(conversation / flashback)
One voice asks if he got that right. The person he is talking to was a secret agent working for something called the Weapon X program? Another voice interrupts him with a curt ‘no’. The first man corrects himself, apologizing. He was actually an undercover agent for the X-Men and he infiltrated the Weapon X program in order to liberate a mutant death camp called Neverland, but he was caught and brainwashed into service instead. He honestly doesn’t know how those X-people keep up with all this.
Anyway, according to his notes war broke out between three different factions of the program and that’s when all hell broke loose. Not that any of this really mattered, of course, not after M-Day anyway.
For the young man named Chamber, it was his powers that allowed the Weapon X installed device in his chest to function. With his powers gone… everything went pretty much kablooey. Then, Chamber woke up to find his chest, lower jaw and several fairly vital organs completely obliterated. Which brings them to now…
A hospital where a sitting, elderly man, taking notes is talking to Chamber, who is hooked up to several life-support devices. Referring to their sessions, the elderly man asks if he thinks they have made some progress these past few weeks. Using a recorder to help him talk Jonothon Starsmore curtly replies ‘no.’
With a sigh, the doctor sympathizes with Jono’s situation, telling him it’s enough to break anybody. But Jono cannot allow this to happen. Giving up can be attractive. He has never told Jono this but there was a time when he was in a situation not unlike Jono’s, so he knows where he is coming from. Jono may not realize it yet, but he can promise him something more. Jonothan has options.
Another voice interrupts them, informing the doctor that he doesn’t know about him, but the boy certainly does. Enter Pete Wisdom, who remarks that he is kind of a member of Jono’s family, a distant family member he has never met before, but a family member nonetheless. He tells the doctor this is over his head and sits down at Jono’s side.
He tells Jono that he represents Excalibur of all things, which was probably Braddock’s idea, but that’s not important. What is very bloody important is what they are doing. And that’s helping people in situations like Jono’s post M-day. Hell, when they eventually do fix him up, they’d even like him to maybe join them. The doctor interrupts him, informing Wisdom that this is highly irregular. He’s been the boy’s therapist for weeks and he doesn’t recall him having a single visit, never mind any family members. How did Wisdom get past security again?
With a smile Wisdom asks Jono to pardon him, before standing up in front of the elderly man, sizing him up threateningly. “You, doctor” he starts, “Hartley,” the elderly man, adds undeterred. Whatever, Wisdom retorts impatiently. With an angry glare, he informs Hartley that he is going out for a smoke now. It would be in his best interest to be gone when he returns.
Wisdom leaves the room, stops outside and lights a cigarette, muttering that there go three months of cold turkey right down the bloody tubes. With a disapproving glance, a nurse informs him that he can’t smoke in there.
Wisdom reacts annoyed, then makes an effort at pulling himself together and apologizes to the nurse. He adds that he needed something to relax him before he strangled Dr. Hartley. The nurse reacts surprised and assures him that there isn’t a Dr. Hartley on staff. Wisdom hurries back into the room to find both Hartley and Jono gone. Well he asked him to leave, didn’t he? he sighs.
Jono awakes to find himself changes: his eyes are a pupil-less red, his skin is grey his lips and fingernails black-blue with extended black lines from his lips running parallel to his jaw. All in all his looks are frighteningly similar to Apocalypse. What truly surprises him is the red tattoo on his now completely healthy chest, a red shape reminiscent of an eye surrounded by four symmetric other shapes. He also notes that there are two tubes attached to his arms pumping him full of some red fluid. A voice announces that he told him that there were on the options.
Hartley apologizes for taking him like that, but after all the trouble they went though, arranging to transfer him to that hospital, Hartley gaining his trust, he was damned if he was going to let someone swoop in and take him.
Jono shakes Hartley’s proffered hand off. Two questions answered immediately, he demands curtly. Why? And how?
Why? Hartley repeats. Because Jono is very special. More special than those horrible X-people could ever dream of. Clenching his fists in rage, Harley shouts that they have the audacity to call Jono family? They left him to die in a hospital like an animal… worse than an animal! The X-Men are not his family, they are. He points to several other people in the room, sitting at a long table, people from different backgrounds, some of them also displaying similar physical characteristics to Jono. The only one hidden is the massive character sitting opposite Jono at the far end of the table. The atmosphere is at the same time old-fashioned and festive. In the background, there are stained glass windows reminiscent of a church showing scenes of the life of Apocalypse.
Hartley reveals that they are Clan Akkaba. For centuries, it has been their duty to honor and safeguard the legacy and ideals of he who never dies: En Sabur Nur, Apocalypse. But they are more than his descendants. His blood… his powers runs through their veins, as it runs through Jono’s. So while his powers are gone, so powerful is their lord that his very blood is power. And therein lies the “how”. It was fairly simple to activate that power within Jono’s blood by combining it with Apocalypse’s own. They used the blood’s metamorphic properties to heal Jono’s body, making him whole again. And by whole, he means with no mechanical parts like the ones Weapon X gave him. His new appearance is a side-effect of the treatment.
