Chapter 2: Mall Brawl
Everywhere she looked, there was war and death. The land was barren and covered in corpses of the innocent. Some were mutants. Some were human. All were victims of a war so horrific it left the very face of the Earth scared forever. Billions were dead. Millions more were dying. And at the center of it all were these huge, human-like structures that towered over the land with glowing red eyes destroying everything in their sights.
But out of the darkness, a figure emerged. He stood tall and determined, his body brutalized by countless battles. In his hand she saw the hope of an entire planet, but behind him she saw another figure even more imposing. It looked less human and more machine, but its power was unmatched and it was determined to stop the one figure who could turn this war torn world around.
Each drew their weapons. The man drew a gun while the eyes of the figure flashed bright red. They were each determined to fight, but in a world so utterly destroyed what was there left worth fighting for?
Suddenly, Irene Adler shot up in her bed. Her milky white eyes shimmered with the haunting images of what she had just seen. It was a vision more horrifying than any vision she had before, including Selene. The whole world was so vividly destroyed and only two figures were seen as having any hope.
Clutching her head, Irene groaned. Sometimes seeing the future bought more information than she wanted to know. She thought the worst was behind her when Selene was stopped from opening the gates of Hell. But the future it seemed still had great darkness before them.
“Irene?” came a voice from the other side of her door, “Are you up yet?”
She didn’t answer, prompting Mystique to enter with a tray of food in hand. Since Irene came to live at the mansion, the two long time friends had grown close. After losing Jack, Mystique found comfort in the arms of her friend. The seeds of a deeper relationship had already blossomed and they were doing well together. While it was somewhat strange for Kurt and Rogue to see their mother with another woman, they were coming around.
And part of being together meant they could sense when the other was bothered. Mystique had seen that look on her face enough times to know what it implied.
“What happened? Did you have another vision?” said the shape shifter, setting aside the tray.
“Yes…a very bad one,” said Irene, reaching over and grabbing her glasses.
“Bad enough to warrant a talk with Xavier,” she said as she got up from the bed, “Come…the future may be at stake.”
Roads Outside of Bayville Mall
Scott neared Bayville Mall in the X-van with Vince, Alex, and Jean ready to shop. Normally, he would have taken his car, but the X-van would give them more trunk space and with the list Jean prepared with Kitty, Emma, and Betsy they were going to need it. Armed with their own cash and the Professor’s credit card, they had to buy decorations, food, and pick up their clothes. And this was just the first run. There were sure to be other costs and a week didn’t seem long enough.
Jean was restless, going over her list feverishly and plotting out their course while Alex and Vincent awaited what was sure to be a busy day. Having already gone through this drill before, Vince knew what to expect. Having a big budget made every little thing seem indispensable. All they had to do was cross a store that had something in the window that looked remotely alluring and Jean would jump at the chance. Emma did the same when they got married and Jean seemed every bit as excited.
“Good God, Jean. Do you really expect us to get everything on that list?” commented Alex as they exited the highway.
“Not everything,” said Jean, still making additions with a pen, “At least not on this trip.”
“Well if it’s anything like the trips Emma took, the X-van may not be big enough,” said Vincent.
“Maybe we should have brought a dump truck instead,” joked Alex.
“Will you guys knock it off already?” groaned Jean, “I’m getting married. It’s a big deal and requires a lot of stuff.”
“Stuff for who?” questioned Alex, “Scott bro, you’re the groom. Try and exert some influence here.”
“I would,” he shrugged, “But like you said, I’m the groom. How much influence does that lend me?”
“Spoken like a true married man already,” grinned Vincent.
Scott and Vincent shared a good laugh while Alex rolled his eyes. He still couldn’t understand how getting married would take away so much of a guy’s backbone. Scott was supposed to be the leader of the X-men and already he was succeeding all authority to his fiancé. He had given up trying to understand it.
While they pulled up towards the mall, the four X-men didn’t notice an individual weaving through traffic behind them on a motorcycle. It was Cable and he was being careful not to draw too much attention. He kept scanning every car near him and every possible attack point. Any minute now Nimrod could leap out and attack. And that was something he couldn’t allow.
