While news reports about the Hecatomb attack on Providence Island play in the background, Deadpool and his friends at Agency X partake in a friendly game of strip poker. Bob, Agent of HYDRA, almost resents that HYDRA is not responsible for the mayhem on Providence. Deadpool assures him HYDRA will have plenty of other chances to destroy humanity. Outlaw asks Deadpool if he plans on taking Agency X’s corporate jet to Providence to help. “Well, I am an honorary X-Man,” he says. “And though gainfully employed here, Wade Wilson, the vagabond mercenary known as Deadpool, is very interested in pro bono work.”
Sandi comments that Deadpool probably won’t leave until she and Outlaw lose a few hands of poker…and articles of clothing. Outlaw laughs in agreement and orders everyone to shows their hands. “Two jacks. Hail HYDRA!” Bob says. The obese Agent X calls his two queens, and asks Bob to quit announcing his allegiances. “Sorry. Reflex,” Bob says. Deadpool, realizing he has the lowest hand, removes his shirt.
The mind plays tricks, Cable says to himself. Armed to the teeth with a wide range of weapons, he charges through a tableau of dead X-Men and X-Force members. His mind has been telling him he would somehow change the world, but all along, his subconscious doubted he would do anything but be exactly what people expected.
He emerges from the wreckage of a building and sees his current teammates Mystique, Lady Mastermind, Omega Sentinel, Iceman, and Cannonball battling with the ghastly, formless Hecatomb. “That’s it?” Cable asks Urizen, the Mummudrai piggybacking in his mind. Yes, the Mummudrai confirms, adding that the X-Men have no chance against the soul-devouring Hecatomb. Cable asks what they can do to defeat the rampaging Shi’ar weapon.
“What you do best,” Urizen responds. Cable, aiming his gun at the Hecatomb, wonders what exactly it is he does best. Does he only exist to serve the expectations of others? What does he expect out of himself? He fires his gun, but a toy “BANG!” flag pops out of the barrel. Cable examines it, stunned. Inevitably, he realizes, it matters not what he chooses to do with himself, because everyone already has their minds made up anyway. Cable finds this funny. After all, the mind plays tricks.
“Nate!” a voice screams from down the hall. Cable doesn’t respond. Domino calls his name again, but he remains caught in his trance. She runs toward him with Prester John, who says he appears “ensorcelled.” His stellar rod crackles in Cable’s presence, leading him to wonder if Cable is also possessed. Great, Domino says, Cable shows up without notice, dumps his X-Men on the island, brings a glowing alien life form that devours people’s minds, and then wanders around absentmindedly instead of dealing with it. Now is not a good time for him to tune out.
The X-Men, meanwhile, continue their valiant battle against the Hecatomb. Lady Mastermind distracts the Hecatomb with her illusions, while Omega Sentinel tries to find someway to destroy it. Cannonball, providing cover for Iceman while he directs the innocent civilians to safety, asks if anyone has heard from Cable. Not even via comm.-link, Iceman says. Sam lifts into the air and expands his blast field, but his attack does nothing other than inflict pointless structural damage and invoke the ire of Mystique. She orders him to quit messing around, as they do have the firepower to affect the Hecatomb. Sam agrees, adding that is why she should concentrate on keeping everyone safe until they figure out a way to stop the monster.
Inside the hospital…
Cable, still possessed by the Mummudrai, stares down the hall into Rogue’s hospital room. The Mummudrai told him Rogue was the key to stopping the Hecatomb, but because she is unconscious at the moment, that duty now falls on Cable. Walking down the hall to her room might as well be the Bataan Death March. He pays no attention to the rumbling of the building, or the way Domino and Prester John react to it. Domino tells John they have no time to worry about Cable; they need to evacuate the island. Prester John insists they stay and fight. “Yeah?” Domino asks. “Tell that to the people whose minds have been ripped from their bodies!”
Cable hears each of these disembodied minds speaking in his head. The Mummudrai has restored his telepathy and other mutant abilities, and while part of Cable appreciates it, his more sensible side realizes this influx of power will destroy everything he wants to do. Without his powers, he planned change the world through actions and ideas. He doesn’t know if he can resist the urge to force change with his powers if he has them back. Once again, he may have to set this lofty goal aside. And the only thing stopping me from achieving that dream of tomorrow, he thinks, is the reality of saving the world today.
