(not long ago - New York City)
New York City is bustling with people. Amongst them is a stranger in this time, a man who has seen it all and who has returned to this era in order to carry out an all-important task. It’s been two days since the tall, silver-haired man stepped off the cargo ship that brought him to America from Scotland. It’s also two days since he slept. He has walked the streets in an effort to try and assimilate and absorb everything. It hasn’t been easy. He looks around at the way things were around the time of his birth, and he wonders if he has done the right thing in coming there. He witnesses the teeming rush of humanity around him, and wonders… can they be saved?
As Nathan Dayspring has come here to fight a war, the first thing he must obtain is information. He knows he has only just begun a long journey to understanding, and where better to begin than at a stall selling the Daily Bugle. He picks up a copy and leafs through the pages. The vendor takes offense at his nonchalance, and aggressively snatches the paper from him. Nathan wanders away, but with effortless ease, he uses a portion of his telekinesis to cause the vendor’s stand to collapse. He offers a wry grin, and senses that he’s beginning to learn a few things about surviving in New York.
In contrast to the hustle of the city, the center of modern civilization, a small shack in the snow-covered hills of Northern Canada offers peace, tranquility and a rare moment of contentment for its occupants. Wolverine relaxes with a cigar as his female companion sleeps. He is a man whose memory has many spaces and incomplete memories; so inaccessible. He relishes rare moments like these, but they never last.
A buzzing sound alerts him to an incoming signal from his employers - Department H. He clicks a switch and James Hudson’s face appears on the screen. He doesn’t ‘bore’ Logan with the details of his mission, but asks him to find the story on his short wave radio. Logan turns it on, and a reporter provides details of a disturbance in the area around Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The RCMP has been called in, but the cause of the disturbance is at present, unknown. Soon, Logan is in costume, still smoking his cigar. The reporter adds that witnesses have seen some kind of creature running amok. Local authorities are reporting heavy casualties, and don’t have the firepower to combat this threat. Logan forgives Mac this time. Something like this needs a specialist; someone like him.
Meanwhile, Nathan makes his way to the library, where the information he needs is readily to hand. Two millennia from now, historical records are scarce to say the least. Entire centuries are unaccounted for. The history of this particular century is incredibly vague, which is disturbing considering the importance of the era. He reads newspaper records stored on microfilm, and comes across a story about Professor Charles Xavier, who is described by the paper as a maverick researcher. Nathan recognizes him and knows that it was this man’s dream that started it all; a dream that at this point hasn’t yet taken form. But it will. Nathan learns what he needs to know about him, and will soon seek him out. But, more than this, he learns of the twentieth century.
He reads about the Industrial Revolution, the Great Depression, two world wars followed by a long cold war. He reads about the space race and nuclear proliferation. It’s astonishing what was achieved in just a hundred years, he thinks; it’s almost too much to take. He thought it would be different here. He has seen his own wars, his own tragedies and rivers of blood. He thinks of his wife dying in his arms, and his resolve returns tenfold. This is why he has come back.
Wishing to take something out, he is prevented by the elderly librarian who informs him he cannot do so without a library card. Before they can discuss this further, they hear sounds emanating from outside the library, police sirens included. Nathan heads outside and sees that police have cordoned off the jewelry shop across the street. He overhears two cops talking about how this started out as a robbery. A guard tripped the alarm, and now they’ve got a hostage situation on their hands. Nathan slips past a police guard with judicious use of his telepathy, and he enters the shop through a strangely open window. It’s quiet, and he wonders if he’s dealing with a single enemy, or several. It makes no difference to him.
He soon comes across the main vault which has an explosive attached to it, with a timer counting down the seconds. He understands that the device is more advanced than most similar types of this era. It’s a hi-tech robbery, but who could be responsible?
He suddenly senses movement behind him, but is too late to prevent himself being slammed to the ground by a wing belonging to the costumed criminal, the Vulture. Nathan goes down hard. The Vulture doesn’t know how he got inside, but he won’t allow him to disrupt him on his first endeavor as a master thief. Nate looks up at his assailant. “Nice outfit, old man,” he remarks. The Vulture replies, “Old!? Allow me to demonstrate how ‘old’ I am!” He slams his foot into Nate’s chest, before taking to the air and swooping gracefully out into the night sky. Officers duck as he warns them to stay down and not to look at him. Nate hopes nobody saw his lack of finesse in dealing with the situation, before realizing there is still a ticking bomb that needs urgent attention. He turns to look at the clock, and sees it has one second remaining. “Oath!”
