There is this dream—more like a nightmare—that Cable often has. In it, he’s running after Hope and she’s laughing and giggling and bouncing along the wavy grass. The air is fierce, cold and thin. Hope is young so she has no idea what this means. She’s giddy and thinks she’s immortal. She runs to the edge of the grassy moor overlooking a huge drop and leaps into the void. She’s testing Cable, seeing how far she can go. Cable leaps off the edge after her.
Outside Westchester. 8.1 hours remaining…
On the rocky shore by the ocean, Cable sits on a pile of concrete debris and twisted metal. He stares at the ground. Deadpool and the members of X-Force stand around, looking equally lost and confused. Domino finally speaks up; what’s the plan? Lifting his head, Cable tells her they will charge the citadel, take out Stryfe and retrieve Hope. That’s their plan. Deadpool deems the plan awesome, but Wolverine calls it a suicide run. He tells Cable he isn’t thinking straight. “Pffft,” says Deadpool.
Cable stands up and hoists his assault rifle. He isn’t arguing this; every second they waste is another second Hope’s life is in danger. As Cable walks away from the rest of his companions, Wolverine warns him if he charges into Stryfe’s citadel, he will get the girl killed. Cable stops in his tracks and turns to glare at Logan. He hates to admit it, but he knows what Logan is saying is right. However, what his head tells him and what his gut tells him are two different things. His nightmare has become a reality. Hope is falling, and no matter what he does, he will arrive too late to save her.
Stryfe’s citadel, interrogation room. 7.4 hours remaining…
Hope screams and pounds against the side of her spherical, telekinetic prison. Behind her, Stryfe stands and folds his arms disapprovingly, while in her line of sight, James Proudstar coughs and spits up blood. He hangs suspended in a torture device that immobilizes his arms and legs while cutting into his neck with hooked cables. Despite the pain he endures, Warpath lifts his head and looks into Stryfe’s eyes. He knows Stryfe can read his thoughts and asks him a question: can he hear him laughing at his pathetic attempts at torture? Stryfe smirks. He tells James it isn’t a matter of willpower. His mind, Stryfe says, is like an open book—and he’s just cracking the cover.
While gritting his teeth, James asks Stryfe if he normally restrains his reading material. Before he can call him a coward, however, Stryfe presses a red button that amplifies the pain his victim feels. Warpath screams. He’s about to experience realms of pain God doesn’t even know about, Stryfe says.
The hooks penetrate Warpath’s face and rip the flesh of his cheeks. Although he screams, he keeps his gaze locked on Stryfe. Hope watches in horror. James actively keeps his mind off of her and focuses his thoughts on defying his torturer. He’ll have to try a lot harder than that, he tells Stryfe—a lot harder.
Outside the torture chamber, Bishop stands guard. He commends James for playing it smart by keeping his focus on Stryfe instead of the little girl. But don’t think about the girl, Bishop reminds himself. He ponders the name James used in reference to her: Hope. It’s just like the stories his grandmother told him. But don’t think about the girl. He looks at her struggling to break free of her telekinetic prison. He urges himself to not think about how ordinary and innocent she appears. He tries not to think about how, under any other circumstances, he would rush in there to save her from a monster like Stryfe. Once again, he urges himself not to think about her—just like he hasn’t thought about her while in the presence of Stryfe for the last dozen years. That all changed an hour ago, however, when Stryfe returned and Bishop finally saw the girl after all this time. Bishop couldn’t help it.
To get his mind off Hope, he concentrates on the compartment in his mechanic arm. It’s not a big deal; just something he should examine for routine maintenance like he has been the last twelve years. He presses the red button on his arm. The damn thing is so old that he’s amazed it still works. Yeah. Think about that.
Inside the torture chamber, Warpath continues to scream. Bishop tries to not ponder that everything hangs by the thinnest of threads. After all, he cannot control what Hope might be thinking, and at any moment, Stryfe might choose to scan her mind and see who she really is.
“Death. Would you deny me your greatest gift?” Apocalypse asks his former Horseman. Archangel doesn’t understand. Did Apocalypse really summon him out into the middle of this wasteland simply so he could ask him to kill him? The withered, frail Apocalypse cranes his neck toward Archangel and asks him to come closer—and fulfill his destiny.
