Generating a thermo-chemical field around his body, in effect making him a human rocket, Cannonball fights against some Sentinels. When Sam Guthrie was a young man, he believed in the so-called American dream: equal opportunity, baseball, apple pie and mom. But his cherry-colored world was seen through the one-way lenses of adolescence. Over the course of years of bitter experience, Sam’s world vision changed significantly. Optimism has been replaced by pessimism and freedom with survival. Tonight is the continuation of a lifetime of prejudice and persecution, a reminder of what he has lived through and all that he now fights against.
Soon after his mutation first manifested, he was recruited by Charles Xavier, who believed that man and mutant could coexist peacefully. For years, Sam fought and sacrificed for that dream, but that idealism died along with Sam’s youthful enthusiasm and naiveté. He now knows he is fighting an unwinnable battle to achieve an unattainable goal: the eradication of mankind’s capacity for hate. It is a proposition which loses its vitality with each passing day, as he’s forced to watch those around him suffer cruel, sadistic fates. More often than not, one man is responsible: Ahab, a hunter whose hate has created a grotesque passion, the genocide of mutantkind. It is an obsession which would rival his namesake’s quest for the mammoth white whale. Ahab uses enslaved mutants, mutants he calls Hounds, to track and betray their own race.
Cannonball has been among the few to escape Ahab’s mad embrace. But that was before today, when the prized prey is finally brought to ground. In another place and time, Sam’s fate may have been altered by a random element or a person.
“SAM?!” Cable gasps as he wakes up. He’s had the same nightmare for four straight days. There must be some significance as to why his subconscious continues to dwell on Ahab and Sam. Is it the guilt he’s feeling about what happened to Theresa? Is it Stacey almost getting killed by that psychopath, Caesar? Or, worst of all, could it be some form of prescience? Freud would have a field day with the workings of Cable’s subconscious.
Soon, Cable is out on the rainy streets. He never should have allowed this to happen. He travelled back in time to ensure that his future would never come to pass – not fall in love. But maybe there are some things that just can’t be controlled. He is now standing outside the diner where Stacey works. He doesn’t know what brought him in this hole-in-the-wall in the first place, but it’s funny how things work out. He never anticipated what Stacey brought to the table when he ordered that first cup of coffee from her. With her help he rediscovered what it means to be just a man… if only for a short time. For that, he’ll always be grateful.
Cable steps into the diner. He tells Stacey they need to talk. Stacey agrees – but now is neither the time nor the place. Nathan insists it can’t wait. Stacey is afraid it’s going to. She has responsibilities both here and at home. She would think he above all others would understand about responsibility. After all, isn’t that why he’s here in the first place? The past few weeks have shown her the kind of world he lives in: a world of pain, of suffering and sacrifice. She admires him more than he’ll ever know, but she’s also unbelievably afraid of him. How is she supposed to go on living her life? Every time they’re together, she’s reminded that some global calamity is about to happen, that he’s the only thing standing between humanity and Armageddon. Even if she were willing to throw caution to the wind, she doesn’t have just herself to consider. She has Kenny to worry about. He’s the glue that holds her together. Sometimes, she thinks she depends on him more than he does on her. Her brother has special needs and she has to make sure her personal choices suit his needs as well as her own.
Cable retorts that no matter how many times he tells himself that it can’t be, that this can’t work, he can’t bring himself to accept it. Is she saying that they’re really through? Stacey retorts that she just needs to be left alone, for a little while at least. She begs him to go away. Cable complies.
Out on the streets, he reprimands himself: Smooth, Nathan. Who is he kidding anyway? A relationship is the last thing he should be thinking about. It’s selfish. For once, he opened up, let someone get close to him, and now she has to live with not just the danger of being close to him, but with a knowledge nobody should have to possess.
Suddenly, he hears a voice in his head calling his name: a mental summons. His telepathy’s been gone for weeks, but he’d never forget that voice.
