Cable (2nd series) #11

Issue Date: 
April 2009
Story Title: 
Wasteland Blues – Part One

Duane Swierczynski (writer), Jamie McKelvie (penciler and inker for pages 8-22), Ariel Olivetti (artist for pages 1-7), Guru EFX (colorist for pages 8-22), VC’s Joe Caramagna (letterer), Sebastian Girner (assistant editor), Axel Alonso (editor), Joe Quesada (editor-in-chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

In the future, to take refuge from the oppressive cockroach army, Cable and Hope ally themselves with the world’s few remaining humans. These humans grow so intent on destroying the roaches they unleash a bioweapon that obliterates all life, including their own. Just as the weapon detonates, Cable and Hope timeslide further into the future, hoping to arrive at a time free of its effects. No matter how far forward they go, however, they find the world devoid of both life and potable water. Desperate, they decide to head to the remains of Westchester. Along the way, Cable collapses from dehydration, leaving Hope entirely alone in the world.

Full Summary: 

Former site of Dallas, Texas. 3 A.M. The future…

In a dark, secluded bunker underground, Cable tries to convince his ally Zyker of the folly of his plan. Zyker asks if he missed the executive order that put Cable in charge. All Cable ever wants to do is hide, he says. They need to strike back instead of perpetually building defenses. Cable reminds the gruff, one-eyed Zyker that his counterstrike might get all of them killed.

A series of loud rumblings overhead interrupt their conversation. Outside, a horde of flying cockroach people hurls explosives against the Cable’s hideout.

By Cable’s count, it’s day 1515 – exactly two years since his wife Hope Summers died. If only she could see her daughter now, Cable thinks. At that moment, little Hope Summers, unable to sleep, enters the bunker and looks at her dad with her big green eyes. Cable scoops her up in his arms and ponders the situation into which he has brought this immensely important child. At this point, things are not going well for humanity – and as far as he can tell, he and the people in this bunker are among the last humans left.

He recalls how the cockroach army rebounded after their humiliating defeat at New Liberty all those years ago. Now, they number in the millions. Worse, they have developed the ability to fly. Cable and Hope had to join up with a rebel unit simply to survive, as it would have been nigh-impossible to stay alive out in the open. In exchange for Cable’s service, the rebels have provided him and Hope with food and shelter. Although their current refuge is the safest place they can find, it’s far from ideal. It seems the rebel scientists recently developed a bioweapon with the theoretical capacity to wreak havoc on the genetics of the roach-soldiers. According to them, if it works, the roaches will all die within minutes. Cable seems to be the only person considering the highly probably possibility that the weapon will affect the humans in the same way. The others do not seem to even care.

Sneering, Zyker relieves Cable of his duties. Cable couldn’t care less. He tells Hope to gather up their belongings as quickly as possible. Hope picks up on his cue instantly and climbs into his arms. “What does it feel like – timesliding?” she asks. “Does it hurt?” She must not remember, Cable presumes. He tells her timesliding used to upset her stomach a little bit when she was a baby, but other than that, it doesn’t hurt. Hope closes her eyes and rests her head against his chest.

Zyker, meanwhile, permits his subordinate to launch the weapon. His general flips the lever, which unleashes the bioweapon-bearing cruise missile. Just as Cable and Hope timeslide out of that world, the weapon explodes in the atmosphere.

One hundred years later…

Sometimes, it’s no fun being right, Cable thinks as he looks around the barren wasteland of the future. Golden sunlight struggles to permeate the overcast, slate-colored atmosphere. The only objects nearby other than shells of dilapidated buildings are piles of skulls and human bones.

Cable puts his hand on Hope’s back. True to his prediction, she throws up all over the ground. He tells her to just take deep breaths. After she finishes vomiting, Hope turns to him and scowls. “I never, ever want to do that again.”

The two weary time-travelers wander around this wasteland for two entire days in search of signs of life. They find none. They appear to be the only living things in this part of the world. Clearly, Commander Zyker’s bioweapon was a success, as it wiped out every living thing. Cable just wonders how far its effects reached. If he and Hope hiked for long enough, could they reach an unaffected area? Or, should they timeslide forward again?

