Admit it. You made a bad decision.
Cable, running through the dilapidated streets of a war-torn city with the baby strapped to his chest, checks over his shoulder. Someone is following him.
You gambled away the entire future, based on what exactly? A tug on your heartstrings in the heat of battle? A gut feeling?
BLAM! A bullet clips Cable’s knee. His leg shatters and he falls to the ground, but protects the infant from the impact.
And now you’re wondering why you feel so out of control. So helpless.
He struggles to keep moving. He pulls a reserve pistol out of his ankle holster, but his attacker approaches and kicks the gun out of his hand. The baby screams.
You can only do so much, Summers. You can only make so many plans. Implement so many safeguards. But it doesn’t mean a thing when the truth is staring you in the face.
The assailant kicks Cable in the face. Cable recovers, lifts his head, and stares his looks his attacker in the eyes. Bishop, his right arm nothing more than a bloody stump, points a heavy revolver right in Nathan’s face. “Wake up, Mr. Summers,” Bishop says. “Your dreams are deafening.” He pulls the trigger.
Darkness. You made a very bad decision.
Scott Summers stirs in his sleep. “Wake up, Mr. Summers,” his girlfriend Emma says. “Your dreams are deafening.” She sits up in bed and nudges his shoulder. He wakes up, and Emma asks if everything is alright. Scott says he’s fine; he was just having a bad dream. Of course, he does not need to tell this to Emma, one of the world’s most powerful psychics. To her, his mind is like a suite next door filled with noisy neighbors she can’t help but overhear. She knows about this nightmare he has had each night for weeks. She knows about the guilt and doubt he feels because of his decision to entrust the mutant baby with Cable. She know he needs to talk about it, but won’t. She asks anyway.
After hesitating for a moment, Scott confesses the lack of communication with Cable troubles him. If Cable and the baby are alive and well, he’d have contacted them by now, right? Emma reminds him he does not know Cable’s thoughts; perhaps the man is only waiting for the best moment to return. Scott doesn’t believe it. “It just doesn’t make sense unless…”
Cable has another agenda? Emma asks.
…Cable and the baby are dead, Scott finishes. The couple shares an awkward silence in the wake of Scott’s pessimism. Finally, Scott drags himself out of bed. He tries not to dwell on the worst part of all, because if he does, Emma will certainly overhear it. However, he can’t resist. If Cable and the baby are dead, then it must have been Bishop who killed them, and if it was, then Scott feels it is his fault for not apprehending him when he had the chance.
Six weeks ago…
Cyclops, standing on the rocky shores of Muir Island, asks Wolverine how he intends to find the traitor Mystique. Logan laughs, tells Scott he can find her in nine hours, and departs. Scott turns and faces the ocean.
Shortly thereafter, Warpath and X-23 notify Cyclops they found no trace of Bishop anywhere on the island; he must have found a way off. Cyclops orders them to first find out how he escaped, and then find him. Warpath asks whether they should capture Bishop dead or alive. “Either,” Cyclops says. The blood of Professor Xavier is still caked on his uniform. In moments like this, with emotional distress impairing his judgment, it is easy for Scott Summers to not notice the line he’s once again crossing.
Five weeks ago. Dallas, Texas. Forge’s laboratory…
After being savagely attacked twice in his laboratory, Forge has bolstered his security systems, and his new bots create quite the obstacle for X-23 and Warpath, his latest visitors. Can they just talk for a moment? Warpath asks. Forge complies and orders his robots to stand down. He provides the members of X-Force with a list of everything Bishop took in his most recent raid, most notably a robotic arm, surgical tools needed to attach the arm to a severed stump, and all of Forge’s time-travel components, files, and notes. Without these, there is no way for anyone to follow Bishop through the timestream.
Warpath, X-23, Wolfsbane and Hepzibah follow Bishop’s trail, which leads them from Dallas all the way back to Muir Island. This fails to surprise Scott; Bishop knows Cable no longer has the ability to shift himself in space, only time. Like any decent detective, Bishop would have returned to his target’s last known location to search for evidence. All of these clues lead Scott to the conclusion that has disturbed his sleep ever since: his son, Cable, is being pursued through time by a traitor with nothing but murder on his mind, a traitor who should have been apprehended on Muir Island. No wonder Scott is having nightmares.
As close as they are, Scott tells none of this to Emma, and has gone great lengths to ensure the secrecy of his covert operations. She does, however, know he is hiding something, leaving him no choice but to give her a snippet of factual information as a deterrent. “There’s something I didn’t tell you,” he says. “I’ve had Hank working on a way to track Cable through the timestream.” This news stuns Emma. She asks how.
