With the techno-organic having completely taken over his body, a triumphant Cable has defeated the combined forces of the X-Men and Magneto.
Awakened and out of breath, with cold sweat stinging his eyes, Blaquesmith sits in despair. Was the image in his mind merely a dream, or was it truly a vision of events yet to come? He cannot be sure, and has no time to make the distinction. Nor can he afford to ponder his own unique situation. It has been months since he nearly died when his headquarters were destroyed and he awoke in this strange place. During that time, Blaquesmith managed to resist unrelenting attempts at extracting information from his mind concerning his pupil, Cable. But while his will remains fierce, Blaquesmith’s physical strength is ebbing. He must act now. He inhales deeply, reaching out with his mind for the machinery he knows will register his thoughts. And then…
Swearing in Askani, Blaquesmith calls out to Dayspring, demanding he shows himself because there is little time. At another headquarters, Irene Merryweather receives the message and is disturbed by it. Soon after, the connection is broken. His mind is still too weak to maintain it. “Too little time,” Blaquesmith sighs.
Chicago, three days ago…
He has had an easy time of it lately. The clients who can barely look at his face have set him up in an ultra-sweet high-rise downtown. He does what he can to retain his edge. The count is at four hundred Roman sit-ups. No problem. A computer informs someone that they’ve got mail. The person with a scarred body jumps down from the ceiling and goes to check it out.
To himself, he opines that the days of backroom deals and secret rendezvous are over. The information super-highway has changed all the rules. “All the better,” he thinks, “to keep to the shadows.” He doesn’t recognize the screen name in the mail, but he’ll read it anyway. The instructions are simple. He’ll find everything he needs in a locker at Grand Central Station, and there will be full payment in advance. An electronic device will help locate his prey. There is a name in the mail, which is too good to be true. It’s a big, fat contract. The person accepts the assignment.
New York City, tonight…
It seems like forever since he has been there. Recent travels have taken him to fantastic vistas in distant corners of the world. But upon his return, he has allowed himself to hope that this is where he belongs, although he hasn’t yet determined why. More than a hundred years ago, the neighborhood he is in now has been dubbed Hell’s Kitchen. For reasons readily apparent to those who happen to live there now. For many of its denizens, life in this part of Manhattan is bleak, with no relief in sight. But this man has seen the future, and it’s far, far worse than this.
For that reason, among others, Cable has come back to set things right, to rid the world of the nightmare to come. He has sacrificed much to attempt this. By nature and purpose, he is separated from all those around him. A mutant, Cable is hated and feared by society at large. He is also a man out of time… out of place. He is born in this era, but not raised in it. His life has been spent on the battlefield, in unending combat. He has set upon himself a mission to save the human race, all the while struggling to find his own place in this world. The neighborhood may be indeed Hell’s Kitchen, but at the moment, for Cable, it is… home.
Walking through the town in the rain, Cable walks into a diner called “Babels.” It takes a few blocks for Nathan to realize how familiar this place seems to him, how well he seems to blend in here. Despite this fact, he suddenly realized how cold and hungry he is. He has found what he has no idea he was looking for it: a safe harbor. A tiny bell rings as Cable opens the door of the diner, which is strangely comforting. The place is small. There is a strange smell, like burnt toast, but it’s warm and dry. The voices of humanity wash over him. Cable passes a waitress on the phone with Kenny, who apologizes for having to hang up because she has a customer, promising to see him when she gets home. He passes two guys on the counter, who talk about something getting passed them three ways to Sunday. The other guy is disgusted by it because he’s eating. Cable also passes a guy talking to himself. And, not giving much attention to it, Nathan passes a blind lawyer called Matt and his date, Karen, who warns Matt they have to leave or else they’ll miss her show.