He accelerated closer and activated the Professor in his arm so he could do a scan. The machinery in his eye flashed as he got a read out of the four occupants in the van.
“Scott Summers, Alex Summers, Jean Grey, and Vincent Freeman,” he said to himself, “Of all the close targets I get these four…gotta love the irony.”
Grunting to himself, Cable pulled back to avoid suspicion. But unknown to him, Jean briefly sensed his telepathic presence when he did the scan. It was brief, yet noticeable. It was enough to make her stop going over her list and look out the rear view mirror. But when she saw nothing out of the ordinary she wrote it off.
“What was that?” she said mutely, briefly feeling her temple.
“Is everything alright, Jean?” asked Scott, sensing her state of mind through their link.
“What? Oh yeah, sure,” she said, shaking her clear of such things, “Just thought I sensed something, that’s all.”
She didn’t sound too convincing, but upon seeing her go back to her list he shrugged it off. Jean may not have been as good a telepath as the Professor, but she was good enough to sense something suspicious and rarely made mistakes. He just hoped it wasn’t too big a deal. They had enough to worry about with their wedding just ahead.
After five minutes of searching for a spot, Scott parked the X-van in the garage on the first level. Then he, Jean, Alex, and Vincent got out and began what was sure to be an extensive trip.
Shortly after they entered the second level, Cable arrived in his bike and parked in a spot right across from their van. He did another quick scan, looking for anything that may indicate a presence. So far he sensed nothing, but that was hardly a comfort. That may only mean Nimrod’s systems were advanced enough to evade him. That made trailing the X-men all the more important.
He quickly made sure his trench coat and hat concealed him enough to walk in public. With metal limbs and a false eye he was sure to stand out in a crowd. Thankfully, there were sunglasses in the saddlebag and his hat concealed a fair portion his face. And for his weapon, he made sure it was secure in his holster behind his trench coat. Once satisfied, he casually walked in through the same entrance as the others hoping he wasn’t too late.
“Here goes nothing.”
Meanwhile, above the parking garage a lone police cruiser pulled up to the front entrance. Inside the disguised Nimrod maintained a fix on the four signatures it detected. Given that these targets were closest, the mission had an optimal chance of success if it took them out while they were cut off from support. Once some primary targets were neutralized, its main targets would be much easier to take on.
It didn’t bother to park the cruiser in any lane. There was no time to abide by traffic rules while the targets were getting lost in the busy mall crowd. And if it couldn’t follow, it would trail.
“Officer? Excuse me, officer?” said one of the mall security guards, “Um…you can’t park that cruiser in this lane.”
Nimrod turned towards the man and did a threat scan. The officer was poorly armed and in poor physical shape. It would have been easy to shove him aside, but it didn’t need heat from authorities at the moment.
“Take it,” it said, tossing him the keys, “I’ve got work to do.”
The guard didn’t ask questions. He just took the keys and shrugged, assuming it was official police business. And as a security guard, that was something he didn’t want to get involved in.
Upon entering the mall, Nimrod stood at the central map and looked around. The structure was three levels and bustling with people. And somewhere within this crowd were the four targets it was programmed to take down. Thanks to its mimicry of a police officer it should be easy to get through the crowd. It only needed to get close enough for a single defining shot.
“Commencing search,” the systems read, “Objective: destroy.”
Bayville Wedding Shop
Scott and Jean got off to a productive start, entering the wedding shop they had already made reservations at for a dress and tux. They also sold other supplies like decorative mesh for flowers and wrapping paper for gifts. While Scott made sure his tux fit, Jean went to work buying what she could to fulfill the needs of her list. It didn’t take long for her to fill up a couple of bags. Thankfully, Vincent was there and super strength came in real handy when shopping for weddings.
“Who the hell would need a 200 dollar silver frame for a tiny picture?” muttered Alex as Jean shoved an ever increasing load of accessories into his bag.
“It’s not just a frame, Alex. It’s the centerpiece for the reception,” justified Jean.
“You know you can get something that looks just as good at a Wal-Mart.”
