‘None of us want this!’ Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie calls out to the squad of X-Men and X-Factor who have tracked his team - X-Force, currently standing behind him. ‘But we’re more than ready for it - guess this is your choice!’ Sam exclaims. Alex “Havok” Summers stands beside Wolverine a.k.a. Logan, and tells Sam that they do not want this either. ‘Please, turn yourselves in. Tell us what Cable is up to!’ Alex asks. Julio “Rictor” Richter announces that they do not know what the “old man” is doing, while Maria “Feral” Callasantos remarks ‘They’re gonna attack’. Sam tells Feral to ease up, but Feral tells Cannonball that he doesn’t understand: ‘I can smell them. They’re gonna attack! But not if we do first!’ Feral snarls, leaping towards the X-Men and X-Factor. ‘NO! Wait!’ Sam calls out, but his call goes unheeded - and the battle begins as Feral lands on Remy “Gambit” LeBeau.
‘That does it! They can’t be trusted! We have to take them down!’ Rogue shouts
as she flies alongside Lorna Dane a.k.a. Polaris. Rahne “Wolfsbane” Sinclair
leaps over her teammate James Madrox a.k.a. Multiple Man as they make their
Way to battle. ‘You’ll find out pretty quick, Rogue - we’re not y’all’s “New Mutants” anymore!’ Cannonball exclaims as he blasts down and smacks Havok in the face, boasting that X-Force don’t go down that easy. Wolverine and Shatterstar battle, while James Proudstar a.k.a. Warpath takes on Guido “Strong Guy” Carosella.
‘Lord Wolverine, forgive my trespass! But a cadre warrior prefers death to capture!’ Shatterstar tells Wolverine, who tells him it is okay, and that he will just use his claws for real. Theresa “Siryn” Rourke hovers above the Multiple Man, and exclaims ‘After all we shared, don’t make me fight ye!’ As she unleashes her powerful sonic scream upon him, causing him to multiply. ‘Siryn - not to be rude - but what exactly have we shared? Besides your sonic scream triggering my duplicates?’ Madrox asks. Nearby, former teammates Wolfsbane and Rictor approach each other.
It is a chaotic battle compounded by the emotional fervor - built upon the recognition that their mutual struggle to reach their desired goal - the hope that man and mutant kind could one day live in harmony - will forevermore be reached by vastly different methods. ‘I don’t want to -’ begins Rictor, but Wolfsbane attacks first, lashing out at him, she tells him that she is sorry, but that X-Force has brought this on themselves. Rogue approaches Tabitha “Boom-Boom” Smith. ‘Hate ta tell you, Sugah - your plasma bombs don’t do diddily against me!’ Rogue exclaims as she punches Boom-Boom backwards.
‘Not bad, Warpath. Quite a punch, actually - but did anyone tell you that I absorb kinetic energy?’ Guido asks as he smacks Warpath backwards. ‘And to coin a phrase…”the madder Guido gets, the stronger he hits”!’ Guido exclaims, while Polaris hovers over Roberto “Sunspot” DaCosta, telling him not to fight. ‘You can’t -’ she begins, but Bobby interrupts, ‘-win, Polaris? Don’t you understand - no matter the outcome - this is one fight neither team can truly win!’ Sunspot exclaims as he holds back the metal scrap Lorna is pushing onto him. ‘Says you, bub!’ Wolverine exclaims as he punches Shatterstar in the stomach.
‘Shatterstar!’ Rictor cries out to his friend. ‘That does it! Rahney, I’m sorry - but this ends now!’ Rictor declares, unleashing a vibro-blast which knocks Wolfsbane backwards. Standing over Havok, Sam calls out to X-Force, ordering them to regroup, announcing that they are out of here. ‘No…not all of you!’ Havok exclaims as he unleashes a blast of energy at the escaping X-Force team - knocking Rictor backwards. With Shatterstar, Boom-Boom and Warpath already taken down, only Cannonball, Siryn, Sunspot and Feral manage to escape, by leaping off a small cliff and into a stream.
‘Why’re we running away? Are you quitting on us, Guthrie?’ Feral snarls. Sam lands in the creek and declares that they are not quitting. ‘At the rate we were going we wouldn’t of lasted another two minutes! At least this gives us a chance to catch our breath and figure out what to do!’ he exclaims. Back on the battlefield, Gambit and Rogue tend to the wounded Psylocke a.k.a. Betsy Braddock, while Wolverine begins to leave the group. Havok asks him where he is going, to which Logan tells Havok to clean house here and tend to the wounded. ‘They’re hiding somewhere in the woods around this creek - that’s a hunting ground out there - and I’m the hunter!’
