Far below the surface of the moon…. ‘Course of action -?’ the X-Man known only as Bishop asks his teammate Wolverine a.k.a. Logan and the enigmatic Cable. ‘Bishop, you have this gift for the obvious, don’t you, bub?’ Wolverine, claws bared, snarls. But for these three hard-bitten men of war, further talk is unnecessary. They know they are outnumbered and overwhelmed. But they know too, they are the best at what they do. Here on the moon they are facing the armoured soldiers of the Mutant Liberation Front, and the gene-spawns of Apocalypse known as the Dark Riders, who now serve a new master. The madman ripped through time who engineered this titanic battle - Stryfe!
A single moment is all these star-crossed soldiers of fortune needs to press their attack - Bishop and Cable both unleash their powerful weapons, while Wolverine lunges at the troops, claws ready to slice his way through them. ‘Don’t even stop to think - just tear into them - and pick up the pieces later!’ Wolverine declares. With the Underlings grabbing at his legs, Bishop blasts one of them backwards and remarks that Wolverine is a warrior born and bred, but apparently not a disciplined soldier. Bishop blasts another of the Underlings as he declares that they are approaching this with no coordinated strategy, no knowledge of their opponents. ‘For every one of these dwarfish creatures that I dispose of - twice the number continue the assault!’.
Cable knocks back the Mutant Liberation Front foot soldiers and agrees that Bishop may be right. ‘I’m one to enjoy a firefight as much as the next man - but these odds are ridiculous for even the best poker player in town!’. Bishop tells Cable that Wolverine is not listening. ‘I know. Too caught up in one of his “berserker rages”!’ Cable replies - but as he slashes away at the Dark Rider known as Tusk, Wolverine replies ‘No I’m not! Just not gonna waste my time jawing while you two replay the Alamo!’. Barrage steps forward and remarks ‘What a charming historical reference, X-Men - and how apt!’ as he unleashes a blast of energy, knocking Wolverine backwards.
Bishop calls out to Logan, to which Cable tells him to relax and to make the Dark Rider one of a few hundred targets to choose from. ‘Little good it did us, we’re completely surrounded - with no means of retreat. ‘And no desire to surrender, either!’ Cable declares as the three men move in together. ‘Logan?’ Cable asks. ‘Hold on - ribs shattered - punctured a lung - healing factor kicking in’ Wolverine mutters. ‘So that means you’ll be nice and healthy when we’re overrun and killed?’ Cable asks, when, suddenly: ‘Death is not an option you should be considering today, Cable! As always, the X-Men fight together - and they fight for life!’ Ororo “Storm” Munroe declares as she arrives with members of the X-Men, X-Factor, X-Force - and even Apocalypse at her side.
If the sight of their allies alongside their nemesis, Apocalypse, surprises the beleagured trio, it is more than offset by the relief they feel at the timely rescue. This is a group of men and women - Storm, Lorna “Polaris” Dane, Alex “Havok” Summers, Bobby “Iceman” Drake, Warren “Archangel” Worthington, Betsy “Psylocke” Braddock and Samuel “Cannonball” Guthrie - who have waited - indeed even desired - the opportunity to cut loose, to give way to their anger and grief since the moment a sniper’s bullet struck down their mentor, Charles Xavier.
No one is more aware of this fact than the mastermind behind the mayhem - Stryfe! The diabolical madman sits and watches the X-Men battle his minions, while his faithful silent companion Zero stands at his side. ‘They fight with such self-righteousness, don’t they, Zero?’ Stryfe declares. ‘My little chess game comes undone - players moving across the board into a scenario I would not have anticipated - yet one which still suits my needs’. Stryfe boasts that it is such a complicated tapestry he has woven. ‘Time is but a puzzle and we place the pieces where we see fit. As awkwardly, I imagine, as the analogies I spout’.