Three weeks ago. San Francisco. X-Men Headquarters…
Scott, casually clad in his “Dazzler” T-shirt and jeans, asks Hank McCoy about the progress of his latest assignment. “It was easy,” Beast says. “Anything else you’d like me to track in the multiple timestreams? Perhaps the Ark of the Covenant? The Colossus of Rhodes? The math assignment you lost in fifth grade?” Scott asks him to calm down, and he does, apologizing for his sarcasm. However, the task of tracking down Bishop through space and time is almost impossible. While the robotic arm he pilfered from Forge does have a weak homing device, its signal can only travel a couple hundred miles, and certainly cannot travel through time. “This is not a needle-in-a-haystack thing, this is a needle-hidden-somewhere-within-all-of-time-and-space thing. And that’s presuming it’s in our timestream,” Hank says. “But I have an idea.”
Using the analogy of sending a message in a bottle, Hank explains he can seed the timestreams with billions upon billions of homing nanoparticles which, upon nearing the signal from Forge’s stolen arm, will relay its position back to Hank using the chain of nanoparticles as a conduit. “This is all… to use your word, ridiculously theoretical. But not impossible,” Hank says. “In fact, it’s kind of exciting. It’d be an amazing breakthrough if it worked. And Pym says I have no brain for electronics. Bah!” Scott believes the plan hopeless, but acts impressed for Beast’s benefit.
Emma gets up, tenderly grabs Scott by the hands, and lures him back to bed. She asks him to relax. She is not reading his mind, but tells him his emotional signals are overwhelming. He asks which emotion she means. Doubt, she replies. But she can’t tell who he doubts more – his son, or himself. Can you tell her that you doubt yourself because part of you doubts Cable? he asks himself. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be searching for reassurance – and grilling your son’s friends.
Two weeks ago…
It’s a sunny day. Scott Summers and Sam Guthrie enjoy it by grabbing some coffee and taking a stroll along an idyllic riverbank. As usual, however, Scott has an agenda, and begins questions Sam about his time with Cable. Sam explains that while most tacticians think three or four moves ahead, Cable always has a dozen moves mapped out, even if he is only going to the store for a carton of milk. “The moment he plucked the baby from the incubator, he had a strategy,” Sam says as they walk. Scott asks Sam if he remembers Cable ever mentioning anything about this baby showing up. Sam reminds him that when it came to discussing the future, Cable was always cryptic. “Look, Scott, you haven’t heard from Cable because he doesn’t think it’s time. He may never think it’s time,” Cannonball says. “You know that’s a possibility, right?” Scott’s eyes widen and his jaw drops; actually, this is something he had never considered.
Scott sits, staring at the floor. It dawns on him he does not know his only son at all. Emma tells him to get over it. For as long as she has known him, Scott has dwelt over his decision to send the infant Nathan Christopher Summers into the future. This decision, this dead space in his heart, is the source of his current doubts. Scott begins to argue with this assertion, but stops himself. Isn’t it true, after all? He recalls a conversation he once had with Nathan, during which Nathan admitted he had trouble overcoming his feelings of abandonment from being dumped 2000 years into the future. While he later professed forgiveness to his father, even telling him he was proud to be his son, Scott still clings to his guilt. How can he not, when he seems to keep making the same mistakes over and over again?
Only a few years earlier, he handed Nathan over to a member to the Askani tribe in order to save his life. She took him 2000 years into the future, telling Scott that if he embraced this path of destiny, Nathan would be lost to him forever. Scott complied. Just a few weeks ago, to prolong the mutant baby’s survival, Scott handed her over to Cable, who then jumped into the timestream. Again. “Give her the freedom I was never able to give you,” Scott had said, trying to pretend he was sure of his decision. Once again, he is unhappy with the outcome.
The truth rests on his lips as he stares into Emma’s eyes, but he can’t admit it to her. If his old decision isn’t the source of his doubt, Emma asks, then what is? “I don’t want to play guess-the-problem anymore,” Emma says. “There are better games we could be playing in the middle of the night.” Scott clenches his jaw. He has done everything in his over the past eight weeks to prepare for Cable’s return, including assembling a baby crib, and he still feels completely helpless. Emma embraces him, and he puts his head against her shoulder. There are other things he has done to make the world a safer place for the baby, only he can’t tell these to anyone, even Emma.
Earlier that day. X-Men HQ…
A jubilant Hank McCoy approaches Scott, holding a remote tracking screen in one of his paws. He detected a response from one of his nanobots in their present time, meaning Bishop must have popped back in before fleeing once more. The good news, Hank says, is that his nanobots managed to install a tracking code in the robotic arm during the encounter. Bishop and his arm will be much easier to track from now on. “And,” Hank adds, “if it appears in the present again, we’ll know it instantly. Like…what is that called? Low Jack?” Scott commends Hank’s excellent work while looking absentmindely over his shoulder into the kitchen. He asks Hank to keep him posted, but his mind wanders mid-sentence while he observes Wolverine sitting at the kitchen table, drinking a beer and reading a Japanese book.
