Mister Sinister is in Egypt to put his mind at rest. There is a struggle between life and death that concerns him, and he must know one way or the other if his fears are justified. Hidden away from prying eyes, the sarcophagus of Apocalypse sits silently. Sinister releases the tomb’s electronic locks and discovers that Apocalypse no longer resides within. Nextnight has fallen earlier than calculated. Believing in nothing save his precious “Survival of the fittest,” the Apocalypse walks again. Yet, ponders Sinister, there is a new, unpredicted player, who has stepped forth as well, to cast his shadow across the land. Why does he find it alarming that in these, the very worst of times, all things are possible?
(The Xavier Institute for Higher Learning)
The Institute, often a refuge and retreat for the rare mutants among us, is now a foxhole. Nate Grey sits alone, yet surrounding him with inquisitive eyes are the assembled members of X-Force. Their mission is to keep Nate Grey alive and out of enemy hands, at all costs. They look at a large screen displaying images of the recent battle between Onslaught and the Institute’s other residents, the X-Men. Domino asks for recommendations; suggested strategies, possible weak links. The straight-talking Siryn looks saddened as she explains that they must face facts. Onslaught is Xavier, the founding father of all who wear the X, and there he is, defeating the X-Men, on the screen and bigger than life - out there somewhere.
Meltdown practices her fine motor control, creating a small flaming time bomb. “Xavier…Onslaught…the Nutty Professor. All comes down the same again, red. Us against them - as usual.” Sunspot tinkers with the mansion’s monitor circuitry, and feels that it’s incredible that the tape loops of Xavier’s betrayal have been locked directly into the monitor’s circuits, but the hardware itself remains untouched. He’s laughing at them. They know who Onslaught is, but they don’t quite know what he is.
Nate watches their casual camaraderie with interest. In another time, another world, this could have been a haven for him, maybe even a home. His nagging concerns remain, however, as he watches Caliban and Domino interact with the rest. Domino turns to him and sees him checking her out. She wanders over to him and tells him that he has a look in his eye. It’s like he has something to say, but little intention of actually saying it. She’d recognize it a mile away. Nate looks up at the striking figure. He explains that he knew a woman like her once. She was a cold-blooded assassin, a heartless mercenary. Domino offers an enigmatic smile. “And…?” she replies. Nate has no time for frivolity and replies that she butchered his best friends in cold blood, right before his eyes; loved every minute of it too.
“Ouch,” replies Domino, kneeling before him, “And you also know that wasn’t me.” Nate supposes he does, and it hardly matters anyway. This is war, and the last war, judging from appearances. War is what he does best; always has been, until he found this world anyway. He continues to tell Domino that this battleground seems so strange and her X-Force seems so completely balanced already. He feels he could be of little use to them. Everybody wants him all of a sudden, now more than ever, but the only person who ever really needed him is the girl he left behind.
A full moon silhouettes New York City, and in particular a church in the heart of the upper west side. St. John the Divine Cathedral is one of the few precious places Threnody has ever found comfort in the city of her birth. She sits in an upright foetal position, leaning against the solid stone that provides this comfort. It’s not so much the presence of something bigger, the awareness of someone watching her, surrounding her; that’s a sensation she’s never been able to escape. It offers far less security than it should. It’s just the light in the darkness. The way the stained-glass windows casts the sharpest shades into the deepest shadows; splinters of red slashing through shards of black, reflecting mosaics of chaotic colors. Threnody knows how that feels.
She prays as she looks warily around her. As a mutant with the twisted ability to absorb and rechannel the energies released in death, she’s a target on her best days. Tonight is no exception. The stained-glass window shatters, as four Marauders come crashing through. Scalp-Hunter aims his weapon down towards her and he is followed by Harpoon, Arclight and Vertigo. Scalp-Hunter finishes off her prayer and begins to fire, as Threnody scampers away to safety. She hides from his assault behind a strong stone pillar, but this is no hiding place from Vertigo’s mental whammy. It sends Threnody to the ground, but she recovers enough to sprint away, leaving Scalp-Hunter to fire at his colleague inadvertently.
Threnody recovers and tries to think of a way out of this ambush without getting killed. As she thinks, Arclight appears behind her and delivers a hefty kick, which launches Threnody back towards Vertigo. She lands beside her and notices that Scalp-Hunter’s using stun pellets. They are clearly not out to kill her. She siphons off some of Vertigo’s pain, like she did to the guy in Greece, and releases it back at the cloned Marauders, knocking the fight out of them all. They weren’t expecting that. For now, she has the chance to make good her escape. She does, however, wonder why they wanted her alive.
She turns to leave, but a shadow causes her to look behind her. Startlingly, the shadow belongs to Mister Sinister himself. “Welcome home,” he grins, holding an outstretched hand towards her. He tells her they have much to discuss. She has played her role of damsel in distress all too well, thus far. However, it’s only the beginning. The boy has yet to trust her completely. Ready or not, the seed of Summers must be harvested.
