At his church in Salem Center, Reverend Stryker recounts the events that led up to his bloody crusade against mutants to his unknowing dupe, Jay Guthrie. His story begins some years ago at Mt. Haven…
Mt. Haven – Several years ago…
A containment tube is cracked open as the building around it collapses. The unconscious form of Reverend William Stryker falls out onto the ground below. The sentient artificial life-form known as Reverend Paul emerges from Stryker’s body with a look of shock or pain on its digitized “face”. Stryker himself appears to be in shock from the experience.
Stryker tells Jay how he was a soldier in God’s war against Satan until the X-Man, Kitty Pryde caused him to doubt his path. She convinced him to merge with the sentient A.I. Reverend Paul who was the spiritual leader of Mt. Haven. Once released from this merged form, Stryker believed that the Lord had punished him for wavering as he found that God no longer answered his prayers.
Dallas, Texas – Two Years before M-Day …
Stryker wandered for some time, eventually making his way back to his ministry in Dallas, Texas which had fallen into ruins. There he was about to take his own life when he looked up at the crucifix and saw the emerging form of the time-traveling Sentinel called Nimrod! Stryker saw this as a sign that God had not forsaken him but had sent him a gift to wage the war he had once abandoned. The Nimrod unit promptly collapsed upon materializing before Stryker.
Stryker tells Jay how he spent months studying the Nimrod device and specifically its historical records. As he studied the records of Nimrod’s future he became convinced that this was God’s will: a future where mutants were hunted and exterminated.
But as he studied these visions of the future, they began to change as current events altered the course of this future history. Stryker notes that the growing mutant population was a significant cause of these shifts. Stryker then learned about the coming decimation referred to as M-Day. He explains that this was not going to be enough to insure the future he had witnessed and so he combed through future obituaries. He used this information to save the lives of those who had died in this possible future and recruited them as soldiers in his new crusade.
Stryker explains that he learned the identities of those mutants who could prevent Nimrod’s future from happening. Jay asks why he attacked the busload of former mutant students. Stryker explains that they would have gone out into the world and helped to bridge the gaps between humans and mutants by creating a more sympathetic world for mutants. Stryker calls them “demons in human skins” and states that Nimrod had no record of them. This is why Stryker needed Jay as an inside source of information at Xavier’s. Jay recalls the phone call he made to Stryker just days earlier, alerting him that a bus filled with former students was leaving the Institute. Stryker had led Jay to believe that they were in danger and only he could protect them.
Jay yells at Stryker who told him that if he returned his wings to God that he would see that his friends were saved. Stryker coldly responds that they had no souls to save to begin with. Jay points to Nimrod and tells Stryker that this isn’t God but a robot, a Sentinel! Stryker smiles and replies that God works in mysterious ways.
Meanwhile at the Xavier Institute, Sooraya is in her room asking Allah for strength in dealing with this latest series of events. X-23 asks why she prays and Sooraya tells her that she asks Allah for guidance as he is the creator of all things. X-23 replies that her creator was Dr. Sarah Kinney. Dust responds by saying that Allah created Dr. Kinney and that all destinies are guided by Allah. X-23 asks if God is responsible for her life and Sooraya replies that he is. X-23 adds that he made her a killer and made her kill her own mother then. Sooraya begins to object but instead explains that Allah’s wisdom is beyond their ability to comprehend and it is not for them to question or judge. Laura asks why and Dust says that she will explain later but now she must go to find Jay. X-23 immediately says that she’ll go too. Dust insists on doing it alone as she goes to the closet for the hood to her burqa. X-23 says it’s a trap and when Dust asks how she knows this, Laura replies because it’s what she would do. Dust says that Jay would not do that to her as they are friends and that she does not believe that Allah wishes for her to die. She adds that if anything does happen to her, then it is as it was meant to be.
In the headmaster’s office, Cyclops breaks the news to David Alleyne, formerly the mutant known as Prodigy that his parents have decided he should stay at the Institute. David is surprised and tries to protest but Scott explains that this is the safest place for him given the recent attacks on former mutants and that his parents are in agreement. David expresses his feelings of uselessness now that he’s powerless. Cyclops says that he’s sorry but the decision has been made. David notes that Xavier always wanted to admit human students; he just didn’t think he’d be the first.
Scott and David are interrupted by the arrival of the Beast who reports that there’s been another attack and they should both come with him immediately. Outside, Elixir is screaming out Laurie’s name as Surge cradles her lifeless body. Wolverine is holding a tearful Josh back by the wrists.
Bishop orders everyone inside just as Cyclops and David arrive on the scene. They immediately see the fallen Wallflower and David goes to kneel by her side. Josh is insistent that Wolverine let him go and as he screams this at the hirsute X-Man energy crackles about his wrists, forcing Logan to release him. Logan is surprised to see what appear to be lesions or boils spring up on his hands and wrists where the energy discharge from Elixir zapped him.