Stryfe tells Zero that he finds it unsettling that after so long, after years built upon years of planning, that he sits here a spectator to the very events he manufactured. ‘Odder still, that I should have manufactured my own past at all, isn’t it?’ he adds, while watching as Cannonball and Iceman both take down the foot soldiers in their own unique ways. ‘Look at them. Such a diversity of style and manner. All with the same overriding and overwhelming goal - to protect, preserve and perpetuate the foolish dream that homo superior can coexist in harmony with homo sapien!’ Stryfe declares.
Wolverine slices Barrage - who is quickly pulled from battle by his teammates Foxbat and Gauntlet, ‘Quite predictably, they route my forces. But how can they fight the inevitability of time? How can they stop the turning of the day? The crashing of the waves? How can they defeat me, when I am their tomorrow?’ Stryfe declares. He turns and walks from the display monitor and answers his own question: ‘The answer is simple. They cannot’. His long red cloak flowing behind him, Stryfe tells Zero that there is much which still needs to be done, and Zero follows his master as they walk through the corridors of the citadel.
‘So much which still needs to be said. But words are wasted on you, aren’t they, my tongueless valet? So much easier…since you never answer…’. A door swirls open, and Stryfe remarks ’But you do listen - at least you were always there to listen - can the same be said of Scott Summers and Jean Grey?’ he asks as he enters the part of the complex where Jean Grey and Scott “Cyclops” Summers are being held prisoner. ‘What now, Stryfe?’ Jean asks. ‘Come, Mistress of the Future Storm. It is time for you and “Father Misery” to come out and play!’ Stryfe declares as he picks them up in a telekinetic bubble, they float behind him. ‘”Come out” -? No@ He’s dissolving the walls with his mind!’ Jean exclaims, before telling Cyclops that Stryfe is walking them out to the surface. ‘HOW?’ she asks.
Stryfe tells Jean not to be so afraid, assuring her that his telekinetic embrace will protect them from the ravages of the lunar surface. ‘A little family stroll will do us all a world of good’ he adds. ‘Where are you taking us?’ Jean asks him. ‘Why to the end, Miss Grey. To the bitter end!’ Stryfe grins.
Meanwhile, on Earth, inside Xavier’s Mansion, Salem Center, Westchester, New York. As the winds of war whip across the surface of the moon - a storm brews over the skies of the venerable house - erupting both outside and in. Dr Henry McCoy a.k.a. the Beast stands over the motionless body of his mentor, Professor Charles Xavier. ‘Charles Xavier medical monitor log, entry seven. Henry McCoy recording’ he begins, stating that the “subject’s” fver has dropped slightly, but still burns at 103 degrees, while REM sleep cycle is troubled, but shows comforting signs of consistent encephalographic activity.
The Beast continues, remarking that Xavier’s body is mending, little by little from the trauma induced by the cellular intrusion of the techno-organic virus, thanks to Apocalypse’s confrontational theraputic approach. ‘Of Charles Xavier’s body, I have high hopes and full expectations for a complete recovery…I find myself consumed by other fears for instance, what about his mind? What is going on inside that incredible brain right now?’
Back on the moon. Stryfe’s base, from the outside, is a miracle of elegance and grace - an architectural wonder which speaks volumes for man’s capacity to learn, build and prosper. From the inside, however, it succumbs to his basest instincts - it breathes with primitive passions - anger, hatred and unrelenting violence! The X-Men and Apocalypse gather together and Storm declares that they have much that they still need to accomplish. ‘Our first priority is to find Cyclops and Jean’. Cable agrees, adding that they better finish off the Dark Riders and confront Stryfe. ‘So divvy up the players and let’s start looking!’ Logan suggests.
Havok announces that he, Cable, Cannonball and Polaris are team “alpha”, while Wolverine, Storm and Psylocke are team “beta”. Apocalypse frowns and tells the X-Men that they can all go play part of the family, while he hunts alone. Bishop and Iceman stand with Archangel who calls out to Apocalypse: ‘Survival of the fittest, Apocalypse? Always the same for you - one man against all odds?’. ‘As I have lived my entire life’ Apocalypse replies, walking away.
