Flashback, Rome, 281:
His name is Decimus Furius. He is a young man who sits on a cobbled street, head down, hands up, begging. His father, a famous philosopher, was forced to commit suicide because his ideas were seen to have a corrupting influence on the youth. His mother followed suit soon after, leaving Decimus penniless and homeless. As he slowly starved to death in a dank alleyway, Decimus transformed into his mutant self. Naturally, the human rabble attempted to kill him - but with his bull-like form, he slaughtered dozens until he was finally brought down.
After years in prison, he was offered freedom provided he achieve status in the arena. With his axe, he brutally disassembled any set against him in the arena. He came to the attention of one man - one mutant - in particular. ‘He is worshipped. Thought to be the Dark God Minotaur’ Ozymandias told his master as they observed Decimus after battle, several scantly clad women fawning over him. ‘The living embodiment of war deserves no less’ Apocalypse replied.
Flashback, Gettysburg, 1893:
His name is Jeb Lee. He was a Confederate spy, marching the battlefields of this American Civil War, disguised as a union drummer. But after the war, Jeb made a mistake by returning home. Confederate townsfolk found him, found his union dress, and thinking him a traitor, they burned his family alive. The mental duress unleashed his latent mutant gift. Apocalypse and Ozymandias watch Jeb Lee as he marches across the land, and through his drum he transmit’s a bioauditory cancer - a living sound that feeds on the flesh of all who hear it. He marches from battle to battle, this cold-faced agent of doom, killing all in his wake. ‘He is my famine. Collect him’ Apocalypse ordered.
Flashback, Kumamoto, 1833:
The young woman smiles as she sits on the floor. Her name is Ichisumi, and she suffers from acute inferiority complex. Another young woman raises her hand to the man that walks past them. Ichisumi was jealous of the more beautiful geishas around her, and found herself left behind by the men who could afford erudite female companions. Ichisumi was the daughter of a proud samurai who did not mask his displeasure at the girl’s many failings. The first manifestation of her power was extraordinary. Fueled by her repressed rage and the disapproval of her father - Ichisumi set loose her swarm of yume beetles to disfigure all the other women in her village. She would leave none to outshine her as the beetles flew from her mouth.
Apocalypse and Ozymandias found her, lying on the ground, her beetles crawling all over her, as Ozymandias explained to Apocalypse that the wish was granted, more wholly than Ichisumi knew, as the beetles ravaged hundreds of women before returning to her with the maddening memories of each mutilation. ‘Beautiful pestilence’ Apocalypse replied.
Flashback, Persia, 325:
When Persia was invaded by Arabs from Bahrain, it was King Shapur II who brought the war back to them, seizing much of Arabia and making them vassal states to the Persian empire. The King fathered two sons with his wife, and another in secret with a servant - Sanjar Javeed: bastard son of a king beloved for his generosity, compassion and strength - and unable to show any to the boy. The king’s hypocrisy drove his illegitimate son mad.
Sanjar stole rare treasures from his father to give as gifts to the townspeople. He hoped he might absorb the attention and love he felt owed to him as his birthright. But unbeknownst to Sanjar, his mutant powers had blossomed - he developed an ailment aura, the power to transmit a spectrum of terminal diseases depending on what variety of metal he touches.
As Sanjar passed a lamp to a civilian, the virus spread - engulfing all within his reach as Apocalypse and Ozymandias stood by and watched. ‘His gifts spread death through the kingdom’ Ozymandias announced, adding that as King Shapur II expired from Sanjar’s curse, he finally did acknowledge the boy, speaking to him only once, to label him “The Seraph of Death”. ‘Apt title. Collect him. Make preparations, Ozymandias…these are my Final Horsemen. To be awoken only when all other approaches have failed. When the world is mired in weakness born of the false optimism that providence will improve for humanity. When this disadvantage is prevalent, then it is time to separate wheat from the chaff. Beginning the Age of Apocalypse’.
Present, Space, Now:
Apocalypse’s Final Horsemen stand over the withered bodies of members of X-Force - Wolverine a.k.a. Logan, Betsy “Psylocke” Braddock and the enigmatic Fantomex. ‘Ozymandias, we await our Lord’s wishes. Dead or alive?’ Death calls out. Betsy telepathically informs Logan that she has seen their minds, and informs him that the Persian is Death and has flooded each of them with ailments transmitted via his metal rings. Wolverine’s thoughts tells Betsy that he will cut the rings off, and asks her to keep digging to find any weakness that she can.
