Missoula, Montana. Now…
It’s nighttime. The barbed-wire fence guarding a concrete building has been destroyed, and two injured guards lay face-down on the grass. Standing at the facility’s door is none other than Bishop. This time, however, he is not alone.
“Psssst,” someone says from behind. Bishop turns and sees Wolverine, Warpath, X-23, and Wolfsbane dressed in their ferocious X-Force gear. “Lookin’ for somethin’?” Wolverine asks. Bishop tells them he doesn’t have time for this; he has no beef with Logan. Good, Wolverine says; that means he won’t take what’s coming personally. Bishop scowls and, while reaching for the time-trigger on his arm, says goodbye. Wolverine refuses to let him escape. He lunges forth and dismantles Bishop’s robotic arm with his claw. Bishop screams and unloads his charged kinetic energy directly into Wolverine’s face, searing off not only his mask but several layers of skin as well. While the rest of X-Force subdues Bishop, Wolverine winces and rubs his eyes. If it were up to him, he tells Bishop, he would gut him right there and shove that metal arm somewhere nice and cozy. Lucky for him, Cyclops wants him alive.
X-Force has Bishop back at the X-Men’s headquarters in San Francisco in ninety minutes. Cyclops begins the interrogation of his shackled prisoner by asking him to explain himself, but Bishop bares his teeth and says nothing. Cyclops takes that as his cue to begin. He recounts the events of the recent mutant birth, and Bishop’s bizarre reaction to it, including his attempt to kill the baby, his shooting of Xavier, his attack on Forge, and his months-long disappearance. Then, he pops up again and begins ransacking government research facilities all around the world. He hit six of them before the X-Men caught him during his seventh attempt. In case he was wondering, Scott tells him they found him because of a hidden beacon he had in his arm.
“Took you six tries, huh?” Bishop asks. Scott asks why he didn’t just come to them and explain his side of things. Why, Bishop asks? They would never have understood; they are incapable of understanding the truth about the baby. “You think she’s the messiah. She’s death.” Scott reminds him their survival is at stake; did he even consider for a moment he might be wrong? “Did you?” Bishop replies.
Cyclops sighs and tells Bishop that he wishes their talk could have been more productive. He summons Emma. She greets Lucas, who asks if they are going to play Good Cop/Hot Cop now. Emma telepathically tells him to relax; she only wants to understand, and she needs his help. Okay, Bishop says, but he begins resisting immediately. Cyclops exits the room, telling them he will give them some time alone.
Somewhere in the future…
All is peaceful in the idyllic village Cable now calls home. The sky is clear, the grass is green, and the surrounding foliage is beginning its beautiful transition into autumn colors. However, a piercing shriek erupts and stirs Cable from his sleep inside his simple concrete house. The mutant messiah child, now approximately four years old, screams wildly as she tears through the house and runs into her parents’ bedroom. She jumps on the bed and wishes them good morning. It’s too early to make that much noise, the red-haired woman in the bed says. Cable, now sporting both a gold wedding band on his left ring-finger and a full beard, pulls the covers from over his head and grunts. His wife tells him it is his turn to take the child outside; she did it yesterday morning, and basically every other morning before that. She kisses him on the cheek. He grumbles, sits up, and begins getting dressed.
Outside, Cable monitors the little girl as she plays on the concrete slab in front of their home. It’s day 578, he thinks to himself. As he watches her play, he cannot help but contemplate what he buried in a moisture-proof box beneath that concrete slab. For the longest time, he thought of nothing but that box. Eventually, he was able to forget about it because of his work in the fields. Forgetting it was the point of burying it, after all.
Cable looks at the little girl and wonders how much of her life she remembers. Bishop hasn’t found them for two years now; if her memories of Bishop haunt her dreams, she certainly has not told her parents. She seems like a normal little girl. However, Cable admits he is not the best judge of what constitutes a normal childhood. His was unusual, and based on what his wife Hope has told him, hers wasn’t normal either.
Hope comes outside and tells them breakfast is ready. The little girl looks at her adoptive mother and scowls. “No! I want to play!” she shouts. She stands up and begins stomping her feet. Cable wonders if it is normal for a child to throw tantrums like this. Hope speaks up and tells the little girl not to speak to her that way. The girl continues thrashing around. “No! I don’t! Want to!”
Cable looks at the little girl throwing her tantrum. In all the countless battles he has fought against the most vicious of foes, he has never once witnessed the kind of fury he sometimes sees on this child’s face. Did she learn that from him, he fears.
At the breakfast table, Nathan orders the little girl to eat her food. She pushes it away with a disgusted look on her face. He tells her it is not up for discussion. Hope looks at her husband and asks a question: does he ever get tired of calling her “little girl”? People generally name their children where he comes from, right? Someone named him, after all. Cable tells his wife it isn’t his place to name her. “Why not?” Hope asks. “You’re her father.”
But I am not your father, Cable thinks as he looks at the little girl. Little Girl has always called him Nathan, or Nay-Nay, in baby-speak. No other title would have felt right. Hope thought this was strange when they first met, but never asked why. The rest of Cable’s village, New Liberty, simply assumed he was the baby’s father. It was easier to not correct them.
