Somewhere deep in the Louisiana bayou…
Night. The full moon hovers two buildings next to a swamp. One building is a simple house, one story in height. The other seems to be a multi-level scientific structure, a large satellite dish sitting on the roof. Under cover of night, a small group of individuals near the area.
Via mind-link, Cable warns his companions, Domino and Douglock, to stay frosty. He explains Xavier’s files made mention of some sort of security being in place… a guardian… but Charles didn’t elaborate any further. They just know that members of Professor Xavier’s mutant underground, like Renee Majcomb, could be at risk, in light of recent events. Douglock telepathically answers back, believing that telepathy seems unnecessary. The place looks deserted. On that moment, however, the group comes under fire from energy blasts. Cable immediately warns Domino and Douglock to get down, and he does the same.
Emerging from the tree line are a group of soldiers in purple armor, their faces obscured by gas masks. The leader of the cadre orders his troops to hold their fire. He asks another of his group, Hendricks, what he reads. They’ve got no hits. He still marks three mutant signatures, but one of their levels is off the chart! As he cross-references with base puts him as one of the government’s most wanted, Hendricks wonders what they’re doing here. The leader him orders to stow that. He wants everyone to go to individual psi-screen stealth mode, as they’ve got a job to do.
The soldiers do as told and become invisible. As they disappear, the leader explains to his group that this Majcomb has been identified as a Genoshan expatriate with ties to mutant insurgents. All they have to do is round her up so they can ship Majcomb back to Genosha, and the leader doesn’t care who gets in their way. So, he says, unless any other of the troops wants to go back to Bastion empty handed… When this is all over, their enemies will know they mixed it up with… First Strike!
Cable takes cover behind a tree. “Great,” he thinks. Whoever they’re up against is capable of evading his telepathic abilities, masking their presence both physically and psychically. He telepathically tries to reach Domino, who answers. She wonders who their adversaries are, and more importantly… where?! Cable doesn’t know as they’re scrambling his head. What he doesn’t get is, their adversaries are in front of them, but they’re leaving them direct access to the house. He wonders why someone who’s protecting Renee would… unless…
Douglock phases through the ground and wants to say something to Domino, but she tells him to be quiet. She telepathically tells Cable it’s his call… what’ll they do? Cable suggests, until they get a better look at what they’re up against, they’ll just dig in! He wants everybody to stay put and stay alert. A short distance away, the First Strike leader has the same thoughts. Simultaneously, both Cable and the First Strike leader inform their respective forces that they don’t want any actions until they’re sure what they’re dealing with. That’s an order.
Cable remembers how he got into this mess…
At Xavier’s, he received a message from Moira MacTaggert. She informed Cable her concerns are two-fold. With the assassination of Graydon Creed, anti-mutant hysteria is at an all-time high. Known mutant collaborators will be ripe for… “interrogations”… or worse. And with Charles currently… unavailable, she fears for the safety of those connected to his “underground.” She explains that, for the most part, the underground are just regular people doing their part to help Charles achieve his goal of peaceful co-existence between man and mutant.
And Moira continues, she is worried about Renee Majcomb. Charles has her hidden away where neither the American nor Genoshan governments can find her. She’s also working on a cure for the Legacy Virus. Charles was their “go-between” but, with him out of the picture, Moira hadn’t had contact with Renee in weeks!
The message finished, Cable considers her words. Speaking to no one in particular, he thinks aloud how Xavier had all kinds of files of the various members of his underground, but unfortunately his students in the X-Men deleted most of those files – and a lot of others as well – in an effort to keep Onslaught from accessing them. Unless they can find a way to retrieve those files, Renee Majcomb could be a sitting duck.
Moira found a way in the person of a bio-technic curiosity, an alien life-form cast in the image of a dead boy named Doug Ramsey… an entity yearning to experience the wonder of humanity, and a valued member of the mutant team called Excalibur. Moira sent Douglock. After landing his ship, Douglock went inside Xavier’s. Naturally adept with computers, it took only moments for Douglock to cyber-link with Xavier’s computer system and access the elusive files, downloading the pertinent data directly into his own living circuitry.
After a short while, Douglock found Renee. With Majcomb’s location secured, Cable, along with Domino, left, hoping to warn Majcomb of the possible new danger and escort her to a safe haven. As they were about to leave, Douglock told Cable he thought it would be beneficial if he accompanied him, as he could have further need of the information he required. In addition, Douglock felt somehow drawn to Cable. Something deep within his core being told Douglock that they will have need of each other… in the near future.
“Oath!” Cable silently swears. What was that all about? And what kind of hornet’s nest have they dropped themselves into here? Are they facing the “guardian” that Charles put in place to protect Renee… or have they arrived too late?
