Inside the Sphinx of Apocalypse, ‘Master, let me spread my infection. They deserve to die!’ exclaims Pestilence to her master Apocalypse. Apocalypse replies by telling the woman who was once Lorna Dane a.k.a. Polaris, long-serving member of the Uncanny X-Men that he doesn’t doubt it, but first he wants to see if the world leaders will accede to his terms. Pestilence replies that she does not wish to question Apocalypse’s omniscience, but nevertheless asks if he really believes the humans will agree to kill ninety percent of their own kind.
Apocalypse points out that he has lived among the humans for several millennia, so he knows for certain that humans feel no compunction at slaughtering one another. Apocalypse adds that if they killed all humanity, it would make it too easy for their fellow mutants. ‘Too…easy?’ Pestilence asks. ‘Would they be worthy of the world that was bestowed on them? Are they even worthy of me as their messiah?’ the eternal mutant asks rhetorically, before remarking that it is richly ironic that the only ones who might be worthy of him- are the very ones who have the courage and strength of defy him.
Some of those who are standing up to defy Apocalypse include members of the New Avengers - Captain America, Iron Man, Luke Cage, Spider-Man and Wolverine, who is spending some time away from the X-Men at this point. Beneath the Sphinx of Apocalypse, which hovers over the United Nations building, the New Avengers shield themselves from the lasers that Apocalypse sets upon them, while back inside the Sphinx, another of Apocalypse’s Horsemen - Death, who, like Pestilence, is another former X-Man - Remy LeBeau a.k.a. Gambit. Death informs Apocalypse that he has searched for Ozymandias, but that he is nowhere to be found.
‘The Sphinx has many shadows in which a grain of treacherous dirt can hide!’ Apocalypse exclaims, before punching Death, and suggesting that it might be hard to find someone else when he cannot even find himself. Apocalypse then reminds Death of the Achilles’ Hell that he placed in his flesh should he decide to betray him like Ozymandias did.
Back outside, Captain America informs his teammates that he spoke with Reed Richards, so if they need him, the Fantastic Four can help out in a few days. Luke Cage boasts that they do not need any help, to which Captain America replies that is what he told Mr. Fantastic. But as Iron Man is struck down by one of Apocalypse’s blasts, Wolverine remarks ‘Pity you didn’t tell Apocalypse that, too’. Captain America turns to Iron Man, who announces that whatever it is that Apocalypse is hitting him with, it is messing up his armor’s energy shield and went straight into the marrow. Suddenly, Iron Man motions to the sky, and exclaims that the good news is that it looks like the cavalry has arrived.
Up in the air, from one of the X-Men’s jets, someone radios to the pilot of one of the new style Sentinels, “Crazy Train”, and tells its operator, Tracy Skylark, that Crazy Train seems to be veering towards Queens. ‘They clearly don’t call it Crazy for nothing then’ another X-Man replies from the other jet. Tracy tells the X-Men that this giant has got a life of its own, and claims that she has been trying to keep it straight since they left New Mexico, before asking her colleague, James “Rhodey” Rhodes, how his is handling. The former Avenger replies that War Machine, which incidentally is also his former codename, is handling like a dream, but he doesn’t think he likes it, for he would feel more comfortable if he could hear the engine crunch occasionally.
In one of the X-jets, Dr. Valerie Cooper, the Deputy National Security Advisor for Mutant Affairs, stands by one of the current X-Men leaders, Alex “Havok” Summers, and tells Rhodey that these Sentinels are the very best that science can build, before reminding James and Tracy that they both volunteered for this mission. Havok suggests that they pull up here, as they don’t want to be crashing into the Avengers. Valerie orders the Sentinels to the ground, adding that they should watch where they are stepping.
Meanwhile, at the Xavier Institute in Salem Centre, two of the young mutants, Bling and Rockslide are watching a news bulletin and are informed that after the Sentinels made their passage up the East River, they are standing near the United Nations Building. Rockslide mutters that this is insane, that he should be there, and turns the television off. Bling complains that she was watching that, before telling her friend that Havok is right, they cannot all fight Apocalypse at once. Suddenly, Rockslide asks Bling if she smells burning, and Shiro Yashida a.k.a. Sunfire, free of the machinations that transformed him into the new Famine, stands in the doorway. Rockslide asks him if he is okay, adding that the White Queen said he might be unconscious for a very long time. Shiro mutters ‘The United Nations Building’ then in a burst of flames, flies out of the mansion, with Bling calling after him, asking if Miss Frost said it was all right for him to go out.