A mental projection of Rachel Summers descends upon him, fiery, in her Hound costume. Nathan gasps. Calling him ‘little brother,’ Rachel admits it’s good to see him again. But he probably realizes she’s not here for a social visit. Does he remember all those years ago, when she told him he has a much larger support system than he could imagine? That’s why she’s here now – in spirit, anyway. To let him know that he’s not alone and to give him a nudge, as it were. There’s so little time left to them, and so very much to do. He’s seen the sights. He has fought and defeated his Harbinger; still, the ascension of Apocalypse is near. This can still be prevented, but only if Nathan – and others – act quickly.
Cable remarks she’s preaching to the converted. If she’s suggesting that he’s neglecting his mission… Rachel reminds him they’re family. They share more than a name. They share a bond that transcends time and space, life and death. She knows the conflicts and doubts he’s now experiencing, but as horrible as it sounds, there’s just no time for that. Too much relies on Cable. It’s critical that he stay focused in the days to come. She’s watched him from afar, as much as it’s possible. She’s been trying desperately to reach him, in his dreams, his subconscious.
And is depriving him of his sleep the answer to reaffirming his commitment? Cable wonders. He has begun to experience a part of life he’d never really felt before, but he’s never lost sight of why he’s here. Rachel rejoins it’s not she he needs to convince; it’s himself. If she could take his place, if she could remove this terrible burden from his shoulders, she would. But she no longer belongs to this plane of existence, and so she can only help him see things more clearly…
In a flash, they are whisked away into an obviously dystopian reality. Cable wonders aloud what Rachel has gotten him into; where has she brought him? Rachel explains this is the place he saw in his dreams; the place she first came from. A place where she had no brother, and the world had no Askani’Son.
Nate and Rachel clandestinely watch as Ahab gloats over his prisoner, Cannonball. Ahab admits Sam has led him on a grand chase. But as the saying goes, to all things must come an end. He believes he shall enjoy watching Guthrie’s transformation from rebel to loyal Hound more than any that have come before him. Now that they have the coordinates of Guthrie’s pitiful militia’s remaining sanctuary, it would be the greatest of ironies to have their most revered soldier lead Ahab’s Hounds into the battle that will destroy the rebels. Sam, his soon-to-be-slave, will make an exquisite hunter. Perhaps he’ll even come to enjoy his time in Ahab’s service!
The shackled Sam tells him to go to blazes. He’ll never become one of his Hounds. He’d die first! Defiant to the end – how droll, Ahab smirks. Sam would be far wiser to follow the path of his former friend. Roberto and Gideon saw the futility of resistance and have prospered immensely from their acceptance.
Cannonball is shocked to see Sunspot emerge from the shadows, with Gideon by his side. How could ‘Berto do that?! Sam would have given his life for him – any of them would. If Sam was free, he’d kill Sunspot with his own hands.
Gideon scoffs: to think this is one Sunspot once thought of as a brother! Sunspot calmly reminds Gideon he knows who his brothers are now – and it’s not a coal miner’s boy like this loser. Ahab argues that young Guthrie needs a lesson in how best to address his betters – and proceeds to inflict pain on him.
Indignant, Cable intervenes, demanding they get away from Sam. Nate thinks to himself he’s not sure how real all this, but there’s no way he’s going to stand by and watch this scum steal the soul of a man who’s the closest thing to a son he’ll ever have.
Sam’s shackles instantly open, almost as if Cable just willed them to, as Cannonball himself realizes. Now free, Sam confronts Roberto: a murdering betrayer of his own race. He’s ashamed to have once called him his friend. “Sticks and stones, Sam,” Sunspot replies. He just hopes Sam’s not the screamer and bleeder that his sister, Paige, was. Not that Roberto didn’t enjoy it.
