The soldier, Cable, is ready. His mission awaits him. That mission is clear. Objective one: breach the defenses of the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, and gain entry. Problem one: the open ground between the woods of the Xavier Institute and the school itself. The one guard at the soldier’s feet was a small problem. Overpowering him was a simple matter. Indeed, Nathan Summers, the man known as Cable, has a moment to enjoy a breeze rich with the smell of roses that Ororo planted nearby.
Yes, the first guard was a small problem… but there are many such problems ahead! Cable knows that many small obstacles in fast succession merge into one greater threat. Raised as he was in a future of constant peril, he recalls one such time, the Siege of the Vapor Ants, as the legend-tellers of that era to come would call it. It’s when Cable and some men he led were attacked by one creature. Then another, and another, and another, until they had all drowned in the wave of crustaceous mad science. Nathan didn’t let that stop him, nor does he let this right now! The ants this time just grow in number.
Cable runs towards the school, where he is soon spotted by many more Operation: Zero Tolerance soldiers. They immediately open fire on Nathan, who does his best to dodge. He gracefully jumps over most of the bullets, until one of the soldiers grabs him by the throat. Cable fires a telekinetic blast at the soldier, which quickly takes him out. More soldiers follow, but Cable again nimbly jumps over them and shoots until they are all down. However, backup joins the fallen soldiers and they are confident they can overpower Cable, certain he can’t out-gun them all.
Cable of course believes otherwise, and throws a grenade at the startled soldiers, surprising them. A big explosion takes place, and when the dust finally clears… Cable is… gone?! Unit two is contacted by their leader, Bastion, who demands to know what just happened there. The soldiers report they think they just caught Cable, but Bastion angrily tells the idiotic soldier that it was Cable who blew the grenade up. Plus, if they caught Cable… where is his body?! The unit realizes their mistake and check around the school, where a big crater has been formed in the garden, thanks to the blast.
Twelve hours earlier…
Cable is at a bar where he orders a Milwaukee brewed beer, and asks for a few quarters for the phone. In a phone booth, he contacts G.W. Bridge, guessing he and his boys from SHIELD just dug up something big. Bridge recalls he and Cable go back a long way and that they were quite a team. He’d like to keep them on that road and, if one of them would fall off that road, the rest of the road would look mighty lonely for the other guy. Cable asks what it means. Bridge says it’s a warning. A hit… he reveals a full-fledged assault is being planned against Cable!
Cable mentions he heard Haight has reappeared again from out of nowhere, and thinks Bridge is referring to him. Bridge replies that he thought Haight was dead and that Cable wasn’t involved in that. Cable corrects he was, and that he thought Haight was dead as well. And so do T’Challa and the Wakandan people Haight tried to enslave. But, he tells Bridge, he knows how it is: nobody stays dead. Anyway, if it’s not Haight that’s after him, Cable wants to know: who is?
Bridge reveals that it’s part in the Hellfire Club, to which Cable asks Bridge if he knows why. Bridge doesn’t and in return asks Cable if he has enemies there, to which he answers “one.” Bridge surmises Cable is talking about Sebastian Shaw, as SHIELD has long expected him to being involved in less-than-legal activities. Cable denies it’s Shaw. It’s someone he hasn’t fought in years and doesn’t understand why he should now. Bridge defends he’s only telling Cable what his intelligence service dug up. He doesn’t care much if Cable just wants to load bullets in those big guns of his and take care of it. Cable, sipping from his beer, remarks he doesn’t use the guns as much as he used to. Bridge wants to know why not, to which Cable smiles they were making him lazy. Bridge wants to end the call as he’s told Cable what he knows, but then is shocked by something he sees on TV and thinks Cable should go have a look.
Cable runs to the bartender, who has turned up the volume of the TV and doesn’t understand what’s going on. A reporter explains to his viewers what they’re seeing are images broadcast live via satellite. A mutant attacking an unidentified ship has been identified as Cannonball, a mutant whom the government long suspected to be a member of the terrorist faction known as the X-Men. Sitting with the reporter is the head of National Security Council, Henry Peter Gyrich.