Within his mindscape, Cable sees the Hecatomb’s victims juxtaposed against the realities he has experienced. He hears their cries for help, knowing only he can help them. To do it, however, he must walk into a metaphorical tiger’s cage and throw away the key. But does he have much of a choice? He finally lifts his foot and takes his first step toward his fate.
His first step does not go unnoticed. Irene Merryweather, monitoring him from her command station, asks Black Box what has overcome Cable. Black Box does not know; his armor never linked him to Cable’s mind. An agent of Irene’s interrupts via comm.-link and informs her that the island has eight shuttles ready to ferry people off the island. Each ferry, however, can hold only two-thousand people, meaning it would take at least ten trips to evacuate everyone. Additionally, the Hecatomb might follow the ships and devour everyone inside. Irene knew something like this was going to happen. As soon as Cable returned to work with the X-Men, she knew it would lead to the destruction of everything they worked for on Providence.
Cable, still walking down the hall, hears a familiar voice singing in his head. Where did that come from? he asks, immediately realizing the answer.
Deadpool suddenly appears next to him in the mindscape, continuing his obnoxious singing. They stand back to back and fight of hordes of old super-villains. “Figures,” Cable says to Deadpool. “I need to make a major decision and my subconscious drags you out.”
He explains his dilemma: if he does what he has to do, he could save Providence and even the entire planet, but it might cost Rogue her life. It even might make him a slave once more to his own staggering psionic powers. He risks losing everything. Wade turns and tells Cable to listen to his own words for the answer; because he said “…if I do what I have to do,” it seems he already knows the answer to his dilemma. Cable thanks Deadpool and, before the mercenary’s mind returns to his body at Agency X, informs him Outlaw is bluffing.
“Huh?” Wade utters. He snaps back to his own body and looks around, taking a moment to remember he is in the middle of a strip poker game. Bob, Agent of HYDRA, tells Deadpool it is his turn. The buck-naked Deadpool ponders what Cable said for a moment before playing his hand. “I call!” he says with a stern expression on his face. This move catches Outlaw off-guard; she stares at her cards and curses. How did Deadpool know she was bluffing? “Lucky guess…I guess,” Deadpool says while watching Outlaw unfasten her top.
Cable, meanwhile, observes the progress of the Hecatomb fight within his mind in real-time. The X-Men fight not only for their own lives, but the lives of all the people who came to Providence because they believed in Cable’s dream. Now he may never get the opportunity to fulfill his dream. I can’t be what I want to be, because I always have to be what they need me to be, he says. Tragic, tortured, gun-toting tough guy. Over-powered mutant messiah.
Thoughts from strangers begin to flood his mind. He hears the cries of the people of Providence. He hears Deadpool’s excitement over Outlaw’s unveiling. He learns that Bullseye has just killed another person. He learns that the ferries will not effectively get everyone off the island. This information, he decides to use to save lives. After telepathically telling the frightened civilians to grab hold of something solid, he shuts off Providence Island’s gravity-plating fields using his supercharged telekinesis, causing the island to lift into the air.
About eighty percent of the island’s population is safe. For now, Cable says. But not for long if the Hecatomb isn’t stopped.Only six minutes have passed in the outside world during Cable’s trip inside his mind, but he feels like he has been agonizing over this decision forever. He has never been the type to hesitate this much over making a hard choice; he did, after all, kill his own son when he had to. Thankfully, Cable’s subconscious summons Deadpool again, using the “merc with a mouth” to prod Cable into action. Domino, arguing from the emotional core of Cable’s brain, appears in his mind and urges him to find another way. To do what she says is tempting, but ultimately selfish. The two personalities argue, but Cable shuts them both up. He turns to Domino and apologizes for the choice he is about to make, an apology the real Domino actually hears in her head.
Seven minutes have now passed in real time. Cable begins his walk down the hall to Rogue’s hospital bed. His walk turns into a sprint. As he runs toward what may be his own end, he radiates massive amounts of energy felt by everyone on the island. Cable suspects some outside force may have orchestrated events to put him back with the X-Men just so he would be placed in this situation and forced to make this choice. But that’s not reasonable, right? We all make our own choices, don’t we? he asks as he charges down the hallway. I’m not really sure anymore. The mind plays tricks on you…