(Egypt, circa 3000 BC)
Pharaoh Rama-Tut and his general, Ozymandias, are watching the sunrise from the City of Kings. Rama-Tut knows that En Sabah Nur is out there, somewhere, biding his time and letting his genetic power grow. He sought to tame a force of nature, and he now realizes the irony that it is he who unleashed this beast upon eternity. Tut wants En Sabah Nur found and exterminated, or he will claim Ozymandias’ life as his blood tithe. Of course, Ozymandias has an idea.
His sister, Nephri, is taken to the Vault of the Damned and tied up in chains hanging from the ceiling. Skeletons lay all around her, as Ozymandias and a wall of guards prepare to leave her there. She asks her brother if she must endure this again. Must others suffer for his mad quest for their family’s lost throne? She doesn’t believe En Sabah Nur will ever come there. Ozymandias believes otherwise. Does she not realize that the misshapen youth actually has feelings for her? When he does come, he believes there is no better resting place for them both - the Vault of the Damned! A repulsive place, the vault is where the worker rabble are cast off when they die, so that they might have compost for the delta fields. Such is how weak scum like the slaves pass, he adds. More the tragedy that one such as her has come to this.
Nephri replies that the people mourn for them. They are the House Royal; destined to rule Egypt. She tells him he has been consumed with a lust for power. He’s destroyed their family and, with it, Egypt. Ozymandias turns the tables, saying that she is the one that almost fouled their bloodline with that… thing. He was meant to rule by right of birth. She has forsaken that destiny and is no longer his kin. He wanders off, telling her with a parting shot that he remembers her dreaming of wearing the Crown Sacred. Instead, he leaves her with the nightmares their superstitious mother used to sing of the underworld. He wishes her a short journey, for he takes Egypt.
When everyone has departed, Nephri has doubts that Nur will come for her. Can a creature such as he have the feelings for her that her brother ascribes to him? That something inside of her wants him to have? She wonders what it is about him that they of the House Royal look to him for those noble aspects. She asks herself if he is the god that Tut wants him to be, or just a lost boy caught up among a game of tyrants and usurpers. She notices the snakes around her hissing, and senses something approaching.
A nearby cadaver begins to shake and its bones creak, as if rising. Nephri is terrified, and asks Isis to protect her. A cobra raises its long neck from inside the cadaver and hisses. She asks for a sign from Isis, but even she loses faith, asking why Isis has abandoned her. She knows the snake will strike in seconds, but as she watches it, En Sabah Nur makes himself known to her. He climbs through a carpet of snakes and asks her to fear not, for in the pit of betrayals, he comes to kill serpents. He reaches out and grabs the cobra in his hands. More snakes surround her, but he rips his way through them, risking his own life to save hers.
In her frightened state, she rambles on about how they are his snakes, and that she cannot go to the underworld. Egypt is in peril. He can tell his master Osiris that he cannot claim their house so quickly. Nur asks what she’s babbling about, and to stop writhing or the serpents will strike her down. He reminds her that he’s just a man. Doesn’t she realize that she is the only one in Tut’s court who believes these stories? Still tied up in chains, Nephri replies that his face is so hideous and he rose from the dead. How could he be human? What are you? she asks.
Nur replies that he doesn’t know. All that is certain is that there are gods, and his face is their handiwork. Once she is free, he will return to the desert. Nephri believes they will be crushed for their insolence to the gods. Nur continues to fend off a large serpent in the most brutal manner. Despite being trained to kill be his people, the serpent manages to grab him in its coiled body, and it squeezes. Nephri hears his ribs crack under the pressure, but Nur isn’t done yet. He uses his prodigious strength to rip the serpent’s body in two, and he feels his strength increase as if at one with his mind.
As soon as the danger from the serpent is over, he snaps the chains holding Nephri captive and throws her over his shoulder. She calls for him to let go but, before he can reply, his shoulder is pierced by a spear thrown by one of Ozymandias’ guards. The force of the spear throws him into a pile of corpses, and there he discovers, discarded amongst the dead, Logos. Whilst he is down, the guards attack him, but his mutant power continues to grow inside him. His body increases in size, and he savagely defends himself against superior numbers. Ozymandias is amazed. He has never seen a site like this.
He warns them that the Nile will run red with their blood. Only the strong will survive his coming, he taunts. He is the end of all that is. “I am the Apocalypse! Tell pharaoh I come! I bring his death! I bring him my legacy!” The guards fall easily, and Nephri backs away from him. He tries to persuade her not to, but she soon finds herself in the relative safety of her brothers’ arms, despite everything that’s happened. He orders more of his guards to kill him, but En Sabah Nur wades through them like they were nothing. To him, they are nothing. This latest betrayal only strengthens his determination to turn his back on humanity for all eternity. There is only survival now - the test of the living. The weak will perish and the strong will survive.
