Inside the temple at Bani Maza, Egypt, behind the walls of yesterday…the battle for tomorrow has begun!
‘The time has come, Apocalypse. The Devil-to-come must pay his due…to the Devil who made him…pay me, Master of Time! And let your death be the coin of exchange!’ Stryfe booms to Apocalypse, who rises from his regeneration chamber, telling Stryfe that he owes him nothing. ‘LIAR!’ screams Stryfe, who smashes Apocalypse across the room, and into an aged wall. ‘You owe me for everything that’s gone wrong with my life! You owe me a world for the wrongs you have foisted upon it!’ Stryfe booms.
Stryfe punches Apocalypse in the face and exclaims ‘Millions cry in agony every day! But that screaming is like unto silence - when compared to the lonely cries of an abandoned child!’ Stryfe exclaims, punching Apocalypse again and again. Apocalypse falls to the floor, and Stryfe stands over him, asking him how long it has been since he cried a babe’s tears of need. ‘How long has it been since you longed for the gentle warmth of a mother’s touch? Do you want to know how long it has been for me?’ Stryfe asks.
‘It has been FOREVER!’ he booms, a bizarre smile on his face. ‘A forever - solitude brought on by you, father of pain, son of the morning fire!’ Stryfe sees Apocalypse crawling towards his teleportation matrix chamber and exclaims ‘Trying to escape? Where can you flee?’ he asks. ‘To safety’ Apocalypse replies warily as he pulls himself up to the teleportation matrix. ‘Safety? There is no haven for you - there is no place safe from me!’ Stryfe exclaims, pushing Apocalypse to the ground again. But Apocalypse lashes back - ‘I will not die at the hands of some unknown enemy!’ he exclaims, punching Stryfe in the face - knocking his helmet off - revealing his oddly familiar looking face!
Stryfe smirks, ‘A final, feeble attempt at salvation? Very well, Hate-Maker - now that you know who I am - are you prepared to die?’ Stryfe asks. ‘You? But you -’ Apocalypse utters, shocked. ‘Yes, Master of the Time-Stream, destroyer of my past and my future - it is I!’ Stryfe booms, moving towards Apocalypse, he exclaims ‘And now, you end - dead outside, dead inside, like me - a man out of place - a man out of time!’ Stryfe exclaims as he shoves a dagger through Apocalypse’s chest. Apocalypse looks at the dagger sticking out of his chest, wide-eyed, he exclaims ‘The blade - but how - when I once used it - to kill YOU!’
With that, Apocalypse falls backwards onto the teleportation matrix, and a computer announces that the transport matrix is activated. There is a whir as the machine starts up - and a light as Apocalypse vanishes. ‘NO!’ Stryfe booms. ‘Could he still live? Stab his eyes!’ he exclaims. ‘No. He has no place to go. Dead in time…’ Stryfe declares, before putting his helmet back on. He turns around, and is confronted by the Dark Riders - Tusk, Psynapse, Harddrive, Gauntlet, Foxbat, Barrage and the Underlings. ‘Who…are you?’ Foxbat asks.
‘Ah, the Dark Riders. You follow the survivor, do you not?’ Stryfe asks. ‘Yes’ Foxbat replies. ‘The fittest of the species? The strongest?’ Stryfe asks. ‘Yes’ Foxbat replies again. ‘Who has bested Apocalypse?’ Stryfe asks. ‘You have’ Foxbat tells him. ‘Who do you follow?’ Stryfe asks. ‘We follow you’ Foxbat replies, kneeling before Stryfe, who grins with pleasure.