Ahab is furious to see Cable. “Who dares…?!” he roars. His Hound will rip the flesh from his bones. Cable disagrees: this is between the two of them, man to man. Ahab notices this stranger is either naïve or a fool. First Cannonball will pay the price for Cable’s insolence; then, he’ll watch as his pets lay Cable’s mangled carcass at his feet. “Whatever,” Nate scoffs. He asks Sam if he’s ready to get back into the thick of things. Sam’s response is immediate: he assaults Sunspot.
Cable pummels Ahab. The villain sickens him: hiding behind his hate, claiming to be fighting a crusade to protect humanity, when he doesn’t even have any idea what it means to be human. Ahab will find mutants don’t make ideal house pets. They’re too stubborn and bull-headed. Ahab disagrees: on the contrary, his Hounds live to serve him, as he’ll gladly demonstrate momentarily. He commands Gideon to ready the Hounds. Gideon complies and brings out two Hounds on a leash: they eagerly await the opportunity to please their master.
“On my signal… NOW!” a woman’s voice is suddenly heard, and Cable sees Domino, Warpath, and Meltdown crash down from the roof. Domino tells Warpath to hit them hard and fast. She wants to be out of there in thirty seconds flat. Any longer than that and they risk the possibility of capture themselves. Kicking at one of the Hounds, she instructs her teammates to clear a path for Cannonball and the stranger. She urges them to remember their objective and steer clear of any personal vendetta. They’ll have opportunities to accomplish these goals at a later date.
Cable is still at a loss: “Domino… James?” Ahab is reveling: all three here at the same time? They make it too easy for him. Domino orders her group to give Sam a hand with Roberto. The quicker he’s out of commission, the quicker they’re out of here.
Warpath sees one of the Hounds behind Domino, poised to attack, and intervenes. He asks the Hound to forgive him: better for her this way than to continue the life she now leads… and then breaks her neck. Cable realizes there’s too many of them. A soldier should always recognize when the odds are stacked against his favor – this is one of those times. The battle is lost and so will be the war if they don’t make their escape now.
“You heard the man – let’s go, people!” Warpath shouts out, carrying the injured Meltdown. Domino tells them to fall back to the perimeter. Cable looks out for Rachel. She asks him to go on without her. She’ll catch up with them… there’s something she has to do first.
Now left alone with Rachel, it’s all becoming clear to Ahab. He never believed she died in the destruction of the Nimrod complex. Now that she’s returned, surely she must know that he will not allow her to leave. Rachel believes he’s wrong… dead wrong. Funny, she thought she had so much to say – but the truth is, she’s beyond Ahab, beyond this place. The beauty is – the horror for Ahab – that she knows how this all ends for him. Ahab is nothing: a shell of a human being, twisted and bitter. She doesn’t feel hatred towards him: she feels pity.
Elsewhere, far beneath the ruined streets of Manhattan, Cable and his party move along. Sam announces destination is only a few meters further. They’ll be safe once they arrive. Domino discerns no sign of enemy pursuit behind them; they’re clear. Warpath urges them to be quicker about it. Tabitha took a direct shot as they escaped Ahab’s compound and needs immediate medical attention.
They finally reach their hideout. Sam tells their resident doctor that they’ve got wounded. The doctor is relieved to see him. They feared the worst when they heard he’d been captured. They’ll talk about details later. First, she’ll need to dress Tabitha’s wound. It doesn’t look bad, but they need to stop that bleeding.
Nathan is taken aback: he recognizes the doctor as… Stacey?! She’s here too? Meanwhile, Stacey dresses Tabitha’s wound. She’s lost a lot of blood, but luckily the shot didn’t hit any vital arteries. It looks worse than it actually is. Stacey notices they’ve brought a stranger back with them. He looks so… sad. Why is that? All this may look so terrible, and it’s certainly not what any of them dreamed of for their lives, but they can’t very well sit back, and watch humans and mutants destroy each other, can they? She advises Cable to buck up; they need another strong hand. Cable promises he’ll try, adding “thank you.” Stacey tells them she now needs some time alone with her patient. Tabitha needs some rest – not a crowd gathered around sucking her air up.