“Hey, a girl only gets so many chances to have her dream wedding and there’s no way I’m going to cheapen it,” she said strongly, “Now shut up and help me find something to decorate the cake.”
“I give up,” groaned Alex.
“What took so long?” said Vincent.
Jean continued to pour over the merchandise. The excited little girl in her got the better of her. Everything was so elegant and festive that she wanted to have it all for her wedding. Marrying the love of her life was not something to be taken lightly and while she always chided Kitty for having such exuberant spending habits this was one occasion where she didn’t mind it.
When Scott finally came out with his tux in hand, he laughed to himself at how many bags they had already stuffed. The Professor was sure to be surprised as well when he got the bill for all this, but if it made his future wife happy then it was worth working it off in the long run.
“Well my tux is finally ready,” he said, “Are you done yet, Jean?”
“Are you kidding?” she scoffed, “There’s so much more we have to do. I don’t know how we’ll squeeze in lunch.”
“Well we better if we’re to keep our strength up,” said Vincent.
“So says the man who has super strength and made it through a wedding with Emma Frost,” joked Jean, “Come on, guys! We’ve got plenty of time to be tired after the wedding. Now it’s crunch time.”
“Oh joy,” sighed Alex.
Jean managed to fit a few more things in the bag Alex was carrying before they got in line to pay. But while they did their thing, Nimrod was on its way. Having worked its way through this complex maze of human consumption, it was finally closing in. Its scanners were getting a strong reading on their mutant signatures. They were on this level. But until it had them in its sights it would stay concealed.
In the opposite direction, Cable was trying to avoid the crowds as he worked his way closer to the wedding shop. He could see them in the window at the cash register up front. They were completely exposed and open to anybody who passed by. It was a dangerous position, but he had to get closer in order to set up a defense.
“Damn it, where are you?” he mused.
Cable finally found a clearing near a bench just outside the wedding shop. He still wasn’t sensing anything, but his instinct told him that Nimrod was near. He kept his good eye on Scott, Jean, Alex, and Vincent while he used his artificial eye to look for Nimrod. He activated an X-ray scanner that was built into the mechanical part of his body. It came in handy when he had to scan through doors and walls to find an open path, but he never used it like this before.
Beneath their skin, most every human looked the same. There was an outline of their skeleton and a translucent layer of flesh surrounding it. After a few quick scans he noticed the image was somewhat distorted. Grunting to himself, Cable tried to make adjustments without looking suspicious. That trip through time must have been more stressful on his circuits than he thought.
While he was busy scanning, the police officer that hid Nimrod just beneath the surface approached the wedding store. Its scanners were red hot, indicating the targets were near. But it could not get a visual confirmation because the crowd was obstructing its view.
All the while, Jean and the others were oblivious to what was going on.
“Looks like where done here,” said Jean after paying with the Professor’s card, “Ready for the next stop?”
“Does it matter what we say?” asked Alex as he hitched up one of the bags.
“Nope, not really,” grinned Jean, “Now let’s get to the bakery before it gets crowded. We’ve got to make reservations before all the good stuff runs out.”
“You know, she’s starting to sound like you, Scott,” commented Vince under his breath, “What with the leadership and all.”
“Guess that’s what happens when you’ve been together as long as we have,” he shrugged.
“Makes you wonder if your kids will share the same traits, huh?”
Scott shifted awkwardly and turned away to hide his blush. Vincent could only laugh. He could tell that thought had crossed his mind at least once since he proposed to Jean. It sure crossed his when he and Emma were preparing for the arrival of their son. And if Scott and Jean planned on having kids one day it was sure be an issue sooner or later, but with a wedding coming up Scott seemed to prefer it to be later.
They were just about to exit the shop. Alex continued to make comments to Vincent while Jean eagerly went over her list again with Scott looking over her shoulder. It was at this point the crowd cleared enough for Nimrod to finally see them. And when it did, the eyes of the advanced robot killer flashed dark red.
Its mission program worked swiftly, scanning the faces and signatures of each mutant. It was the visual confirmation it had been looking for. Now it could move in. It started shoving people aside and pushing towards the four youths, causing somewhat of a commotion as it never took its eyes off the targets.
