A rampaging Caliban storms into X-Force’s San Francisco headquarters, announcing that the time has come: his transformation is complete. He is now Pestilence, first Horseman of the Apocalypse! He clarifies that he has come for Cable. Nathan is unnerved at the sight of him. “My God, what has he done to you?” he exclaims, meaning Apocalypse. The rest of X-Force is also at a loss. Domino wonders what happened to Caliban. When Cable left, he assured them that Caliban had been left in good hands… that he was being taken care of… Until a few moments ago, Cable also believed that. But it was no more than a very powerful post-hypnotic suggestion meant to keep him from the truth. Domino quips that it looks like it worked.
Cannonball wonders what they are to do – assuming this is really Caliban. He doesn’t look too friendly, but they don’t want to hurt him. Despite his appearance and all, he’s still X-Force’s friend. Bedlam remarks that, although he’s new in this game, it seems to him what they want doesn’t really matter. He believes their “friend” isn’t interested in renewing acquaintances.
Caliban blames Cable for abandoning him and leaving him to die. Caliban loved him, but Cable forgot about him. Nathan assures him that’s not right and urges him to think back. He’s confident Caliban doesn’t want to do this and reminds him that X-Force are his friends… his family. Caliban rejoins he no longer has any friends – only enemies.
Warpath cuts in and reminds him of all the times James was sad and thinking about his brother. Does Caliban know how much Warpath missed him? Does he remember how he’d make James feel better? That’s what James wants to do for him now. Caliban is not himself. He encourages him to fight it. They’ll help him through this. In response, Caliban grabs Warpath by the throat, choking him. Help? Caliban needs no help from anyone! He is one of the strong and Warpath is of the weak, he announces as he tosses his former teammate aside.
Bedlam calls out James’ name, seeing him unconscious and not getting up. Moonstar asks him to see to James while she takes care of Caliban. His size and strength may have increased, but her own mutant abilities have intensified themselves. Instead of just creating illusions, or telepathic “arrows,” she can harness the power of her mind into energy blasts. There’s no way he could be prepared for this. Blasted by Moonstar, Caliban acknowledges she has changed and grown stronger – but then, so has he, as they shall soon see. Summoned by a voice in his head, he leaves the premises.
Sunspot warns his teammates that Caliban is leaving and urges them to get after him before he slips away and loses himself in the city. Cable, however, insists that they let him go. Caliban is only after Cable. After all, they have a fallen member here that needs medical attention and the wounded take priority: Warpath. Cable may not have been there for Siryn, but he swears that will never happen again – not while he’s alive. Domino remarks that doesn’t quite sound like the Cable she used to know.
Nathan insists that things change; people change. He reminds them that he traveled back to this era for one purpose: to prevent a horrible future from occurring. Everything he’s done here – including the forming of X-Force – was done with that in mind. At times, he’s become so consumed by his mission that he’s treated others like pieces on a chessboard. He regrets that now. He regrets letting them all split off on their own, even though he believed it might better prepare them for life in a world that hates mutants. He is… sorry.
Meanwhile, Caliban finds himself inside the Egyptian section of a museum. He doesn’t know why he has come to this place. It is as unfamiliar to him as the strange voice in his head urging him forward. Yet he answers the call instinctively and without hesitation, unable to resist. He suddenly pauses before a statue. The likeness seems familiar, though he can’t say from where.
“Almost majestic… is he not?” a voice startles him. Caliban turns around and sees a hooded woman, clad in purple. He realizes she summoned him here. The woman is pleased that Caliban has found Cable. The first phase of their purpose here is complete. Now Cable will come to them. The sooner the Terran is delivered to the master, the sooner she will be released to her own designs, far across the galaxy. For the moment, however, she will enjoy this. What better way to strike at the X-Men than to target one of their own and aid in the destruction of the pathetic race they are sworn to protect? The mysterious woman is joined by a few servants, dressed as ancient Egyptian slaves. They remove her helmet revealing none other than Deathbird. Smirking, she wonders if there is a more fitting role for to play than the bringer of War.