Scott approaches Logan, who gives him a wayward glance while pounding the entire brew. He wipes his lips after finishing. “Heard every word,” Logan says. “Just tell me when and where.” Scott emphasizes the secrecy of this assignment to Logan, but fails to realize Hank is still standing within an earshot. After Logan leaves, Beast confronts his friend and asks if he intends to use this technology to end Bishop’s life. “The X-Men haven’t turned into killers?” he asks. Scott doesn’t respond, instead looking Hank coolly in the eye from behind his ruby shades.
The truth of Hank’s words lingers in Scott’s mind for the rest of the day and follows him into the night, disturbing his sleep. He may not be the one doing the killing, but he is the one issuing the orders. If Bishop is murdered, the blood will be on Scott’s hands. And he can’t tell Emma a thing about it. Emma, sensing his distance, reaches out and caresses his face. Frustrated she cannot help him reach out and talk to his son, she decides to help in a way only she can. She unfastens her nightgown. Before she begins, however, she tells Scott exactly what he needs to hear. He’s been wondering why he entrusted the baby to Cable. Well, Emma tells him, it’s because he has faith in Cable. Scott lets his mind process these words for a moment before realizing Emma is absolutely right. “Yeah. I guess I do,” he says.
“Now do me a favor and have a little more faith in yourself,” Emma says. “We do. All of us.” She adds that she has grown quite tired of mopey Scott Summers. “I thought we got rid of him and replaced him with Alpha-Scott. We haven’t regressed, have we?” she asks. Empowered by her support, Scott answers with a firm kiss and proceeds to take Emma right in their bed.
After finishing, Scott gets up, kisses Emma on her forehead, and tells her he needs to go get something to quench his thirst. Emma, however, knows he is lying, but lets him go anyway. She wants him to have his space. Scott, wearing nothing but his sweatpants, wanders over to the room that holds every hope he has for the future, and flips on the lights. The room is unoccupied, save for an empty, wooden crib he has prepared for the baby’s return. Talking to Emma helped him certainly helped, but something she said continues to stick out in his mind. What did she say? That she wished she could help you talk to your son? Suddenly Scott has an idea, one inspired by Hank’s message-in-a-bottle analogy. The chances of it working are slim, but he has very few options.
Westchester, New York. Former site of the X-Mansion…
A solitary figure walks through the remains of the Xavier Institute carrying nothing but a shovel and a lantern. Cyclops has returned. He blasts his way into the mansion’s basement, digs a hole in the dirt foundation in a place where Cable might find it in the future, and buries a letter in a sealed capsule. I don’t know if you’ll ever come back home to look for this, the letter reads. I pray that you do.
In Scott’s future and Nathan’s present, Cable crouches behind a concrete slab for cover. He cradles the baby in his left arm. He peeks over the slab, but a wayward laser shatters the concrete next to his face. Beyond the wall, two opposing militias fire at each other with advanced weaponry. Cable, unfortunately, is caught right in the middle.
In his letter, Scott writes about Bishop’s pursuit, and warns Cable that the man will not stop until the baby is dead. I don’t know if he’ll ever find you. I don’t know if you’ve already met.
Cable stands up and prepares to flee his spot of cover. As he stands, the baby begins crying; she has dropped the makeshift doll Cable made for her. Before he has a chance to retrieve it, a stray grenade lands nearby and detonates, propelling him and the baby through the air.
So many things I don’t know, the letter reads. So little I can control. I feel just as helpless as I did when I was forced to give you up all those years ago. Life is full of tragedies and death. You learn how to deal with those. You learn to cope. But it’s impossible to do the same when all you have are questions. They gnaw at you. Dig down deep inside you. And there’s only one thing that can keep it from overwhelming you.
Cable, recovering from the explosion, stands up and dashes toward the doll. Several soldiers stand in his path wielding guns, but Cable kills them all with a well-aimed spray of gunfire.
But there’s something I wish I had said to you. Something I hope you’ll think about in the difficult days ahead. There’s no one I have more faith in than you, Nathan.
Still on the run, Cable reaches down and picks up the ragged doll before leaping over another concrete barrier and jumping forward, once again, into the timestream.
I trust you know what’s right. And that’s what keeps me going.
Cable reappears further in the future in an abandoned, desert landscape. Before him stands a towering wall of jagged rock.
You’re my son. That’s all I need to know.