The blast knocks Nate clear off his feet, and he is saved only by erecting a last-ditch telekinetic shield. The Vulture swings around, enters the shop and grabs the jewels. The heist is a good beginning to his own personal fortune. As the world will soon discover, he gloats to himself, he has only just begun.
An officer uses his torch to search through the debris, and discovers Nathan lying in the rubble, an arm extended showing his whereabouts. “Omigod,” remarks the officer. “What in the world is up with this guy…?”
(Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan)
Wolverine’s been there before but, instead of lifting a few pints, this time he has business to attend to. The cops shoot at their enemy, but their weapons are totally ineffectual against him. He is huge, and carries a really big gun at his waist. One of them wonders ‘what’ it is. It’s a good question, with no easy answer.
Two millennia ago, the Caananite D’Von Kray was a hardened combat warrior. On the battlefields of a hellish future lay the initial seeds of his destiny; his entire squad killed by the one named Dayspring. A few genetic alterations later, and D’Von Kray was ready to follow Dayspring back through time. He had more in mind than a simple bounty. All that mattered to him was the blood rite, in other words, cold revenge.
Unfortunately, temporal displacement is not an exact science, and his journey ended in madness. He has no memory of his identity, or of his mission. He knows only mindless rage, and this is tough luck for the population of Moose Jaw.
As D’Von Kray takes this rage and directs it forcefully against the hopelessly outmatched cops, Wolverine arrives on the scene, and pops his claws. He attacks the stranger with his usual aggressiveness, only to find that, although there may be no memory… there is still instinct. Narrowly avoiding a blast from D’Von’s weapon, Wolverine gets in close, and slashes at him mercilessly. His bravado is met with physical might, and Wolverine is put down hard.
He gets up, dusts himself down, and uses the big guy’s size against him. He launches D’Von straight into some electrical cables, which knock him unconscious. Logan lights another cigar, and figures the boys at Department H are probably on their way to collect the stranger. He’s kinda curious as to where he, or it, came from himself.
Outside the jewelry exchange, the recovering Nathan Dayspring is approached by a security guard, who introduces himself as Franklin Rhodes; the man who pulled him outta there. Nathan offers him his name, and Franklin admits he saw Nate’s funky arm and covered him up before the medics arrived. However, he is curious as to how he survived the blast. Nate refuses the offer of medical facilities, and Franklin asks if he lives around there. “No… not really,” replies Nate.
The two men arrive at a gun shop that Franklin owns. The security guard gig is just a part time gig. What he really does is handle weapons. There isn’t a firearm in the world that hasn’t passed through his place. Nate asks if he sells them, but Franklin replies that he only buys them, in order to keep them off the street. He notices that Nathan looks pretty handy with a pistol he’s picked up, and asks if he ever fired one. Nate says he has - once or twice.
Franklin takes him upstairs and shows him a spare room. It’s not much, but he figures it’s okay. He suggests Nathan stay there if he wants. The fridge is pretty well-stocked with the necessities. He passes Nate a beer; something Nate’s never seen before. He takes a swig, and seems to enjoy the taste.
He wonders why Franklin’s helping him, as his hospitality makes him suspicious. Franklin explains that he was ex-military too. They smell their own. He never turns his back on a vet in need. He adds that he was also a former S.H.I.E.L.D agent. Again, this is something Nate is unfamiliar with. Franklin informs him it stands for Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-Enforcement Division. It’s an organization sanctioned by the U.N., which is dedicated to protecting the world from any and all threats - at least that’s what the recruiting pamphlet says.
Franklin says he was a grunt on quite a few black-ops. Heavy stuff, and nothing he really wants to talk about. Nate tells him he never said he was in the military. “I told you… we smell our own,” Franklin replies.