Back at the battleground, Skylark’s Sentinel is hit repeatedly by the lasers, and Rhodey asks Tracy if she is okay, as she is sustaining some major damage. Tracy replies that she is good and exclaims that her Sentinel has the punch resistance of a young Mike Tyson. Skylark then asks Rhodey how he is doing, as she is losing him on visual. Rhodey replies that his engine is getting a little overheated is all, before asking if they really volunteered for this insanity.
At ground level, Havok rushes over to Captain America and tells him that the X-Men will follow the Sentinels into the face of the Sphinx. Captain America likes the plan, and informs Havok that he will take the Avengers around the back. As Captain America rushes off, Havok calls after him, telling him that it is an honor to be working with him - when they are both suddenly caught up in an explosion.
Inside the Sphinx, Pestilence points out that they cannot stop their enemies - that they are going to keep coming at them. ‘I know, Pestilence…aren’t they magnificent?’ Apocalypse exclaims as Crazy Train and War Machine blast directly at the face of the Sphinx. ‘Magnificent? Has he lost his mind?’ Death asks his fellow Horseman, War, formerly Gazer, an associate of the White Queen’s. War tells his comrade that he speaks treacherous words, but Death claims that he speaks the truth, for Apocalypse taught him that Death speaks the truth. ‘And I am…without doubt…Death!’
Apocalypse tells his three Horsemen that it is time to depart, and remarks that if only the rest of mutant kind fought with as much will as the X-Men, they would not be in need of - Apocalypse is speechless as the two Sentinels manage to tip the Sphinx and using their strength, force it down into the river. Captain America tells his teammates that the Sentinels have done their job, so it is time for their turn, while inside, Apocalypse informs his Horsemen that the Sphinx’s teleportation mechanism is down, so they must remain here until he can fix it. Rhodes asks Skylark if these Sentinels work under water, and as the Sphinx becomes submerged, Tracy replies that it is a good question, and she thinks they are going to find out.
Apocalypse and the Horsemen watch as the X-Men proceed to the Sphinx, and Apocalypse orders War to go and guard the Chamber of Unknown Hieroglyphs, while Pestilence and Death are to remain with him. Pestilence asks about the Avengers, to which Apocalypse explains that he built this Sphinx with unearthly materials using plans drown up by the Gods. ‘We are not defenseless’.
As the New Avengers make their way into the Sphinx, Wolverine asks how come it isn’t filling with water, to which Captain America points out that there is a sound like breathing, and asks if they are in a living machine or something. ‘Good question’ Logan remarks.
The X-Men arrive in Apocalypse’s control room, and Pestilence urges Apocalypse not to let the X-Men take him, that he must escape and continue his work elsewhere. But Apocalypse reminds Pestilence that history has shown that the weak run - while the strong write the history. With that, Apocalypse fires a blast of powerful energy at his long-time enemy Scott “Cyclops” Summers. Scott urges Bobby Drake a.k.a. Iceman on, so Bobby sends forth a powerful beam of ice towards Apocalypse, who breaks it with ease, before swatting Bobby aside.
While Apocalypse’s traitorous scribe, Ozymandias, reappears, Havok exclaims that Apocalypse’s strength is incredible, when suddenly Death comes up behind him and knocks him to the ground. Rogue calls out to Death, calling him Remy, as they are - or were - lovers. With her foster mother and teammate Raven Darkholme a.k.a. Mystique at her side, Rogue kicks Death to the ground, asking him if he doesn’t know who she is. Death calls out to Rogue, only for Mystique to kick him hard in the face. ‘Don’t be fooled, darling. He’s rotten all the way through’.
Cyclops unleashes his powerful optic beams on Apocalypse, who reminds Pestilence that he has lost a lot of his precious blood, so points out that there is no use in waiting any longer. ‘Go spread your plagues throughout humanity. Kill them all!’ Pestilence rushes off, smacking Havok in the face as she goes, only for Iceman to strike her down with a powerful beam of ice. Apocalypse then takes out Bobby, when War re-enters the chamber. Apocalypse reminds War that his orders were to guard the Chamber of Unknown Hieroglyphics, to which War asks for forgiveness, but that he thought he would be of more assistance here.