Meanwhile, inside the place known as Graymalkin, which, for the enigmatic Cable, is a place of refuge. Now though, it is party to a council of war. Staring out into open space, the newest member of the X-Men, Bishop, tells Wolverine a.k.a. Logan that so much seems insignificant when viewed from this perspective. ‘At my size, Bishop - I put everything into perspective’ Wolverine replies. Cigarette in his mouth, Wolverine adds that life has done a fine job of that lately, to which Cable asks Wolverine to put out the cigarette. ’You kidding?’ Wolverine asks, when suddenly, Professor, the in-built computer system, announces ’Flammable carcinogenic material in use. Extinguishing procedure activated’ and a small device protrudes from the wall - spraying foam all over Wolverine’s face. ‘Procedure enabled’ Professor announces, while Wolverine frowns.
Cable tells Wolverine not to blame the computer, as it is only following its programming, adding that where he comes from smoking is not considered very smart. ‘I don’t like you, Cable. I’ve NEVER liked you. I like your house even less. It’s got as much personality as you do’ Wolverine exclaims as he and Bishop follow Cable through Graymalkin. ‘More, actually’ Cable remarks, before telling Logan and Bishop that they have a job to do. ‘To eradicate this man, Stryfe - the terrorist behind the assassination attempt on Charles Xavier’ Bishop remarks.
‘More than a terrorist, Bishop. More a force for anarchy. Born and bred for chaos…but desperately trying to find a sense of order!’ Cable exclaims. ‘Nice poetry. Start talking!’ Wolverine orders. ‘Professor, Stryfe log recount for the detail impaired’ Cable calls out. ‘Professor?’ Logan and Bishop ask, before the Professor remarks ‘Stryfe: real name, unknown. Age: unknown. Status: self-proclaimed anarchist and formentor of political dissent. Nor-Am Pact region, circa 3783-3806 AD’, and a large projection of Stryfe appears before Cable, Logan and Bishop.
Projections continue to help illustrate Professor’s narration as he explains that Stryfe has participated in acts of aggression against both the controlling rulers, the High Lords of New Canaan, as well as the rebellion forces known as the Clan Chosen. On December 25, 3806, Canaanites defeated the remnants of the Mao-Sing Province Pact, thereby consolidating control of global forces. Professor continues, explaining that in an effort to maximize potential for anarchistic endeavors, Stryfe and the displacement unit designated Zero fled to the current temporal zone, circa 1983 AD.
Cable reveals that he first encountered Stryfe about eight years ago. ‘I knew he was a man out of time’ he adds. ‘How?’ Bishop asks. ‘Because so am I. I was a part of the Clan Chosen who sought to overthrow Canaanite rule. When we failed, I came to this time’ Cable explains. ‘So you and Stryfe are different sides of the same coin?’ Logan asks. ‘Yes. No. Maybe’ Cable replies, revealing that Stryfe came back to exacerbate the mutant rebellion - to try and prevent the High Lord ascension, while he came back to try and control the ascension, to ensure order in the future. ‘There’s just one problem. Well, one major one, anyway. I recently fought Stryfe - hand-to-hand - and learned something about the man inside the armor…’ Cable begins.
‘And what was that?’ Logan asks, striking a match against a wall. ‘I found out something that Kane - Weapon X - said was true - that underneath his helmet - Stryfe wears my face!’ Cable announces. Smoke billows around Wolverine, courtesy of his cigarette, while bishop asks ‘Then, he is a duplicate of you?’ ‘Or Cable of him’ Logan points out, while Professor announces ‘Flammable carcinogenic material in use. Extinguishing programme - system damage! System damage!’ he exclaims over and over as Wolverine shoves a claw through the extinguisher. ‘Which would explain how Stryfe impersonated Cable when he shot Chuck. But it doesn’t answer the obvious question - why’re you walking around with the same face?’ Wolverine asks. ‘I - I don’t know’ Cable replies, narrowing his eyes.
Meanwhile, at Xavier’s Mansion in Salem Center, Westchester, New York. ‘Looking more and more like an episode of M*A*S*H, huh?’ Sam “Cannonball” Guthrie remarks in the infirmary. ‘Without the laugh track, I hope, Sam’ Stevie Hunter, ally of the X-Men, remarks as she tends to the wounded Piotr “Quicksilver” Maximoff, Rogue and Remy “Gambit” LeBeau. Cannonball tells Stevie that they did a number on the Mutant Liberation Front, but the MLF did a number on the X-teams as well. ‘Gambit, Rogue and Quicksilver outta the fight’ he points out, before turning to Tabitha “Boom-Boom” Smith and points out that she received a broken jaw. ‘How you doing, Tiger?’ he asks her.