Archangel resists; Apocalypse is no longer his master. “You can’t command me to kill—even you,” he says. Suddenly, Apocalypse reaches out and grabs Warren by the neck, choking him. He tells his former Horseman that death wasn’t actually what he had in mind.
Stryfe’s citadel. 7.5 hours remaining…
Okay, Hope thinks, this sucks. The big guy in the weird shiny helmet won’t say a word to me. He just stares. No idea why. And Jimmy… I know he’s hurt and stuff, but he won’t look at me, either. I thought he’d look after me. Just like Nathan was supposed to.
Stryfe approaches his young prisoner and looks at her through the telekinetic membrane. He asks who she is: one of their students on a field-trip?
As Hope stares at him, she notices something odd. She blocks out the top of Stryfe’s face with her hands and looks only at his mouth and chin. Perhaps she is imagining things, but she looks only at Stryfe’s chin, he looks sort of… familiar. Stryfe immediately understands what the girl is doing. He infers she’s important to Cable and that Cable would stop at nothing to protect her.
Suddenly, Stryfe begins clutching his head and groaning in agony. With his concentration disrupted, the shield surrounding Hope drops. She’s free. She runs over to James and asks if he is okay. However, she doesn’t worry about him for long because she hears another person in the room. As she turns her head to get a look at this other person, Hope says a curse word in her head. Because it’s him,Hope thinks, looking down the barrel of Bishop’s gun. The guy who’s been trying to kill me since I was born.
Outside Westchester. 6.9 hours remaining…
X-Force conspires. Domino suggests they split up into two groups: Cable, Wolverine and Elixir will storm the citadel, while the rest of them will track down whatever is generating the time trap. If it’s all the same, Vanisher asks, he’d rather take his chances at the citadel. Domino refuses; if they succeed, she doesn’t want him anywhere near Hope. “If. Interesting word choice there,” Vanisher sneers. Domino turns to Cable and asks if he’s still with them. He doesn’t answer, choosing instead to bow his head and keep his eyes shut, obviously concentrating on something.
Stryfe’s citadel. Five seconds ago…
Bishop watches as Stryfe scans Hope’s mind. If he doesn’t already know who she is, he will in a few moments. That means Bishop only has one shot with his nanite bomb, which once helped him take down the entirety of the X-Men. He reaches down and presses the red button on his prosthetic arm, releasing a cloud of nanites that instantly jam Stryfe’s brain. All he needs is a few seconds to kill the girl.
When he brought Stryfe into play, he knew his mission depended on keeping everything locked away in his mind. You don’t know the amount of iron Zen concentration it takes to temporarily forget the most important thing in your life, he thinks as he marches over to Hope with his gun raised. With Stryfe still disabled, Bishop points his gun at Hope and allows himself to remember his mission: to kill the girl before she kills the world.
“Please… Bishop,” Hope says. “That’s your name right? Mr. Bishop?” Bishop begins to pull the trigger. “Ohmigod why are you doing this?” Hope screams. As he fires his gun, Bishop hopes the girl never finds out why.
Inside the Celestial City. 6.4 hours remaining…
Domino, X-23, Vanisher and Deadpool scour the city streets in search of anything that might be causing the time-travel disturbance. Deadpool makes a special effort to point to every object they see and declare that it isn’t it. Domino snaps at him; he knows something he isn’t telling them, he says. “What? Who—me?” he asks. “Just saying that I don’t think they’d put their fancy-pants time-shield thingy out near the septic tank, you know?”
Domino lunges at him and wraps her arm around his neck, locking him in a chokehold. She can’t believe he is still paying the angles! It’s the end of the world, she says; the time has come to pick a side! With Deadpool subdued, X-23 approaches and reminds him that his parts don’t grow back anymore. Or does he not remember? Wade submits. He reveals that he may remember Stryfe saying something about the time-shield not exactly being a thing. Domino asks what it could be if it isn’t an object. Deadpool asks her a question in response: what’s a noun it isn’t a place or a thing? Suddenly, the realization strikes Domino: the time-shield is a person. “I played waaay too much Mad Libs by myself,” Deadpool says.
