(Xavier Institute for Higher learning, Westchester)
The place is quiet and desolate following the events of Operation: Zero Tolerance. Scott Summers lies in bed, injured and being cared for by his wife, Jean Grey. She notices Cable’s arrival and turns to say hello. Nathan replies that he came as soon as he heard. He had learned that Scott was hurt and, as he’s going away for a while, he thinks that there are things she needs to know before he leaves. Plus, he wanted to check on the estate after he left it to Bastion.
Jean informs him that Bastion brought in a team to strip the place. As he can see, everything is gone, “all of it wiped clean down to the molecular level,” according to Wolverine. Their technology is completely gone. Nathan is happy that at least he saved their computer programs, which he promises to return presently. Jean enquires about X-Force. It’s been weeks since they heard from them. Nathan explains that they’ve struck out on their own. Jean wonders if that’s wise, but Nathan trusts them. She then asks how he fared in Zero Tolerance. Nathan replies that he did better than Scott, he’s sorry to say. Jean knows he cares about Scott more than he lets on.
Jean tells him that they too are going away. Scott needs to recover, so they’re heading to his grandparent’s home in Alaska. Nathan says he’s heading to Europe. Recent events must be dealt with. X-Force isn’t going with him. He’s leaving for Paris in the next hour and he may be gone a while. Jean realizes that Nathan’s quest may be dangerous and offers the X-Men’s help if he requires it. Nathan declines her offer. He feels it’s his responsibility and he’ll deal with it. Scott emerges from his slumber and notices his son standing there. They shake hands, and Scott says he’s glad he came. Nathan reciprocates the gesture.
Under the streets of London, Apocalypse carries a man towards a glowing machine. He feels shame following his defeat by a pair of strange beings much like himself, and wishes to prepare properly for the next time he emerges into the light. The man screams as he struggles helplessly. Nathaniel Essex had told him to go into the sewers where he was caught, and he demands answers. Apocalypse thrusts him inside the cocoon forcefully, ignoring his protestations. He tells the man to sleep, as he will when he returns to his lair far from there. The world isn’t yet ready for his grand design, but he knows that sometime in the future, it will be. The cocoon seals itself tight. When the man is eventually released, he will be Apocalypse’s harbinger.
(Sir Harry Manners’ house in London, present day)
Sebastian Shaw is talking with Donald Pierce, who wants to know just what this damnable ‘Tomorrow Agenda’ is. He had been told it was his operation. The Black King and the White Bishop of the Hellfire Club have no love for each other, but know that working together is in their best interests. Shaw tells him that all will be revealed in good time. There are secrets and lore passed down from Black King to Black King that only he can know.
Pierce lets on that he’s heard rumors of a device of unimaginable power; some dread secret no Black King has yet dared to divulge. He wonders if Shaw having them meet in Sir Harry Manners’ house is part of the secret too. Shaw explains that Manners was a member of the Inner Circle. He died a long time ago, and the club was willed his estate. Does Pierce want to know what is concealed there? Shaw warns him that some knowledge carries a burden that crushes even the strongest backs, but decides to reveal his secret to him, anyway.
They enter the cellar and then head even further into a hidden basement, down a long winding staircase. As they descend, Shaw asks Pierce if he’s ever heard of Apocalypse. He’s a creature, a mutant, who’s been alive since before Christ was born. In 1859, their London branch, including Shaw’s own great-grandfather, was approached by this monster. He took control of them and reduced them to quibbling servants. He wished to ignite global upheaval, but somehow he was stopped. However, he left something behind…
Shaw leads Pierce into a large chamber, where guards look over a network of hi-tech alien machinery. Its centrepiece is a cocoon, which is fed by a series of leads and cables. Shaw thinks this will allow them to track Apocalypse and seize his vast power for themselves. Pierce asks what it is. How do they activate it and if they do, what will the result be? Shaw explains that their archives say Apocalypse empowered one of his minions, transformed him, and that this minion has remained in this state waiting to be reawakened. He has power to maybe rival his creator. The cocoon is completely impenetrable, however, and their scientists have never been able to figure out the mechanism until today.