Cable goes to sit on a table alone, and a waitress arriving with a coffee pot asks if he can get him anything. Nathan wants coffee… black. The waitress pours it into a cup, calling it easy enough. Cable drinks from it, and after enjoying it for a while, compliments the waitress it’s good. The waitress, Stacey, notices Cable isn’t from around there. When Nathan asks how she could have guessed, Stacey jokes she’s observant and has never seen Cable before. Nathan admits he never has been in here before. He explains he… works a couple of blocks away from there. Stacey is sorry to hear that, especially in this neighborhood.
When she then asks Nathan what kind of work he does, Nathan jokes that’s a good question. She says she doesn’t understand, to which Nathan tells her to never mind. He explains he works at the… steel co. off forty-fifth and tenth. Stacey is intrigued, as she guessed this was a bad part of the city. Cable says it’s not too bad over there and that he manages. Stacey asks Nathan if he likes the job. Cable in turn asks Stacey if she always plays twenty questions with her customers, and if that’s part of her job description. Stacey explains that, around there, being a waitress is like being a bartender for all the folks who don’t drink. She hopes Cable doesn’t think all the people who come here just are here for the coffee.
Cable apologizes as he didn’t mean anything by his earlier remark. Stacey says it’s no problem, thinking she just can’t help it. When she sees somebody coming in here alone, looking like they need to talk, she guesses she jumps right in. Nathan didn’t know he looked like he needed to talk. “Yeah, maybe,” Stacey answers. Cable tells her she may be right. Sometimes talking does help, and sometimes it doesn’t. Stacey smirks Cable just spoke like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. “You think?” Nathan replies. When Stacey asks if she’s right or not, Cable takes a sip from his coffee again, suggesting they change the subject.
Stacey gets it and guesses Cable is the strong, silent type. She realizes Nathan wants to talk, but not about himself. She has to say that’s a switch. Cable asks Stacey about herself, and how come… Stacey interrupts Cable, knowing his question will be “what a nice girl like her is doing in a place like this.” She doesn’t want to hear that old line again. Nathan promises it’s not a line and is just curious. Stacey explains she’s six months away from her nursing degree at Empire State University, and this place, believe it or not, provides her with the better-than-average tips and all the greasy food she can eat. Nathan is surprised Stacey is going to be a nurse. Stacey says she almost is, and wants to wait and see what the future will bring.
Cable calls that a noble profession. Stacey smirks he probably thinks it’s almost as noble as waitressing. Cable thinks helping people, in any way, is noble. Stacey thinks about that, but doesn’t want to read too much into that statement. Nathan smiles that’s a good idea. Stacey asks if they can go back to talking about him now. “Maybe,” Cable replies and asks Stacey what she wants to know. Stacey asks Nathan if he’s married. He reveals he’s widowed. Stacey then asks if Cable has any kids. He is quiet for a moment, but then denies it. Stacey asks if he’s rich, to which he pardons himself. Stacey admits she was just kidding about that.
She then jokes that, out of twenty questions, how many she has left. Nathan supposes as many as she wants. In that case, she asks Cable if he’s going to eat anything, or will just pound caffeine all night. When he asks for any recommendations, Stacey says that, since Nathan has never been there before, he has essentially three choices. He can get a bagel, a burger or a bagel burger. Nathan tells Stacey she can surprise him. She leaves, promising she’ll do her best.
Time passes, and Cable stares outside a window at the various people watching by, wandering through the rain. Stacey comes back with a bagel burger with everything on it. When Nathan asks Stacey if she likes living there, Stacey admits living in Hell’s Kitchen isn’t so bad. Her place is cheap, but it’s clean. She asks the same question to Cable, who doesn’t know if he has been there long enough to make that judgment. But so far, he does like it here. He knows this part of town doesn’t have the best reputation, but he thinks that suits him. There’s something familiar, almost comfortable about this place. He guesses he just realized that, underneath all the filth and the grime, there’s a lot of hope there. Stacey says there’s a reason for that: hope is cheap.
The conversation is abruptly interrupted by someone who asks Cable how his burger tastes. Cable is stunned to see the newcomer.
