The Good Taste Café in Chinatown, where X-Factor and their friends are celebrating young Timmy Jones’ birthday. ‘What do you say, Timmy? Cake or presents first?’ Warren “Archangel” Worthington asks. ‘Cake please, Warren! My best present is having everybody here!’ Timmy exclaims, adding that this is the coolest party ever. Timmy’s mother, Detective Charlotte Jones notices baby Nathan Christopher Summers squirming in Scott “Cyclops” Summers’ arms, and exclaims that it looks like he wants to get down and crawl. ‘Time to move stuff onto shelves’ she exclaims. Jean Grey a.k.a. Marvel Girl replies that it is lucky they live on a ship that morphs, as Ship can take care of that stuff.
On the other side of the table, Dr Hank McCoy a.k.a. the Beast holds up Priya the adopted daughter of his girlfriend Trish Tilby and smiles, while renowned reporter Trish Tilby asks Opal Tanaka if she is adopted as well. Bobby “Iceman” Drake’s girlfriend replies that she is, that she just found out. ‘My parents are great, and they had good reasons not to tell me - it was safer - but finding out so late was traumatic. Just tell Priya early and -’ Opal suggests, before Bobby tells everyone to gather around. ‘Trish, got your camera ready?’ he asks, before Cyclops uses his optic blast to light the candles on Timmy’s cake. ‘Cool!’ Timmy exclaims.
Scott replies that they are trick candles, a sure crowd pleaser, before turning to Jean and asking her if there is a problem, as she looks worried. ‘It’s nothing, Scott. It’s just…everything’s going so well. I fell…happy. Almost…normal. It scares me’ Jean replies, before Charlotte tells her son to make a wish. ‘And if I know my son, he’s wishing a super villain will crash the party!’
At that moment, in Apocalypse’s headquarters beneath the Himalayas, Apocalypse is watching Timmy’s birthday party on a monitor: ‘The boy’s wish is about to come true!’ the uber-mutant exclaims, while standing nearby, the merged Master Mold and Cameron Hodge declares ‘And soon, all will die!’. But Caliban declares that the humans must be spared. ‘All harbor mutated cells. All must be destroyed! Death to the strong! Death to the Twelve!’
‘Death to Apocalyp-’ the Master Mold / Cameron Hodge being exclaims, before being teleported away. ‘Master! The combination of those two personalities - of Cameron Hodge and the Master Mold Sentinel is disastrous. ‘Not the most felicitous of unions…and a monster of my own making, Caliban’ Apocalypse replies. ‘Still, our Master Meld will buy us time to do what must be done. And so it may rampage…as it pleases!’
Moments later, the Master Meld appears in Chinatown: ‘Die, mutants! Die!’ it booms as it unleashes energy beams at a building, causing the crowds below to run for their lives. One of the blasts strikes the Good Taste Café. ‘Scott! Trouble!’ Iceman exclaims as Jean telekinetically holds the small missiles that appear in the Café. Cyclops orders Beast and Angel to get the civilians out of here. With baby Christopher in a protective force field, Jean asks someone to grab him. ‘What? Why?’ Opal asks. ‘His protective force field kicked in. My telekinetic power repelled it. It’s a weird genetic -’ Jean explains, but Opal interrupts. ‘Tell me later, I’ve got him!’ she exclaims.
‘I can stop the missiles, but my power doesn’t work on the Sentinel!’ Jean announces as the missiles explode around her. Outside, Archangel carries Charlotte and Timmy to safety, while the Beast lowers himself, Opal, Trish and the children to the ground. ‘That’s no ordinary Sentinel, Jean! I think it’s the Master Mold! But altered…upgraded!’ Archangel declares. Iceman slides along on an ice-sled towards Master Meld: ‘Let’s see if a sheath of ice will slow it down!’ he boasts as he covers the Master Meld in ice - but the Master Meld breaks free, firing more missiles, he shouts ‘Death to the Twelve!’
‘It melted right through it. Optic blasts took that giant apart the last time I faced it’ Cyclops reminds Jean. ‘Worth a try, but -’ Jean begins, as more missiles move towards them. Scott unleashes his blasts as Jean takes care of the missiles - ‘Blast punched him back - then ricocheted!’ Scott exclaims, pointing out that it has been fortified against their powers. ‘But by whom?’ he asks. ‘The thing can talk. Maybe we should ask it!’ Jean exclaims.
