It wasn’t supposed to end this way. When Jean and Scott Summers were psionically yanked some two thousand years into the future, their essences placed in gengineered vessels, they welcomed the opportunity to raise the son they had lost to the farthest reaches of time. All the happiness and rewards, the sorrow and the sacrifices, their lives together, as a family in the here and now, end today.
Nathan is very ill, his Techno-Organic Virus flaring up. His entire body is breaking down in uncontrollable, liquid, unstable conjugations of flesh and machine. Scott and Jean – in this era, known as Slym and Redd Dayspring – watch him, fear and worry etched across their faces. Scott holds Nathan’s hand. Prior Turris tells them he’s sorry. There’s nothing more they can do for Nathan. Even without healer Prxuse’s prognosis, it is clear the boy’s condition has become terminal.
In despair, Jean asks him how this could have happened. The Techno-Organic Virus in Nate’s body has been in remission for years! As they have said, Turrin agrees – but the boy’s body has been changing as well in recent months. He believes the ancient term was… “puberty.” Jean tries to understand: is he saying the maturation of Nathan’s mutant ability is somehow agitating the T.O. Virus?
But one of many theories, Turrin replies – as sound as any other. The truth is, even after all these years, they don’t know about the boy’s disease or their entire Dayspring unit to draw any definite conclusions. While they’ve always respected the Daysprings’ privacy, he must point out their secrets may have cost Nathan Dayspring his life. Scott urges him not to talk about Nathan like he’s dead. Scott hasn’t given up hope. He hasn’t given up fighting and none of them are going to give up trying to save him.
“’At’s the spirit!” the healer Prxuse, a dwarfish, misshapen creature commends him. Scott observes that he sounds optimistic. Hopeful? Prxuse consider it for a moment. No, he wouldn’t say that. Since Slym allowed him to gene read Nathan, there’s one surprise after the next. Foremost: what they always assumed was bionics? Actually, the metal is… alive. Pulling one of the endless metallic appendages on Nathan’s writhing, agonizing body, he demonstrates his claims: “See? Warm to the touch…” The blood is felt coursing through the “veins.” Distended? Yes. Ugly as all things? Yes. Beyond all help? Yes. He’s surprised Nathan has lived this long. They might want to consider alternatives to this quasi-life. End his suffering, no?
Lowering his head, his eyes shut, Cyclops mutters that’s not an option. Jean bursts out, indignant: she has to believe there’s another way! For the past three years, she’s been tutoring him on the use of his biokinetic abilities. If she could only reach him telepathically through this coma, through the psi-interference…
And if she cannot? Turrin retorts. What then? Is she prepared to sentence young Nathan to a life even more horrific than Turrin’s – great parts of his body inextricably immersed into technology, making him a “freak”. Wouldn’t the embrace of death be more merciful?
At Apocalypse’s citadel, Prelate Ch’vayre faces much the same dilemma: death as an alternative to pain and suffering. Once the undisputed ruler of Apocalypse’s elite cadre, he now experiences something akin to a crisis of faith. Restrained by various mutants loyal to Apocalypse, Ch’vayre begs his master. If for no other reason, than to preserve the sanctity of his own immortal soul, he must abandon this madness!
Apocalypse, currently inhabiting the decrepit body of an elderly man, corrects him: he mistakes madness for destiny. Today brings the culmination of nearly four thousand years of personal evolution. Born into slavery, he – En Sabah Nur – has spent hundreds of lifetimes ignoring the ravages of time, defying the demands of nature, forging himself into the master of all manner of man and mutant. All of which would have been meaningless had he not found the child called Stryfe!
Stryfe is currently floating in the air, helplessly ensnared in psionic energy, as Apocalypse prepares to make his move and finally possess the boy’s body. Apocalypse explains that he named Stryfe after an ancient enemy of his – a man whose own machinations nearly destroyed him but who, in the end, only made Apocalypse stronger. But just as he ultimately triumphed over all who have dared oppose him over the eons, so too, is he prepared to use the young boy as the final vessel for his near infinite power! Thus, he urges Ch’vayre to cease his pathetic pleading on the boy’s behalf. The moment Ch’vayre took baby Stryfe from Askani Hold, he delivered him to his fate. He delivered him unto Apocalypse. Though he must confess, he fails to see the problem Ch’vayre has with all of this. For as long as Apocalypse has spoken, he has preached the survival of the fittest. That often necessitates a lesser life force being sacrificed for a stronger one.