Wolverine has been spending the past few days there, and likes this less and less with each passing moment. D’Von Kray is now their captive, and is hooked up to hi-tech machinery, with numerous tubes plugged into him. Scientists monitor his condition and carry out routine diagnostic tests on him. Logan tells Mac that this is a bad idea. Mac disagrees. He doubts the creature is American in origin. It possesses weaponry like nothing he has ever seen, and hopes to learn from it. It’s also as artificial as it is organic. This is a chance they cannot afford to pass up. He assures his old friend that they’re taking all the necessary precautions.
Logan remains unconvinced, and informs Mac that the takedown in Moose Jaw was almost too easy. This thing was too out of control. He thinks there’s something unknowable here. He asks if Mac isn’t curious as to where it came from. Mac says they’ll find out everything they need to know. “What then?” Logan asks. Mac has some ideas, and Logan wants to know what they are.
Mac explains that after some retrofitting to replace indigenous weaponry they may never understand, Logan may be looking at the next recruit; the most powerful recruit of the new Alpha Flight program. Logan reiterates that he thinks this is a bad idea, but Mac asks him not to be so quick to judge. Logan thinks nothing good is going to come out of this.
(one week later)
Logan is leafing through a training manual. He can’t believe that Department H is already going to carry out field tests on the creature. Mac isn’t thrilled either, and had tried talking his superiors out of it. Part of the new report, he explains, contains a brief hypothesis on the origins of the construct. Naturally, no one’s paying attention to it, but frankly it makes him nervous; scared even. Mac knows one thing. Whatever it is that’s sitting comatose in the lab, it came from the future.
Franklin has opened his shop for business, and is in the process of purchasing a rifle complete with eyesight. He thinks its owner is a jerk. To him it’s a toy to make him feel more powerful. He hopes the guy never has to see the things a weapon like this can do; things his new friend has seen. Nathan is busying himself watching television; something he has had little chance to do in his life. A game show is on, the prize being a dorky looking car. Nate smiles, and thinks no wonder civilization comes to an end.
Despite his attention on the game show, his mind cannot help but wander to a past that haunts him, and a future that awaits him. The past… the future - he can hardly tell the difference. The problem is that, for all intents and purposes, they are one and the same. The memories, the nightmare visions; they’re all too real. Apocalypse’s evil influence stretches farther than recorded history… in both directions. He recalls his parents who were torn away far too soon. He remembers the death rattle of soldiers on the battlefield; men under his command. He has forgotten more names than he wants to recall; the names of fallen comrades, brothers-in-arms and friends who expired bloody and broken in his arms. He often wishes he could forget, but he never can.
Lost in thought, Franklin breaks his sorrow by offering him another beer. He’s impressed with Nate’s new haircut. His long locks have gone, and have been replaced with a more contemporary style. He asks Nate what he was thinking about, but instead of replying, Nate instead enquires about Franklin’s time in S.H.I.E.L.D.
Trudging through a dank sewerage tunnel, Franklin and his fellow agent edge carefully through the shallow water. The memories come easily to him. He explains that it’s not something he talked about; with each other, or anyone else. Conducting black-ops ain’t exactly like storming the beach at Normandy. Everything they did was the kind of mission that wasn’t officially recorded. Missions were never referred to… ever.
They were the shadow company. Their mission parameters were simple. Ferret out the enemy… win by attrition. He knew the score, and wasn’t under any illusions about what they did. His mind wanders back to a firestorm, and the part they played in the mission. The wars he fought are the ones that don’t get talked about at parties. The term ‘war’ was never even used to describe their involvement in settling ethnic disputes; alternatively training and eliminating rebel forces in hot spots around the globe.
What they did was in the name of promoting and preserving democracy. Some democracy, he adds. No one involved had much of a choice about it. He did his job well, and his moments of hesitation were few and far between. But, when those moments happened, it was like he couldn’t recognize himself. His tour lasted eight years; eight years listening to the kinds of screams Hollywood never seems to get right. He recalls finding a child’s doll in the ruins of a building he and his men had destroyed. The consequences, the nightmares and the cold sweats? Well, he figured he’d just learn to live with ‘em.
He looks at Nate, and says he probably knows what he’s talking about. Nate replies that he does. Franklin offers a toast; “To all those that didn’t make it home…”
In the dead of the night, D’Von Kray begins to stir. A small amount of brain activity is detected first, and then his arm moves slightly. His brain activity grows quickly until it’s operating at normal levels. He opens his eyes. “Dayspring.”