Such a commotion didn’t go unnoticed by Cable. He sensed something a miss and turned his flashing eye towards it. Then in a matter of seconds he saw what he had been looking for. While the surrounding people read like normal humans, this one individual who was dressed in the attire of an authority figure read different. He saw no bones under his skin. In fact, he couldn’t even see through his skin. The X-rays reflected back like a mirror, indicating a metallic shell of very advanced quality. It left no doubts to who this was.
“Nimrod…” he grunted.
Time slowed down as he looked back towards Scott, Jean, Alex, and Vincent and then back at Nimrod. He was getting close and he could see the eyes of the officer glowing. One shot and his mission would be a failure. He had to act fast, even if it meant blowing his cover.
While this was going on, Jean picked up on some thought projections. It was the same feeling she had as before, only this time it was stronger. And it all seemed to come from a strange man in a trench coat who was walking towards them.
“Jean? Jean, what is it?” asked Scott, sensing that look on her face again.
“Something’s wrong,” she said grimly.
Then before he could inquire further, the mysterious man shed his trench coat and whipped out an ominous looking gun. Scott saw this and so did Vincent, but before they could react he aimed the weapon and yelled out.
A powerful bang shattered the casual calm of the mall as Cable’s gun fired a blast of energy that hit the approaching Nimrod point blank. Despite being moments away from taking out its targets, the advanced robot humanoid was knocked back by the force of the blow. The surface image of the officer was shattered, revealing a gaping hole in its chest showing its advanced quantum circuits.
“What in God’s name?” exclaimed Vincent as he and the others watched.
“Wow, bet they don’t sell that at the Sharper Image,” said Alex.
Nimrod’s cover was completely blown and it caused an immediate reaction. The image of the uniformed police officer faded and seven-foot-tall humanoid that was Nimrod’s true form took shape, much to the shock and amazement of numerous onlookers.
“Stealth compromised. Initiate attack mode.”
“Oh no you don’t!” grunted Cable.
Cocking his gun, Cable let out a barrage of bursts. Each one packed a heavy punch, shattering Nimrod limb from limb and scattering its parts all over the mall floor. Screams quickly followed as shocked onlookers were jolted from their state of mind. It was a bizarre sight, but one that was clearly dangerous. And from the looks if it, it wasn’t something they wanted to get in the crossfire of.
“What the hell is that thing?!”
“I don’t know, but I’m out of here!”
While many scrambled and fled, the four X-men held back and watched in amazement as Cable unloaded on the strange humanoid machine. He fired at it until it was nothing but a pile of scrap metal. But even then he kept shooting. It wasn’t until it was steaming from the heat that he finally stopped.
“Dude…” said Alex in a daze.
Cable ignored their gazes and approached the pile of shards. That was way too easy. No way the ultimate killing machine would go down that easily. And as always, his worst instincts turned out to be right.
The steam hadn’t even stopped rising as the shards started glowing and moving on their own. Then by some strange force even he couldn’t begin to describe, all the miniature components started coming together and reconstituting themselves.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” said Scott, his eyes wide behind his ruby quartz glasses.
“Uh…sir?” said Jean as she began to approach Cable.
But she didn’t get far before Cable turned towards her and barked the only advice that was viable at this point.
“What are you waiting for, X-men? Run!”
“Good advice,” said Alex, “Come on, guys! Let’s get out of here!”
But for Scott, Jean, and Vincent that wasn’t their nature. X-men didn’t run from a fight that had lives at stake. And with all the people scrambling for safety, there were plenty of chances for everybody to get hurt.
“Wait! We have to…” began Jean
“I said go!” yelled Cable, “That thing is after you! Get as far away as possible!”
“After us?” exclaimed Scott, “Just what the hell is…”
“You want to ask questions? Or do you want to live? Now shut up and get out of here!”
Everything was happening so fast. They didn’t even know this guy and he was already barking out orders. But given what they saw with that strange humanoid it was pretty good advice. And if he was right, it was probably best they get away from a crowded place like this.
“You guys coming or what?” exclaimed Alex, already eager to get out of this place.