Josh runs to Laurie’s side as Cyclops tells Colossus and Wolverine that they need to get the kids inside. Josh cradles saying over and over again “I’m sorry” and “please don’t leave me”. As he says this, Cannonball arrives and is shocked to see that Laurie has been killed since he was just talking to her. He gathers his wits quickly and reports to Cyclops that he can’t find Jay. Upstairs in Dust and X-23’s room, a figure dressed in a burqa looks down at the scene below.
In Dallas, Forge continues his work on some type of robot. On the screens before him are Sentinel schematics and the television is airing a report about the Sentinel’s stationed at the Xavier Institute. The report notes that there has been a media blackout since the O*N*E began their protective patrols of the mutant haven in the wake of M-Day. As he listens, the tone of the report changes as they report movement of the Sentinels at the Institute.
At the church, Stryker plays the future visions of his friends and teammates recorded by Nimrod. The Sentinels stand over the Xavier Institute surrounded by flames. Rockslide has been shattered into rubble. Elixir is trapped amidst the flames. Mercury is hit with a high-voltage electrical tazer. Hellion has been mowed down by gunfire. Surge lies dead among the fiery ruins of the mansion. X-23 has been killed by a large number of crossbow bolts fires by Dr. Jack Abrams.
The scene shifts as Dust responds to these attacks. She transforms into a fierce sandstorm that flays the flesh from Stryker’s followers. She resumes her human form near X-23. Tears fill her eyes as she cries out “NO!” Jay demands to know why Stryker is showing him this. Stryker says that he wants Jay to understand the role he has played in this, God’s endgame.
Stryker explains that in a previous vision it had been Wallflower who defeated his men and that once she was removed from the picture, Dust took her place as the sole mutant barring the future vision Nimrod had delivered to him. Stryker surmises that once Dust is dealt with, this future will come to pass. As he explains this, one of his men arrives to report that the subject is approaching. He smiles as he tells Jay that it is he who has delivered Dust to him.
Stryker orders that her arrival be put on the main monitor. Jay begs him not to do anything to Sooraya but Stryker gives the order to proceed. The monitor shows Dust being fired upon and falling to the ground, her body riddled with bullet holes. Jay cries out “NOOOOOO!” as he sees his friend fall. Immediately, Stryker asks to see the vision from Nimrod’s databanks. It still shows Dust standing tearfully over the bodies of his men. His technician, Jacob says he doesn’t understand why she is still there since every other change to the vision was instantaneous. Stryker tells him to give it a moment and not to doubt the Lord. Jacob begins to protest saying that in every other case the changes were immediate. Finally, the image changes and the picture of Dust fades.
Stryker dismisses Jacob’s concerns and turns his attention to Jay who is sobbing on the floor. He takes out his gun and aims it at Jay. Stryker tells him he is about to reunite him with his beloved girlfriend Julia Cabot who is surely waiting for him in Hell for loving a mutant. Stryker tells Jay that her death was no accident and that it was he who led the men who killed her to the armored suits they wore when they attacked her and Jay near his home in Kentucky. Jay glares up at him defiantly and calls him a monster.
Stryker fires at Jay who falls from the gunshot wound. Stryker comments on the arrogance of Satan to create a demon in the form of an angel. He calls on Jacob to follow him so that they can prepare for their final assault. As this scene plays out, the eyes of Nimrod seem to be alive and watching the whole affair, its brilliant pink lens focusing on the fallen form of Icarus.
The X-Men depart in teams escorted by a Sentinel each. Emma Frost, Bishop and Cannonball remain at the Institute along with a trio of Sentinels. In the Infirmary, David tries to console Josh who blames himself for Wallflower’s death. Rockslide and Mercury go to check on Dust who hasn’t been seen all day. Santo says that he can’t believe Sooraya is rooming with the clone and expresses his hate for her. He asks if Cessily hates her too and Cessily says that her name is Laura and no, she doesn’t hate her. She expresses her disbelief at all that has happened and Santo assures her that he’s not going to let anything happen to her.
As Mercury knocks on Dust’s door, the sound of explosions can be heard outside. The courtyard is in flames as Stryker and his men approach. The Sentinels immediately order them to drop their weapons. Stryker refuses and powers up the gauntlet from the Nimrod unit that now adorns his right forearm. He sends out a cascade of energy that locks down all of the Sentinels’ systems. Inside, Lex calls out to the other operators on the grounds, Slayton and Skylark but they cannot respond. With the Sentinels disabled, Stryker raises his gauntlet and declares that tonight they will win the war between heaven and hell!