(The Xavier Institute for Higher Learning, thirty minutes later)
The flickering trails of Sinister’s cloak drift almost unchallenged through the mansion’s grounds. Inside, Sunspot is doing his utmost to maintain security, but the perimeter defense drones are dropping like flies. Nate scans the surface but his efforts are blocked. Someone’s out there and, as soon as he punches through the interference, he’ll discover who. Domino warns him not to expose himself to Onslaught directly. That’s way too dangerous.
She commands Siryn to take Caliban outside to scout the grounds. She adds that they mustn’t engage who or what they find, but must return to the armory to rejoin the rest of them. Meltdown asks Shatterstar how he’s holding up. Recently, he discovered he isn’t quite the man he thought he was. Now isn’t the time to discuss these matters, however. As Domino, Sunspot, Meltdown and Shatterstar head to the armory, Nate insists that he will not retreat. Siryn reminds him that he is Onslaught’s quarry. He has the powers that could mean the death of them all in the hands of Onslaught. He can’t go with them and, as she sees it and hears it from Moira MacTaggert, Nate already knows plenty about the nature of sacrifice. Nate follows the others to the armory.
Siryn and Caliban then set off. They haven’t got very far when Caliban suddenly detects another presence nearby. Unfortunately, it is already too late, and both he and Teresa fall unconscious to the power of Mister Sinister. He looks down at the hulking figure of Caliban and recognizes him as a tunnel-dweller who survived his Marauders attack in the sewers. He also sees that he has been reborn in the image of En Sabah Nur. He and Caliban would have much to explore together, if time allowed.
The rest of X-Force reaches Cable’s stockpile in the munitions vault. The walls are lined with exotic weaponry and armor. Domino tells them that a telepath of Onslaught’s stature already knows all there is to know about their individual powers; their tried and tested combat maneuvers, so everything goes. She tells them to choose their weapons carefully, and to check and recheck everything - twice. She asks Nate to flash her thoughts for everything he needs to know about the weapons, but Nate has already done it, and telekinetically takes apart a gun.
Sunspot says he still can’t get used to the way he so freely utilizes his powers. Cable is so buttoned up and so wary of wasting his telekinesis. “And I’m just a kid with way too much power on his hands,” replies Nate; “Not quite Cable.” Domino assures Nate that nobody’s saying that, but he has to understand how they all have come to feel about the man. Nate is beginning to. With everyone baring weaponry, they prepare to leave but, before they can move, as Domino mentions how Cable risked his very sanity to save her a few weeks back, they are forced to the floor as a wall explodes, throwing masonry and people to the ground. In strides Mister Sinister.
“Truth. I, too, owe a great debt to Nathan Christopher. Thanks to the man,” Sinister tells the fallen heroes, “the boy - all that I strived for for so long, will be mine.” His mind in a haze, Nate looks up at the man standing before him and asks how he could hide from him. Sinister simply replies that at, long last, they meet, face to face. Nate recognizes the face and memories abruptly flood his mind, a tidal wave of thoughts and feelings raging out of control. He compares Mister Sinister’s face to the one he knows from his former life; the one who slaughtered Forge. As he thinks back, the sudden sight of the man brings about an important revelation. ‘Sinister…? Sinister created me?’
Suddenly, X-Force attacks, having sufficiently recovered from their ambush. They fire on the villain, but their hi-tech weapons appear to have little effect. “Away from him Dr. Demento; the kid’s with X-Force,” shouts Domino, ever the born leader. Sinister reaches out his hand and, with a thought, Sunspot is sent reeling into his cohorts, his mind in pain. Sinister tells them that they are hardly a hurdle to someone who has the knowledge and ability to prevent them from accessing their mutant powers.
Nate stands and confronts his foe. To Domino’s concern, he tells Sinister that he is the one he’s after and insists he should leave them alone. Mister Sinister is impressed. Nate is such a magnificent culmination of genetic perfection; all he’s ever wanted and worked for in one raw, untrained body. He calmly assures Nate that he need not fear him. He mentions that Nate’s very arrival here in this reality may have awakened the very concept of Onslaught. Nate wonders what he’s talking about. Sinister explains that he was the one that gave the psi-beast physical access to its armor for the first time, when he forcibly pulled Xavier from the Astral Plane; virtually teaching him how.
Nate is having none of this and calls Sinister a liar. He could never believe a word he says. Nate tells him that he knows all about him and his genetic games, what he did to Threnody and how he used her to spy on mutants around the globe. “We used each other,” replies Sinister. He saved the girl from her own sad song; from a power that will consume her without his help. Nate shouldn’t doubt for a single moment that Sinister won’t do the same for him. With his hand outstretched again, this time it is Nate that reels from Sinister’s power. He grabs his head, not quite knowing what’s going on.
Mister Sinister smugly explains that, in the weeks he has studied him and his abilities, he has mapped his mind far more intimately that he could possibly know. He learned all about Nate; the infinite potential at his command, the full promise of the man known as Cable. It was his once before, his by right. Sinister concentrates and even Nate’s formidable psi-defenses crumble in the face of superior skill. He falls to the ground with a sickening thud. Domino stands alone, pointing her weapon at Sinister, but knowing it is effectively useless. Nate may be power incarnate; crude, uncontained power, but Sinister is in control!