Vincent didn’t need to be told twice, but Jean still lingered. She remained fixated on the white haired man aiming his gun at the reforming Nimrod. Something about him seemed strange. Even in the heat of the moment she sensed it, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. She would have liked to probe further, but Scott took her hand and pulled her away.
“Come on, Jean! Let’s go!”
Abandoning her curiosity for the moment, she left Cable to deal with Nimrod. It was almost completely reformed. Only the head wasn’t completed. But Cable had no intention of letting it get that far.
“Ready for more, Nimrod?”
He was about to fire another shot, when suddenly the arm shot out like a tentacle and socked him hard in the gut. The unexpected blow knocked Cable off his balance and knocked him nearly thirty feed back. And it didn’t stop there. Once he was on the ground, Nimrod’s hand grew and grabbed him by the neck.
“Ack!” he choked, trying to pry free from the metal grip.
“Threat identified. Subject: Cable. Threat level: severe. Action: destroy.”
“I…don’t…think…so!” he grunted.
His eye flashed briefly. Then he launched a telekinetic burst, breaking the grip from his neck and freeing him. But Nimrod had no intention of letting this obstruction stand in its way. Its scanners were quick to remind him that his targets were getting away.
“Targets fleeing. Engage pursuit mode.”
It was a simple difference assessment. Cable wasn’t the target. The X-men were. And if its memory banks were accurate, killing the targets would neutralize him anyways. With its head now formed, it grabbed the hapless human by the leg and flung him across the hall into a clothing store where he landed in a pile of unpacked clothes. It cared not whether he got up. It had a mission.
White hot flames erupted from the humanoids feet, launching it into the air as a deadly projectile. And with the signatures still locked, it flew down the first floor halls despite the many bewildered gasps of onlookers.
Cable was sore and demoralized, now lying in a pile of what he surmised was women’s dresses. Nimrod sure knew how to rub salt in the wound, but he didn’t have time to be embarrassed. Now Nimrod was on the move and he couldn’t let it get too far.
“Oh no you don’t, bucket head!” he grunted, “I’m not through with you!”
Ignoring the look crowds gave him as he ran out the hole through the glass he came in through, he ran off in pursuit of Nimrod.
Meanwhile, the four X-men reached the parking garage where they parked the X-van. Forgoing their bags, they scrambled into the vehicle and Scott jumped into the driver’s seat. They still didn’t know what they were running from, but if the way that thing repaired itself was any indication they didn’t have a lot of time.
“Everybody buckle up,” warned Scott, “This could be a bumpy ride.”
“Don’t need to tell me twice!” said Alex, “Think that guy took care of whatever that thing was?”
“Somehow I doubt it,” said Jean anxiously.
“What makes you say that?”
“Look out the back and see for yourself.”
Alex turned his head and so did Vincent. They quickly wished they hadn’t because they were just in time to see the menacing robot they saw earlier flying right towards them after blowing a hole in the wall with god knows whatever weapons it was equipped with. It seemed reasonable to assume the worst for the mysterious figure that saved them earlier.
“I’d gun it if I were you,” warned Vincent.
“Way ahead of you,” he said, shifting the van into high gear, “Hold on!”
The tires of the X-van screeched as they backed out of the parking spot quickly and shifted into overdrive, leaving a streak of dust behind them. The X-van was designed with a little extra horsepower. Scott should know because he helped put it in. And this would be the first time he put it to the test.
However, there was little room to accelerate. They were already at the first turn and the rocket power driving the robot’s flight capabilities was helping it gain ground fast. Once it was close enough its eyes flashed bright red with intent.
Then in a bright burst of laser light, it shot at the X-van. But just as it fired, Scott hooked the wheel hard to the left to turn the corner. The shot grazed the rare light, but hit a black mini-van that was parked just besides them, causing a powerful explosion that echoed through the garage and blew out the windows on most nearby cars. It was so intense the heat was felt in the X-van through the open windows, giving them a general idea of the kind of firepower this thing was packing.
“Wow!” exclaimed Alex, “You better step on it, bro!”
“Don’t worry, this is what the X-van was built for!” said Scott in a determined tone.