Stryfe’s citadel. Now…
Hope runs for her life. Bishop fires his gun at her, but the bullets seem to travel in slow motion before downright freezing in place in the air. With confusion, he stares at his gun, only to grow horrified as it seems to dismantle itself right in his hand. He screams in frustration. Nearby, Stryfe, having recovered from Bishop’s secret weapon of nanites, picks himself up off the ground and turns his telekinesis from the Bishop’s bullets to his gun. After telekinetically dismantling the weapon, he drives its individual parts into Bishop’s left arm. That was his big plan? A cloud of nanites was supposed to disrupt his technology? Was a bullet—a tiny ingot of lead—really supposed to end his life? Bishop tells him he doesn’t understand. Stryfe scoffs. What doesn’t he understand? He orders Bishop to tell him what lies behind this foolish betrayal.
Nearby, Warpath orders Hope to hide behind him. She asks if she can help James out of the metal trap, and he chuckles; she’s welcome to try.
Bishop, meanwhile, unleashes the robotic cables in his right arm and directs them at Stryfe. “Been waiting for years to do this,” he says as the tentacles coil their way around Stryfe’s neck, “just so you’d shut the #@&! up!” Stryfe casually jerks his head backward. The cables snap. After calling Bishop tiresome, he blasts him across the room and pins him to the wall. Stryfe approaches the now-defenseless former X-Man, grabs him by the neck and inspects his mind to discover what’s causing his betrayal. What he finds surprises him; Bishop was trying to kill the girl?
The Adirondacks. 5.7 hours remaining…
Only Archangel can restore Apocalypse to his former glory: only he can bring him the Celestial gifts he needs. He orders his Horseman to honor him—but the Horseman is defiant. He calls Apocalypse a weak, old monster and refuses to bring him anything. He deserves all the suffering in the world for what he has done, Archangel says, pushing Apocalypse to his knees. Apocalypse begs him not to leave him alone in the caves, but Warren ignores his cries. After telling him to enjoy whatever eternity he has left, Archangel turns his back on his former master and leaves.
Outside Stryfe’s Citadel. 4.5 hours remaining…
Cable leads the charge into the Celestial tower, mowing down the first line of enemy combatants with his assault rifle. Wolverine follows closely behind, eviscerating those who get by, while behind him, Elixir provides backup with a handgun. Wolverine sarcastically asks if Stryfe sent enough of these soldiers. Cable tells him his clone’s vanity knows no bounds, and Wolverine agrees; he’s just getting tired of slicing up these junior Stryfes.
As Cable takes on a cluster of eight soldiers, his mind wanders. The weight is more than I should be able to bear, he says as he hoists one of the armored troops over his head. I bear it anyway. But it leaves me exposed. Suddenly, a stray bullet rips open the side of his neck. He winces and falls to the ground. Elixir wastes no time in getting to his side. After telling Cable to hang on, he lays hands on his wound and begins the healing process. Cable groans as his flesh and veins mend themselves back together, reminding himself he has to keep moving—no matter what. Hope is inside the citadel, and she’s waiting for him to save her. He recovers and reignites his assault on the base.
Stryfe’s citadel. 4.1 hours remaining…
“Ah,” Stryfe says, “I see.” He grabs Hope by the arm. James, not liking the look on Stryfe’s face, tries to get his attention by taunting him. Did he forget about Warpath? Is he going to pick on a little girl instead? Stryfe ignores him. He grabs Hope by the arms and looks her straight in the eyes. “He cares for you, but you are not his,” he says. “They are waiting for you to grow up. He is protecting you until that day comes. But you care for him like a…”
Hope cuts him off midsentence and asks if he is Nathan. Reaching out, she grabs the bridge of his helmet and slowly lifts it off his head while Stryfe gently closes his eyes. Hope is elated to see the face of her protector and adoptive father beneath the spiky helmet. Has it been him this whole time? Did he come in disguise to rescue her? Beaming, she throws her arms around his neck.
Stryfe winces at first, but as soon as the tactical advantage of the situation sinks in, he smiles. He tells Hope that she is correct—and that he has come to rescue her from her false father.