Asleep in a nearby room is Logan, who is woken by a security alert. The hull has been breached. D’Von Kray is already on a fresh rampage. The rooftop gave little resistance to his strange weapons. The chill of the night air reminds D’Von that he has traveled far across millennia to achieve his goal; a goal that is once again clear to him thanks to the meddling scientists of this era. Internal tracking devices come online, reaching out in every direction. His memory banks are encoded with Dayspring’s specific energy pattern. If he is anywhere on Earth, D’Von Kray will find him.
Logan has swiftly put on his Wolverine costume and charges into the control center. He finds James Hudson looking at the monitors. He explains that their ‘guest’ has escaped. As Logan can see, he didn’t exactly sneak out. There have been heavy casualties, and several deaths. Mac explains that the lab techs fitted him with a portable transport system; twin VTOL rockets affixed to his back. He adds that the creature is already in American airspace. Wolverine says they’re not gonna like that. Mac replies that they may never know; unless he goes off the charts again like before. But, for now, they’ve installed an internal jammer so he’s radar invisible. They can track him via a Department H homing tracer they injected into his spinal fluid. Wolverine asks for a fix on his location. He’ll take care of him.
The gun shop is closed, and Franklin has Nathan meet some of his friends at a bar for drinks. The guys tell stories of their time in the service, and for the time being, Nathan almost feels comfortable… almost. He excuses himself from the table, and one of Franklin’s friends asks him what the story is with him. Franklin replies that he’s all right. He’s a vet, and is just having trouble adjusting to civilian life. “You know guys… it takes time.”
Nate makes his way to the restroom. He looks at his reflection in a broken mirror. The splintered shards of glass remind him that he came here for a reason, spurred on by the nightmare of the future. What he has found is an era just as broken - just as shattered as the war torn battlefields he left behind. The war he faces here is against his own demons; much tougher to win. He tells himself he must not lose focus. Finding Charles Xavier is but a small step, the first of many he will have to make. There is a life to be lived here in this century and, in time, he’ll learn to win the wars he must fight. He must strive to find a life worth living.
Franklin enters the restroom, a little the worse for wear. He’s up to his limit, and he asks Nate if he’s ready to leave. They leave the bar behind, and head back to Franklin’s. Nate puts Franklin’s arm around his broad shoulders to help him walk. As they move slowly through the night, Nate’s telepathy picks something up nearby.
Wolverine is aboard a government helicopter, and flying at speed through American air space. He expects contact with his target in less than ten seconds, and hopes the guys weren’t expecting to salvage anything.
They’re almost home, but Nate gets a stronger sense of danger, and turns just in time to see incoming fire. He throws himself and Franklin to the ground, as explosive blasts shatter the ground around them. Franklin sobers up incredibly quickly as his instincts begin to take over. He orders Nathan back to the shop, but asks what on Earth that was. D’Von Kray descends from the sky, not unlike the fabled angel of death. A purity has returned to his half-human thoughts. If this city of man must be burned to the ground, the blood rite will be fulfilled.
The two soldiers manage to get to the gun shop, and Franklin asks if Nate cares to explain just what he is hiding from him. Nate is brutally honest. He informs Franklin that he comes from a war-ravaged future that’s worse than anything this world has seen. He doesn’t know exactly attacked them, but he’s pretty sure it has something to do with him. Anything else? he asks. Nate adds that he’s a mutant and, from what he can tell, that’s not a very popular thing to be.
Now that they’re armed, they’re dangerous. Franklin knows they have a fight on their hands, but looks to Nate for leadership. Nate explains that he caught a quick telepathic flash of their attacker. He’s got a lock on him now. Nate is the target. He pauses. “Wait… he’s here.” A massive burst of gunfire shatters the shop’s wall and, as they pick themselves up, Nate gets a good look at their assailant. He can see his weaponry - strictly twentieth century issue. He’s wearing no gun belt, so he probably doesn’t have unlimited ammo. He also hears D’Von Kray’s voice, and wonders if he knows it.
Speaking in a strange formal style, he warns Nate than he has his mind again, and the blood rite is the Canaanite’s way. Now, Nate shall taste D’Von Kray’s fury, as his company tasted Nate’s. He fires a volley of ammunition, forcing Franklin to duck for cover. He moves gracefully through the smoke, eagerly stalking his prey. He tells the unseen Nate that he has been adapted to more effectively grind his bones; molded to perfection by this era’s tech-makers. They have given him the tools to ferret and flash.