Cannonball takes Cable on a tour around the premises. He explains they’ve been holed up for a few weeks now. They’ve been able to remain here undetected, but that won’t be the case much longer. Ahab claimed to be aware of their present location, but he may have just been bluffing to get at Sam. Regardless, Cannonball’s ordering an immediate evacuation of this facility within the hour. They just can’t take the chance.
Cable agrees, although he thinks an hour is being too liberal. He urges him to pack up and get his people and get out now. Sam remarks he gives an awful lot of orders for a guy he just met. Ahab won’t do a thing without first okaying it with his master. Cable wonders whom exactly he is referring to. “Where have you been?” Sam exclaims in surprise. It’s common knowledge that Ahab serves…
Just then, they see lights ahead of them. Sam instantly realizes they’ve got trouble. Sentinels fly in. Cable screams it’s too late and tells him to get down.
One of the Sentinels announces that the mutant sanctuary has been located. They are now to proceed with primary programming: eliminate all life forms, mutant or human. The robot fires at Domino, who immediately drops dead. “You killed her, you twisted…” Cable grunts while holding her lifeless body. Cable attacks the Sentinel. Another Sentinel records the fact that its fellow unit, R2, was destroyed by telekinetic assault, by an unknown mutant aggressor.
Two more lifeforms catch this Sentinel’s attention: one mutant, one human. It’s Stacey and a mutant man. The robot proceeds to hunt them down “with primary function of termination.” “Nice try, sucker!” Cannonball shouts at the Sentinel. How does it feel to have its heart ripped out of him, he scoffs, as he destroys the robot. Nearby, yet another Sentinel goes after another man, who’s crying for help. Watching it all, Cable realizes they’ve been caught totally unprepared… they’re being slaughtered…
A mysterious armored man, his face hidden behind a helmet, orders two of the Sentinel units to cover the left flank and seal off any potential escape routes. They are to show no mercy. Be it man, woman, or child, he wants no survivors.
Nathan realizes this man’s in charge. He doesn’t know who he is, nor does her care. But he’s going to take great pleasure in removing a few of his limbs if he’s responsible for this carnage. “I’m afraid not, little brother,” Rachel intervenes as she materializes by his side. Cable wonders what she’s talking about. She brought him into this situation. He’s not going to walk out on these people. Rachel know that, but reminds him it’s not his world. In Cable’s world, none of this has happened. And, with his help, none of it will.
Nate’s era is the crux point. She’s never been able to discern how or why. The only thing she’s certain of is that he’s the key. He and The Twelve. She apologizes. She knows this was cruel, but she needed to show him how much he means to these people; how much he means to the world. Maybe he’ll never be able to have a real life with Stacey. Not the kind he wants, deep in his heart. But he’ll give her so much more, in his own way.
As she begins to fade – she can’t maintain her presence here – Rachel asks him to remember how dear he is to her. She’ll always be with him…
Cable insists he has to stay to Rachel’s world; he has to save them! However, he quickly realizes Rachel’s taken them back to his proper timeline, more specifically in Cable’s Hell’s Kitchen safe house. Blaquesmith and Irene Merryweather are in their midst. Rachel assures Nathan he could no more back there. But there is plenty of work for him here. It is time for Cable to gather them; gather the ones who are destined to share his burden. “The Twelve…?” Cable mumbles. He knows… he finally knows.
Rachel is suddenly gone. Blaquesmith explains to Cable that her time here is done. Cable heads out. Irene calls after him. He clarifies he needs some time to himself… to think… to plan… Irene turns to Blaquesmith. He knows him better than she does. Is Nate going to be okay? Blaquesmith explains that Cable has just been given a revelation that could very well change the course of things to come. He is anything but okay. The hardships still to come, the pains he must endure, will not only test his resolve, but also his sanity.