Meanwhile, at a warehouse comples off the Chesapeake Bay - the X-Men’s Blackbird craft silently touches down, and a determined fighting unit prepares to search for their missing friends. They are the Children of the Atom, riders on the wave of genetic fire - steeling themselves for a fight against a madman who believes only the fit should survive - and only he can determine who the survivors shall be! ‘Not the kind of place I’d expect to find Apocalypse’ Warren “Archangel” Worthington remarks as they all stare at the warehouse. ‘We do become jaded by the trappings of villainous excess, don’t we’ Pietro Maximoff a.k.a. Quicksilver of X-Factor remarks, while Ororo “Storm” Munroe announces that the Cerebro scanner is reading Caliban’s mutagenic signature, and asks Archangel and Quicksilver to perform an aerial and all-terrain reconnaissance of the warehouse.
Moments later, Quicksilver returns. ‘I never dreamt you were this fast!’ Piotr “Colossus” Rasputin remarks, while Dr Hank McCoy a.k.a. the Beast asks the fleet-footed mutant if he noticed anything on his frenetic sojourn. ‘Nothing from the ground. If they are here, they are waiting for us inside’ Pietro responds. ‘Let’s oblige them, shall we?’ the Beast suggest, as he and Colossus bash their way through a garage door into the warehouse. Once inside, Storm announces that the scanner indicates interior movement, but the Beast tells her that he doesn’t see anything. ‘Be prepared’ Storm declares. ‘Black as pitch in here - where are they -?’ Bobby “Iceman” Drake asks.
Suddenly, ‘Goddess! Hank - above you!’ Storm gasps, as the Horseman of Apocalypse called Famine drops down on the Beast: ‘Yes, Beast - above you! Now on top of you - and my blight inside of you as well!’ the deranged mutant snarls as the Beast withers away before his friends. ‘She is desiccating the Beast!’ Colossus exclaims, only for Caliban a.k.a. Death to punch Colossus from behind. ‘She is not alone. Caliban is also with her!’ the former ally of the original X-Factor booms. ‘Though it pains me to do so - I must stop you all from undermining my master’s goal!’.
‘That does it!’ Bobby shouts, unleashing beams of ice. ‘It doesn’t matter that Caliban used to be our friend - I’m putting him on ice!’. ‘Bobby, as we have practiced - our powers working in unison!’ Storm tells him. Warren returns to his teammates and as he circles the wall of ice that Storm and Iceman are creating, he announces that he only counts Famine and Caliban, that there is no sign of Apocalypse anywhere. Bobby explains that he and Storm are working on Caliban together. ‘She’s creating a low-level blanket of moisture in the air and I’m automatically freezing it!’ Iceman explains.
Archangel remarks that should leave Caliban easy enough prey for an assault of neuro-darts from his wings, which he releases at Caliban. ‘And here is a little food for thought for the emaciated crone - my metabolism is so fast, her touch can barely affect me!’ Quicksilver exclaims as he smacks Famine over, addmiting that her touch did wind him. Colossus crouches beside the Beast and asks him how he is. ‘Hungry’ Hank whispers, while Archangel discovers something in the ice-mound, and digs it out with his wings - revealing an electronic device of some kind.
Warren touches it, and a large projection of Mr Sinister appears before the heroes. ‘If this is being seen, then I assume the Horsemen have been defeated - and the X-Men have advanced to the next level of the game!’ Archangel wonders what Sinister has got to do with this, while the projection continues: ‘Do not be overly upset by my machinations, Children of Xavier, but it was I who abducted your friends and now my part in this mad game concludes…but do not allow my participation to deter you from your original goal - for Apocalypse - unbeknownst even to him - is still the cause of this madness - and therefore, a means to an end!’ the projection of Sinister grins wickedly, before the transmission ends. ‘We‘re being played for fools - and we’re still no closer to finding Apocalypse - no closer to slicing him to ribbons!’ Archangel shouts, slicing the transmission device with his razor-sharp wings.
Meanwhile, at the Xavier Mansion in Westchester, New York, the real Mr Sinister grins wickedly as he holds the glamorous Dr Valerie Cooper and Stevie Hunter by their necks, they struggle in his grasp. ‘Release them now, Sinister!’ Bishop orders, two massive weapons raised. ‘You ask me if I am prepared to die for Charles Xavier…that answer is obvious. The real question Is whether I am prepared - but are YOU?’ Bishop asks. ‘Yipe!’ Jubilation Lee mutters, peering at Sinister from where she stands behind Bishop.
‘Would that the Children of Xavier had the courage to settle their problems so cleanly’ Sinister remarks. ‘I - among many - know that you do not!’. ‘Double tap’ Bishop remarks as he fires directly at Sinister’s head - ‘The only guilt I feel - is in not having prevented you from bespoiling these hallowed halls!’ Bishop exclaims, while Sinister falls backwards, releasing Valerie and Stevie. Bishop approaches the unmoving Sinister with caution - only for Sinister to grab Bishop by the through, and tosses him aside, ‘I am pleased, Bishop - to find an X-Man worthy of the world we live in. And allow me to alleviate your guilt…’ Sinister remarks, a massive hole in his head, as he knocks Jubilee aside.