“Need I remind you that we’re in a freakin’ parking garage?”
“Not for long,” he said, “Jean, take the wheel. I have an idea.”
“I think I know what you have in mind,” said Jean, sensing it through their link, “And for the record, I think it’s a very bad idea.”
Scott rolled down the window and leaned out and Jean took the wheel while still in her seat. She needed to steady the van somewhat as they accelerated down the narrow parking garage. Behind them Nimrod flew right through the still smoking debris causes by the explosion. Its eyes were still glowing, ready for another shot. And it appeared it had its targets boxed in. The probability for success suddenly seemed much higher.
Then Scott leaned out the driver’s side and removed his glasses. He then fired a concentrated optic blast at an open spot of the concrete side rail at the end of the garage. His powerful beams blew a sizable opening into the outside where a sudden drop awaited them. It was at this point that everybody braced themselves.
“Hold on!” warned Jean as she hit the accelerator.
The engine roared through the confined space as the X-van shot out of the second story parking garage, blowing past a tree and plummeting towards a busy street below. Now it was Jean’s turn to do her part. Letting go of the wheel, she clutched her temples and summoned her telekinesis to level the van and carry it towards the street at a safe trajectory. Well, at least as safe as the X-van could be at this angle. And because it was so heavy she could do but so much. The landing was less than perfect.
“Umf!” grunted Scott as he was forced to hold on tight as the van hit the street with a thud.
Now on the ground, Scott took over while Jean caught her breath from mental strain. They landed right in the middle of traffic, causing plenty of screeches and horn honks from bewildered drivers. But they didn’t have time to collect themselves. Nimrod was right behind him and closing fast.
“Target now in open field. Activating advanced pursuit program.”
“Damn, that thing doesn’t miss a beat,” grunted Scott as he stepped on the accelerator.
“Think you can avoid it in this traffic?” asked Vincent.
“Only one way to find out.”
Scott summoned his vast driving skill to begin evasive maneuvering through the busy parkway. He activated the X-van’s overdrive mode. This is where all the adjustments and additions he, Beast, and Logan made were put to the test. And it looked like this one would be a trial by fire.
He could still see Nimrod in his rear view mirror and its eyes were still glowing with intent. It showed just how serious it was, firing off a couple more high intensity rounds that kicked up shards of asphalt and concrete. But thanks to the X-van’s advanced suspension and speed, he avoided them. Nimrod didn’t look dissuaded though. Flying overhead, its sights were locked on and it was only a matter of time before its targets ran out of road.
After collecting himself, Cable shoved through bewildered crowds and a few security guards to get back to the garage. There he jumped onto his stolen motorcycle and drove out in the path of Nimrod. He couldn’t afford to fall too far behind. Those four weren’t going to last long against Nimrod. He had to catch up.
“Hope I’m not too late,” he grunted as he revved the engine.
He didn’t have to travel far to see Nimrod’s handiwork. The car it blew up earlier was still smoking, filling the area with noxious fumes. Then he saw a gaping hole in the parking garage wall. It looked big enough for a van to drive through, which was the only clue Cable needed.
He kicked the motorcycle into high gear and drove out through the opening at high speeds. Below, a traffic jam formed in wake of the chaos of the chase between Nimrod and the X-men. But Cable didn’t have time to wait for it to clear. The robot assassin was probably bearing down fast and he had to get to it.
With a few telekinetic shoves, he skidded atop a lone driver’s fancy car.
“Hey!” exclaimed the driver.
But his yell fell on deaf ears as Cable weaved past a couple of cars and drove on the shoulder, approaching speeds upwards of a hundred miles per hour. It would have been nice of this thing would go faster, but that’s the trade off of stealing some old time gasoline powered motorbike.
“Damn piece of junk! Come on!” he grunted, “I’ve got a future to save!”
Another blast from Nimrod narrowly missed the X-van as the chase heated up. They were off the parkway now and on the highway just in time for midday traffic no less. Even the X-van couldn’t do anything about the cars that constantly got in the way, allowing the flying robot humanoid to stay close. It was only through Scott’s desperate driving that they weren’t a smoldering pile of metal right now.