‘Don’t have to make it a big joke’ Tabitha replies, as best she can, before Alex “Havok” Summers, leader of X-Factor, enters and asks Stevie how everyone is doing. Stevie replies that they are all conscious, and received mostly concussions, but adds that she is worried about Rogue, for they won’t know how much retinal damage Strobe did to her until she regains consciousness. Sam kisses Tabitha on the cheek and tells her to relax. ‘Ah know how hard it must be for you to keep your mouth shut!’ he tells her, before Alex and Sam leave the infirmary, with Alex asking Sam to do a walk through the Danger Room. ‘Some of your “troops” have been acting up’ he explains. Sam scowls: ‘Fine. Wouldn’t want any of Mah “soldiers” “acting up” now, would we?’ he snaps. ‘Wrong choice of words, sorry. This is hard on all of us’ Alex replies, before leaving Sam to go check in on the Professor’s status.
Alex enters the observation booth over the lab where Dr Hank McCoy a.k.a. the Beast is performing a procedure on the Professor. Alex calls out to Dr Valerie Cooper and Ororo “Storm” Munro, asking them if there is any news. ‘Only bad news, I fear’ Storm replies, explaining that the virus has spread throughout virtually Charles’ entire body and that Moira and Hank have decided that they must stop the techno-organic mesh from co-opting Charles’ internal organs. ‘They’re going to attempt to remove the virus from its core - the point at which it first entered his body’ Valerie reveals.
Dr Moira MacTaggert observes the Beast perform the procedure via monitor, as Havok exclaims ‘But that was smack in the middle of his head!’ and asks if this is kind of a desperate move. ‘At this point, Alex…desperate methods - may be the only ones Charles has left!’ Storm exclaims.
Meanwhile, buried deep beneath the grounds of the Mansion lies the Danger Room. It has served as the tactical staging and training ground for Xavier’s mutant peacekeepers. The last time the members of X-Force were within these walls, it was as students - as dreamers - as Children of the Atom. Now, James “Warpath” Proudstar, Theresa “Siryn” Rourke, Bobby “Sunspot” DaCosta, Julio “Rictor” Richter, Shatterstar and Maria “Feral” Callasantos are confined as prisoners in small cubicles.
The former New Mutant - as many of X-Force were - Rahne Sinclair a.k.a. Wolfsbane, tells Sunspot and Rictor that she wishes she could be seeing them again under different circumstances. Rahne tells them that it didn’t have to be this way, that they could saved them all from this unpleasant situation. Wearing the standard x-uniform, Rictor replies that Rahne is wasting her breath, as he and Sunspot just joined X-Force a few weeks ago. ‘We’re here because of something Cable did - and you know how I feel about him’ Rictor tells her. Sunspot declares that he left the New Mutants when his father died, but was duped by a man named Gideon, as much as their friends have been by Cable. ‘So for a change, I won’t be casting any aspersions on anyone!’ Bobby declares.
Rictor tells Wolfsbane that they have all been through a lot. ‘Even you - with the things that happened to you in Genosha -’ he begins, but Rahne turns away, suggesting that perhaps she cannot say who is wrong and who is right anymore. ‘Perhaps there’s no difference at all?’. Sunspot tells Wolfsbane that there is a difference, it just depends on which side of the bars you are on.