Pierce asks why he chooses this moment to attempt something their forebears never dared. Shaw replies that recently he was approached by someone who claimed knowledge of Apocalypse, and more. The man promptly appears. He introduces himself as Ch’vayre, and he says he serves a sacred cause. Pierce thinks he looks like some sort of mad monk. Ch’vayre replies that, if madness were all that afflicted him, they wouldn’t be standing there. He asks to be left alone while he makes final preparations. Shaw asks to be notified when it is done. As the two men depart, Pierce asks if in all this time, no one ever tried opening the cocoon. Shaw tells him that there was one attempt…
(flashback to London, 1915)
Lord Montgomery Falsworth is a guest of Sir Harry Manners who has laid on a feast with several other guests. Manners thinks that Falsworth is on his wavelength, and invites him to join the Hellfire Club. Falsworth goes along with him and, when it gets late, they retire to bed. Falsworth says he’s had a little too much to drink, but Manners doesn’t feel that’s possible. There’s never enough pleasure at the Hellfire Club. He opens Falsworth’s door and they see a young woman getting undressed. Manners says this little bed-warmer should send the night off nicely.
During the night, Falsworth drugs the woman by slipping a pill into her brandy. He then puts on his costume, revealing him to be the adventurer, Union Jack. He thinks it was easy angling himself an invitation to join the club. He’s heard rumors that Manners intends to destroy London, and he wants to uncover how. He descends a staircase below the cellar and finds a hulking guard watching the basement. Grabbing a flaming torch from the wall, he smashes the man in the face with it. He then picks up a wooden barrel and crunches it down over his head, knocking him unconscious.
Suddenly, he turns and sees Harry Manners standing there, holding a pistol and with three soldiers also carrying weapons. Manners says this is an honor. He thought the destruction of London was going to be his contribution to the war effort, but now he sees killing England’s own champion as cherry on the cake of infamy. Falsworth replies that he’ll be remembered as a monster unlike the world as seen. Does he want that?
Manners replies that he will be seen as a monster if England wins the war but, with London gone, England will fall. History is written by the victors, and Germany will write of his deeds in a far more glowing light, he is sure. Falsworth asks how he knows the mechanism he claims will destroy London will even work. Manners say he has it on good authority. Falsworth asks what he gets out of it. A perverse thrill? Manners says it’s profit, pure and simple. Union Jack is incensed and stamps his foot, lifting a loose plank from the floor which sends shards of the barrel up into the air, confusing his assailants.
Union Jack takes the fight to them and uses his physical prowess to avoid being hit, and to take out the soldiers in turn. As he tackles the last of them, Harry Manners begins to sweat, wondering if he should just shoot both of them to save his own skin. He decides to shoot, and Union Jack turns his man so he takes the bullet instead. In one swift moment, he takes the soldier’s pistol and shoots back. The bullet hits its target and Manners drops to the ground, dead.
Falsworth then descends yet further into the basement and opens a large wooden door. Inside, he sees the astonishing machine in the center of the room, with electricity sparking all around it.
(New York City, present)
Irene insists that she’s going along with Cable to Switzerland. Nathan tells her that when he wanted her to be his chronicler, he meant that he would send back the information while she stayed at one of his safe houses. Irene replies that she’s a reporter, and she has to be there to report. Nathan wants her safe, but Irene tells him that he should then find himself another writer, because he won’t be what he wants. She realizes now that to be a true reporter, she has to be in the field. She’s done with hunting celebrities and playing it safe. She goes, or she leaves.
Nate smiles, and agrees. Irene is overjoyed. “Zurich, here we come!” A female voice from behind replies, “No, I think your destination should be London.” Startled, they both turn and see the lithe form of Madelyne Pryor descending towards them. She asks Nathan to relax; she’s not his enemy. Nathan stands between Madelyne and Irene, and tells her that she may be his mother, but she’s not his ally, and never will be. Madelyne says he hasn’t a choice this time. She informs him that Sebastian Shaw intends to unleash a destructive device; an old toy left behind by Apocalypse. He feels it will lead him to Apocalypse and enable him to harness his might. However, the by-product may well be the destruction of London, and a lot more.