One more blast drove three more cars off the road, kicking up dust that momentarily blinded Scott’s view of the road. Jean, Alex, and Vincent hung on with growing anxiety. They were beginning to see that this was no ordinary foe.
“Can’t this thing go any faster?” exclaimed Alex.
“I’m already in overdrive and in case you haven’t noticed we’re not the only ones on the road!” yelled Scott as he honked the horn to get cars out of the way.
“Well we can’t keep this up,” said Jean, watching as another blast nearly drove them off the road.
“Then we’ll have to fight back,” said Vincent, “Alex, how’s your aim?”
“Been practicing, but now I wish I practiced more,” he said, undoing his seatbelt.
“It’ll have to do,” said Vincent, “Jean, we may need some shielding.”
“With the heat that thing is packing I don’t know if that’ll help,” she said, putting her hands on her temples, “But I’ll do my best.”
Despite the turbulence, Vincent and Alex got up from their seats and gathered in the back. Vince then unlocked the doors and opened them up to reveal Nimrod flying close behind them. It seemed to take notice and drew closer to their images.
“Targets locked,” reported its sensors.
But before it could fire, Alex and Vincent unleashed focused blasts. Vince hit Nimrod right in the head while Alex’s shot hit just below the right shoulder. Both bursts were powerful, leaving dents in the armor and causing sparks to fly from the face. It also disoriented Nimrod somewhat, but it didn’t last long as it quickly fixed itself.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me!” exclaimed Alex, “What’s that thing made of anyways?”
“I don’t know, but I’m guessing it was built to take punishment,” said Vincent.
“Well keep firing!” shouted Scott from the driver’s seat, “I’m going to try and take this off the highway. At least that way we can keep innocent people from getting hurt.”
The tires screeched as Scott hooked the wheel and crossed over two lanes and exited the highway. Nimrod followed suit, catching up quickly and firing a shot right at the van. This time they couldn’t avoid it, but thankfully Jean’s telekinetic shield protected them. It still caused a miniature explosion and even cracked some windows, but it kept them intact.
“Augh!” grunted Jean, blood already seeping down her nose, “That thing hits hard! I don’t know if I can keep it up.”
“Do what you can, Jean. We’ve got to find a way to ditch this thing!” said Scott, pushing the engine even further as they entered the back roads.
“Easier said than done,” groaned Alex.
He and Vincent fired more shots at Nimrod, but this time it was smart enough to see it coming and avoid them. It showed that this was a sophisticated intelligence they were fighting against. It wasn’t like a sentinel which just lumbered along. This thing was using advanced tactics to hunt them down and it was getting harder to hold this thing off.
Not far behind, Cable was approaching on his bike. Having weaved his way through traffic he was finally closing in. He could see Nimrod tailing the X-van closely. It was still intact so that was one good sign. But at the rate Nimrod was firing it couldn’t last.
“Now it’s my turn,” he said as he kicked the motorcycle into high gear.
He was just in range and Nimrod’s back was to him. He had the perfect shot and he was primed to take it. Reaching into his holster, Cable drew his gun and turned up the energy level. Once it was charged he took his shot. It didn’t hit in the head where he wanted, but it still did plenty of damage.
“Damage sustained. Initiate emergency attack plans.”
A large chunk of its torso had been blown away, causing a brief lapse in its processors. It turned around and found that the subject known as Cable was still functioning. It must not have slowed him down enough and now he was compromising the mission.
Nimrod turned and drew its sights on Cable, who fearlessly accelerated closer to get a better shot of the robot humanoid. But before it could get another shot off, Alex and Vince it from behind. And this time they did more damage, adding to the hole already left by Cable.
“Hey metal-head! Forgetting something?” taunted Alex.
“Remind me to thank that guy,” said Vince, impressed with the damage he did.
Nimrod was in a bind. It was boxed in between two targets. The mission could not be completed like this. It had to take back the advantage. The most logical course of action was to fly higher and retake the rear. But before it could initiate its plans, Cable took aim and fired again. This time he hit exactly where he wanted to.