Inside Ship, Ozymandias asks Apocalypse - reduced to childhood - what his instructions are. ‘I - I don’t know…’ the boy replies. The elderly woman stands nearby, while Ozymandias tells him that the mutants are weak and have failed in their bid to assassinate him. ‘We should kill them’ Ozymandias suggests. ‘Kill? No, I - I don’t want to kill anyone…’ the boy exclaims. Ozymandias tells Ship to power up and be prepared should they need to swiftly retreat. ‘Never underestimate Xavier’s cronies’ he declares. The old woman announces that the gravity transference initiator has been activated and that they have teleportation capability in two minutes.
Ozymandias walks away from the boy Apocalypse and announces to the Horseman ‘Your Lord has judged these assailants too feeble to linger. Only the strong may survive. Kill them all’.
Back outside, Death smiles and his deadly virus energies swirl about as he exclaims ‘I see you, little rodent - biding time, hopeful your healing factor will deal with the multitude of diseases I have showered upon you. You vainly struggle against the inevitable!’ Wolverine lunges at Death and shoves him backwards, ‘Old habit!’ he exclaims. Wolverine knows that Betsy is in his mind, and she wishes him good luck. ‘She thinks I’ll need it’ he tells himself as he and Death tumble down a small rock face. Betsy is smart and tells Wolverine to calm down. Logan decides it was dumb of him to lean to his feral side. ‘C’mon, chatty. Pay or play’ Logan calls out.
Wolverine and Death both get to their feet, several feet away from each other. Death announces that, in his youth, proficiency with a blade was the difference between life and death. ‘Today ain’t gonna be much difference!’ Logan exclaims as he strikes forward - but his claws do not slice off Death’s fingers - the claws instead clang against a small dagger.
Betsy tells Fantomex that she needs to get inside his head, and asks him to turn off his dampening plates. ‘Hardly the time for prying’ Fantomex coughs up his response. ‘Do as I tell you!’ Betsy orders, before Famine begins drumming his drum. Fantomex’s thoughts tell Betsy that the drum has had no affect on him, to which Betsy explains that she turned off Fantomex’s ears, switching to psychic communication to keep him safe from Famine’s bio-sonic consumption. Betsy tells Fantomex that she cannot heal their ailments, but she can disconnect their peripheral and nociceptor nerves. ‘Turning off the pain…thank you…’ Fantomex replies. Betsy tells him that it buys them a minute, but not to delude himself, as their bodies are dying rapidly. Betsy begins to get up, only for War to shout ‘LIE DOWN!’ and punch her in the face, knocking her back. ‘BETSY!’ Fantomex calls out.
As Death’s blade makes an incision in Logan’s stomach, it gets Wolverine’s attention. ‘Trained - but the boy ain’t seasoned’ Logan thinks to himself as his claws move up to block Death’s next attack. ‘Teach him all sorts of lessons’ Logan decides, as he shoves his claws into Death’s stomach. Death grabs Logan’s hand, remarking that Wolverine indulges himself in egocentric fantasies of supremacy. Wolverine realizes that he was a fool - that Death wanted him close, as Death transmits his ailment aura through metal - and Wolverine is full of metal. Logan screams as Death transmits to him ever terminal disease that has ever befallen man. They surge in succession to short circuit and overwhelm Logan’s immune system. ‘Evolution prevails’ Death remarks.
Nearby, Fantomex rushes after War, who walks towards a door, dragging Betsy along behind him. In fifty-three seconds, they are decimated. In fifty-five seconds, his spleen explodes. At least that’s how it plays out in his mind. He is kicked back by Pestilence, so Fantomex changes the scene, forcing the Horseman to see what she wants to see. She begins to drop her beetles onto Fantomex, until he appears as her father, as that is what Fantomex wants her to see. ‘You are a failure, Ichisumi’ he calls out. ‘Father! I stand before you a proud warrior…’ Ichisumi replies, bowing before her “father”.
‘You stand before me as a sycophantic pawn!’ comes the reply. ‘You have dishonored me for the last time’ Ichisumi’s “father” tells her as he smacks her in the face, knocking her to the ground. Fantomex stands over her, hands on hips, he declares ‘Surely you see the inherent comedy in this reversal of circumstances. I suppose it’s funnier if you aren’t the one with the broken jaw’.