Ch’vayre insists: for the sake of light and darkness, Stryfe is but a child. “Less than that, actually,” Apocalypse retorts: he’s the means to an end. He stresses how Ch’vayre has served him well over the years. He shouldn’t force Apocalypse to have him killed on this, the eve of his greatest victory. Turning to the tortured, agonizing boy, he exclaims that, soon, Stryfe’s voice that has been muted with pain, the eyes blinded by his transubstantiation, will speak and see the words and worlds as they exist in Apocalypse’s image!
At last, it stops. The pain which is all Nathan has known over the past three days is replaced by an overwhelming state of nothingness. He can see the rest of his unit – his family – as if from a great distance. He can hear their words chipping faintly against a wall of near overwhelming silence. Despite the realization he is alone, trapped somewhere on the knife’s edge between life and death, Nathan refuses to go quietly into the night.
Nathan’s astral form begs them not to leave him when he needs them most! He begs him not to abandon them like his parents did! A voice interjects and informs him Redd and Slym can’t hear him. Nate realizes perhaps he isn’t as alone as he thought. Before him, he sees the astral form of a redhead adolescent girl. He realizes she must be Rachel – the voice in his head all these years. “In the ectoplasm, as it were,” Rachel explains. This form in which she appears to him is her favorite version – Rachel Summers at the age of fourteen. Before Xavier was assassinated, before Ahab and his Hounds, before the power of Phoenix.
Nathan admits he has no idea what she’s talking about. Curious, he asks her why she called him “brother.” Rachel is sorry, she is kind of skimming over a lot… but then they don’t have much time. The reason she called him “brother” is more than half the reason she’s here. She wants him to know that he has a much larger support system – a larger family – than he ever imagined. Hugging her tightly, Nathan asks her if that means she came to take him home. Rachel confesses it’s just the opposite. She’s here to explain why he’ll never have a home.
In the corporeal world, Scott still refuses to let go of his son’s hand. Jean hates to do this, but reminds him they have to get going. Tonight is the culmination of three years of raids – putting together the pieces of this virus Apocalypse’s scientists have been developing. The same virus they believe will be unleashed in their time as the Legacy Virus. Bottom line: it’s now or never.
Cyclops insists he can’t. Nathan needed him once, and he let him go. Even if there is nothing he can do – other than be here for him – he won’t… he can’t leave him alone. He’s sorry; she’ll have to do this without him. Kissing him, Jean insists never without him. He’s always with her… in her heart. Cyclops whispers that he loves her. As if I didn’t know that already, Jean teases him. Leaving the room, she tells Scott to take care of Nathan; tell him she’ll be there in the morning and she’ll sing his favorite song; tell him she’ll love him. “In the morning,” Scott promises, without taking his eyes off Nate. He wishes her “g’journey.”
Elsewhere, above Apocalypse’s citadel, the eerie light from young Stryfe’s transfiguration, fills the night sky with shades of a coming apocalypse. The people in the teeming city below look up in awe and fear. They cannot know that a new phase in the long, long life of the man once called En Sabah Nur is dawning. Still, they feel the dark power emanating from the place, and they avoid the shadow of the towering citadel that is home to their genetic overlord. But deep within Apocalypse’s hold, two key members of the Clan Rebellion materialize, to take a final, perhaps fatal, stand against Apocalypse’s century-long reign of terror.
Once they materialize inside, Prior Turrin notices Jean seems apprehensive and asks her what’s wrong. Jean points to the eerie light; it is almost pure psionic in nature. The interference is preventing her from scanning ahead. It means they could be walking blindly into…
Suddenly, Turrin suffers a psi-attack of the highest order – the synapses in his brain are exploding! Jean asks him to hold on! Given time, she’ll be able to reverse the… Barely mustering the strength to speak, Turrin tells her there’s no time and urges her to go on.
