Falls Edge, hidden deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, is home and headquarters for the government sponsored mutant team known as X-Factor. The facility was designed by the mutant inventive genius known simply as Forge - Falls Edge is equipped with security devices which go well beyond state-of-the-art. Today, all defense systems are on-line, making the Compound resemble something of an armed camp - which is appropriate considering the foe X-Factor prepares to face. He is called the Adversary - and he is coming today.
‘Whoa! Watch it!’ shouts the enigmatic Shard as a blast of energy fired from a weapon by Kyle “Wild Child” Gibney passes through her. ‘Oops!’ Kyle exclaims, apologizing as he explains that he is not really a weapons kind of guy. Indeed, puberty brought Wild Child inhuman strength and athletic ability - as well as a face only a mother could love - hence why he is not used to using weapons. Shard, X-Factor’s newest addition, exists only thanks to a holo-matrix, which is made from technology that will not exist for another seventy-nine years. Shard is the younger sister of the X-Man known as Bishop, and she has a mind, soul and array of emotions. The only thing she needs is a human body.
As Forge, Lorna “Polaris” Dane and Raven “Mystique” Darkholme stand nearby, Shard assures Wild Child that she is fine. Forge approaches Kyle, ‘If you don’t mind…I’ll try to find you something a little less…sensitive’ Forge remarks as he takes the gun from Wild Child, who jokes ‘Sure. Maybe something will rubber darts?’. Shard assures Forge that she is fine, and remarks that her body hasn’t looked this good since it was real flesh and blood. She adds that her holo-field is holding steady with no static and no breaking up. ‘So chill!’ she tells Forge.
Forge begins to hand out some weapons to his teammates and tells Shard that he will “chill” when the Adversary is no longer a threat. ‘None of you realize the extent of the danger he poses!’ Forge exclaims. The sultry Mystique suddenly interrupts, ‘Yeah, yeah, the Great Trickster…the ancient enemy of your people…who wants to destroy the universe…you’re the only one who can stop him!’ she exclaims, telling Forge that they have been hearing all about the Adversary since he showed up on Roma’s tail yesterday. Raven assures Forge that they all believe him, that the Adversary is going to be tough. ‘All I want to know is are these weapons you whipped up going to be able to fry his butt or not?’
‘If they don’t, Mystique…none of us will be alive to know any better’ Forge tells his long-time “companion”, before announcing that the perimeter defense shield is fully charged and on-line, and explains that they are going to have to lead the Adversary right into the shield in order for it to be lethal. Raven smirks as she asks Forge if this reminds him of the good old days in the war, to which Forge snaps that there was nothing good about the old days. ‘You’d know that if you stayed around to face the Adversary last time he appeared’ he declares. Mystique retorts that she was carried out by the Blob, and assures Forge that she wanted to stay and fight. ‘Looks like I finally get my chance’ Raven mutters.
Suddenly, Roma appears hovering above X-Factor, and addressing Forge as Maker, suggests Forge tell his teammates the rest, as they deserve to know it all. ‘What are you talking about?’ Forge asks the Guardian of the Omniverse. Roma replies that she speaks of what Naze, Forge’s mentor, wanted her to convey to him, that the key to the Adversary’s defeat is not through technological weaponry, but with the mystical heritage on which Forge has turned his back to. ‘Yeah, you told me Naze was killed by the Adversary…what did the old ways do for him?’ Forge asks Roma.
‘THIS…is all the heritage I need!’ Forge shouts as he holds up a powerful weapon, declaring that the enemy of his people dies tonight, and orders X-Factor to get on with the patrols. Forge explains to the glamorous Polaris that he will need her to throw some electro-magnetics back at the shields when the Adversary hits them, and asks her if she can handle that. ‘I’ll be on it!’ the Mistress of Magnetism replies as she takes flight. Forge orders Mystique to cover Polaris, so Raven follows Lorna, while Wild Child and Shard are ordered on recon. ‘Cool!’ Shard exclaims, before beckoning Wild Child to follow her, and remarking that she will show him what it is like to be a part of the Xavier Security Enforcers, eighty years from now. ‘Yeah…cool…’ Kyle mutters back.
With a glowing pink aura surrounding her, Roma tells Forge that he is making a mistake. ‘And you know it!’ she adds. ‘He is coming!’ Forge replies that he is counting on it, and tells Roma that if she wants to be helpful, then she can grab a weapon. But Roma takes flight, the pink glow spreading as it follows her, and Roma declares ‘No, Forge. They are not my way’. Roma explains to Forge that when the Adversary was reborn, to this plane of existence, Naze convinced her to curtail the use of her mystical powers, in an attempt to remain undetected by the Adversary’s prying mind, and to keep the Adversary from following her to Forge. Roma declares that now Naze is gone, and the battle is upon them, so all thoughts of subtlety and subterfuge can be dropped as she searches for the enemy in her own way.