“Sleep tight, Nimrod,” he said.
The powerful shot literally tore off Nimrod’s right leg. And with the thruster in its left foot still going, it tumbled erratically out of control and spiraled into a field adjacent to the road. The impact was rough, further disrupting its circuits and attack patterns. But this wasn’t anything it couldn’t repair itself from. The targets could still be neutralized.
However, Cable wouldn’t have it. Nimrod may be advanced, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t be slowed down. Cable turned his weapon onto its highest power setting, which was very dangerous but given the circumstances it called for a little risk-taking. Then with the motorcycle going full speed, he gunned the bike hard towards the guard rail and with a healthy lift from telekinesis he hit the rail and launched it into the air, back flipping off it in the process.
Nimrod was just picking itself up off the ground, preparing to fix itself so it could take off again. But the first thing it saw was a motorcycle heading right towards it. And just before it hit, Cable leaped off the bike and fired a risky shot right at his vehicle. When it hit, a blinding flash engulfed the area around the robot. The impact of the shot triggered an explosion resembling a miniature nuclear bomb. It was so intense, the shockwave nearly knocked Cable off his feet. But he wasn’t too impressed.
“So much for the bike,” he said.
It was a great deal of destructive power, but he knew even that wouldn’t stop Nimrod. Even if he blew it up into a billion pieces, they would find their way back to each other eventually. At least this way he had time to regroup.
While Cable turned away from the explosion, the four X-men watched in amazement. Scott stopped the car and got out with Jean. Aside from the blast, a stunt like that was both awe inspiring and fool hardy. Either this guy was very skilled or something wasn’t quite right with him. And judging by how he looked with the white hair, the scars on his face, and the cybernetic limbs it was probably a combination of the two.
“Is it gone?” said Alex as he and Vincent climbed out of the back.
“No,” said Cable bluntly, “It’ll reform. It always does.”
“Just what the hell was that thing?” asked Scott, “And moreover, who the hell are you?”
Cable turned towards Scott and Jean, his face bearing a strange disposition. Under normal circumstances he would have just brushed comments like that off. It was part of his battled hardened nature. But this was a special instance. While he didn’t show it, standing this close to them was a conflicting moment. But he didn’t have time to consider it.
“Call me, Cable,” he said, “And right now, I’m the only hope you’ve got of stopping that thing and stopping a world of other horrors that are bound to happen if you don’t do exactly as I say.”
“And we should believe you, why?” said Alex skeptically.
“Alex, he saved our butts in case you’ve forgotten,” reminded Vincent, “I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” said Cable, “Now tell me you’ve got a radio or something in that van you can use to contact the Professor Xavier and the rest of the X-men.”
Now it was starting to get creepy. Even though they were public figures, him knowing about the X-men and the Professor was cause for discomfort.
“Hold on…” said Jean, approaching the strange man, “What’s your interest in Professor Xavier and the X-men?”
“Everything,” answered Cable sternly, “And if you don’t want to be around when Nimrod reforms, I’d call him and tell him to gather everybody and meet in a remote location far from the mansion.”
Scott folded his arms skeptically. Nobody talked that way to his fiancé and he didn’t take kindly to anybody who was intent on messing with the X-men.
“You sound pretty sure of yourself, Cable,” said Scott suspiciously, “Help or not, why should we trust you?”
“Because I know a thing or two that may very well impact you and everybody you care about, Scott Summers,” said Cable, “And if you, Jean, Alex, Vincent, Emma, Kurt, Rogue, Logan, Ororo, and everybody else back at the mansion want to know the full story you’ll do as I say.”
That definitely got their attention. Whoever this Cable guy was, he knew their names and the names of everybody back at the institute. They never even met him before and he was looking at them as if he knew them. There was something powerful about such a look. It couldn’t be faked. Jean didn’t need telepathy to sense that. He was serious about every word he said and given what they just faced it might be worth hearing him out.
“I’m not going to fight you, but you’re officially stuck with me so you might as well accept it. I’m on a mission and the future of you and many others depend on whether or not you and the X-men will help me.”
Up next: Cable reveals a dark future to the X-men.