Elsewhere, Cyclops practices inside the Danger Room, blasting a dinosaur inside a Savage Land-esque environment. Phoenix asks the computer to end the sequence. She asks Scott what he’s doing. It’s Cable, isn’t it? She doesn’t need telepathy to read Scott’s mind. He’s been obviously uneasy ever since they parted ways a few days ago. Does he want to talk about it? “And say what?” Cyclops retorts. That a father knows when something’s wrong with his child? Thanks to his time traveling, his son, Cable, is older than he is. He has more life experience. Still, Scott can’t shake the feeling that something is terribly wrong. The way Cable said goodbye… the way he looked at Scott and Jean… It was like he thought he was saying his final farewell. He wonders how he can help Nathan. They never really had the chance to be father and son. When they lost him as an infant, it almost killed Scott. He can’t live through it again.
Jean hugs him and tells him it’s going to be okay. Nothing’s going to happen to Nate. They won’t let it. Cyclops hopes she’s right. He just wishes he believed it.
Meanwhile, Cable and X-Force infiltrate the museum in search of Caliban. Nathan wants Cannonball and Dani to take the right flank, while Sunspot and Meltdown are to take the left. Domino is to take Jesse Bedlam, while James is to go with Cable. He confirms Caliban’s been here. There’s no mistaking his mental signature. It almost slaps Nate in the face with its corruption. However, Cable’s mental probe is penetrating beyond this chamber, as if an unseen wall has been erected specifically to keep a telepath out. In other words, they’re expected. He instructs the team to use extreme caution. As much as X-Force ever uses caution, that is.
Domino points out that he doesn’t look that good. Is he sure he’s up to this? Nathan allays her fears: he’s fine. He suggests she stick to the matter at hand and stop mothering him.
Tabitha recommends to Warpath to sit this one out until they get him checked out by a doctor. Sweating, visibly in pain, Warpath sternly assures her he can hold his own. Tabitha shouldn’t worry about him; she should worry about herself. Bedlam suggests they can the attitude and stay focused on the purpose of this mission. After hearing that Feral was brought into X-Force solely on Cable’s say-so, Jesse has begun to question Cable’s decision-making process. Good move there – why don’t they ask Theresa what she thinks now about bringing Feral to the team? Oh yeah – she can’t tell them because Feral ripped her vocal cords out. Sunspot suggests they all keep it down a bit. This is supposed to be a stealth mission – as in “quiet.”
Just then, Caliban sneaks up on him and grapples him. Sunspot should listen to his own words and stop talking – now Caliban will stop his talking for him! With that, he effortlessly flings Sunspot against the ground. Cable commands X-Force to form a circle around Caliban and cut off all escape routes. They are not to hurt him if possible.
Deathbird makes her entrance. She realizes Cable is still seeking to save his former friend from his true destiny. It might be commendable, if it wasn’t so pathetic. Upon recognizing her, Cable calls out her name, incredulous. Deathbird confirms that, at one time, that was the name she favored, but under the current circumstances, perhaps it’s more appropriate to call her War.
In Hell’s Kitchen, on the West Side of Manhattan, the day has come and gone in much the same manner as the previous day and the day before that: mundane; repetitive; normal. In the diner where waitress Stacey Kramer works, her baby brother, Kenny, who has some form of intellectual disability, is currently eating some fries. Seeing Stacey lost in thoughts, he realizes she’s thinking of him, isn’t she? “Who?” she asks him. “Nate,” he replies. Stacey admits this is the case. Kenny asks her if she loves him. Stacey stutters. She thinks she does – and that’s what scares her. Kenny wonders why. Stacey describes Nate as a wonderful man… so full of warmth… kindness… a desire, or rather, a need to be loved. But he cares so much about other people that he does dangerous things sometimes.
As tears begin to roll down her cheeks, Kenny asks her what ‘love’ is. Wiping her tears off, Stacey explains that’s hard to describe, like a feeling Kenny himself might have. It’s when you care about someone more than you care about yourself. It’s beautiful, but sad sometimes, too. Because you’d do anything in the world for the person, but there’s nothing you can do. Does that make sense? “I guess,” Kenny smiles as Stacey holds his face. That’s how Kenny feels about Stacey. “Ditto, little bro’,” Stacey responds.