“Your friend will live,” Ch’vayre confirms as he appears. Enraged, Jean asks him he did all this. Ch’vayre apologizes for the cruelty, but he refuses to allow “others” to be involved with what they must do. “We, Ch’vayre?” Jean asks him, with doubt and surprise in her voice. What are they going to do? Ch’vayre reveals they’re going to attempt that which has never been done: they’re going to stop Apocalypse.
Elsewhere, within Nate’s mind, Rachel points him to his home. Nate is surprised to see the techno-organic part of his body. That’s what he looked like on the inside, before the virus started growing again. He wonders, though: why are they separated? He reaches out to touch his techno-organic part.
Suddenly, he sees Cyclops, as if from the inside again, his visage a mask of worry. Scott asks what’s happening. Nate hears the healer, Prxuse’s voice, talking about convulsions, losing vitals… Nate calls after Slym. Rachel explains to Nathan they’re worried about him, out there in the real world. There’s not much time. To be brutally honest, all of Nate’s suffering is happening because he isn’t trying hard enough.
“Hard enough to do what?” Nate demurs. If his body is at war with himself, what can he do? Rachel reveals that, here and now, he possesses as much, if not more, power than her or any telepath combined. Telepathically, he is strong enough to sense a stray thought a continent away. Telekinetically, he could extinguish a star with something less than a conscious effort.
Nate exclaims she’s got a few alpha waves on order… that’s just crazy. Rachel insists it’s his heritage. It’s the reason Apocalypse wanted him in the first place. And although he won’t remember any of this when – if – he survives, it’s important he knows it here, in his heart. As the Mother Askani, Rachel brought him to this time. She even created a clone to serve as a decoy, in the event Apocalypse struck before Nathan could be trained in the use of his powers. When she realized she was too weak to help him, she sent for his parents from the past. For ten years now, his mother has tried to educate him in regard to his abilities. Training he’ll need to telekinetically hold the techno-organic incursion form completely enveloping him.
Nathan hesitantly wonders whether he can do that. Rachel points out he’ll have to. An entire world is counting on him. It will mean sacrificing his other abilities, literally fighting on a cellular level every day of his life, making sure he lives to see the next dawn. But to answer his question: yes, he can do it. He’s a Summers. He can do anything…
As he voice fades away, Nathan sees Cyclops kneeling above him. He hears the healer’s voice: “Lost him… sorry…” Upon hearing this, Nate, inside his mental world, protests he’s not dead! He will not give up!
In the real world, Prxuse repeats to Cyclops that the boy’s gone. He should allow him to… “No!” Scott cuts him off. He is Nate’s father, he would know if he were gone! So long as there’s a spark of life within him, he won’t leave him! He will not give up!
Scott feels it in his soul, before he notices his son’s body move beneath him. “Yyyyou’re sssstill heeerreee? You didn’t leave me…?” Nathan moans as he wakes up, while the virus visibly begins to retreat. Almost too numb from the shock to speak, Scott mutters that no, he didn’t leave him. Astonished, he realizes that Nate is pulling his body together the way Jean taught him! His mutant power must be stronger than the effect the virus is having on his body.
Grabbing his father, Nate alerts him that they have to go. They’re needed… Tears flowing freely from his eyes, Scott mumbles that Nate doesn’t need to do anything but get better. He urges him to relax and… Nate tells him he doesn’t understand. It’s Redd… somehow he knows! It’s like their minds are one. He can sense her thoughts. She’s in trouble… alone. She… needs them.
In the citadel of En Sabah Nur, the High Lord notices that at last his vessel is prepared to receive his true essence, allowing Apocalypse to make manifest his eons-long dreams. Apocalypse will be strong… he will endure. He encourages the tormented Stryfe to see past his pain. Stryfe should take comfort knowing that his sacrifice will usher in the final age of mutantkind!
