Finding Apocalypse was pure chance for Lucas Bishop. He had been pursuing Nathan Summers, the man called Cable, for years—and across centuries. Bishop was always behind by a few steps. He knew, however, that everything he was doing—everything he was forced to do—was having the desired effect. With the world in shambles, Cable was quickly running out of places to hide and running out of time.
What Bishop had not considered was who else might be hanging out in this dead-end future he had created. The men who pointed him toward the caves were some of the last humans on the planet. Bishop didn’t consider them to be real, though; he considered nothing in this future real, because once he kills the little girl, the cursed world and everything in it will go away. Anyway, when these men told Bishop of a “sleeping God”, he couldn’t ignore it.
What he found in the cave changed everything. As he entered its inner caverns, he discovered metallic sleeping chamber in the center of a high-tech room. At any other time in his life, Bishop would have taken out his gun and put a bullet in the dormant Apocalypse’s head. But right now? Bishop had thought. The end of the world is something I can use.
Westchester, New York. 2973. Former site of the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning…
X-Force, Deadpool, and Cable, who hovers protectively over Hope, look up at Stryfe’s army of bladed, armored soldiers bearing down on them. After a quick assessment of the dire situation, Cable concludes he is nine steps beyond worst-case scenario. He tells Hope to get down and hide behind him as he fires his hand-cannon indiscriminately into the legions of enemies. In fighting these guys, Cable realizes something: for the better part of a decade—give or take a few thousand years—he has been so intent on protecting Hope from Bishop that he forgot he has enemies of his own.
Nearby, Wolverine tears into the armored soldiers. He tells Vanisher to evacuate Elixir and Hope, but Vanisher reminds him he cannot teleport. Wolverine reminds him he can run while the rest of them provide cover.
Cable, meanwhile, goes over their plan for Hope. He was to keep her safe and off the enemy radar: he was to raise her correctly. That was the plan. But Bishop just wouldn’t give up. And then my father sent Wolverine to help, Cable thinks. And everything goes to hell. He takes a moment to look at the other X-Men who came with Wolverine. If these are the X-Men now, things must be desperate everywhere, he thinks. He knows some of them; others, he doesn’t. Friends and lovers, long past, Cable thinks as he looks at Domino and Warpath. And Wade, of course. Our fates seem intertwined. God help me. He thinks his added support is just making them a bigger target. Worse, as Vanisher runs away with Hope in his arms, Cable realizes every fear he has ever had is playing out right in front of him.
The Celestial City…
Bishop is so close he can taste it. Even before the scout kneeling at Stryfe’s throne reports on what he has seen, he can feel Cable’s presence.
Stryfe orders his scout to report. He tells his lord the Forsaken One is with their enemies. Impulsively, Bishop asks who else is with him. Stryfe grows stern. “Who else, Lucas?” he asks. With horror, Bishop realizes his mistake. He remains silent, forcing Stryfe to ask him one more time; is he expecting someone else?
As Stryfe glares at him, Bishop thanks God for psi-shields. Without them, Stryfe would hear him screaming the girl’s name. He hopes he doesn’t blow it after all these years of hard work. “…I thought maybe Cyclops would have come,” Bishop says, recovering from his mistake. “He and I left things… unfinished.”
Stryfe stares straight ahead. After performing a psi-scan, he determines his biological father is not among the new arrivals. He does, however, sense some of the other X-Men among the trespassers.
Out of breath after running, Vanisher wants to die. Hope, on the other hand, wants to get back to Nathan. After asking her name, Elixir assures Hope everything will be okay. He sits her down, introduces himself and tells her she’s dehydrated, malnourished and has a few minor bone fractures—but he can heal all of that. He promises her everything is going to be okay. “Are you high, Foley?” Vanisher asks. “We’re all going to die here.”
Back in the battle, Warpath and Domino struggle to stay alive. They need a plan, Domino shouts at Wolverine. Wolverine, however, is busy getting stabbed through the torso and is in no condition to formulate a strategy. Archangel turns to Wolverine, but before he can help him, he once again hears a voice calling to him—only this time, he can clearly hear it telling him to come. Noticing his inattention, X-23 urges him to focus on the mission. Archangel asks if she can hear it. She repeats herself. Her commands have no effect, however, as Archangel flies away with a stoic look on his face. He can hear it calling…
Wolverine, pinned to the ground by one of Stryfe’s soldiers, screams at his deserter teammate. As the soldier lifts his blade to deliver the coup de grace, he is shot from behind by Cable. Cable walks over to Wolverine and aims the gun at him next. He orders Wolverine to have Vanisher bring the girl back immediately.