Gyrich explains that, at 19:00 hours EST, three security assault ships were on field maneuvers somewhere in the Colorado Mountains, when the pilots were allegedly attacked by the outlaws connectively known as the X-Men. What these mutants may or may not have known, Gyrich continues, is that they were engaging operatives of Operation: Zero Tolerance, a task force composed of representatives from several countries determined to contain the mutant menace once and for all. And whether they like it or not, it appears Operation: Zero Tolerance has begun.
Reaction among the bar visitors is mixed. A woman thought the X-Men were heroes. A guy shares that no mutant ever hurt him, but is sure the government know what they’re doing. Another drunk guy claims it’s about time the muties got what they “deserve.” Cable overhears him and quickly hits the guy hard in his face, knocking him out. After that, Cable heads outside.
A few minutes later, elsewhere in town…
Bridge asks Cable where he’s calling him from now, to which he only wants to say it’s from a safe location. Bridge wants to know what Nathan is doing. Standing in a room with a video screen behind him, Cable mentions to Bridge he’s preparing for the war. Bridge wants Cable to know it isn’t SHIELD who’s talking to him now, but just him… a friend. Cable tells Bridge he didn’t have to say that, not even after all that’s happened between them. But what Bridge can tell him is what’s developed in the last hour. Have things changed for the best, or worst?
“Worse,” Bridge confirms as Cable puts on some gloves. “About as bad as it can.” As far as SHIELD can tell, all the X-Men have been taken out, including Jean Grey and Wolverine. Cable puts on his uniform, and asks Bridge what he means by “taken out”: dead, or locked up in a high-tech prison. The latter, Bridge thinks, because some data is even beyond access to a high-ranking espionage type like him. He explains there are reports, but suspicious reports, of major law enforcement activities in New York, in a town called Salem Center, near the Xavier Institute. Apparently, the local authorities were called off by the feds, except there is no official record of any federal agency operating in that area. And Charles Xavier, who runs that academy, has gone missing.
Bridge as Nathan if he’s interested in the case and what’s going on. Why would federal agents or Zero Tolerance be operating in that area? Cable explains that Charles Xavier is one of the foremost experts on genetic mutation. Zero Tolerance is hunting mutants, which can be Bridge’s connection if he needs one. Bridge gets the picture. He realizes there’s more to it, though, but that Cable won’t tell him. Cable suggests he put it this way: there are certain delicate… files at Xavier’s, and if Bastion gets his hands on them, they could put a lot of innocent people in danger. Nathan knows this isn’t the way Bridge usually takes care of business, but Nathan wants to ask to trust him, and to let him look into this.
Bridge doesn’t know if he can do that, especially not having some of his own people there. There is too much at stake. Bridge doesn’t trust Bastion. He has dug as deep as he can, but couldn’t find any background information on the guy. Bastion’s got some support in the government now, which is tying Bridge’s hands. He really needs SHIELD’s presence at the school.
Cable, holding his weapons ready, asks Cable to give him twelve hours, and then he wants Bridge to come after him. It will mean that he’s dead. He informs Cable he has six hours. He asks if Cable’s going to bring in X-Force for this, however, in this case, Cable thinks he’ll work better alone. And besides, he thinks it’s time he and X-Force discussed their future together. “If you make it back,” Bridge adds. “Yeah,” Cable sighs, “if.”
Bridge again says Nathan has six hours, and wishes him good luck before logging off. Cable thinks he hates leaving Bridge in the dark like this, but he can’t let him know the connection between the X-Men and the Xavier Institute. Besides, there is one thing about the place that nobody knows… nobody except Xavier himself and Cable: Nathan helped Xavier build it.
Cable runs through a tunnel underneath the school. He remembers the first meeting he and Xavier had together. Nathan looked at the mansion, a place so old and yet so well maintained. Nathan had come from a future where nothing old is allowed to stand, nothing beautiful from the past was allowed to remain. And Nathan was entranced by the beauty of the mansion, with every arch and eaves and gable. “This building,” Nathan said, “it’s beautiful.” “Beautiful, yes,” Xavier replied. “But I want to make it better. I want to make it like nothing the world has seen.” “I can help you, Charles,” Nathan told Xavier. “I can give you science the world won’t see for two millennia.”