Nearby, Wade “Deadpool” Wilson crawls across the lunar landscape. ‘My name is Detective JimJam McLanternjaw. Was on route to a sunburn when she showed up. Kinda dame leads to a funeral…some good bad trouble. Tells me a dingo ate her baby. This daddy-o ain’t in the dingo baby-eating business. But, I am in the sexy-lady-touching-my-body business. Whenever a sexy lady wants to make that the business I am in’ Fantomex thinks to himself, babbling in his mind as he crawls closer to Warren “Archangel” Worthington III. ‘Wade?’ Warren coughs. Deadpool tells himself that the right chump takes the wrong job. ‘Few leads went south, dropped me down that rabbit hole. Rabbit had teeth. Biting teeth. Thumping legs. Lazy eye fry cook at the ho-jos was lying. Swore he didn’t know - but that eye was too lazy to be telling the truth. So lazy’ Deadpool thinks to himself.
Deadpool opens a pouch on his belt and a Deadpool-mask-tent pops up. Deadpool proceeds to drag the badly wounded Archangel to the tent. Wade crouches beside him, and exclaims ‘Elbow grease, and an elbow to lazy eye, the mook gave up the plot. “Head to the moon and you’ll find the cheese” he tells me -’ Wade babbles, Warren tells Wade that whatever he is saying, he has to shut up. ‘This Aitkens Diet, Warren? You know the weight’ll come back as soon as you reintroduce carbs, right?’ Deadpool jokes. ‘No more crazy…focus…help me…’ Warren coughs. ‘Whoa - okay, man said no crazy. Not to be crazy. Crazy said okay to not be. Food, right? Yes. Get him some food…’ Wade mumbles, while Warren begins to choke. ‘HA! Score one for the belt of pouches!’ Wade calls out as he holds up a can of soda and some fizzy candies. He opens both, and begins to pour them into Warren’s mouth. ‘I know, I know. Sugar isn’t on you diet’ Deadpool jokes.
Back outside the tent, ‘I have spent decades waiting and preparing for this’ Death announces as Wolverine falls backwards. Logan knows that he is inundated with disease, his healing factor is overloaded and begins to shut down. ‘Geek had it all planned out’ Logan realizes. Death calls out that the moment to prove his strength, to claim his rightful station. ‘I will be made a king - as is my birthright!’ he booms. Wolverine desperately crawls towards Death. But cancer fills his lungs. He pushes forward. His airway is choked with pus, but still he crawls. Logan suffers a massive coronary and his words lose meaning as dementia sets in. He has a stroke, followed by a seizure, yet still he crawls. His vision is shot, as cataracts develop, and he contracts lupus. But still he crawls towards Death, he shouts ‘Be honoured. En Saba Nur prizes your death, you who were offered so much. Come - scoot me like a pig…crawl to your death!’
Inside, War approaches the Ship-citadel, massive axe in one hand, he still drags Betsy behind him. He reaches a large set of doors, with two guards standing outside it. ‘Ummm, sir, perhaps we should check with Ozymandias?’ one of them asks, and the other adds he doesn’t believe they are supposed to allow any of the X-Men through. War blows his nose, covering the guards in snot. ‘Yes, sir, forgive me. I’m sure it’s fine’ the guard replies nervously.
Outside, Death pulls Wolverine closer towards him, telling him to pass into darkness. ‘Your only failing was the strength of your opponent. Go now to tell your -’, but Death stops himself mid-sentence, as Wolverine is revealed to by Pestilence. ‘No! Ichisumi! Forgive me!’ Death calls out as the wounded Horseman lies in his arms.
Nearby, Fantomex helps Wolverine across the surface, telling him that he could not maintain the misdirection, and now Death knows that he swapped Wolverine. Fantomex asks Logan what the plan of retreat is, explaining that EVA is infected and demolished. ‘No…no retreat. Do this or die…’ Logan chokes out, adding that this is the only chance they will get, and tells Fantomex to remember the target. ‘There is no win here, you stubborn badger! We’re all dying! You’re dying! I’ve never seen you -’ Fantomex exclaims, while Wolverine, covered in all sorts of nasties, explains that as he gets clear from Death, the disease fades, before asking Fantomex to catch him up. ‘Where we at?’ he asks. ‘A bad place’ Fantomex replies.