Back in Apocalypse’s headquarters, Apocalypse watches the battle unfold. ‘Excellent!’ he exclaims, before telling Caliban to come along, that they have not got much time. They step onto a teleport pad: We’re teleporting, Master? But where -?’ Caliban asks - only for an instant later, to arrive on Apocalypse’s former base - X-Factor’s current home - Ship! ‘Manhattan!’ Apocalypse exclaims as they stand on the sky-high Ship. ‘This is X-Factor’s Ship! Master, why are we here?’ Caliban asks. Apocalypse explains that it is imperative he interfaces with this unit’s data banks. ‘I need to know what it has been telling it’s masters!’ Apocalypse declares.
‘I need to know if it is as I fear!’ Apocalypse exclaims as he rips open a door and tosses it out off Ship. As Apocalypse enters, Ship declares ‘Intruders! Apocalypse! I am no longer your slave! You will not enter!’. Apocalypse tells Ship to fight him if it must, but this time, their situation is too dire. ‘I cannot allow you to stop me!’ Apocalypse grins as he enters, with Caliban following him.
At that moment in Chinatown, ‘Die, mutants!’ Master Meld booms as he fires missiles at Archangel. Still carrying Charlotte and Timmy, Warren flies towards Master Meld and unleashes a flurry of razor-sharp feathers: ‘Wow! Cool!’ Timmy exclaims. But the “feathers” barely harm aster Meld. ‘Mutant scum! That will not stop me!’ he booms. Archangel drops Charlotte and Timmy on a balcony, telling them that he has taken out its visual input sensors, and that they should stay there as they will be safe. ‘Mom! It’s like my wish came true! If anybody gets hurt, it’s all my fault!’ Timmy exclaims.
Around a corner the Beast has dropped off Trish, Opal, Priya and Christopher. He tells Trish that this stinks, but that they will take care of it as fast as they can. ‘I know that expression. You’re dying to cover this mess, aren’t you? But Priya -’ Hank begins. Trish assures him that they will keep their distance. I’ve still got my camera, Hank! W-ARC will get video. Grainy…but better than nothing. Stay safe, okay’ she tells him. ‘I’ll give it my best shot!’ Hank replies, bending a stop sign, he picks it up, knowing that its control functions should be in its head. ‘Angel’s made a start. With any luck I can finish!’ he declares - but Hank gets knocked backwards as the Master Meld is electrified.
Timmy tells his mother that the robot is going to hurt people. ‘I know wht Warren said but I can’t just wait! I gotta help!’ Timmy exclaims. Jean telekinetically lowers herself and Scott to the street, with Cyclops declaring that optic blasts do not work, so they need to try blowing the street out from under the Master Meld. Cyclops fires an optic blast at the ground, causing the Master Meld to tumble with the rubble. The resulting shockwave however knocks Opal over, and she drops Christopher, who rolls towards Timmy, who is now on the street.
‘And so we meet again!’ a voice booms from within the Master Meld. ‘That’s Cameron Hodge’s voice!’ someone exclaims as the Master Meld lies in the rubble. ‘In a Sentinel’s body -? But how?’ someone asks. Cameron Hodge’s face can be seen in a panel on Master Meld’s chest. ‘How do you think, you mutant freak? This is my new, improved persona - for which you may thank your old nemesis, Apocalypse!’ Cameron announces, telling X-Factor that they may address him as the mighty Master Meld! ‘Apocalypse?’ Cyclops gasps. ‘Only he could be so diabolical as to combine the Master Mold and Hodge into a single being!’ Jean declares.
‘But Hodge was destroyed! Crushed beneath a collapsed building in Geosnha!’ Iceman exclaims. ‘Apparently he got better’ Beast mutters. ‘But not for long!’ Archangel declares as he flies towards the Master Meld, unleashing another flurry of razor sharp feathers. ‘Warren, my oldest, dearest friend! You shouldn’t have done that!’ Hodge tells him. ‘I was going to spare you…for a while. Save you for desert, so to speak’ Hodge remarks, before telling Warren that he will now be the first.
Mere blocks away, Ship’s defenses are holding back Apocalypse and Caliban. ‘Master, how can you say you are afraid? You fear nothing!’ Caliban exclaims. ‘First, Caliban, you must answer my questions’ Apocalypse replies, asking if in the Alley there were once many mutants. ‘Yes, before the Marauders attacked, there were hundreds of us. Caliban’s power was to find mutants and lead them there’ Caliban replies. Apocalypse asks how many were the children of mutants, to which Caliban replies that none were, that all of their parents were humans. Apocalypse slashes his way into another part of Ship, asking how many children were born to the hundreds of mutants who lived in the Alley ‘None. There were…none’ Caliban replies.