Nearby, hidden in some bushes, the Adversary watches, undetected, as Roma departs, ‘Yes, Sorceress…search…search all you want, but it will be in vain. For…I am here!’ the Adversary whispers to himself, before deciding he should search for someone to assist him in this latest bit of mischief. The Adversary proceeds to stretch out his mind, embracing the spirits of each of Forge’s compatriots, seeking out their true nature - and when he comes to Mystique, who is nearby patrolling the area, he decides that she will serve him quite well indeed.
Meanwhile, fifty miles away, Victor Creed a.k.a. the deadly killer known as Sabretooth, is not happy. He is being held against his will at this government scientific / medical research facility beneath the streets of Washington D.C. Much of that time he was spent bound and sedate in a holding tank, while his own mutant healing factor worked overtime in an attempt to repair wounds he received in battle with the X-Men. Creed is now naked and chained in a holding room. The sedatives have worn off - and he is definitely not happy.
Standing in an observation booth is the brilliant Doctor Valerie Cooper, an expert on mutants and one of the members of the Commission on Superhuman Affairs, as well as X-Factor’s liaison to the government. Valerie asks Dr. Pole what she is doing here, asking if she is really required to watch the security personnel attaching Creed’s latest restraining collar. Dr. Pole replies that he is just following orders, and assures her that it is not going to take long.
As the collar is placed on Creed by a cautious security guard, Valerie asks what makes it so special. Dr. Pole replies that it is far superior to any restraining collar currently in use, explaining that it measures adrenaline output, brain activity and the proximity of the subject to the designated target. Dr. Pole remarks that, if Sabretooth should choose to turn his rage on any but said designated target - ‘A teammate for example…’ - then Creed will be hit with an electric blast focused directly on his brain system. ‘The result is a complete, and might I add…painful…neural shutdown’ Dr. Pole adds.
Valerie watches as the security officers take away Creeds’ restraints, and instantly, Creed leaps up to the viewing booth, and rests on a small ledge, where he proceeds to scratch the glass with his claws. Val asks Dr. Pole who determines the designated target, to which Pole replies that he assumed it would be her. ‘Excuse me?’ Val asks, perplexed, also asking Pole what he meant by “teammate” earlier. Dr. Pole tells Valerie that he assumed she had received the orders, to which Val asks ‘What orders?’ as Sabretooth suddenly keels over thanks to the sudden electro blast sent to his brain. Dr. Pole reveals that his orders are to attach and calibrate the restraining collar, and then turn Sabretooth over to Valerie. ‘He’s to be part of X-Factor!’
Back at Falls Edge, Forge patrols the perimeter, thinking to himself that it is the waiting that gets to him - and the knowing of who is going to face - and how unprepared he is for him. ‘If only Naze had…’ Forge thinks to himself, when a voice interrupts his train of thoughts, ‘If only I had what, Maker?’. Forge looks up, ‘Naze!?’ he exclaims, surprised, as a glowing figure stands before him. Naze asks Forge if he was hoping that he had chosen someone else to lay this burden upon, before asking him when he will understand that the choice was not theirs to make. ‘You were chosen…as I before you…by the great spirits. Ours is not to deny their call’ Naze reminds Forge, but as Naze approaches Forge, the Maker holds his weapon high and tells Naze to stand where he is. ‘He raised me. I know Naze better than I know any living being. It was my charge to watch his every move. You may look like my old teacher, may even sound like him, but…you move like another!’ Forge exclaims.
‘Oh, and who would that be?’ Naze asks, before suddenly switching form into a soldier - ‘Maybe one of the grunts from the unit. You going to grease me, sarge?’ the soldier asks, before switching forms again - this time, into the X-Woman known as Storm. ‘Or will you lash out at me, my love?’ Storm asks. ‘Are we destined to never be together…never be happy?’ Storms’ form switches this time, into that of Mystique, who stands there, arms folded, smirking: ‘Or, if you can’t warm up to Storm, the ice goddess…maybe you’ll settle for me for a change!’ Mystique exclaims.