Tearing off the tubes that feed his body the blood, Jono shouts, “enough!” His eyes flare as he announces that he knows all about those people. His great-grand dad used to go on about the clan all the time. But aren’t they like Clan Akkaba: The Next Generation? Old blue-lips wiped the originals out over a century ago. The only ones left were his great-gramps and a veggie named Frederick Slade.
Very coolly, Hartley informs him that he never did like being called that. He closes his eyes and opens them to reveal they have turned green and pupil-less. The stained glass windows show the picture of a young man in a wheelchair with the same eyes, Jono suddenly understands who his doctor friend really is. Hartley, or more to the point Slade, points out that he told Jono he was in a situation not unlike his once. Is he truly beginning to understand what he is?
He reaches for a chalice fluid with a red fluid and offers it to Jono. In time, the healing blood of their Lord’s blood will return Jono’s power to him as it did to Slade, he offers. Jono looks at the chalice then informs Slade that his great-granddad was a fool. He stopped believing in their mad god and yet he still insisted every member of their family be branded with those stupid tattoos when they were babies, just in case. He was almost happy the first time his chest went Hiroshima, so wouldn’t have to look at the stupid thing anymore. As they can certainly imagine he is not too happy to see it back on, so thanks for the patch-up job, no thanks for the creepy Apocalypse Jr. look, and now he’d appreciate it if they showed him the door.
Suddenly, the shadowy bulky figure gets up, revealing himself to be Apocalypse. Jono’s decision is an unfortunate one, he states. Jono grabs a torch and assumes fighting stance, warning Apocalypse off. The villain informs him that this isn’t necessary. Jono has made his decision and is free to go. He points to the exit. And the catch? Jono asks. None, Apocalypse replies. But he should know, whether he wishes to accept it or not, he is not on his own, and Apocalypse always takes care of his own. Wordlessly, Jono runs outside.
Moments later, he is joined by Excalibur. Worried, Dazzler asks him what happened. Coolly, he informs her he is fine. Sage points out that he may be healed but they are not so quick to accept his current appearance as “fine.”
Juggernaut and Nocturne get ready to storm the mansion, until Jono tells them to leave it alone. The team looks at him in surprise. Sage ventures that he has been through some kind of trauma and isn’t thinking clearly. If nothing else, she’d like to take him to their HQ and examine him. Jono insists he is fine. What happened there is his business and nobody else’s.
Captain Britain ventures that they don’t know each other very well, but… Jono interrupts. Cap is wrong. They don’t know each other at all! Other than Alison, who he’s met only a handful of times and Sage who he met all of once and the bloody Juggernaut, who tried to punch out his lights on more than one occasion, they are strangers to him. And now they all swoop in and save him? Don’t they get it? Not everybody wants to be saved. Not everyone wants to play dress up as part of the brand-spanking new X-Men team of the month. Not everybody wants powers. Some just want to be left the hell alone.
He was okay lying there with that giant hole where his chest used to be. Obviously, he wasn’t thrilled about it, but if those were the cards he was dealt with, then so be it. He’d deal with it. At least he had some bloody peace for once. And now here he is. Did he ask to look like this? Did he even asked to be fixed up? It’s none of Excalibur’s concern, because one thing is certain: he never asked for any of them!
However, there is still one thing they can do for him, if they are still in a helpful mood. They can pass on to “Mr. High and Mighty” Charles Xavier and whatever other heroes might want to help him out that the whole lot of them can go sod off. Excalibur wordlessly stares at him leaving until Wisdom breaks the silence. A simple “thanks but no thanks” would have sufficed.
From inside the mansion, Slade and Apocalypse watch the goings-on. Slade wonders if the deception was necessary. Apocalypse’s armor opens up to reveal Ozymandias, who asks Slade if in all their time together he has ever led him astray. Slade hurries to ascertain that this is not the case. But he wishes they could have done more to help the boy and show him how much the Clan has changed. For that matter, their lord has never seen how much they have changed. All these years, the new version of the clan has always only dealt with Ozymandias. When will they finally get to meet Apocalypse directly? They have heard word of his recent reappearance. Why hasn’t he summoned them? He himself would love to see if Apocalpyse was pleased with the progress he made sine their last encounter over a century ago.
Ozymandias tells him to be patient. The time for the clan to reveal itself to Apocalypse is soon upon them and they shall have Chamber to thank for that…
Later, staff of MI-16 examine the mansion, but there is no trace of anyone left inside the house, they report to Pete Wisdom. He figures they knew that the time it would take to get a search a warrant was ample time for them to disappear. There is one thing however the other man hesitatingly admits. Pete’s hunch was on the money. They scanned the front of the house, right where Wisdom said they encountered Jono… and his energy signature is off the charts. Whoever told the kid he doesn’t have powers, lied big time.
Lovely, Wisdom sighs. Now he has a potential omega-class mutant running around there, having had God knows what done to him. He doodles a pattern on a sketchpad and the other man asks what it is. Wisdom explains that it is the symbol he saw on Chamber’s chest. He never saw anything like it but he will find out if somebody has. The whole affair isn’t over, Wisdom vows. Not by a long shot.