Irene asks why she’s telling them this. Madelyne dismisses her interruption harshly, and continues to explain that there are degrees of evil and her own evil falls short of genocide. She believes Shaw has far exceeded his grasp here, and thinks Nathan should act quickly. He should also forget who told him this. Nathan asks how they find the part of London where Shaw intends to do this. She informs him of Union Jack, and of what happened in 1915.
Shaw and Pierce return to the basement and ask Ch’vayre how long this will take. Three hours or sooner, he replies.
(over the Atlantic Ocean)
Cable and Irene take the Concorde to London. They have the plane to themselves as the pilot is one of Nathan’s believers. She asks how Madelyne got Falsworth’s diary, which Nathan is perusing. It sounds to her like the kind of thing that the English would keep in a government bunker somewhere. Nathan replies that Madelyne is a person of… special abilities. Is she really your mother? Irene asks. Nathan doesn’t really want to talk about it, and Irene understands. She doesn’t talk to her parents either. She asks what the book says. He replies that basically, it says they should get to London as fast as they can.
Four hours have passed since Ch’vayre gave his estimate, and Sebastian Shaw isn’t impressed. Ch’vayre doesn’t like the tone of voice he uses with him. He is in charge, and he has his own purpose which is far greater than Shaw’s petty motivations. “The pod will open when it’s open.” Shaw replies that they will have a reckoning after this. Ch’vayre is about to argue, but the machine begins to rumble as it slowly starts to open. Donald Pierce asks one of his scientists if the frequency sensors are operational. They reply that they’re up and running. If the pod is linked to Apocalypse’s lair, they’ll have the location in moments.
Cable isn’t going to allow that to happen. He appears above them and drops to the ground. Ch’vayre recognizes him immediately as the Askani’son. Cable grabs Pierce and warns Shaw that the madness they are unleashing must be stopped. Ch’vayre watches their confrontation. He was sent back to this time by Sanctity in order to find a way to force Cable to fulfill his destiny of destroying Apocalypse. He used the bickering Hellfire Club Inner Circle to lure him into conflict. He prays that his actions do not lead them all into the fire.
The machine shudders and steam pours from its insides. Lights shine at all angles and with the smell of oil, stale meat and rosehips; a being emerges. The man Apocalypse threw into the pod over a century ago has been reborn, and he is far different now from the man he was.
He checks his surroundings. His face is mostly covered with metallic implants and armor, but his gaze is calm… kind. Ch’vayre explains that their computers registered a signal emitted as the pod opened. The scientists are tracking it now. Meanwhile, he suggests they should examine what they have here. Pierce sounds disappointed that Apocalypse’s grand vision is but a man. Shaw thinks otherwise. He sees something far greater. Pierce wonders what Apocalypse intended him to do. More importantly, Shaw wonders how he might make use of him.
The being reaches out to a control panel inside the pod and, suddenly, beams of energy pour from his eyes causing a massive explosion in the underground cavern. Cable runs toward him. He doesn’t know if felling his enemies was luck or design on his part, but he does know that this man is his foe.
Cable wraps his arms around the Harbinger and is impressed with his power, which is thick with Apocalypse’s poisonous taint. He’s not picking up any psi-signature either, so he should be able to mentally overcome him. He attempts to shut down the Harbinger’s mind, but he feels the creature blocking him. How can this be? It’s as if he developed the ability instantaneously. Cable pushes harder and harder, but the Harbinger remains resolute, and the power he extends causes Cable to reel in pain and drop to the ground.
At that moment, several Hellfire Club soldiers open fire upon them both, and Cable is hit in the shoulder, though it’s only a flesh wound. The Harbinger smacks him out of the way. “Fools,” says the Harbinger. He sensed Shaw and Pierce’s villainy earlier but, because they offered him no threat, he chose simply to subdue them. Now he gives them force. He unleashes a massive assault that torches most of the room, and everyone except Cable is seemingly burned to a cinder.