As he prepares to begin the ritual, Apocalypse reminisces of his old enemy, Xavier and taunts him. Can Xavier see him now, from the mud and mire that is his grave? Does he see Apocalypse was right all along? That he outlived Magneto, Sinister and Holocaust, even Xavier’s descendants, the Askani. He outlived them all! He stands where all the others have fallen! Just as he predicted… he has survived!
Grappling the ensnared Stryfe, he initiates the ritual of transferring the essence into the adolescent boy’s body. His aged body withers and begins to crumble. But then, a voice intervenes: “So far, Apocalypse, so far!”
Apocalypse is taken aback, as he comes under a psi-attack! Ch’vayre appears, in the company of Jean. He tells Apocalypse he is sorry… truly. Jean demands Apocalypse step away from the boy. No matter how much contempt he holds for any other life than his own, no matter the amount of blood he’s caused Stryfe to spill through his sick and twisted manipulations of Stryfe’s body and soul, Stryfe is a living, breathing individual with a right to his own life!
“You presumptuous… insects!” Apocalypse rages and attacks back. He has lived and prepared for this moment all his life! Residing in one body after the next, he did everything and anything it took to ensure not only his continued existence, but the growth and dominance of all Homo superior. One life lost, or one hundred thousand – what possible difference does it make so long as they survive?! Not that Jean will be able to answer him, for he can promise her they will forever be on opposite sides of the grave!
Knocking them out with an energy blast, Apocalypse returns to the boy; he has waited four thousand years for this moment. Making to kiss Stryfe, he urges him to know the kiss of the Apocalypse; know the gift that is eternal…
“NOOO!” he suddenly unleashes a blood-curdling scream of profound disillusionment, and recoils from the boy. This cannot be! In one shocking moment, he realizes Stryfe is not a mutant, not a true life-form! It is a gene-copy… a clone?! He verifies that Stryfe possesses the ability, but not the capacity to maintain his essence. In his true form, Apocalypse is weak, yet he should still be able to enter Stryfe’s body, until he can find a suitable vessel. However, a new, even more unpleasant surprise awaits him: Stryfe is somehow resisting him! For too many centuries, Apocalypse has flowed from one body to the other – never has anyone been able to resist the process!
“Maybe, Apocalypse, because no one has had help resisting you before!” Jean defies him, now joined by Cyclops and Nathan. In a flash – both dreadful and wondrous – Apocalypse sees beyond the earthly bodies and recognizes the essences of those who stand against him. Scott Summers, Jean Grey and the boy who would become Cable. Had he met them before this moment, he would have been able to divine their true origins.
“Curse the Mother Askani!” he howls as he lashes at them. Only she could have brought the three of them together to stand against him! Only she could have left this… thing in the place of the child he sought… the one he needed! But he will not be bested by defenders of a dream long dead! A dream long dead!
Scott, Jean and Nathan do not reply with words. Instead, they act in unison, acting as a family for what may be the first and last time in their lives, they strike as one.
Suddenly, inexplicably, Scott feels it. A psionic tug at the base of his skull. He has felt this way only once before, when he and Jean were yanked across time to this era to raise their son and battle Apocalypse. Both those tasks so painfully near completion, it would appear Scott and Jean’s time here is over. But it has come too soon, as Scott finds he may not want to go home. As their battle against Apocalypse continues, he psionically asks Jean how much longer they have. Jean replies it’s impossible to say. Something has been anchoring them in this era, a power greater than hers. With that power gone, it could be a matter of hours… or minutes.
Seeing them nowhere, Apocalypse wonders where they went. Did it suddenly occur to them that he possesses all the power he needs to defeat them? That he will endure as he has always done!
Scott and Jean, psionically masking themselves, are about to sneak up on him. Jean deduces that if what Apocalypse is saying is true… “He wouldn’t need Stryfe,” Cyclops finishes her reasonable thought. Seeing Ch’vayre distracting Apocalypse, he instructs Nate to reach out and disrupt the bond between Stryfe and his “father”; block whatever telepathic energy he feels. “Whatever ya say, Slym!” Nate complies. “Let’s see what they can do about changing that,” he remarks and approaches the still immobile Stryfe and touches his head.