Suddenly though, ‘Treacherous Scribe!’ Apocalypse shouts as he sees Ozymandias’ scythe slice through War’s chest. Ozymandias reveals that he saved Gazer’s life before he became War, and that he was supposed to repay him, only he reneged on that payment. As War - Gazer - falls to the ground in a pool of his own blood, Ozymandias exclaims that the reckoning has now been settled. ‘Not with me, Ozymandias!’ Apocalypse bellows, when suddenly he is blasted by Rogue’s flame powers. Rogue exclaims that Apocalypse is all out of Horsemen, and urges Havok to strike, as this is their only chance. Apocalypse blasts Havok before he can do so to him, and exclaims that his precious blood may be wasted, but killing some X-Men will be of some compensation.
Suddenly, Apocalypse loses his powers, and standing over Rogue and Havok, he exclaims that he feels so weak. Standing behind Apocalypse is Augustus a.k.a. Pulse, a good friend of Mystique’s. Pulse explains that he is “pulsing” Apocalypse for all it is worth, but he is no sure he can keep it up, when, as if on cue, a powerful beam of flame hits Apocalypse from behind - Sunfire! Apocalypse lands in the water and manages to escape, sealing a door behind him, which takes him to a control room. Outside the door, Havok and Rogue are blasting at it with their respective powers, and Cyclops asks Sunfire to help them out. But turning to Sunfire, Rogue sees that he has picked up Remy, so she asks him where he thinks he is going.
At the Sphinx’s control panel, Apocalypse mutters that complains about the five thousand year old instructions that tell him how to operate the machine, thinking that he might blow up the entire vessel, destroying everyone in it. But suddenly, a small chamber in the middle of the room lights up, and Apocalypse exclaims ‘The fiery maw of the Sphinx opens and lo, the beast shall consume its children!’ Suddenly, Apocalypse is knocked aside, and the X-Men approach him. ‘Or how about the beast shall finally face justice…charged with countless crimes against humanity and mutant kind?’ one of them remarks.
‘No! The infernal machine is broken!’ Apocalypse exclaims, before Cyclops orders Bobby to ice Apocalypse, but to make sure he stays alive. But Apocalypse gets back up before Bobby can ice him, and as he blasts them, knocking them over, he remarks ‘To think I came close to respecting you X-Men. Now I see that you are worse than the others. You could rule the world. Yet you choose to be its slaves’.
The X-Men get back to their feet, and Bobby remarks that how much Apocalypse’s blast hurt - ‘Felt like my hand was getting chewed off!’ Havok asks Apocalypse is he is attempting suicide, ‘The cowards way?’ Standing in the archway of the small chamber, Apocalypse declares that it takes courage to what he is going to do, and explains that the infernal machine has torn a mouth in the membrane of space. ‘This is my escape!’ Havok rushes towards Apocalypse, when the chamber blows up, blasting him backwards. ‘He’s gone. We had him - and he slipped through our fingers again’ Cyclops mutters. Bobby points out that on the upside, Apocalypse might have been blown to smithereens, but Havok tells him that somehow, he doesn’t think so.
And indeed, somewhere out there, Apocalypse floats in space.
Shortly, Rhodey and Skylark have left their new Sentinels and are searching the ruins of Apocalypse’s Sphinx. Rhodey remarks that he cannot stop shivering, and he thinks he has caught a cold. Tracy points out that they have both swallowed bucket loads of the East River - so if a chill is all they have caught, they should be thankful!
Pulse comforts Rogue as she wonders why Sunfire took Remy away, to which Havok tells her that he doesn’t know, as it doesn’t make much sense. ‘Nothing makes sense anymore’ Rogue murmurs. Wolverine, Captain America and the other New Avengers meet up with the X-Men and Cap apologizes for missing the wrap-up, but tells Havok that it looks like he did a god job here anyway. ‘We did our best, Cap’ Alex replies, when Wolverine alerts everyone to the body of Pestilence which is lying on the ground, motionless, several feet away from them.
Logan cuts Pestilence’s mask open and exclaims that Lorna is behind it, not dead yet, but very close. Havok rushes over to his former love, despite Wolverine warning him not to get close, as she is crawling with germs. Alex exclaims that he doesn’t care, and points out that Lorna cannot breathe. Iceman watches as Havok takes a deep breath, then places his lips on Lorna’s, to breath life back into her.
Later, at the Xavier Institute. The sun sets, and Rogue stands outside, gazing at it. Pulse approaches her and tells her to come along, as standing out here all night is not going to bring Gambit back. Rogue takes Pulse’s hand and walks back to the mansion with him, and tells him that she had a dream, that Remy was trying to find his way back to the Institute, but he kept getting lost.