Nathan’s mind wanders to how he first learned of New Liberty. No record or map exists of it at any point in history until the 40th century, where he was raised by the Askani. It is not until that century that mankind will learn of its existence. Cable decided New Liberty was the perfect place to hide, and because he lived in the future, he knew how to slip through its impenetrable force field fifteen centuries before anyone else will learn how. Today, however, it seems someone else has found their own way in. A loud noise rattles Cable’s home while he and his family eat breakfast. His mind immediately returns to the box he buried under the concrete slab in his yard.
The X-Men Headquarters. Now…
Cyclops and Beast monitor Bishop’s interrogation from the communication room. Any progress on the arm, he asks Hank? Can it tell them where – and when – Bishop has been? Afraid not, Hank says. The time-travel mechanism contains no recording capability. However, Hank does have some interesting information Scott would like to hear: according to tests he performed on Bishop’s tissue samples, Bishop has aged four and a half years in the few months he has been missing. He was in the timestream much longer than anyone suspected. Hank raises another point: they have no idea how much time has passed for Cable and the baby, either. “Let’s just say there’s a chance the baby might not fit into the crib you built when she returns,” Hank tells Scott.
Cable heads outside his house and finds the other villagers in a collective fit. The little girl follows him outside; he tells her to stay inside and finish her meal. “But I want to go with you!” she shouts. No, he answers, before asking his neighbor, Griff, if he also heard the noise. Hard not to, Griff replies, adding it sounds like the noise came from outside of town. He joins Cable and some other men to go investigate. The little girl follows in secret.
As they walk to the woods, Cable comments that unexplained noises are not common in New Liberty. Miles of empty land stretch outside the force field; there shouldn’t be any noise out there at all. Just as the posse reaches the edge of the woods, they hear a strange noise and witness the appearance of a minor spacial distortion. A portal opens, and two men in black military suits tumble through, barely alive. The villagers immediately spray them for contaminants.
Cable is less worried about disease than he is about the men themselves; no one new has arrived in New Liberty since he came over two years earlier. The village medic rushes over to the men, and sees one of them is already dead. The other has several critical injuries. This injured man opens his eyes and sees Cable standing with the group. He doesn’t say a word, and neither does Cable. They simply recognize each other as soldiers. Suddenly, the little girl appears from behind Cable and says hello to her Nay-Nay. He picks her up and begins walking back to the village.
The entire town talks incessantly about this new visitor. Some of them want news from the outside world so badly they don’t care how or why the men came. Others do want to know why, and how the soldier died. Cable falls into this latter category.
X-Men Headquarters. Now…
Cyclops asks Emma how her interrogation went as soon as she leaves the room. She confirms that Bishop has indeed had some encounters with Cable and the baby, but cannot vouch for the credibility of any thoughts she found. She could only catch glimpses, which were difficult to separate from the myriad death fantasies also stored in Bishop’s mind. “He wants to kill the child very, very badly,” she tells Scott. “It’s all he ever thinks about.”
Scott asks how Bishop found Cable. Emma doesn’t know how, but she knows for sure they’ve met. They have had several intense encounters, and she knows Cable has been hurt. Scott asks about the child; Emma says she doesn’t know anything. Scott grumbles. They have no specifics that might help them find Cable, then. Emma tells him Bishop has thrown up a lot of junk to confuse her; he realizes he cannot block Emma, but he knows he can slow her down with false leads. Scott suggests they ask harder, but Emma tells him to try the opposite. “I picked up something surprising: a tiny sliver of hope that you’ll believe him,” she says. “Maybe even understand that he’s doing this to save us. You can use that.”
Cyclops gives it another try. He enters the interrogation room and asks how Bishop plans on finding Cable and the baby again. The future is a big place, after all. Bishop knows this; he asks Cyclops to image an incredibly tall building that stretches nearly to infinity. He asks Scott to imagine he is chasing somebody in that building who can only go up; coming down is not an option. “But you – you can go up, down, whatever. You’d think you have the advantage, right?” he asks. Scott supposes so. “Well, you don’t. Because it’s a damned tall building,” Lucas says. Whenever he thinks he has Cable cornered, he moves up another floor. Each time, it starts all over again. It could go on forever.
He asks Scott what he would do in this situation. Scott, however, wants to know why Cable can only go up; what has happened to him? He telepathically asks Emma if she’s listening. Bishop tells Scott to forget about Cable and listen to him, to keep the analogy of the building in his head; it is the only way he will understand. He asks Scott to keep Emma out of his head and answer his question: what would he, the master tactician, do in this situation? Emma speaks in Scott’s mind and gives him the information about Cable’s broken time-travel device, but Scott ignores her and asks Bishop what he has done. Bishop looks at him dead in the eye and answers his own question. “You burn that $%!&ing building down, Scott. Down to the ground. That’s what you do.”
Somewhere in the future…
That night, Cable wakes up in the middle of his sleep, stirred by his diminished telepathy. He rarely picks up thoughts telepathically anymore, as his telepathy no longer detects anything other than the occasional buzzing. However, the buzz he hears right now is louder than ever.
Hope asks if something is wrong. Nothing, he says, telling her she can go back to sleep. She leans over and kisses him. Her kiss is almost enough to make the ringing stop… almost. It keeps ringing, and he understands something is horribly wrong; this is the day everything will change.
Outside, the once-impenetrable force field opens, and a squadron of heavily armored soldiers march through. They tell the people of New Liberty to relax. They are from the government of the United States of America, and they have come to help.