‘A hard man; Bishop remarks. ‘His life has been marked by pain and loss’. ‘And that’s an excuse, Bishop? Which one of us hasn’t gone through the same?’ Archangel retorts. Warren takes to the air, with Iceman at his side, sliding along on an ice-sled. ‘You just don’t see us choosing to mark everyone else’s life with the same brand of hatred that’s been inflicted on us’ Warren declares. Bobby tells his best friend to calm down, adding that it looks like they are a unit by attrition. ‘Folks, let’s be delta house’ he jokes, before suggesting to Bishop and Warren that they stop philosophizing and go beat up some bad guys. Bishop clicks his weapon, and replies ‘Would that it were so simple, Robert. Would that it were so simple’ as he follows his teammates.
Down another corridor, Storm asks Psylocke if she senses anything. ‘Nothing on Stryfe’ Betsy replies. ‘Wolverine?’ Storm asks. Logan replies that four people came this way, but the trail just stops here. Betsy adds that Stryfe is definitely masking his mind against her probes, but that she senses a faint residual trace of Cyclops behind the door up ahead. ‘What about Jeanie, Betts? She should be with Scottie…’ Wolverine exclaims, concerned for his dear Jean. Betsy replies that she only senses Scott, but Wolverine assures Storm that he caught Jean’s scent, too, so it seems to reason that her psychic imprint would be here as well.
Storm points out that as Psylocke is their only remaining telepath, they must trust her gifts. Betsy stands by the control panel and informs her teammates that she telepathically obtained an imprint of the coded lock sequence. ‘Get ready…we’ve no idea what’s beyond this door’ Psylocke exclaims as she enters the code - ‘GODDESS!’ Storm exclaims as the door opens and the three X-Men are sucked into a vacuum which pulls them outside - Wolverine shoves his claws into the wall, while Psylocke grabs the side of the door. ‘The door - close it!’ Wolverine tells her, while Storm exclaims that she cannot control the gale force for much longer. ‘Betts - hurry!’ Wolverine calls out. Betsy reaches for the control panel - and presses a button, causing the door to whirl closed. ‘Bright Lady - that was closer than I would have liked’ Storm exclaims, before using her communicator to inform the other squads that they have ascertained Cyclops and Jean’s location.
‘He took ‘em outside - to the surface of the moon?’ Cannonball asks as he blasts above Cable, Polaris and Havok. ‘Yup’ Cable replies. ‘Geez’ Cannonball mutters, while Havok asks how they are supposed to follow. Cannonball sets down onto the ground, announcing that Cable can teleport them wherever they want to go. ‘No. He can’t’ Cable replies, explaining that in order to get here he had to calibrate the matrix beam on his teleportation system to punch a hole through Stryfe’s shields, meaning Graymalkin cannot generate the power to teleport for a while.
‘Graymalkin?’ Cannonball exclaims, putting a hand on Cable’s shoulder. ‘Later, Sam’ Cable replies. ‘There’s no more later between us. We talk now’ Cannonball declares. But Cable walks away from the others, ‘Later’ he tells Sam, adding that they can use the ship of Apocalypse’s that brought them all here. ‘Sam, I know how hard it -’ Havok begins, but Sam interrupts him: ‘Appreciate it, Alex, but let’s go’ he exclaims as he blasts off behind Cable. ‘Nice rapport those two have, huh?’ Lorna tells Alex.
Meanwhile, Apocalypse makes his way through his former stronghold, holding himself up against the wall, he tells himself that he is still so weak. He shuffles along, urging himself to press on and be strong, when suddenly, a look of horror - or perhaps annoyance, hard to tell with Apocalypse - spreads across his face as the Dark Riders - Gauntlet, Barrage, Psynapse, Harddrive, Foxbat, Tusk and the Underlings - appear before him. ‘You have found us, Father’ Psynapse exclaims. ‘Just the way you wanted us - ready to fight - to win!’ Foxbat tells him. Gauntlet declares that Apocalypse made them, and now they will unmake him. ‘This completes the cycle you taught us to live by’ he points out. ‘Very well then, my Dark Riders, to the survival of the fittest - to the DEATH!’ Apocalypse shouts as he lunges at them.