As Nathan severs the telepathic link between Apocalypse and Stryfe, Apocalypse writhes in agony – a sight that brings no joy to Scott and Jean. They know that by blocking the telepathic exchange between Apocalypse and his heir, they end a ritual that has endured for eons. And the Apocalypse’s host final cry, Scott and Jean feel only emptiness.
Standing above the cadaver of Apocalypse’s final host, Scott can’t believe this is over. The pain; the suffering; the sorrow. All of it over. Jean reminds him it had to be done. He knows that, doesn’t he?
Seeing Jean slowly fading away, Nathan dashes at her. What’s happening to her!? She and Slym are leaving, aren’t they? “Don’t!” he pleads them. Jean assures him they don’t want to. But they can’t stop it! “Oh baby… let me hold you one last time,” she offers and opens her arms to hold him.
But Nathan passes right through her, as if she were a ghost. A woman’s voice – Rachel’s – speaks in Jean’s head and explains that Nathan can’t hear her. They’re in an altogether different plane of existence now. They’re on their way home. Scott is about to join her. And Rachel – well, she’s on her way to who knows where.
Jean is surprised to see Rachel, in her teenage form, appearing before her. What Nathan told them before is true. Rachel has been with him all these years, hasn’t she? From the moment she’s fell into her coma, she’s been watching over him. Rachel confirms she’s been watching over her brother and her parents. What else are big sisters for, right? She reveals that, five minutes ago, her physical body finally died. The long wait is over. Dejected, Jean exclaims that this can’t be happening! She…
Rachel asks Jean not to waste a single tear on her. She’s lived more than her share of life; fought more than her share of battles. She asks Jean to remind her to tell her about the fifty years she spent forging the Clan Askani some time. Until then, she’d like to ask one last favor. Jean tells her to name it. Rachel replies that Jean and Dad – all of them – accomplished a lot here. Apocalypse had practically destroyed their family, but they managed to take it back from him. They rose from the ashes – again.
Hugging her “mother,” Rachel knows she won’t be here for the rest of the fight. So she wondering if Jean would take back the one thing Rachel took from her. She’d like Jean to carry it with her and think of Rachel. She knows there’s a lot of pain and hurt attached to the name Phoenix, but she hopes there’s a lot of good, as well. Rachel tried to do the right thing for all of them. She tried to save them all. She begs Jean to accept the favor. Jean assures her she’d consider it an honor. Rachel replies she knows. “I love you, Mom.”
In the Askani timeline, Scott has a few more moments before he also fades away. There are so many things he wants to say to Nate. So many things he wants to teach him, about life, about the people who love him. He wishes he could explain to him why he and Redd have to go… but all he knows is that they have no choice.
Nate begs him not to leave him! He can take the disease… he can take down another dozen Apocalypses… but he can’t do it alone! Scott promises he’ll never be alone. Not in his heart… not in the only way that truly matters… because Scott will be there. “Because I love you, son. Remember that always!” Nate will be many things to many people. Sometimes love and respected. Other times feared and hated, almost always misunderstood. Someday, he’ll be a cable that unites the past with the present and future – yesterday with today and tomorrow. Nathan Christopher will be all those things… but he should know he’ll never be alone. “Never…” his voice begins to fade out. Nate reaches out and little hand momentarily holds Scott’s, until the latter vanishes.
Carrying the unconscious Stryfe in his arms, Ch’vayre solemnly tells Nate that he understands, of course, it does not end here. Ch’vayre is but one of En Sabah Nur’s followers – one of the disenchanted. But those who are loyal to Apocalypse, those in position of power, count themselves in the thousands. There will be many who search endlessly for his heir, and for the young boy responsible for inflicting such harm on the dynasty of Apocalypse. Ch’vayre has resources at his command. He believes he can protect both himself and Stryfe. But for Nathan, he fears…
Nathan snaps that he is not the one Ch’vayre should be worrying about. From everything Redd and Slym told him, Apocalypse went a long way to taking apart a dream. He’s going to put it back together… again.