‘By assuring you my presence in this home is to be considered an honor - for I am the means to your beloved Xavier’s salvation!’ Sinister boasts, telling Bishop that he is the one who is going to point him in the right direction. ‘And though as much as the thought of killing you all right now appeals to me - my first priority is my mission - one which will only be enhanced - if you stop the perpetrator of this nefarious scheme!’ Sinister declares, pulling Bishop up by the hair. Wearing a pink knee-length dress with a white belt and matching white jacket, Valerie is still on the floor, and she calls out to Sinister: ‘Tell us - who - where -’. Sinister drops Bishop and turns to Valerie: ‘Where I truly do not know, Valerie. As for who…’ he remarks, dropping a small piece of paper in front of Valerie - who goes wide-eyed and shouts ‘HIM?!’
Meanwhile, in a mountain chalet safe house, outside of Davosdorf, Switzerland. ‘Professor, status report’ Cable a.k.a. Nathan Summers asks his computer companion while he examines his massive weapon. Professor reports that there has been an escalation in maneuvers, revealing that Mr Sinister has visited the Mansion, while X-Force is engaged in west Texas, and Caliban and Famine have been defeated in Virginia. ‘Too much happening too quickly’ Cable exclaims, declaring that only one person can be responsible for all of it, and that it is time to take him down once and for all. ‘And quite literally - face to face!’ Cable, now wearing massive armor and carrying dozens of weapons, shouts.
Somewhere else…Scott “Cyclops” Summers and Jean Grey are dragged by their hair by Forearm of the Mutant Liberation Front, along a white corridor. ‘Zero. The boss wanted to see these two, right?’ Forearm asks. The enigmatic Zero remains silent of course. Forearm frowns and boasts that one day he is going to get Zero to talk. ‘But I’m outta here before he comes’ Forearm exclaims, making a quick exit as their master enters. ‘Zero - bring them to me!’ his voice booms, before ordering Zero to awaken them. A small burst of energy flows form Zero’s fingers, against Cyclops and Jean, who slowly rouse. ‘Jean…!’ Cyclops exclaims. ‘Scott? What - what happened?’ Jean asks.
Scott takes Jean’s hand and they stand up, seeing Zero standing in front of them, Scott asks ’Where are we -?’, while Jean wonders how they got into their uniforms. A voice tells them to calm themselves. ‘Who -?’ Scott calls out as they turn to see a man in extravagant armor, with a flowing red cape standing beside his “throne”. ‘Allow me to introduce myself, X-Men - I am STRYFE! The crown prince of mutant kind - and you. The king and queen of what is to come. “Father”. “Mother” - welcome to the end of tomorrow!’ Stryfe booms….
Back in Texas, Sam, Feral and Bobby run through the stream, while Theresa follows them from the air. Sam tells them to keep moving, and asks Feral if she is picking up any pursuit. ‘Can’t smell a thing - and with Irish’s racket can’t hear a thing either!’ Feral snaps. Sunspot remarks that they can be sure there is one person who would have come after them, and at that moment, Wolverine leaps from the trees: ‘Got that right, kid!’ he exclaims as he tackles Cannonball into the water. Feral growls, and lashes out at Wolverine, but he gets away with ease. ‘Missed!’ Feral snaps, while Sam tries to get up out of the water.
Sunspot releases a blast of energy in Wolverine’s direction: ‘I think I saw him go that way!’ he exclaims, but he misses as Wolverine skulks back into the forest. Cannonball orders his teammates to regroup and to get back to back in a perimeter watch. ‘Three o’clock to six, Sammy - nothing here!’ Siryn announces - only to be struck in the head with a psi-knife. Betsy appears and holds Siryn’s unmoving body, announcing that her psychic knife has done its job admirably, and tells Wolverine that the rest are his.
Feral growls - only for Wolverine to unsheathe two claws - with neck in between them, ready to release the middle one through her neck. ‘Yes. Your move, Samuel’ Wolverine exclaims. Bobby turns to Sam and asks him what they do, just as Rogue, Gambit, Wolfsbane, and several dozen Multiple Men appear. Rahne asks her long-time New Mutants teammates to stop this fight. Sunspot powers down, and both he and Sam raise their hands into the air.
A transport vessel arrives, and X-Force, with clamps around their hands, are led into it. ‘I don’t want to do this, Sam…’ Havok remarks as he places the clamp on Cannonball. ‘I guess it’s a little too late for regrets, ain’t it, Alex?’ Sam replies, frowning as the clamp seals around his hands. Multiple Man holds the unmoving Siryn in his arms and looks at her sadly, while Wolfsbane and Rictor look at each other, neither saying anything. Wolverine lights a cigarette, as Havok asks ‘What do we do now?’