Meanwhile, Domino desperately wards off the attacking soldiers, while behind her, Deadpool repeatedly shoots one of the fallen warriors in the face with his handgun. “Bang! You’re dead,” he repeats every time he pulls the trigger. Domino begs him to quit screwing around and help them. “But what if he’s a zombie?” Deadpool asks. Domino screams at him. “Fine!” he says, submitting to her request. He turns and fires his gun at Stryfe’s squad of soldiers. “BUUuuULLEeeetttTSS!”
The automatic gunfire from Deadpool’s pistol rips through the armored soldiers, killing each and every one of them while miraculously avoiding any of Wade’s allies. Warpath can’t believe what he just saw. X-23 looks in awe and says nothing. Deadpool, meanwhile, resumes shooting his dead soldier in the face. “Die, zombie!”
After the fighting ends, Vanisher, Hope and Elixir return. Porter declares it a miracle that the rest of X-Force survived. Elated to see Nathan again, Hope runs into her adoptive father’s arms. She tells him Josh made her feel better—her leg doesn’t hurt anymore and even though the other guy said they were going to die, she didn’t believe him. Cable hugs her close to him and tells her everything is okay; they get to leave now. Cradling Hope with his right arm, he stands up, puts the barrel of his shotgun in Vanisher’s face, and tells him if he ever touches her again, he’ll kill him. “Get in line, buddy,” Vanisher quips.
Surprisingly, Wolverine steps in and asks Cable if he has gone crazy. X-Force has only been there for five minutes and has already had to save Hope’s life! Always one to relieve tension, Domino asks everyone to ease up a bit. She asks Cable to put himself in their shoes and look at the situation from their perspective: what happened to this place? How did it get to this point?
Instead of answering, Cable simply turns his back and, as he begins walking away, insists they need to keep moving.
Betty Noir’s. Much earlier…
Bishop had no trouble finding Stryfe in the timestream. Convincing him to come with him was much harder—and deadlier. His promise to give Stryfe Apocalypse turned the conversation in his favor, however.
He didn’t have to kill the bartender before they left, Bishop had thought. Maybe Stryfe wanted to show him what would happen if he betrayed him. It’s also possible he just did it for fun. Regardless, the opportunity for Stryfe to get back at his father was too good to pass up, so he agreed to come with Bishop at the very least. After crushing the bartender in a telekinetic grip, Bishop and Stryfe departed for the cave of the sleeping god.
Stryfe had taken on Apocalypse before, Bishop recalled. Like the X-Men, he had lost. Any victory over Apocalypse seemed temporary at best. At the height of his power, Apocalypse rules the world with an iron fist. Bishop was giving him to Stryfe at his weakest—and it still took everything they had to kill him.
In so many words, Wolverine tells Warpath their situation is hopeless. Warpath tells him he is the worst leader ever. Logan doesn’t need to be reminded of that fact. He goes over their situation with Warpath: their time-travel devices do not work, Warren is bugging out, Vanisher’s powers were neutered and at any time now, Stryfe is coming to kill them. He just doesn’t see this having a happy ending. Proudstar hopes Logan has some kind of plan. “Yeah,” Logan says. “You. No matter what happens, you’re in charge of that kid.”
They look over at Hope, who smiles as she holds Cable’s free hand. Logan tells James that neither he nor Cable is in charge of the kid; it’s all Proudstar. His life, their lives… none of them matter. Keeping Hope alive is all that matters.
As they walk along the moors overlooking the ocean, with the sky illuminated by an energy field that looks like the Northern Lights, Hope sidles up to X-23. “You’re a girl,” a seemingly surprised Hope says to Laura. Laura tells her she knows that. “I’m a mutant,” Hope says next. Laura knows that too. From behind them, Cable grows nervous and calls for Hope, but she continues her conversation with Laura. She asks if she is a mutant also. Laura tells her that yes, she is. Hope then states that Nathan is an X-Man. She wants to know if Laura is an X-Man too.
“No, I am not,” X-23 states. While giving her a suspicious look, Hope asks why Laura and the others even came to this place. She and Cable have been trying to leave, she adds; why would anyone come there? In response, Laura asks Hope if there is a bad man chasing her. Hope says there is. Laura tells her they came to make him stop.
Nearby, Vanisher asks Elixir if it’s possible the tumor he implanted in his brain is what is adversely affecting his powers. It can’t be, Elixir tells him; he’s used his powers since acquiring the tumor. It could be getting worse, Vanisher says. He proposes that Elixir remove it—just in case. He can always put it back in later. As politely as he can, Elixir asks Vanisher to stop talking to him; he’s never time-traveled before, they’re in grave danger and his friends at home might die. Vanisher interrupts; he’s going to die! From the brain tumor that Elixir gave him! Josh furrows his brow and glares at him. Does he really not understand? If they don’t get home in twenty hours, they’ll all die—brain tumors or not. Telford asks if that means he’ll remove it. No, Josh shouts!