Unbeknownst to her, Irene Merryweather is outside, watching them through the window. Irene contemplates that Stacey’s is another life Cable has touched that’s been completely turned on its ear. Cable’s always talking about the future, how it’s not set in stone, how it can be changed for the better. But does he even have a future? Sometimes she gets the impression that he doesn’t believe there’s one for him. He’d better not go out and die on her like that.
Opening her umbrella as it begins to drizzle, Irene recalls that she was just a reporter for a rag sheet before she met Cable. She’d always wanted to become a journalist. But it wasn’t until she began working with Cable that she really understood what that means: the truth. Writing it down, not just for headlines or glory, but for posterity. So people will remember; so others will follow the good examples and learn from the bad ones. He’d better come back. He wouldn’t let Irene die; she’s not about to let him.
Elsewhere, Deathbird marvels at Caliban: the work of the master has augmented his previously rather mundane appearance handsomely, don’t they agree? As for herself, the most feared warrior of a race far superior to theirs, even she has become more powerful. As they have surely surmised at this point, they were expected.
Cable doesn’t what know what sort of sick, perverse role she has to play in all this. But he does know that whatever it is, they’re going to make sure it ends right here, right now. Just then, he begins to moan in pain. Deathbird notices it has begun. Cable wonders what she’s talking about. Delirium… deterioration… pestilence… does Cable feel it as it enters his consciousness and gnaws at his very essence, eating away at not only his physical body, but his very soul? Deathbird gloats that this is the gift of Pestilence, a plague that Cable and his feeble allies will not survive!
A perspiring Warpath seems to be freaking out, staring at his hands and wondering what happened to them. Bedlam wonder what he’s talking about. Meltdown is not sure. She asks James if he can hear her. She tries to call his attention: she reminds him it’s Tabitha, big mouth, big attitude. Warpath remains unresponsive and Meltdown realizes he’s totally out of it.
Cannonball and Moonstar confirm they are in battle position, and Domino suggests they do it then. Meltdown releases her time-bombs at Deathbird’s goons: “Yo, ugly! You want some of this?!” Domino instructs Cannonball to run interference on the right flank. Meanwhile, Dani is to clear to left. Domino still needs a wedge so that she can reach out and touch someone – namely Deathbird, or War, or whatever she calls herself. Joining the battle, Bedlam banters to Dani if they ever just kick back and relax for just one lousy day.
Making good on her promise, Domino manages a blow on Deathbird. The alien royal is appalled: Domino has the audacity to touch her person! She’ll see that Domino’s flesh is stripped from her bones before allowing her to know the cold embrace of death!
One of the Egyptian lackeys whom Cannonball tackles suddenly turns into sand, much to Sam’s surprise. Bedlam observes the sand reforming at another point in the room. What are these things?! On all fours on the floor, still suffering, Sunspot realizes that Caliban may have been strong before, but now he’s pushing Hulk territory. If it were daytime and he was absorbing solar energy, he might’ve been able to stand up to that. As it is, he doesn’t think he can survive another…
Just then, Caliban grapples him from behind, noting that Sunspot is still alive. His body is as strong as his mind is weak. It is a pity for him to end Sunspot’s life. He might have proven a useful slave.
“Let him go!” Cable roars as he has Caliban in a headlock. He knows Caliban’s not responsible for what he’s become. Apocalypse has twisted his mind, maybe more than he’s twisted his body, but Nathan can’t stand by and watch him hurt these people. He knows Caliban is still in there. The metamorphosis can’t be that complete. He urges him to fight what he’s become. He’s going to try to help him by forming a telepathic link with his mind. He encourages Caliban to go inside and try to reverse what’s been done…
But then, Cable screams, overwhelmed by Caliban’s new infectious “gift” and collapses. Deathbird grabs Domino by the throat. It appears that Cable and some of his charges are in the final stages of the infection. The virus attacks from within, not so much physically, but mentally, on the highest planes of the psyche. Painful, is it not?