He sits down with Hope and talks about their options. She pleads with him to not make her timeslide again, but Cable sees no other option. “Nature takes time to rebound from disasters,” he tells her. “We just need to jump further down the timestream to when plants and animals have re-emerged.” Hope asks the obvious question: what if plants and animals never re-emerge? Cable insists nature will always return. He teaches her about the time in Earth’s history when nearly all life was frozen or dead by a centuries-long ice age. Life came back after that, he says. Again, Hope asks what they will do if it doesn’t. “Then I’ll have to snack on you until it does!” Cable snarls. He puts out his hands like a beast.

Hope, laughing hysterically, takes off running, while Cable chases after her with the exaggerated mannerisms of a cartoon monster. He finally catches up with her and asks if she is ready. “I might throw up all over you,” Hope says. Cable smiles; that is a risk he is willing to take. They timeslide.

One thousand years later…

“Dammit,” Cable says when they arrive even further in the future. He looks around somehow sees even fewer signs of life than before. Somehow, this future is even worse, and now he has vomit on his shirt to top it all off. Hope apologizes for ruining his clothes. Cable tells her not to worry.

Day 1519…

Hope spots an animal. Cable goes hunting. He sneaks up on the wolf, hunting knife in hand, and leaps at it, successfully catching it off-guard. When he guts the beast, he learns it is not a true animal at all, but a machine designed to resemble a wolf. Cable worries it is some kind of robotic scout, sent from who-knows-where…or who-knows-when. Hope puts her arms around her adoptive father’s neck and tries to reassure him. Maybe he can find salvage some parts from the robot to fix his timesliding device, she says. Regrettably, Cable informs her there is nothing of that sort. Hope suggests it might be a time-travelling wolf. “It wasn’t a time-travelling wolf,” Cable replies.

Hope looks at Cable curiously. Nathan’s a soldier, she thinks. He says he’s trained for this, that he was born for this… but sometimes he doesn’t look like it. Nathan says it’s okay to call him Nathan, except when we’re around other people. Then I’m supposed to call him dad. He says I have real parents somewhere. And someday, I’m going to meet them. But it doesn’t matter. Nathan’s kind of like my dad, anyway, Hope says to herself as she and Cable walk hand-in-hand toward the horizon. And I’m like his daughter. Hope. Cable. Summers.

As they walk, Hope continues casting curious glances toward Nathan. He talks about nothing other than keeping her safe, and how he was born to keep her safe. Hope wonders what makes her so important. Why was she born? Whenever she asks this question, Cable tells her she will know someday.

Sometimes, Cable does open up and tell Hope stories. He has told her there is a Bishop who wants to kill her, but she’s much too young to remember those encounters. These comments make no sense to Hope. She and Cable play chess sometimes, and there is a bishop in that game, but she doubts they are the same Bishop. Cable has also told Hope she was born a long time ago, even though she is only seven years old. This doesn’t make any sense to Hope either. She knows they timeslid to the future, so once, she asked the other obvious question: why can’t they just timeslide back home? At that point, Cable explained their time machine had broken, and until he fixed it, they could only travel forward. Hope asked why he didn’t fix it; Cable explained he didn’t have the proper parts. So it looks like we’re out here until somebody comes to get us, Hope thinks. Hope it’s not that Bishop guy.

Sometime later, Cable and Hope sit down on the bare desert ground and eat the last of their food. Actually, Hope eats the last of it. She asks Cable what he plans of eating. He tells her he is fine. “That’s baloney,” Hope says.

“No, it’s a protein cube,” Cable quips. He asks where she learned the word “baloney”. Hope rolls her eyes. Cable must thinks she grew up in a bubble or something; she learned all sorts of words from Zyker and his soldiers – some of which she doubts Cable wants her to know.

Day 1562…

Cable reaches a point where he begins mumbling to himself. He mutters something about wanting to bodyslide, just one more time. The inquisitive Hope asks what bodysliding is. It’s like timesliding, Cable explains, only instead of moving through time, it lets him instantly move from one physical location to another. Once again, Hope asks the most logical follow-up question: why don’t they bodyslide? “I can’t anymore,” Cable explains. “It was partly my mutant ability, partly the computers on my ship…”

As he says these words, Cable realizes he has slipped something big – something he’s been avoiding for seven years. Naturally, Hope catches it. “What’s moot ant?” she asks. Furrowing his brow, Cable realizes the time has come to explain everything.

