All the Cable clones attack the power-mad Fantomex.
In the control center, Hope borrows a Psyker’s eyes to watch her father die. A lot. She decides it’s kinda lost its novelty. She staggers under the power she has now, thanks to copying Fantomex’s unlocked Volga virus. She could table-flip a glacier. She could fire eyebeams made of shadow fire and she doesn’t think that’s even real. She could do anything. Instead, she’s standing in a lab and thinking really hard about how to fix the guy who is currently slaughtering her dad. She decides it’s possible she may not be cut out for the whole grimdark super hero shtick.
Dr. Nemesis releases more Cable clones to sic them at Fantomex. Keep ‘em coming, Hope tells him while musing that one of her teammates called Fantomex “Strength for the sake of strength. The self above the all.” She could have been talking about any of them really. She could have been talking about this whole gross clusterbork of a team. She could have been talking about the whole damn world!
Hope recalls how she was dumped inside a surveillance nightmare. The aggression, the tribalism, the anger. She learned it’s all about “us vs them.”
On the poop deck, Fantomex laughs madly as he burns the Cable clones.
In the lab, Hope wrecks her brain to find a solution, while remembering Cable told them at the beginning it’s not about saving the world. It’s about keeping up with it. Keeping flag A higher than flag B. It’s about making the nation of mutantkind the strongest it could be.
No! More! Cables! Fantomex laughs, killing more Cables.
The one thing he didn’t say was that it’s the same thing Fantomex lives and breathes. The best way to be strongest is to make everyone else weaker. You raise your flag over the rest. You build your bombs, they get bigger ones. You scream your name for fear of being forgotten… left behind and everyone else screams that little bit louder too. It has to stop, Hope decides. Someone has to be the first to stop pushing.
Fantomex has reached the lab and calls her “poor little mouse.” She has copied the superduper powers of the perfect man and it has shattered her tiny brain. He was right to reject her advances.
She tells him he needs to understand that she sees him. He’s like a child. A scared little boy. Resenting the very people whose respect he craves. Fantomex no longer smiles.
In the destroyed lab, a weak voice addresses Nemesis, telling him there’s an armory. A secret panel behind the coffee machine. But he doesn’t have time, Nemesis replies. The countdown is down to a few minu—
Scared? EVA hisses at Hope. Fantomex doesn’t do scared. Tell her, darling, she tells Fantomex. They purged her once. And they can do it agai— Fantomex begins but is stopped mid-attack by the original Cable and his psimitar. He only has a few minutes before he will die of the original, cruder version of the Volga strain.
Hope watches them fight and thinks about her father, a man of duty… honor, focus. All of that stuff. She should help him. She should gift him with her attention as he crumbles. But it’s hard to care when something that is already broken falls apart. And besides, she has bigger things in mind. She recalls EVA mentioning purging her before. This virus in them cannot be cured. Even the man who developed it said so, said it would take full psychic burnout. They say a good team thinks as one. It’s the sort of stupid platitude you’d expect from the men of the Summers line. She doubts any of them would approve of this plan.
She thinks of her teammates. With this power, she can build a web out of their souls, distil their hopes and dreams to a pure cocktail of thoughts, but it’s not their hopes and dreams she wants. The numbness, the rage, the insecurity, the recklessness, the paper-thin confidence, the envy, the loneliness. The hurt. They are broken, oh God yes, but at least the know it. They are broken and she can use that.
While Cable still battles Fantomex, Hope reaches into her own chest. Nemesis tells her that her copycattery won’t last forever. She should stop whatever obscene unscience she is doing—
She takes a small black globe out of her chest and orders him to stay away from her.
Outside, Cable orders the team to stand together. With a grin, Fantomex takes them all out easily.
Inside, Nemesis announces Cable’s started to go critical out there. The teleporter’s broken. Thinking can’t save them. The coffee machine won’t start. They need to get out of here! Shh, Hope replies. On it. And she flies outside.
Hey, mean guy, she addresses Fantomex. Have a heart! She pushes the ball into his chest, a ball full of all their losses and inadequacies. Programmed to believe himself perfect, Fantomex can’t stand it. He claws at his chest and cries to get it out. He orders EVA to fully purge it. Eva begins to protest; he cuts her off and orders her to do it. EVA complies.
Fantomex laughs that he is clean again. A moment later, he realizes that the Volga virus and with it his new powers have been purged as well. Hope copies the cure. Give it back! Fantomex shouts. He was perfect! Bollocks he was! Psylocke shouts and kicks him in the head. He can still take them, he claims, he is better than all of them. Marrow headbutts him. Forget-Me-Not makes him fall. Calling him a loser, Betsy uses her psychic knife on him.
She sliced his head in half, right? Marrow asks hopefully. Betsy disappoints her. She downsized his ego with her psychic blade. Fantomex realizes EVA is gone. She wanted him to feel what it’s like. To be imperfect. To be aware of your flaws and still have to deal with them. Cool pre-execution payback, Domino remarks as she points her gun at him. Give the bad guy a taste of humility before erasing him from the planet forever, right?
Psylocke looks at Hope, then Fantomex crouching on the ground. No, she decides. As much as she’d enjoy it. She thinks the humility part is enough.
Hope walks up to the dying Cable and tells him she doesn’t want him to think she is ungrateful for all the time and effort he spent to save her. She knows he is in a lot of pain. Still, she’d like him to pay attention now. She touches him and begins to glow. Because she’s got this one.
Two weeks later:
A hospital room:
Cable, who is lying in a bed, is in contact with Hope via a comm. system. Hope asks how he is feeling. It’s taking some getting used to, he admits. Woke up with two eyes. Took some time to figure out he had two hands to rub them together. She explains they “convinced” Mojo to regrow some parts before they shipped him home.
And Fantomex? he asks. Betsy’s keeping an eye on him, Hope explains. “Mostly reformed,” she says. Can’t blame a machine for being built with an error. Still a pain in the ass, mind. No lingering anger, huh? he asks surprised. That’s really… zen. Evil is only evil when someone makes a choice about it, Hope replies. That a dig? he asks.
After some silence, Hope admits it is. They got it wrong. He got it wrong. He thinks it’s about being strong. Standing up to be counted. And that sounds good in principle, sure, but you take that path and you can’t stop. Tougher, stricter, explodier. Endless #&%ing escalation. Mind your language, he admonishes her automatically. It’s not about us vs them, Hope continues. Not really. It never was. It’s about the folks who want to participate versus the folks who want to dominate.
Where is she? he asks. Doesn’t matter, she replies, just listen: She knows a lot of the things he did… it was the clones. Nemesis says maybe their moral judgment degraded with each copy. Monomania, impaired empathy, blablabla. So, y’know, there’s that. But still… she doesn’t know if she can forget that stuff. She doesn’t know if she can be… around him. Working, she means. Not for a little while. She thinks she needs to be better than that, she adds with a small voice.
After some silence Cable assures her he understands. He doesn’t resent her wanting to leave. X-Force will be here for her when she is ready to ret—
No, Hope interrupts. She doesn’t think he understands. She loves him… but he’s fired! Hope announces, surrounded by Nemesis, Forget-Me-Not, Domino, Psylocke and Marrow, her X-Force.