Bringing up the rear are Domino and her unfortunate traveling companion Deadpool. She asks him not to walk so close to her. He claims he doesn’t know what she means. Domino adds that he has been staring at her ever since New York. They all know the story he told was a load of crap. Whatever it is he is keeping from them, he can tell Domino. His pants are an open book, Wade tells her; he isn’t keeping anything from them. Yes, he is, Domino declares. He’s what, Wade asks? Domino finally snaps: what isn’t he telling them?!?
Just as a rocket fires out of the top of the tallest citadel in the Celestial city up ahead and heads their way, Deadpool finally reveals one of his secrets: that Stryfe just launched from his citadel and is flying through the sky right now and coming their way he thinks probably to kill them all. But, he adds, to be fair, he was only keeping that from Domino for a few seconds.
Stryfe lands with an enormous impact, sending Cable, Hope, Deadpool and the rest of X-Force tumbling through the air. He stands up, towering over Cable with his majestic posture, his left eye glowing with radiant energy. “Cable?” he says to his identical brother. “Stab your eyes, Nathan. You’ve ruined this. Look at you!!” Cable gestures for Hope to hide behind him. Continuing his taunts, Stryfe tells Cable he is old and weak; killing him like this would almost be meaningless. Almost.
Warpath pulls out his bowie knives while Wolverine unsheathes his claws. It doesn’t have to end like this, Wolverine tells Stryfe. Last he heard, Stryfe went out a hero. Stryfe has no idea what Wolverine means. Besides, he doesn’t think it can go down any other way. He’s been waiting there for years just so he could kill Cable. Now, on the plus side, he gets to kill some X-Men too.
“Kill him!” Wolverine commands. X-Force leaps at the armored figure, but Stryfe deflects them with a telekinetic shield. Cable and Domino’s bullets also prove useless against the force-field. Stryfe, meanwhile, grabs Logan’s face and asks if his feeble threat to kill him was supposed to be funny. It’s tantamount to mice trying to kill a cat! He slams Wolverine into the ground while punching the approaching X-23 in the face. After neutralizing Warpath with a telepathic attack, he mocks their effort to come at him with guns and knives. He’s the most powerful mutant on the planet—past, present and future!
“No,” Cable says, leaping at Stryfe and knocking him to the ground. “You’re just a mistake. A mistake that never got corrected.” Enraged, Stryfe lifts his brother off his chest with his telekinesis and binds him inside a telekinetic sphere in the air.
After elevating himself to his twin brother’s level, Stryfe tells him this is not what he wanted. “You are not the Cable I wanted,” he says. Cable asks him if he is sure about that. Suddenly, a concerned look spreads over Stryfe’s face. “Eh? What are you—no.” He spots a small, metallic sphere pinned to his abdomen suddenly glowing red.
I’m not the Cable Stryfe wants and I’m not the Cable Hope needs, Nathan thinks. But I’m what they’ve got. The bomb stuck to Stryfe detonates. The explosion sends Cable flying backward, but Stryfe manages to create enough of a shield to deflect any serious damage. The same cannot be said for the cliff overlooking the ocean, however, as it sustains several large fractures as a result. Portions of it begin sliding toward the water.
While Stryfe levitates through the air—and while Deadpool inexplicably shouts “CANNONBAAAALLLL!”—the team urges James to grab the girl. It’s a risky option, but James heard Wolverine’s orders, and he’ll die before he lets Hope fall. Nothing else matters. Without Hope, there’s nothing: no present, no future… nothing.
As Stryfe approaches Hope and Warpath, he tells them they will not get away so easily. He ensnares them in a telekinetic bind. Warpath tries his best to hold Hope tight to his chest, but Stryfe separates them using his immense power. He places them into two separate telekinetic bubbles. Cable screams as the child sworn to his custody is ripped away by his worst enemy.
The Adirondacks. New York State…
Archangel finally arrives at the source of the noise. With trepidation, he approaches the gaping entrance to the cave and peers inside—and hears the voice he never expected to hear again. “I never believed death would come for me,” it says.
Warren cannot believe it; it isn’t possible. Lying on the floor in a shriveled heap is his former master, Apocalypse. He looks up at Archangel with his beady, red eyes that tell of epochs of pain. “But I’m so pleased it is you… my last and greatest Horseman.”