Cable stops by a computer and after pressing some buttons, accesses the ventilating system. He continues to remember how, in exchange for his help, Xavier taught Nathan how to live in a past he could never have hoped to grasp otherwise. Xavier taught Nathan philosophy and Shakespeare and beer. But Nathan was also a man. He wishes he could only have been more truthful with Xavier, about who he really was, and things might have gone differently. In this place. In this hallowed place. Where Nathan’s kind first met and gathered. Where his father grew to be a man.
Cable finds the activator module and tapes onto his utility belt. He admits the mansion is like a temple to him, all it is and has been. And he will do anything to keep Bastion and his forces from making it theirs. Cable looks through a ventilating unit, and finds Caliban’s room, where he last saw the guy. But there are two troops guarding the room, meaning Caliban must still be in there. Cable thinks he should come back, and get the data first. Caliban has to remain his secondary target because the information Xavier has stored here is incredibly delicate.
He explains the Mutant Underground files detail Xavier’s vast network of clandestine supporters. The Xavier Protocols analyze the abilities and weaknesses of all the X-Men, and provide keys to defeating each and everyone, to which Nathan thinks they probably include him as well. If Bastion gains possession of these things, he could accomplish his goal of destroying mutantkind. The files… this mansion… are too important. And Cable can’t let his personal feelings get in the way. Cable tries to remind himself he’s a soldier, but then sighs, because he could have freed Caliban in the time he was thinking about it.
He kicks open the vent and jumps down, surprising the two guards of course. He pins one of the guards against the wall with his knife and kicks the other down. He gives the soldier a headbutt to make sure he stays out. The other guard alerts his friends that Cable is inside the mansion, to which Cable quickly gives the guard a punch as well, drawing blood in the process.
Inside his room, Caliban is relieved to see Cable, who hopes Caliban didn’t think he wouldn’t come back for him. Caliban admits he knew and waited for Nathan. When Cable asks Caliban how he’s feeling, Caliban says he isn’t well, and would rather stay in bed. Cable explains X-Force could get Caliban bedded somewhere safe, once they get him out of there. Caliban gets up and Nathan pulls some curtains aside to jump through a window.
Unfortunately the soldiers outside spot it, and think about taking the shot they have at Cable. Nathan, in turn, reads their thoughts and pushes Caliban down before he gets shot! A helicopter passes the mansion and more soldiers shoot through the windows. They want to keep Cable inside the mansion.
Outside Caliban’s room…
Guards check up on their wounded teammate and indicate he isn’t dead, meaning Cable is a lot worse or better than they initially thought. They want to find out, since there are more than enough of them. They want to make sure Cable won’t be getting out of this one. Bastion arrives at the mansion and compliments the troops on the brave sentiment. The squad leader welcomes Bastion and informs him they are ready to engage. Bastion is certain they are, but thinks in this case it might be prudent to let Cable come to them. Unless the leader wants to volunteer to go through that door first. After all, Bastion concludes, this is Cable’s and Caliban’s only way out.
Inside the room…
Cable asks Caliban if he’s okay, who is luckily only bruised and shaken. Cable mentions he could have been worse right now. Luckily for them, the helicopter shooter was nervous, and his thoughts were sharper. Nathan made them more audible. They’re lucky he picked them up in time. What’s unlucky is that gives them only one way out. The door. From the sounds outside it, there is quite a reception awaiting them. Caliban admits he’s scared. Cable understands. Soldiers can be afraid, and in fact, Cable would be a little suspicious of any soldier who isn’t a little. But that can’t mean the mission doesn’t get done.
Caliban is still scared, but Cable tells him he needs him. He gives him the transmitter, which will help them. It will be Caliban’s responsibility to take care of it. He has to press it when Cable tells him to. He’ll be busy doing what he does, so it will be up to Caliban to press it. Caliban understands and promises he won’t let Nathan down. No matter what happens, Caliban is happy because he knows Nathan is his friend. Cable smiles Caliban is right about that, and they’ll fight anyone who says otherwise. He asks Caliban if he’s ready. He isn’t, to which Cable answers “good,” because he isn’t either.
Outside, the guards see the door opening. Bastions warns them to be ready. Right after that, Cable and Caliban jump through the door, and Cable fires a shot, ready for his next battle…