Nearby, Famine enters Ship, followed by Death, who hovers on a magic carpet, carrying Pestilence. Ozymandias informs them that they are leaving, and tells Death that he has failed and that he will never have Wolverine in such proximity again. ‘Had you fathered any information on the illusionist they would all be dead’ Death replies. Ozymandias explains that Lord Apocalypse left no memorandum on him. ‘We must endeavor to resolve this oversight’ he adds.
Fantomex sees the Horsemen enter the Ship, and informs Wolverine that is where Betsy was took. ’Can’t move fast enough - leave me - get to Bets -’ Wolverine tells him, but Fantomex puts Logan over his shoulder and rushes to the quickly closing portal. ’No-no-no. You aren’t getting out of this that easy. You threw this party - you’re helping clean up’ Fantomex tells him.
Inside, Betsy comes to, she moans, and rubs her head. She tells herself that her brain is bruised and raw, so she dare not strain for a scan. She notices silk on her legs and the smell of burning sage, so she knows there is no scan needed to know that her situation has changed for the unexpected. ’It is good you live’ War remarks as he sits nearby. He tells Betsy that he could have crushed her head if he so desired. ’I do want to kill you. Yet you are the one. I can’t ignore it. The man said it. And then…it was true’ War declares.
War tells Betsy that he loves her, that it nearly destroyed him, and that he spent days collecting himself, but the thought of her gave him impetus. ’Misdirection works too well. Jean-Phillipe, you son of a…’ Betsy thinks to herself, referring to Fantomex by his alias. Betsy stands up before War and tells him that she, too feels this conflicting urge. ’We are enemies, yet we both desire the natural, inevitable domination of homo superior’ War declares that no one will ever mistreat him, never again. ’No one will ever hurt you, Decimus. Not anymore’ Betsy assures him. ’My name…you know it, my true name…’ War replies.
Betsy touches War’s chin, telling him that if she were to return his affections, she would need to know the ugliness in him that she perceived before - ‘Has faded’ Decimus assures her. ‘Now, again in your company, the thirst for war has faded’ he adds. ‘Then your mind is no longer guarded by it’ Betsy declares, before shoving a psychic-knife into War’s brain.
Elsewhere in Ship, the elderly woman leads the boy Apocalypse down past some guards, while Ozymandias’ voice is heard over the communicator, announcing that they are teleport jumping in sixty seconds. ‘We are preparing to leap, your Lordship. Secure yourself in the jumpseat’ the old woman announces. ‘Yeah, okay’ the boy Apocalypse replies, while the count-down continues. ‘Ship will, there always be people trying to kill me?’ Apocalypse asks. ‘Yes’ the old woman tells him, and as she walks away she adds that it will be easier to manage them once he rules the world.
Wolverine and Fantomex make their way down a spiral staircase, and Fantomex announces that the communicator line is blocked, that there is no connection with Betsy and no way to let the others know the party is moving. ‘Last I saw, Warren was in rough shape’ Logan replies. ‘He has Deadpool to aid him’ Fantomex points out. ‘What kind of odds does that give him?’ Logan asks. ‘Not amazing ones. It was a joke’ Fantomex explains. ‘Jokes? Does that mean you’re feeling better?’ Wolverine asks him. Fantomex replies that it does, and that once they are clear of Death, he could feel his strength return. He adds that he does not look forward to a rematch.
‘I do!’ Wolverine exclaims. ‘Very butch’ Fantomex remarks, before telling Wolverine that there is the same low buzzing sound as before. ‘They’re teleporting!’ he shouts as he and Logan make their way to another door. ‘Dammed place is coming down around our ears!’ Logan exclaims, while Fantomex asks if it is too late to decline his invitation to join X-Force. ‘Too late for a lot of things…’ Logan remarks as the ceiling begins to cave in on them.
Outside, under the tent, Deadpool asks Warren if he feels that. ‘Like an earthquake. Or moonquake, I guess…Warren? Warren?’ Deadpool calls out when he gets no response from the motionless Archangel.
Inside, Ozymandias announces that they teleport jump in five seconds, and counts down, while the Apocalypse boy plays with some figurines. A door suddenly slides open, and Apocalypse looks up nervously. ‘S-Ship?’ he calls out. ‘Teleport jump initiated’ announces Ozymandias, while standing before Apocalypse is a very angry, katana-wielding Betsy….