‘You see my Hound, where this is heading. In all your days, have you ever seen a child who had two mutant parents?’ Apocalypse asks. Caliban replies that he has heard rumors, but himself with his own eyes knows of only one birth - his. ‘May be the result of genetic manipulation by the villain who cloned his mother in Jean Grey’s likeness’ Apocalypse remarks as he rips some cables from Ship. ‘That is one more thing we will need to find out!’ Apocalypse booms, before calling out to Ship, ordering it to speak to him. ‘Surrender your dark secrets!’ Apocalypse exclaims. ‘What have the Celestials - your masters - been asking? What have you told them?’ Apocalypse asks. Images flash before Apocalypse’s eyes. Data. Genealogies. A record of every mutant birth on Earth. And the massive Ship screams its frustrations as it fights to free itself from Apocalypse’s thrall.
Finally, Apocalypse is thrown back and the Ship’s lighting fades into darkness. ‘Master! What is it? What is happening?’ Caliban asks, while Apocalypse lay on the floor before him. ‘It is as I feared. Earth may well be doomed!’ Apocalypse replies.
Back in Chinatown, ‘A union of two of mutankind’s greatest enemies! What can Apocalypse be thinking?’ Archangel exclaims as he darts past Master Meld. ‘Good question!’ Jean exclaims as she telekinetically hovers nearby, while using her powerful mind to raise a car from the street. ‘Apocalypse himself is a mutant! What does he gain from this?’ Jean asks. ‘Take the “mighty” Master Meld down and maybe we’ll get some answers!’ Cyclops suggests they do the “Goliath Maneuver”, to which Jean exclaims ‘Works for me!’ and slams the car into Master Meld, knocking him backwards.
All eyes are on the battle - no one looks up. No one notices as Ship begins to change its shape. All five members of X-Factor use their abilities to tackle Master Meld. ‘It’s nearly down! Now!’ Scott shouts. ‘I’ve got it, Cyke! Operation Red Queen coming up!’ Archangel exclaims. ‘Mutant fool! You forget that I know you! Learned your code words and maneuvers from my time as your public relations guru!’ Hodge shrieks. ‘So I know that you are about to grant my fondest wish! Off with his head! Yes!’ Hodge exclaims as Archangel decapitates Master Mold’s head from the Master Meld.
‘Freedom! The Master Meld is finished! Total control is mine at last!’ Hodge declares, blasting Archangel with energies. ‘If I didn’t despite you so thoroughly, old friend, I could almost thank you!’ Hodge remarks, while Timmy Jones look on in horror, and on top of X-Factor’s Ship, lights pulse rhythmically - but no one notices.
Hodge’s form takes the shape of a spider-like robot, emerging from the body of the Master Meld. He slinks over to Warren’s unmoving body: ‘The power is mine! Finally! Mine alone - to do with as I choose! And what I choose - my winged friend - is that you die!’ Hodge booms. ‘NO!’ Cyclops shouts as he unleashes an optic blast at the ground under Hodge, knocking the madman backwards, while the Beast exclaims ‘Got you!’ as he leaps towards Hodge - and shoves the pole through Hodge’s form. Hodge shrieks ‘NOOOOO!’ before asking the Beast ‘You want to take his place, you hairy monster?’ and blasting him with the energy emitted from his new form.
Iceman slides towards the battle, announcing that Ship built new controls for his augmented power into his suit. ‘First chance I’ve had to test the new design!’ he exclaims. ‘First chance I’ve had to really cut loose!’. With that, Bobby literally freezes Hodge under a mound of solid ice. ‘You icebound loser! Apocalypse has given me true power! Not even your mutant freakishness can stop meeeeeeeee’ Hodge shrieks. ‘That mass - that glacier of ice! It was too much for Hodge!’ someone exclaims ‘He literally burned himself out. It’s over!’ another declares.
X-Factor regroup with their loved ones. ‘Bobby! Oh, Bobby! You were wonderful!’ Opal exclaims as Iceman embraces her. Hank puts an arm around Trish, telling her that he is fine, apart from a few singed furs, while he holds Priya in his other arm. Jean and Scott embrace with the baby, as Jean asks what that was all about. ‘Hodge isn’t going anywhere! We need to find what’s left of him in that rubble and ask him…’ Scott remarks.