“You and I are mutants. That means we’re born with the ability to do things other people can’t,” Cable gently says. Hope asks what he can do, if that’s the case. He explains he cannot do as much now as he used to. Nevertheless, he asks Hope to remember just one fact: she was born in a time when some good mutants banded together. They were called the X-Men. Someday, she will get to meet them, and they will be very happy to finally meet her.

“Why? What do I do? What’s my mutant nobility?” she asks. After correcting her pronunciation, Cable informs her mutant abilities do not typically appear until later. He almost says “at puberty”, but catches himself before he goes there. Hope playfully throws up her hands and smiles. “I know what my mutant nobility is!” she exclaims. “I can make thins essssplode!” She pivots and pretends to obliterate the area around her. Cable, giving her a worried look, tells Hope they need to keep moving.

Day 1527…

Hope and Cable continue walking. They have no more food, but this doesn’t worry Cable as much as their water shortage. After all, they can survive for another week or more without food, but they only have a few drops of water left, which he intends to save for Hope. He hasn’t had a drink of water in two days, and he has started noticing the effects of dehydration.

Suddenly, thunder cracks overhead. Thinking it might rain, Cable asks Hope to hand him her toy ball – the one Lieutenant Ben gave her. He splits the ball in half with his hunting knife. He promises to get her another one, but Hope assures him she doesn’t need it. Before it begins to rain, Cable and Hope duck into a bombed-out shelter that miraculously still has its roof. Cable reaches out into the rainstorm with the makeshift bowl cupped in his bionic hand. While the confused little girl watches, he collects a cup full of rainwater, drops in a special tablet and watches as the water turns brown. The water is tainted; they could only drink it if it remained clear. Cable curses. “And a waste of a ball, too. Dammit!” Hope says. Cable asks her not to use that word.

As they sit and watch it rain, Cable passes the time with a rhyme. “Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink,” he says. Hope asks what he means. He tells her it comes from a poem about some people on a long journey. She asks to know details, but unfortunately, he only knows the beginning. “It is an ancient Mariner, and he stoppeth one of three,” Cable begins, “By long thy beard and glittering eye, now wherefore stopp’st thou me? The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide, and I am next of kin – the guests are met, the feast is set – may’st hear the merry din.

Hope smiles. She doesn’t understand what the poem means, but she thinks she likes it. It reminds her of Cable; he has a glittering eye, and he’s old, if not ancient.

After the rain stops, Cable tells her they need to head northeast, toward the remnants of Westchester, New York. When Hope asks why, he explains the X-Men, who used to live there, may have left something behind for them. Stretching her cramped limbs, Hope asks how they know which way is northeast. Cable gives her yet another tutorial on using a compass. Hope experiments with this new knowledge. “Let’s go northsouth!” she says, crossing her arms. Cable explains there is no such thing, but Hope is relentless. “Westeast! I want to go westeast!”

Cable shrugs. “Okay,” he says, smiling. “You go west, I’ll go east, and we’ll meet somewhere in the middle.” Hope doesn’t find this fair; Cable can timeslide, after all. Much to her chagrin, the mere mention of this ability reminds Cable they actually need to timeslide again. He watches her scowling face as he explains why another timeslide is necessary. They are in a trap, and the only way to escape is through traveling as far forward as possible, until nature has returned. Hope reminds him nature does not have to worry about vomiting.

They timeslide again, but this time, when they reappear, they find themselves suspended in the air with no firm footing. With Hope cradled in his arms, Cable falls down into a massive crater in the desert, and slides down the embankment on his back. Finally, they come to a halt and the disoriented Cable jerks up and calls out for Hope. He fails to see her sitting right in front of him. Hope watches helplessly as Cable grows faint and begins to stumble. Is he going to throw up, too? she wonders. Something far worse happens. Cable’s eyes roll back in his head and he collapses in a lifeless heap. Screaming, Hope runs over to his body and tries to pull him off the ground, but to no avail. He won’t wake up. The little girl, lost and alone thousands of years in a totally lifeless future, yanks on the arm of her protector, wanting nothing more in the world than for him to be faking.

Characters Involved: 


Hope Summers II

Commander Zyker

Various rebels

Story Notes: 

Cable recites lines from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1798 poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

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