at what cost?
He walks over to the unconscious Nate, lying in the snow, and says that there were times during this encounter when he actually envied him. His life holds such promise and none of his own regrets. No techno-organic virus; no ‘chosen one.’ Nate is what Cable could have been, in another life. He isn’t going to let Nate die, no matter what it costs him.
He kneels behind Nate and holds his head in the palms of his hand. Blaquesmith chooses this opportunity to reappear and tells Cable that he knows what must be done. Cable was wondering when he’d return. “You time-shifted, didn’t you, when the boy attacked you?” Blaquesmith replies that he is ever the master of the obvious. Cable replies that he is when he is dealing with someone as manipulative as he is.
Blaquesmith kneels and asks Cable how he can turn from the path which has been chosen for him. How can he not see that the threat this timelost misanthrope poses to all that is Askani by name and by birth? Cable replies that this is the difference between himself and Blaquesmith. His friend has guarded their path for so long, he can no longer see any other way. Where he sees a threat to what is to come, Cable finds the possibility of hope. While Blaquesmith can only label him the enemy, he wants him for an ally.
Blaquesmith is adamant that his way is correct and once more calls for Cable to take his weapon and erase what should have never been. Cable maintains his hold of Nate’s head in his hands and replies that, if he wants the trigger pulling, then he’ll have to pull it twice, ‘cause he’s saving the kid’s life. Blaquesmith loses himself in his thoughts. Has he made a mistake? Is destiny something that is to be created with time, built by action and not blindly followed?
Threnody kneels beside them, concerned for Nate. Cable informs them that Nate’s body is somehow able to recharge its psionic energy, but he needs help. It’ll be like restitching a mind that’s been torn apart. He doesn’t know if he has the power, or the knowledge to do this. Blaquesmith again asks him not to, but finds it amazing that Cable seems to be using his power in ways he shouldn’t yet be able to.
Cable channels his psionic energy through himself into Nate, asking him to show him the way. What he finds is a mind in tatters; an injury that no power on Earth should be able to fix. But, Cable isn’t just any man. He calls upon every ounce of his psionic power, and then pushes further. Finally, deep within Nate’s fractured psyche, two souls meet.
Inside Nate’s mind, he asks him to come with him. Nate says, "But I have to trust you," and Cable replies that he has to start sometime, and it’s now or never. Nate takes his hand, finally acknowledging Cable’s honesty, but, even as his mind is being woven back together by Cable, Cable’s own body is coming apart. Eventually, he lets go of the boy and exclaims that he’ll live. His techno-organic virus, however, has been left so long unchecked it has been allowed to grow anew. Blaquesmith hopes that he hasn’t sacrificed himself two thousand years in the past, because where would that leave the future?
Eventually, Cable and Blaquesmith depart, leaving Threnody with Nate to assure him that he’ll live. The only thing is that they’re in the middle of nowhere, freezing and they have to get out of there. Aboard Blaquesmith’s ship, Cable rests, watched over by his mentor. He doesn’t know if Cable will ever recover and, if he does, will he have the strength to complete the task he was born to play? Does Cable even care? Has this new twist changed him forever?
Cable wakes and replies that he shouldn’t count him out yet. Certainly, their relationship has changed. Far too many truths have emerged. Suddenly, he feels Domino psi-linking with him. X-Force is in grave danger. Blaquesmith knows he can barely move, but Cable orders him to travel to New York, now!
Post watches a mental image created by Onslaught of the two men in the snow. Onslaught tells Post that these two men pose the greatest threat to his agenda. He had hoped that this encounter would be more conclusive, but he has plans for young Nate Grey, which should now go undisturbed. “That leaves Cable,” replies Post. Onslaught knows, and he says that, given Post’s past history with Cable, he hopes that this will not be a problem. “No problem, Onslaught… no problem at all,” he replies.