Nearby, Timmy approaches Archangel and tells him that he is sorry. ‘I wished for a super villain! For a fight! I wanted to see you use your wing knives!’ Timmy exclaims, adding that he didn’t think Warren would get hurt. Archangel gets to his feet and tells Timmy that it is not his fault. ‘The…Master Meld…was sent after us before you made your wish, but a much bigger, much badder villain than it could ever be. But we stopped it…and we’re going to stop the bigger bad guy, too!’. ‘Bigger?’ Timmy asks, before motioning upwards: ‘But - Oh no! There! He is big! Really, really big! The biggest thing I ever saw!’ Timmy gasps.
Everyone else looks upwards - and while energy crackles around the top of Ship, the Celestial known as Gammenon the Gatherer appears!
The Celstial artifact that Apocalypse inhabited would stand, a giant monolith, in one place for generations. Then, for no apparent reason, it would fly into the air and shift location. Apocalypse found this disconcerting. But, nevertheless, his travels demonstrated in a way that the screens within the artifact alone could not - that humanity lived on a massive ball of water, floating in space, from which land masses occasionally jutted.
And as the artifact monitored the progress of the Celestials’ creations, so did Apocalypse. The beautiful and powerful Eternals built castles in the clouds, but they were few, and rarely interacted with normal humans - they were no threat, so he ignored them. Humans, meanwhile, had learned to domesticate animals and farm land. They had even begun to build cities, across the globe, civilizations began to coalesce. While on a far island that was called Lemuria, the teeming, warlike Deviants were building a kingdom and advancing their technology. Apocalypse thought it was no surprise when Deviant raids on the humans begun.
Apocalypse himself knew that he was still a stowaway - he could interact with the artifact, but he could not control it. But he had a plan to remedy that - and for centuries he and the artifact were locked in a battle of wills. In time, Apocalypse won partial dominance. He could influence the artifacts movements, though its reports to its Celestial masters continued.
And while Apocalypse had battled to control the ship, the depredations of the Deviants had increased. Embedded commands constrained ship from attacking the Deviants, so Apocalypse decided to create an Eden where humanity could thrive unimpeded. An uninhabited volcanic island, nearly as large as Lemuria, lay on the other side of the world. It was perfect for his purpose.
Over time, many cultures came, as Apocalypse had come, to examine Ship’s structure. Some thought it a tower and called it Babel. Others thought it was a god, or simple a god’s home. Transforming into a serpent-like creature, Apocalypse took the strong humans, and ensured their continued existence. While the Celestials’ control group of humans would range across the Earth, on this island, the group would be Apocalypse’s own experiment.
A peaceful civilization grew up on the legendary island that men now call Atlantis. The rich bait was too much for the marauding Deviants to resist - and their vast army attacked Atlantis. Apocalypse set the magma pits upon them, and destroyed the Deviants. While the collateral destruction of Atlantis was unavoidable, Apocalypse saved those he could among his chosen people.
Apocalypse knew that the second host of Celestials was coming, he made sure that Ship informed its masters of the Deviants’ attempted genocide. When the Celestials appeared over Lemuria, the Deviants attacked them - the resulting detonations destroyed that island, and set off a great cataclysm that sank Lemuria and completed the destruction of Atlantis. The few remaining Deviants fled beneath the sea.
However, on the mainlands, humanity survived. Apocalypse took his chance to fetter humanity’s rivals, and once again posing as the serpent-like creature, it took little effort to reposition the Eternals as the reaming Deviants’ enemies - an attack, followed by retaliation - and the die was cast as the Eternals and Deviants became enemies. In the wake of disaster, all beings seek a scapegoat. Apocalypse convinced the demoralized Deviants that the most monstrous among them were responsible for their ruin. Brother fell on brother. Mother on son. It became Deviant law that the most grotesque - and often the most powerful - accept destruction to preserve the purity of their race.
From his studies, Apocalypse knew evolution was essential to a species’ survival. The Celestials had retained this possibility in their human control group - the clearly expected raw humanity to evolve someday. If they survived. Now that the Deviant threat was neutralized, Apocalypse would ensure that evolution. He was about to challenge the space gods and shape humanity in his own likeness….