‘Mystique! What are you playing at?’ Forge asks, grabbing Raven’s arm and pulling her towards him as he warns her that this is not time for any of her head games. ‘Come on, Forge…everything’s quiet. There’s no sign of your Adversary. I was getting bored out there all by myself’ Raven replies. ‘Bored?’ Forge asks. ‘Okay…I was out of line…I’m sorry’. Raven quickly exclaims, as she puts a hand on Forge’s chest. Forge just tells Raven to get back out there and stay alert. ‘Please?’ he asks. ‘Sure’ Raven replies, before telling Forge that the two of them have been playing this game for too long. ‘You scold me…I threaten your life…isn’t it time we were honest with each other?’ she asks, smiling.
Continuing, Raven suggests that it is time they really let the other know how they feel. ‘Time that we…’ she begins as she moves her lips towards Forge’s mouth. ‘Raven…’ Forge whispers, before pushing her away, telling her to stop this, he asks her if she is crazy and exclaims that he cannot do this, not now. He starts to walk away from Raven, telling her that they can talk about this later, but now they need to stay focused. Suddenly, Raven retches and keels over, screaming for Forge, the Maker turns and sees that Mystique is morphing into various forms uncontrollably.
Mystique begs for Forge to shoot her, gasping ‘He’s in me…killing me!’. Forge understands what Mystique is saying, and exclaims ‘No! He’s here!’ and realizes that the Adversary is trying to trick him into killing Mystique. ‘It’s me you want, Adversary! Come out and face me!’ Forge shouts, raising his gun. Mystique drops to the ground, as the Adversary rises from her, ‘Oh, I will, Maker…I will indeed!’ the Adversary boasts as he takes his default form and stands on a rise, while the sky above him grows dark.
The Adversary tells Forge that they are face-to-face once again, and motions to the weapons that Forge, and his teammates, who are rushing over, are carrying. ‘I see you are planning to wield weapons of technology against me!’ he boasts, and remarks that the rumors are true, that Forge has forsaken his heritage. ‘It is just as well…your spirit was never strong enough to challenge me!’ the Adversary shouts, before announcing that today will be a day of endings. ‘An ending to the prophecies…and ending to your insignificant life…and an ending to the human race!’
Meanwhile, in Washington DC, Valerie storms into an office, despite a secretary’s protests: ‘Dr. Cooper, you cannot go in there - Dr. Cooper, you - Dr. Cooper!’ A man in a suit sitting behind a desk addresses his secretary as Ms. Trumbull and tells her that it is all right. ‘It appears that Dr. Cooper is not going to leave without speaking to me…despite her lack of appointment’ he remarks. Valerie ignores the snide comments and addressing the man as Ellison, she asks him what is going on. ‘I’ve been cooling my heals outside your office for the past hour. You owe me -’ she exclaims, until Ellison interrupts, ‘I owe you what, Cooper? An explanation? Lest you forget, Doctor Cooper…you work for me!’ Ellison exclaims.
Valerie slams a document down on the desk and asks Ellison what the meaning of the order is. ‘I thought I was to escort Creed to a prison. The man’s a ruthless killer!’ she exclaims. Ellison calmly replies that those orders were generated from above and that it is a done deal. ‘It doesn’t matter what you or I think about it!’ Ellison tells Valerie. ‘I suggest you learn to live with it’ he replies dryly. Valerie picks up the piece of paper and storms out of Ellison’s office, slamming the door hard as she leave, and shouting back ‘NOT LIKELY!’
Back at Falls Edge, Mystique has managed to gather herself, and stands with Wild Child and Shard as they stand before the Adversary, while Polaris hovers overhead. Forge rushes towards their headquarters, ordering Mystique to hold her fire and for everyone to stand back. ‘I’m going to kill the ugly mother for getting in my head like that…he could have made Forge kill me!’ Raven exclaims, telling the others to stand back as she wants the first piece of flesh.
Forge opens up a console and tells the others that the Adversary is within range of the molecular dispersion cannon. ‘Its energy waves will tear him apart at a cellular level!’ Forge remarks as he fires the powerful cannon. ‘This is not the way, Forge!’ Roman exclaims as she suddenly appears behind Forge, while the cannons’ beam strikes the Adversary. ‘No?’ Forge asks, telling Roma to take a look and asking her what she sees. ‘No spirit spell, no shamanistic mysticism - just pure and cold science and technology doing that which both you and Naze couldn’t!’ Forge boasts.
But Roma tells Forge to look again, and the Adversary, who has taken a more monstrous form, also suggests Forge look - ‘Look to your cannon…to your compatriots…and their weapons…look to me and…to the forces which I wield!’ the Adversary exclaims as his own powers destroy the cannon and the weapons which Polaris, Mystique and the others are carrying. The Adversary turns to Roma, and encases her in a glowing orange bubble, he exclaims that she is a worthy prize, if not a worthy opponent, and Roma has no time to counter the Adversary’s attack. The Adversary remarks that he wants Roma out of the game for now, and turns to X-Factor, shouting ‘Mutants! You put too much faith in yourselves and your powers. When will your race learn that you simply cannot win against a God?’