He sights Nate using infrared vision, but before he can begin blasting, he notices a wind rustling up around him. He turns to see a helicopter hovering just above the ground, and in the doorway, a familiar sight. Wolverine has his claws extended, and tells D’Von that he looks better than he did in Moose Jaw. Department H put their best eggheads to work… and this is what they get? “They sent me here to play fetch…”
He leaps with surprising ferocity, launching himself at D’Von Kray, and stabbing him with every claw as he makes contact. In one quick move, D’Von aims the large weapon on his arm at Wolverine’s torso and fires. He takes the blast square in the chest, and his flesh is torn asunder. Nate winces as he sees Wolverine fall, and asks Franklin if he’s a friend of his. “Not mine. Whoever he is, there’s no way he survived that!” Wolverine, however, is no ordinary human, and his healing factor begins to work its magic immediately.
Nate picks up two sets of thoughts. One’s the Canaanite, and the other is primitive; feral… animal. He notices Franklin get up and dash back to the shop. He’s returning for ammo, and wants to draw D’Von’s fire. “NO!” cries Nate, but Franklin is already up and running. He fires using a pistol held in both hands at their opponent; his bullets ricocheting off his jet pack. They do him absolutely no damage whatsoever, and he turns quickly to counter Franklin’s attack. His shots are more successful, with several hitting Franklin who drops to the ground, severely wounded.
D’Von keeps firing until his ammo is spent, and the weapons click lifelessly. Nate jumps at the opportunity, landing a kick on the giant’s chest. He says Kray has ventured far to meet the same end his fellow butchers did, and wonders was it worth it to leave everything he knew? D’Von replies that Nate’s pain will be his journey’s worth. And if he should fail, there will be others to follow. He kicks Nate away forcefully, and follows up by grabbing Nate around the neck. He can’t breathe, and is unable to concentrate long enough for his telekinesis to work.
Suddenly, D’Von’s eyes open wide as Wolverine pops his claws straight through the back of his skull. He squirms in agony, and loses his grip on Nate’s throat. “Go ahead then, snowball,” says Logan through gritted teeth. “Welcome to the twentieth century, D’Von!” adds Nate, before unleashing a telekinetic blast at his foe. He pops several feet into the air, and Logan mercilessly dismembers him, cutting his head clean off.
With D’Von dead, Nathan now wonders if his new comrade is actually willing to fight him too. Before he can think about that, he remembers Franklin, lying on the ground, bleeding to death. He holds him, but Franklin knows his time is short. He looks at Nate, and tells him that he’s reconciled a lot in his life and found some peace in this sad world. He wants Nate to try the same. He may not be able to read minds, but he knows that much. As he slips away, he asks Nate to remember his name. “I will Franklin Rhodes; I will.”
Wolverine explains that the feds picked up what was left of their boy, and the cops are cleaning up the rest. Nate suggests they get out of there. As Wolverine climbs aboard the helicopter, he says it’s tough to lose someone; he knows, but he warns Nate to park the attitude before he ends up needing another fake arm. Nate asks him not to threaten him when he has one foot out the door. He’s got a lot of pain right now, and if he wants it taking out on him, he’s game. Wolverine replies that they’ll meet again someday. Maybe they won’ be on the same side, and he can take a stab at taking that pain out on him. “Count on it,” replies Nate. Wolverine disappears in the helicopter, leaving Nate to end the story in silence.
(Salem Center, New York)
Nate is standing at Franklin’s gravestone. It’s a quiet cemetery, with a lone marker. The inscription reads, ‘Franklin Rhodes. A good soldier laid to rest.’ Nate thinks nothing and says nothing. There are no words and no thoughts to give. He has laid a friend to rest; his first friend in this strange era, but it will not be the last. There will be others; allies and adversaries of every type. Charles Xavier is only one of many he will soon encounter. He knows that he has only taken a first step toward a greater destiny, and to reach that destiny, not only a mission to enact change, but a search for meaning and belonging in a world where every man seeks as much, he must continue to move forward, one step at a time.