Nathan’s mental powers are drained, so he grabs his weapon. “I’m not done with you, creature!” he cries. The Harbinger turns to him and asks him not to call him a creature. It’s most insulting. Cable maintains his mental assault and begins blasting away, but the gunfire has little impact on his opponent. The Harbinger informs Nathan that no power he has will have any effect upon him. He has the power to adapt to any environment and to evolve as situations demand. What are Cable’s feeble abilities in the face of that? With that, he once again strikes Cable hard, blasts a hole in the ceiling, destroying much of Apocalypse’s machinery in the process, and flies away through the hole.
Cable returns to his safe house to inform Irene of everything that’s occurred. From examining the bodies left in the aftermath, he concludes that Shaw, Pierce and Ch’vayre all survived the destruction and escaped. He adds that the Harbinger, or ‘the MAN’ as he calls him, had vanished, too. She asks him if there is any good news, but he simply replies, no. However, word then reaches them about a crime on Saville Row in London; a street known for its tailors.
Cable and Irene head over there and meet with the shopkeeper. Nathan is using his telepathic powers to make the tailor think that he is a detective and Irene a police officer. The perpetrator had offered the tailor no threat, and he replies that he offered him none either. He reckons that worked in his favor. The tailor feels he’s already answered any questions (which he has) but Nathan prompts him to repeat them. It turns out that all the man took was clothing; a suit, a silk and mohair shirt, a tie and a pair of shoes. He’ll be the best-dressed monstrosity around, adds the tailor. He’s no idea where he went, and thought that following him might be unwise.
Nathan thanks him for his cooperation, and they depart. He informs Irene that he might be able to track the Harbinger. He can sense a psychic trail, and track it like a bloodhound. The man left one so strong, he might as well have drawn him a map. Irene turns to ask him another question, but Nathan has gone, much to her annoyance.
Cable joins the Harbinger on a rooftop. The stranger is decked out in the finest Saville Row clothes, and is standing at the edge of the roof. Nathan asks him not to do whatever Apocalypse encoded him to do. He can fight it. “What would it have been at the time?” he asks, “Kill the royal family? Destroy London?” The Harbinger replies that this is what Sir Harry Manners thought he would do. Cable asks how he could know that. He replies that whilst in the pod, he was aware of everything. For nearly a century and a half, he gestated in the embryonic tank. His consciousness expanded. His capacity to evolve is unlimited, and yet he can scarcely remember who he was before his ‘conception.’ All he has now is a destiny to fulfill. Cable asks what that is, exactly.
The Harbinger, remaining calm and cooperative, replies that what Apocalypse encoded into him was to bring chaos and destruction to the world – to annunciate the turn of the millennium, and his ascendancy. Cable informs him that his creator has been stopped before, and he’ll be stopped again. If he doesn’t do it, someone else will. He tells the Harbinger that his argument is that of a weakling. All his vaunted power is futile if he can’t turn it inward, and make a choice.
The Harbinger asks why he should. Man has reached the apex of his development, and it’s a sad, pathetic sight. He still pursues his interminable quest for self-destruction. War, famine, pestilence… these things exist because of man’s failure to grow. Apocalypse is merely the strongest of a weak, dying race. He asks Nathan if he truly envisages this changing in the future. Nathan replies that nothing is set in stone. He lives his life by that rule. There’s always hope as long as you’re willing to stand against the tide.
He asks the Harbinger what it’s going to be. Can he grow, or is he just some kind of highly-evolved amoeba? The Harbinger begins to float upwards. He thinks Cable is
an interesting man and, if there are others in the world like him, then there is hope for humanity yet. He informs Cable that he’s going to see the world… to live among humanity. He wishes to see if they may yet change, and if their end is not inevitable. As he disappears into the distance, he suggests that Cable pursue those who awakened him, for they still live and their intentions are evil.
Cable returns to Irene, and she asks how he dare leave her behind. Nathan doesn’t answer. He shrugs his shoulders and asks if she wants to visit Harry Manners’ mansion with him. Of course, she does. They find nothing there, not even the servants. She asks what now? Nathan replies that Shaw and his friends left hastily. They destroyed their pod-tracking device, but he’s managed to fix it enough so that the activity log is up and running. He discovers that they did indeed discover Apocalypse’s location. Irene asks if he can get it off the machine, too. Nathan isn’t sure but, if he can’t, then they’ll have too big a lead on him. They’ll have won!