Somewhere in the Bronx…
James Sanders admits to his buddy that he never fails to surprise a guy, to which the buddy asks for clarification. Sanders says that he would bet money that his client would never have come back to New York. The buddy, who is in the bathroom, doesn’t mind that, because a job is a job. Sanders understands. He just thought his buddy had given up on the life, on mixing it up with the masks.
The buddy, who has a red skin, guesses that suits him. He means, the offer was too lucrative to pass up. But he has to admit he kind of missed the life. The thrill of it. And there isn’t much else a guy like him can do, anyway. He asks Sanders what happened to the outfit he was running in. The client reveals that the Syndicate is old news. And he wants to face it: those bozos were a joke to begin with. Speed Demon uses his powers to quickly complete a puzzle. He asks if his buddy heard about the Beetle, and that he went straight. The buddy calls Beetle an idiot. Sanders says that whatever his friend thinks of Beetle, it’s all true… sort of. He asks what his friend knows about this girl they’ve got to take down.
The friend knows she’s a mutant, but he doesn’t know anything about mutants. But his employer, whoever he is, sent him a little gizmo. This thing can get a fix on their target’s particular bio-signature and now he can track her everywhere. And she’s there. Close. Sanders warns his friend he has to be careful when he’s dealing with mutants, as there’s always a couple of government guys looking for them. And there is also that disease, the Legacy Virus, that they spread around. The guy knows, but he’s a professional. If he cashes the paycheck, he has to do the job. It doesn’t matter who the target is or who is around them. He tells Sanders he appreciates putting him up and all, but he knows the drill. When he’s gone, Sanders has to forget he was ever there.
Sanders doesn’t think that will be a problem, and asks his friend if he thinks he’ll come back. The friend doesn’t know as he was told this girl was good. And that she’s lucky. Really lucky. But maybe, just maybe, this dame’s luck has run out. It doesn’t matter to him either way, since he loves a challenge. He starts shaving himself, and spreads a large blast of fire across the bathroom, which finishes the shaving.
Cable says hi to a soaking wet, and angry Irene. Irene says Nathan can imagine her surprise when she walked by and saw Nathan sitting there, chowing down a burger. She asks if he was even going to inform her that he had come back. Hearing this, Stacey says she thought Cable said he was widowed. When Nathan confirms it, she then asks who this is, which the angry Irene asks the exact same thing. Nathan, with a strong voice, tells Irene to sit down, which she angrily says that she sure will. When Stacey asks Irene what she will be having, Irene mentions she’ll be having whatever Cable is having, and a little privacy. Stacey doesn’t care and walks away.
Irene demands to know what happened in Switzerland, and tells Cable he has a lot of explaining to do. Nathan doesn’t want to do that there and wants Irene to keep her voice down. Irene doesn’t think so and lashes out that Nathan had no right to do what he did to her… to her mind. Nathan telepathically promises Irene he’ll explain everything that happened, including why he did that to her. Irene angrily whispers to Nathan never to use his telepathic tricks on her again. She just doesn’t know if she can do this anymore. She tried to believe that at least Nathan had survived. Once she convinced herself of that, then she had to wonder if he she would ever see him again. She can’t believe this is her life. She has no job, no sense of perfection… not anything! And Cable is just…
Cable apologizes for that. He doesn’t know exactly what to say. He knows he asked Irene to chronicle an account on his mission there, for when he’ll be gone. He still wants her to do that because it’s important. Irene tells Nathan he could have died out there, and she wasn’t ready for that. There is still so much she doesn’t know yet. “Like what?” Cable asks. Irene knows Cable calls himself by his codename, and that this isn’t his real name. So she wants to know what it is. Cable reveals it’s Nathan… Nathan Summers. Returning, Stacey interrupts and, having overheard Nathan saying his real name, gives him the check. Nathan thanks Stacey, and she gives him her name in return.