Inside Apocalypse’s spacecraft, Cannonball asks ‘’What exactly are we looking for - three people walking on the moon?’. ‘Maybe’ Cable replies. ‘If they did leave the moon base, wouldn’t it make sense Stryfe was going somewhere specific?’ Sam asks. Alex tells him that it would, but that very little Stryfe has done has made sense so far. Cannonball then asks Cable how he even knows how to fly Apocalypse’s ship. ‘I’m on user-friendly terms with the technology it was derived from’ Cable reveals.
‘So mysterious, isn’t he’ Polaris remarks. ‘Being mysterious is pretty much what Cable does best’ Sam remarks. Cable tells Cannonball that this attitude of his has to go. ‘What happened, happened, understood?’ he declares. ‘Do I have things to answer for? Yes. Is now the time to? No. We’ll talk when the mission is complete’ Cable tells him. ‘Sure we will’ Cannonball replies, before Alex tells them that he hates to interrupt just as things were getting interesting, but he thinks they may have found where Stryfe took his brother and Jean. ‘No kidding’ someone mutters as they approach another structure on the moon.
Back on Earth, the storm outside Xavier’s Mansion has gotten worse. Rahne “Wolfsbane” Sinclair enters the lab, announcing to Hank that he has brought him some tea, before discovering that he is asleep. ‘The man has near exhausted himself’ Rahne tells herself. She begins to put the tray down on a table beside the chair where the Beast is sleeping, when suddenly: ‘Inside the machine! The virus - did it - inside the machine is a man!’ Professor Xavier screams. ‘Cable and Stryfe - Apocalypse and Sinister - Scott and Jean - I saw them inside and out!!’
The Beast calls out to the Professor: ‘You’re awake…thank Heaven! Please try to -’ he begins, but the Professor exclaims ‘Rahne, Hank - you don’t understand! The dreams - the plans - they’re all designs - grand designs - machinations of a sort - and all of us - we’re all ghosts in that machine!’. Charles continues his ravings, declaring ’Scott and Jean and Cable and Stryfe - all of them linked to us in love and hate - but most of all, linked to each other - in blood!’ the Professor reveals.
Back on the moon, Havok, Polaris, Cable and Cannonball are wearing space-suits as they approach the second complex. ’Well, we’re here. Wherever or whatever here is’ Polaris remarks, to which Cable asks her if she shouldn’t be giving her broken jaw a rest. ’So, I’m nervous, Cable - so sue me!’ Lorna replies. Cable tells Polaris that he is sorry, explaining that he is nervous too, before informing everyone that his scanner is clear. ‘Let’s move in!’ he exclaims - but as they all step forward, Lorna and Sam are knocked backwards. ‘What the -?’ Cable exclaims, before realizing that he has stepped through a grey force-field. ‘Undetectable by our scanners’ he remarks, while wondering why only he got through.
‘Sorry to disappoint you, Cable - what ever it was - it didn’t get me, either - least not as bad as it got Lorna and Sam’ Havok remarks. ‘Which still doesn’t answer the question - why us?’ Cable asks. Suddenly, a voice exclaims ‘Come now, Nathan Dayspring…I would have thought the answer to be obvious by now!’ Stryfe declares, standing on a platform, with Cyclops and Jean Grey standing in front of him. ‘And you’ve always said you didn’t need a crystal ball to predict it, haven’t you? Let us have a chat, you and I, my failed brother’ Stryfe exclaims. ‘Let us talk of time lost and time gained, of twisted futures and lost pasts. Let us talk, Nathan…of life and death!’….