The Adversary casts some energy towards Forge, remarking ‘After far too many trials, your battle is lost…as are you!’ - but, before the Adversary can release the energies, the rest of X-Factor leap forwards, ‘Get back, Forge! This part of the fight is ours!’ Polaris exclaims as she swoops towards the Adversary with magnetic energies pulsing. Wild Child lunges towards the Adversary also, remarking that, with the gun gone, he would just as soon get his claws into something solid. Shard readies her energies, while Mystique has collected another weapon.
‘Is this not the most moving turn of events? Your compatriots have witnessed the raw power which is mind to command…and yet, they willingly risk their lives for you!’ the Adversary exclaims, adding that it must remind Forge of his old days in the war, when he first chose to wield the spirit spell. ‘If given a second chance - would you do it all again? Would you raise the spirits of your fallen comrades to avenge their deaths…? Let’s find out!’ the Adversary exclaims, before he reduces Polaris, Mystique, Wild Child and Shard to ashes with one easy spell.
‘NO! Not again! Not them too!’ Forge shouts as he begins blasting a powerful weapon at the Adversary, ‘You’ve killed them all! Mystique! Polaris! They’re all dead - YOU MONSTER!’ Forge screams as he bombards the Adversary with the energies from the gun. ‘I swear I’ll destroy you! You murdering little -’ Forge begins, only to be interrupted by the Adversary who begins to emerge from the smoke, asking him if he is quite finished with his tantrum. ‘For surely you know that it is futile!’ the Adversary remarks. Forge just pours more of the energy at the Adversary, who exclaims ’I am of MAGIC, Forge - when will you learn? You weapons can never…and will never…harm me!’
The Adversary approaches Forge, telling him that he would have been well advised to have heeded his teacher’s words, and reveals that Naze was the only living man who he has ever truly feared. ‘There was a time in which his power was great….the rival of my own…but now he is gone. His hopes rested with you!’ the Adversary exclaims as he takes the powerful weapon, grinning as he snarls ‘The Maker…he who builds in spirit as in substance’. The Adversary reveals that Forge’s innate power is even greater than that of Naze’s, and grabs Forge’s cybernetic hand as he remarks that today’s victory could have - and should have - gone to Forge. ‘But the deceptions I dispense are many. Even you do not realize how much I have guided you to this point!’
The Adversary crushes Forge’s cybernetic hand, telling him that he will never know how much he has guided him to this point, before blasting off Forge’s cybernetic leg, and declaring ‘To lose a hand…a leg…is nothing compared to the loss of one’s soul’. Forge sits on the ground, unable to move much, while the Adversary stands over him, telling Forge that the day he turned from the soul-spirit, from the teaching of Naze, from his Cheyenne birth right, was the day that his victory here was assured. ‘You blame the tragedies of war…the loss of them men in your troop…for the path your life has taken - and that is the great deceit of all!’
The Adversary picks Forge up by his jaw, and reveals that it was he who was responsible for what happened on that day. ‘I who guided you to the path of faithlessness!’. Forge asks the Adversary what it is he is saying, to which the Adversary retorts ‘I have said it all!’ and tosses Forge to the ground. ‘Look into your soul, Maker, and you will see the truth - and know that as you seek to learn the truth…I will be preparing to undo your entire world…know also that you will be the last to perish…your world will fall as you sit helpless to do anything about it’. With that, the Adversary disappears into the distance.
‘No! Come back here! Come back…’ Forge whispers. Suddenly, a shadowy figure emerges in the smoky distance. ‘He will not return, Forge - at least not until I have properly prepared you’. Forge is shocked at the voice - ‘Naze? My God! It can’t be!’ he gasps. Indeed, Naze emerges from the smoke, telling to Forge to look with his soul, and he will see that it is truly him. Naze boasts that he is stronger, and harder to kill than the enemy believes. ‘They’re dead, Naze…all of them…I failed them just like the others!’ Forge exclaims. ‘Failed you. Failed my heritage!’ he adds.
Naze stands before Forge, and asks him if he views his failures through the eyes of the man, or those of the shaman, and explains that, until the latter falls, victory is not lost. ‘You cannot have failed when you did not use all the resources at your disposal’ Naze remarks, telling Forge that, to succeed, he must reclaim his soul’s true destiny. Naze extends a hand to Forge, telling him that he will have to embark on a journey of the spirit. ‘The choice is yours, Maker. Do you dare take back your birth-right?’….