Nur becomes increasingly single-minded in his desire to reach the pharaoh. He grows ever larger, now towering over any remaining guards. He prophesizes that their empire will die this night, and their pathetic bloodline stops here by his hand. He smashes his way through the ceiling and into the open air above, causing men to flee. One thinks he is a beast from the underworld, springing from the Vault of the Damned. Now free of his title of slave, and from the love he so desired, he starts down his own path. He leaves the City of Kings behind and heads for the sphinx. He knows that Tut guarded closely what lay hidden within the sphinx. All his secrets will be his, all the gates are open and never again will his way lie barred.
Ozymandias watches the giant depart. He knows that this is what Tut knew would happen. He is unearthly. One of his guards asks where the pharaoh has gone. He has abandoned them and the kingdom will is lost! Who shall lead them now the gods run amok in the City of Kings? Ozymandias grins to himself. Monsters are meant to be slain so heroes may be crowned, he thinks. Nur shall be his way into the sphinx, and his corpse on his sword the key to the opal throne.
Ozymandias follows En Sabah Nur’s footsteps into the sphinx and realizes that this entrance couldn’t have been created even by Logos’ science. He feels confident that the dynasty of Ozymandias will begin, or perhaps, he thinks, he should change his name to one more befitting of a god? He comes to the end of the tunnel and sees the pharaoh and the outlanders with the strange powers. Rama Tut is just about to try and destroy the Fantastic Four, and this pleases Ozymandias. Let them weaken each other, he thinks. He shall take care of the survivors.
He sees Nur’s footsteps leading down another passage and follows it to its culmination. There, he discovers the source of the pharaoh’s power; a great technological marvel that is completely alien to his eyes. This must be the ‘memory lock’ that Tut whispered to the boy a while back, he feels. He said it once held a jewel of some sort. This might be a means to unlock the secrets of the universe itself; secrets he shall use to take Egypt and rule it for all time.
Unfortunately, En Sabah Nur has been listening to him talk to himself about his plans for the future of Egypt. He appears, larger than life, and tells the king he will give him what he seeks, and it shall blast his feeble mind to dust. Ozymandias asks what he has become. Nur replies that he is what his sister spat at in fear and hatred. He doesn’t need what lay in the jewel, nor anything made by man, especially Tut! He will remake this world in his own image, just as he will remake Ozymandias.
“As you sought to make me bow to you, you shall be my slave, for all the days of your life!” He uses his newfound power to offer Ozymandias the hidden knowledge of millennia to come, and his mind caves in as it fails to comprehend it all. As he passes out, reeling from the secret knowledge he so desperately desired, he realizes, seeing what is to come over the centuries for a split second before it explodes from his memory, that he will be only the first to be transformed and damned by the rage of En Sabah Nur. His body turns to stone and he falls unconscious.
While Nur unleashes his rage on Tut’s technology, Tut returns to his future in his time capsule, repulsed by the combined forces of the Fantastic Four. The people of Egypt see his ship depart as the heroes make their way to their own time machine, unwittingly missing perhaps one of the darkest moments in the history of mankind. They see an explosion from inside the sphinx. Reed figures it was the last of the pharaoh’s booby-traps blowing up all his equipment - every last trace of his existence. As they return to their present, they cannot suspect who has truly destroyed Tut’s lab and its contents. The devastation wrought by the explosion is immense, and only one person walks from the wreckage. Only one thing survives.
En Sabah Nur strides imperiously from the ruins and the people bow to him. They wish to be his slaves; to be protected by that which is mighty and strong in this cruel world. En Sabah Nur tells them to stand while they can, calling them a weak and disgusting people. He no longer wishes to be a part of their bickering commune. This desert will bury their monuments. History shall sweep them under – a forgotten people. He promises that he will return, for he shall be there at the end. With his final words, he goes out into the harsh desert.
(fifty years later)
The sands encroach far into the City of Kings. The great wonders there pale and crumble more very year as vaster empires are born in the west. Soon, the outlanders shall finally claim this land. Inside one of its old buildings, an aged and grey-haired Nephri lies on a bed of cushions. She is weak, and recalls the great days of Egypt. As she mumbles to herself, she senses that someone is there and calls out. A voice replies, “Your time grows short, Queen Nephri.” She sits up and looks at En Sabah Nur. She asks how it can be that he is unchanged. Nur replies that he comes one last time to see her end.
He asks if it was worth it. Her robes, her silks and her opal throne. Her beloved humanity? It is rubbish to be tossed on the ash-heap to history. He grins widely as he adds that she will be forgotten. There is her eternal destiny. He shall look upon it and laugh when it is gone from the memory of mankind.
A storm is coming. One last time, En Sabah Nur looks upon the place of his birth. He listens to the tap-tap from deep within that chamber of the sphinx. Ozymandias will toil inside throughout the ages, his sword traded for a hammer and chisel, so he can chronicle the history of En Sabah Nur… that bloody path that the overlord will carve across the genetic history of man. Looking out on the possibilities before him, En Sabah Nur cannot help but smile. A storm is coming… and it is him. It is Apocalypse.