Cable sees Warpath and Sunspot suffer as much as he from Caliban’s virus. Nathan vows it can’t end like this… it won’t end like this… not while he’s still breathing. He’s let X-Force down before; never again. Deathbird said that the virus attacks mentally. So even if his body is failing him, he can still fight… just not in this weakened shell.
As Cable concentrates, his consciousness leaves his physical form, moving toward the psionic plane. Deathbird hinted that Caliban’s virus attacks his victims mentally, so in order to fight the effects of the plague, Cable will have to do so in an astral plane of consciousness. If he succeeds, perhaps he can not only save X-Force, but there’s the slim possibility he can undo some of the damage done to Caliban’s psyche. He soon realizes that Caliban’s diseased mind has reshaped the psionic plane into a semblance of his former home in the Morlock tunnels. So many died there; so much pain – Cal’s and others’ – still remains.
Cable sees a sea of agonizing faces trying to break through the tunnel walls and recognizes two of them as belonging to Warpath and Sunspot. Resolutely, he touches the wall of agony and passes through it: “Hold on… almost there.” He spots James, tied up in slimy tendrils, along with other captives. James begs him to leave them: it’s a trap. Cable replies that James knows better than that: X-Force never abandons their own.
As he releases Warpath, Caliban’s devious form begins materializing behind Cable. “Is that so, chosen so?” Caliban scoffs in response to Cable’s last proclamation. Then why was Caliban forgotten and left behind? Cable insists they never meant to hurt him. Caliban was their friend, part of their family. He urges him to fight this. Apocalypse has changed him, twisted his mind and perverted his soul.
“LIAR!” Caliban’s monstrous psionic form bellows as he holds Sunspot and Warpath in his clutches. He claims that Apocalypse is the only one who has ever helped him. Apocalypse has saved Caliban and made him one of the strong, while Cable remains weak. The weak shall be pushed aside and removed from the path. Nathan reminds him that his fight – his master’s fight – is with him, not with X-Force. They should not be here.
Warpath begs Cable to stop Caliban. He should forget who Caliban was and see him for who he is: Pestilence… a Horseman. If they lose this battle, millions will die. Suddenly, James realizes what Cable is doing: he’s sending both him and Sunspot back to their bodies. Warpath begs him not to. He needs them… he can’t do it alone. His and Sunspot’s psionic forms evaporate.
Caliban realizes that Cable has sent them back, temporarily out of Caliban’s reach. No matter: their time will come… they will be culled… they will be devoured to feed the strong… His monstrous mouth keeps getting wider and wider, and he proceeds to swallow Cable.
Meanwhile, the battle rages in the physical world, as X-Force finds themselves pushed to the limit of their abilities. Warpath’s consciousness is restored to his body and he gets up screaming: “You need us! Don’t send us back.”
Tabitha notices that every time she hits one of these bozos with a timebomb, they turn into a giant sandbox. Moonstar wonders what happened to Deathbird and Caliban and Cable: they’ve vanished! But they hand them on the ropes – why not finish the battle? “Don’t you get it?” James replies. It wasn’t X-Force they were interested in. They got what they came for. They tricked Cable into leaving his physical body vulnerable. As soon as it happened, they took him. Cable saved them – the effects of the virus appear to be disappearing – but he couldn’t help himself. They failed him. He’s gone – and they couldn’t stop them.
Cable wakes up, only to find himself in Egypt, strapped on a strange contraption. Pain is the first thing to greet him upon awakening, followed closely by dawning horror. He returned to the twentieth century to destroy Apocalypse before he can lay waste to humanity. He’s devoted his life – sacrificed everything – to fulfil this. Now, he’s lost before the battle even began. He’s no longer in San Francisco. Pestilence, War, the virus: it was just a ruse to get him to the psionic plane and leave his body vulnerable. All they had was to carry his unconscious form to their master’s lair. Cable’s failed himself. More, he’s failed all those who had faith him… trusted him… counted on him to succeed. He mentally apologizes to Scott… Jean… Aliya… Stacey.
Apocalypse approaches. How fitting: his greatest enemy is the first to fall on the battlefield of Armageddon. Eleven more shall follow – and then the world!