Inside, in one of the med-labs, Havok and the Emma “the White Queen” Frost stand behind a glass screen that separates them from Polaris’ bed. Alex remarks that Bobby might be right - Apocalypse could finally be dead, but Emma replies ’I don’t think you really believe that, Alexander’. ‘Maybe not’ Alex remarks, before asking how his girl is doing. Emma replies that Lorna is stable, for she has isolated most of the pathogens, so now it all depends on how her t-cell receptor sites coped with the mutations.
Emma assures Havok that he saved Lorna’s life, explaining that her esophagus was closing, so if he hadn’t administered CPR when he did, then Lorna would most definitely not be here right now. Alex sneezes, then wipes his nose, informing Emma that ever since he saved Lorna, he cannot shake off this cold, adding that he has felt rather depleted. Emma hands Alex a small vial of red liquid, and tells him that it might help. Alex drinks it all, then exclaims that it was disgusting and asks what it was. Emma smirks, ‘Don’t ask’ she replies.
Apocalypse is blasted from the Sphinx, and feels his pulse slow to nothing as it happens. He wonders if this is it - if this is the end. Final, irreversible, unresurrectable death. En Sabah Nur recalls that he has lived many times, and tells Oblivion to do its worst, as he fears it not. Suddenly, there is a blinding light, and a voice calls out his name. Apocalypse however isn’t sure if he imagined it. Is it real - or just a memory?
(Flashback, eons ago)
Egypt, a strange voice calls out ‘Apoc…a…lypse!’ The mutant apocalypse wonders what trickery this is, and orders someone to answer him, for he is En Sabah Nur.
The memory is so powerful - it pains Apocalypse as if he is there, so many years ago. He recalls how he labored hard to build the Sphinx, following hieroglyphic instructions he had found.
(Flashback, eons ago)
The strange voice unnerves him - and angrily, he shouts ‘Whoever you are, I order you to leave my head!’ The psychic reply comes - ‘But we have important issues to discuss’ the voice claims. Apocalypse turns to his creation, Ship, and asks ‘Is it you? Do you toy with me? Reveal yourself! I have built you, you must obey me!’ ‘You built us? Are you sure?’ the voice asks, as tentacles come and wrap around Apocalypse.
Apocalypse recalls that indeed it was a strange time, for the strange Ship had seemed to be building itself.
(Flashback, eons ago)
Apocalypse struggles, despite the Ship telling him not to. ‘This pertains to your destiny!’ the Ship reveals, before Apocalypse snarls that the slave does not give orders to the master. Such pride. Such arrogance. Eventually, Apocalypse stops struggling, and tells the Ship to reveal what it wants. ‘It is not what we want, Apocalypse - but what you want!’ a strange, cosmic figure remarks as it materializes outside the Ship.
Apocalypse looks at the being in shock, while the being points out that he has inherited all of these scientific riches which will help him become a feared, powerful, creature - who might yet help shape his world’s destiny. ‘Yes. This is how I suspected my life would be’ Apocalypse boasts. The strange being explains to Apocalypse that the riches are not free - there is a contract to be agreed on. ‘Contract?’ Apocalypse asks, before the being introduces itself as a Celestial.
The Celestial explains that he speaks through an art known as telepathy, ‘My words are hewn from the dust of stars and travel great distances to you’. The Celestial tells Apocalypse that if he accepts these riches, there will come a time when the Celestials will demand something of him in return. ‘Perhaps in centuries, or millennia. We do not yet know’. The Celestial warns Apocalypse that the day will come when they will seek their repayment from him, perhaps with his life - or even more. ‘Say no, and out technology will be removed. You will never hear from us again’. The Celestial tells Apocalypse to answer forthwith, reminding him that there will be great power now, but perhaps greater suffering later.
Not one day has passed since when Apocalypse has not wondered “is this the day they come?”. The day he shall finally know what they want from him. He has no fear of death - and by dying now, he thinks that he can cheat that strange distant God who threw his voice into his head. The contract remains unpaid. ‘So, take me, Death’. Apocalypse decides he would rather Death than the Celestials.
Suddenly, the blinding light returns, and a familiar voice inside Apocalypse’s head remarks ‘No, Apocalypse’. En Sabah Nur is surprised, and finds his pulse quickening, and his strength returning. He is wide-eyed as the Celestial tells him ‘We cannot let you die. Not yet. It is time Apocalypse…it is time’.