A few cells down, an exasperated Siryn throws her hands into the air, ‘I don’t believe ye can’t remember what we been through, Jamie Madrox - what we had together!’. Multiple Man tells Siryn that he does remember, but she needs to understand him, that in many ways, the man she…knew…wasn’t him. ‘Don’t be a tosser!’ Siryn tells him, asking if a duplicate is still him. ‘Uhm - sort of - I think - but it’s like I see us on a movie screen - I don’t feel it here’ he explains, touching his heart, ‘I’m only aware of it up here’ he adds, touching his head. Siryn turns away, and hangs her head: ‘I understand, truly…and I’d rather not be talking about it no more, if ye don’t mind’ she remarks quietly.
Suddenly, Cannonball enters the Danger Room and walks past his teammates: ‘Hey, gang, heard some a’y’alls feathers’re getting rustled down here’ he remarks, before informing them that they are moving things along as fast as they can topside. ‘How’re ya’ll holding up?’ he asks. James, Shatterstar, Feral, Theresa, Rictor and Sunspot all frown at Cannonball. ‘Fine, Sam…just fine…’ Sunspot mutters.
Somewhere else, Stryfe storms down a corridor, ‘Interior view’ he says to a computer, which replies ‘Occupants: Scott Summers - Cyclops - and Jean Grey. Condition status: nominal’. Stryfe removes his helmet and observes the monitor which shows Cyclops and Jean embracing, and Stryfe frowns. Stryfe puts his helmet back on, and strides away.
Jean Grey opens her eyes - ‘He’s gone’ she tells Cyclops. ‘Are you ready?’ Scott asks her. ‘Do you have to ask?’ Jean replies. ‘All right, then…’ Scott tells her. Jean concentrates hard, reminding Scott that until she was able to steal the outer lock code sequence by probing Forearm earlier, they assumed this cell had a mutagenic dampening field. Jean opens the door with her psychic power and the founding X-Men leave their cell, with Scott exclaiming that the truth is more frightening, for it is Stryfe who has been keeping their powers in check all along. ‘If he’s a powerful enough telekinetic to keep your teke abilities at bay - what can we do to stop him?’ Scott wonders. Jean tells her lover that there is only one way to find out. ‘The hard way?’ Scott replies. ‘And if that’s the only road to take, there’s o one I’d rather have at my side’ Jean exclaims as they make their way down a corridor.
Back at the Xavier Institute, a portal opens - the wind picks up - and a beam of energy courses into the Mansion, where Warren Worthington a.k.a. Archangel, Bobby “Iceman” Drake, Lorna “Polaris” Dane and Piotr Rasputin a.k.a. Colossus are. ‘What hit us?’ Colossus asks. ‘Whatever it was, I’ll bet you a borscht belt that it took out the big-screen TV!’ Iceman exclaims. ‘Of all times, why now?’ Polaris asks, to which Colossus tells her not to speak and strain her broken jaw. ‘Doesn’t look like there’s much left to say anyways. All we have to do is find out who exactly would be stupid enough to attack us in our own home?’ Iceman remarks as they descend on the area of the energy blast.
Suddenly, a weak voice calls out: ‘Fortunately for all of us, Robert Drake - the one who is here - is neither fool, nor aggressor…’. Archangel spins around, furious: ‘YOU!’ he shouts as he sees Apocalypse rising before them. ‘Me, Warren Worthington, my son…and even through the ravages I have endured - I feel pleased to see my greatest creation - my dark angel of death - looking so predatory - so dangerous - a comfort indeed, to know such fury is to be unleashed - and that this game will soon come to an end!’
Archangel leads the assault as Polaris, Colossus and Iceman follow him towards Apocalypse. ‘It will end, Apocalypse - it’ll end now - and it’ll end with your death!’ Archangel booms, releasing several razor-sharp feather knives at Apocalypse - who shape-shifts his arm to block the assault. ‘You do not understand - my glorious child, my bird of prey - I did not come here to fight you - I came, as I said, to end this game’ Apocalypse declares, his face less than an inch away from the tip of Archangel’s wing. ‘And that means defeating the madman who hurt us all - and the only hope there is of accomplishing that - is for us to battle Stryfe - together!’ Apocalypse suggests, to the dismay of the X-Men….