Irene punches Cable, to tell him to give her attention again. Irene guesses she has accepted the gig but it’s almost too big to think about sometimes. She has to keep saying it to herself… “Irene Merryweather, biographer of hero with Messiah complex.” She admits it doesn’t pay much, but that’s fine, because if that’s her destiny, she’ll accept it. The question is, can Nathan do the same thing? Cable tells Irene he can. Maybe they could try again by starting with the beginning. She is a journalist, after all. Irene asks Cable if he means like a real interview. No-holds-barred? She asks, he answers? No questions out of bounds? She asks Nathan if he’s sure he can handle that.
Nathan guesses they’ll find out. He asks Irene if she looked for him at that safehouse. She did, but the only thing she saw was some hologram of a freaky bug-eyed character talking in some weirdo language. Cable is shocked and realizes she is talking about Blaquesmith. He apologizes but he has to go. Before Irene can say anything about it, he takes off, and Irene sighs he did it to her again… and left her with the check!
Once outside, Cable thinks about Blaquesmith, who is his only real connection to the future he grew up in. It’s been so long since he last saw him. It’s been months since he was standing on that Baltimore shipyard, investigating that burnt-out hill of the freighter that disguised Blaquesmith’s home. Nathan didn’t find a corpse then, and he has certainly thought Blaquesmith was dead before, only to have him show up alive and well. But he’d just about given up this time. He quickly runs to his apartment, which is dark and empty. Suddenly, Cable senses someone actually is there, but he doesn’t think it’s Blaquesmith. Cable calls out to his old friend, just in case.
A female voice corrects Cable he’s not even close, and thinks that after all they’ve been through she’d think he could tell the difference. Cable is shocked to discover it’s… Domino?! Nathan guesses it’s been a while, which she confirms. A lot of things have been happening lately… to her. Milo’s death, being captured and tortured… her mutant powers going haywire… handling it on her own… the usual stuff. She asks Nathan if this pit is where he is living now. Cable doesn’t want Domino to knock it down because it serves his purposes.
Domino asks what about her, and if she serves any purpose in his life these days. Cable admits he doesn’t know. Things have been… complicated lately. Some things are becoming crystal clear to him, while other things get more and more confusing. He doesn’t know if he can explain this exactly, but he needs to be there. He needs the space. Domino asks Cable if he needs the space away from her too. “Not necessarily,” Cable says. Domino doesn’t want Cable to get caught up in their melodrama, as they’ve got enough of that in their normal lives. Cable tells Domino he isn’t telling her anything she doesn’t already know. Their lives aren’t normal! That’s obvious. But he asks Domino if she ever stopped to consider that it’s within their power to change that.
Domino warns Cable not to touch her. Cable wants Domino to listen to him. The lives they’ve led… together and as part of X-Force… they’ve been cutting themselves off from those they’ve sworn to protect! They were so busy being soldiers that they forgot they were still human. Domino pulls herself away from Cable, claiming she hasn’t forgotten anything. This revelation Nathan has had, this grand epiphany… those kids he taught and thought always knew who they were… and what they were! “Maybe,” Cable admits. But those kids are on their own now, as it should be. He asks what about Domino. She doesn’t understand.
Cable admits he’s struggling to find his way. There, in Hell’s Kitchen, he thinks he has found a starting point. He may still be searching, but at least he knows what he’s looking for now, a home worth fighting for. He asks Domino if she can say the same. Domino thought she could, but guesses she was wrong. Whatever she’s looking for, she is certain she won’t find it here and angrily heads outside, leaving a sad Cable behind.
Domino’s path has never been an easy one. And yet she never strayed from it, whether she was a government agent, mercenary or freedom fighter, danger and conflict mark the only path she knows. And whether pain is involved in traveling that path, at least it’s her path. One she has learned to live with. She allows one last look at Cable’s place, the abandoned Steel co factory. And then, she moves on. It’s late. The only sound is her feet walking the concrete. And then, within the inky darkness of an alleyway, something stirs. She’s in no mood for trouble. Not now. She ignores it, hoping for once to avoid a confrontation. Her mistake.
Someone comes out from the alley behind Domino, and calls her pretty hot… for a mutie. The mercenary, with a red skin and uniform, asks Domino if she’s ready to die!