Inside the seemingly Ramshackle dwelling…
Renee is trying to find something in one of her closets. After a long search, she has finally found it. She takes out a gun and turns off the lights. She thinks to herself that Cable called to tell them he was coming, and apprise her of the situation. And apparently his concern wasn’t unwarranted! Someone… or ones… is out there. And so is Nils, Renee remembers. No matter how bad things get here, it’s hard to imagine he’ll ever suffer as much as he did in Genosha… where Nils was forced into the slave caste just because he is a mutate. Still, his condition being what it is, and with Nils’ inconsistent control of his powers, she can’t help but worry about him.
Renee looks outside the window, at the same time recalling this is the first time Nils has been thrust into this kind of situation…. He was so eager. But what if he’s in trouble? Renee promised she’d stay and wait for his return, but now she wants to know… where he is?!
One of the First Strike members, Neils, informs her companion, Mann, that she’s approximately forty meters due past of their previous location. She’s got positive activity directly in front of her and requests permission to move in. Mann, the squad leader, strongly denies it. He wants no movement! If this is Cable, they may be in over their heads. The base will want them back! But he thinks they can prove them wrong, so if they’re going to do this, he wants no mistakes. He orders everybody to hold their positions until they can get a fix on Cable.
Mann asks another soldier, Hendricks, what he has on his scan. Hendricks has a movement, but it’s them. Suddenly, Neils starts moving despites Mann’s orders. Irate, he reminds her that he just told her to stay put. Neils claims she’s not moving at all, but Mann confirms she is. Suddenly, he realizes what’s going on. It must be one of them! The reading on Hendricks’ scan has a mutant bio-signature, but it’s a new one. Neils asks where the mutant is, realizing too late that, behind her, strange, black vine-like things are about to grab her. Mann warns Neils that the mutant is right behind her! Neils turns around and now sees the moving shadow, barely having time to say, “No-”
Not far away, Cable hears gunfire, but it’s not directed at him or the others. He can’t take the time to wonder why, as he’s got to press his advantage. He has to move while his enemies’ attention is diverted. He starts running and telepathically informs Domino of his movement, but orders her to stay back. He says that, with the way their foes are mucking up his psi-senses, he might need her and Douglock to come and bail him out. Domino warns Cable to be careful. She informs Douglock that Cable said to hold his position, but… Douglock is already gone?!
Nearby, Holton is getting worried about Neils and calls out after her. Another trooper comes running, warning Mann to keep quiet or he’ll get them all killed. He asks Hendricks what his scan-reading on Amy is, but Hendricks doesn’t have a reading. He only has theirs and the three mutant signatures, but Neils is gone… just… gone. Holton is still worried about Neils but Mann reminds him to keep it down. He’s got incoming from base. Holton and Hendricks turn invisible, while Mann takes the call over the ear set attached on his mask.
And in a hidden, cavernous bunker, the headquarters of the multi-national task force called Operation: Zero Tolerance. The group’s soul aim: neutralize the mutant threat against humanity. Harper asks Mann for a status report. He wants to know exactly what’s going on. From where he’s standing, it appears First Strike have somehow “misplaced” operative Neils. Her armature-energy levels as well as her bio-signature have just… vanished from their screens. Mann confirms they’re in the process of investigating that right now. They believe they’ve encountered a mutant presence there at the acquisition site… an alpha class mutant. Harper realizes First Strike is neither prepared nor trained to engage an alpha level presence. He reminds Mann his mission was to collect Renee Majcomb and all data she may have on Charles Xavier and the Legacy Virus. He orders Mann to extract his team and return to base, stat!
Almost in protest, Mann warns Harper that, according to their analysis, one of the mutants appears to be Cable. Harper strongly cautions against such insubordination. He repeats his earlier command, and Mann agrees to do as told. Much to his surprise, Bastion enters the room and compliments Harper it’s good to see that this side of their operation is well-heeled. A bit scared, Harper thanks Bastion for that, for his confidence and faith.
Hendricks reports he just got a reading on Neils! She just… popped back on screen. Her life-functions read very low, and their alpha mutant is right on top of her!
Cable finds the body of Neils lying in the grass, smoke rising from a wound on her chest. He wonders what happened here. If his psi-abilities weren’t disrupted, he might be able to help the woman, and perhaps “read” her mind. But as it is, all he can get is the dimmest sense of pain and… cold? He wonders if this is their attacker they’re dealing with, or Renee’s guardian. And more importantly, either way, who did this to Neils?
Hearing the invisible Holton sneaking up on him, Cable turns around, just in time to be punched in the mouth and off his feet. Immediately, Cable surmises he’s dealing with some kind of stealth suit which renders its wearer invisible. A moment later, Holton again hits Cable, knocking him down again. He orders Cable to get up again, so he can give him another hit and even calls Nathan a killer. But this is exactly what Cable was hoping for: a little dialogue, a banter… a little stupidity on Holton’s part! He now knows where to kick Holton, who becomes partially visible upon impact.
Pressing his advantage, Cable tackles Holton by his legs. He continues pinning the invisible enemy down, as Douglock appears and asks Cable if he can help him out with anything. Actually, Cable can’t think of a better time for Douglock lending him a hand. Douglock understands what Cable means and he stretches his fingers out to Holton.
Nearby, Domino hates the waiting. She can hear a shuffle through the trees behind her. She hasn’t had a word from Cable back yet, so she just got to hope Douglock’s disappearance doesn’t jeopardize him. The person behind Domino starts using his powers, but she quickly turns around and orders the mutant not to move. And the mutant is revealed to be… Abyss!
Towering over her, his body resembling a human form unraveled into swirling coils, Abyss tells Domino she doesn’t scare him… not one bit. He and Renee finally made it out of Genosha, found a little peace here, but now people are ruining that. So now it’s his turn. He asks Domino if she would like to be alone. On that moment, Renee appears from the bushes and orders Nils to pull back. She promises Domino it’s okay and that Abyss is with her.
A short time later…
Holton is still pinned to the ground by Cable, as Douglock has accessed Holton’s suit with his powers, triggering the visibility switch on the costume. Cable notices Holton is still resisting and the suit is still scrambling his head, but Holton will give them some answers. He wants to know who Holton and his guys are, why they are after Renee, and most importantly, who sent them. Holton refuses to tell anything to Cable, especially not after “what he did to Neils.”
Cable at first doesn’t realize who Neils is, but Douglock quickly surmises it’s the unconscious woman they just found. He explains that, before he found Cable, he accessed Neil’s suit. He recommends that Cable scan him telepathically so he’ll find much information he has absorbed by doing this. It’s quite useful. Cable is okay with that. Cable scans Douglock’s mind. It’s an alien mind and a bit unsettling, and then Nathan is seeing through the eyes of Amy Neils.
Amy Neols is being fitted with a cybersynaptic battle suit, inducted into First Strike. Cable sees how they are sent on their first mission to retrieve information that could eventually tip the scales in the coming genetic conflict. Cable sees how Amy is ambushed by darkness, lost in a stygian void… cold… unable to comprehend, her mind, in essence, shuts down. And because it is cybernetically linked to Amy’s cerebral cortex… so does the battlesuit.
Cable believes it really is like he thought… there is something out there with them… something that’s stalking them. “Not something,” Renee corrects Cable as she and Abyss meet up with him, “someone.” She introduces Cable and Douglock to Nils Styger. Cable informs Renee there is more going on than they know about. Renee reminds Cable Nils is a mutant in her care. And as well as being her friend, he acts as her protector. Charles placed Nils here for that very reason.
Suddenly, Mann appears and Holton quickly grabs Renee and points his gun at her head, angrily shouting he’ll be taking her away. However, appearing from behind, Abyss moves to envelope Holton in his shadowy form, threatening to send him into the cold now – into the dark – into the abyss! Cable yells to Abyss to stop, but he just tells Cable not to sweat it. He’s just going to shake them up a little… teach them a lesson. Now they’ll learn not to threaten them. Not to terrorize them at their home! Cable asks Nils to listen to him. He’s doing more than just “shaking them up.” The suits of First Strike are cybersynaptic. Their part of their bodies! He might just “shake up” the wearer, but once they’re inside Nils, the suits get fried! Cable knows Nils doesn’t mean to, but he’s killing them.
Nils doesn’t really care. Perhaps First Strike deserves to, as they were coming after Renee. Cable knows Nils doesn’t really believe that. If he did, Xavier and Renee would never have brought him here, never would have trusted him with this responsibility. Nathan knows Nils isn’t a killer, that he’s better than that. Cable wants Nils to let Hotlon and Mann go. Nils does so.
The crisis passed, Cable orders the First Strike members to go. He wants them to tell their superiors that this is not a path they should pursue, that by threatening innocent people and their comrades… their families… that they’re stirring up a hornet’s nest which they have never seen. Cable is sorry for Amy, but he’s sure she’ll be all right. Holton picks up Amy in his arms and he and his teammates leave in their plane.
Nathan informs Renee they came there to warn her and retrieve her as well. Moira thinks they should bring her back to Salem Center, and he agrees. Renee thanks Nathan for the offer but refuses. She explains that, as they’ve just seen, she has more than a capable protector. She has been planning to relocate her lab anyway. They can call it a habit she developed fighting a civil war in Genosha. She thinks Bastion and his goon squad won’t be bothering them any time soon. She wants Cable to tell Moira she appreciates her concerns, but she thinks she and Nils are fine on their own. Besides, Nils refuses to be around other mutants.
Cable is surprised to hear that. Renee is surprised too as she thought Cable was aware of that. She reveals that, a few months back, a variant strain of the Legacy Virus broke out amongst the Genoshan mutate population. Her last communiqué from her home puts the fatality count at approximately one thousand. The reason they smuggled Nils out of Genosha… the reason he won’t allow himself around other mutants… is because he doesn’t want to be responsible if… if… Renee doesn’t know how to say it properly. She explains Nils works with her on the Legacy Virus… because he has the Legacy Virus. Cable and Abyss take this in, their faces displaying their shock.