Chapter 4: Target Terror
Piece by piece, Nimrod reformed itself. The blow it took had been intense. It wasn’t so much the motorcycle that did the damage more than the energy blast that augmented it. So much of its components were scattered throughout the area. It took time to get everything back into place. No doubt its targets would be long gone and it would have to reconfigure its tactics.
When the final pieces were put into place, Nimrod took to the sky again and activated its internal memory. A significant amount of time had elapsed. Its scanners didn’t detect any targets nearby so it would have to go to its secondary protocol, which was to seek out and scan the X-men base of operations, known as the Xavier Institute. The location had been imprinted on its memory and it wasn’t far from where it was now. Even if the mansion contained only lesser targets, they would still be worth taking out.
After a brief five minute flight, Nimrod flew over the Xavier Institute and did a thorough scan. But as was expected, there were no signatures within the walls. Even in the heavily guarded lower areas, there were no traces of targets. Nimrod surmised the team was informed of its attack and retreated to a fallback position. No doubt the subject known as Cable was to blame. That being was more of a nuisance than expected. It would have to account for his presence in the next attack.
Nimrod scanned every room, leaving nothing to chance. Even the heavily guarded lower levels were scanned and found to be deserted. The logical conclusion was that the targets had fled. Upon doing a scan of the rear it detected the distinct trails of a jet. Using its scanners it followed the trail, but it soon trickled off into nothing. This meant the targets had gotten away. Now its memories had no point of reference to the location of its targets. That meant it had only one other course of action.
“Scan complete. Targets not present. Engage secondary protocol.”
A new stream of data coursed through Nimrod’s system. The next phase of its mission could begin. It may wasn’t able to neutralize its first targets. But from the data it gathered it was going to surmise a much more efficient set of tactics to take down the next main target.
“Location confirmed. Subject: base of the Mutant Liberation Front. Second main target identified: Erik Lensherr. Codename: Magneto. Engage search protocol. Mission: destroy.”
Scott and Jean were in total shock. All eyes were on them and Cable right now. It wasn’t enough to find out that he was from the future bearing bad news about a war that would ravage all life as they knew it. It wasn’t even enough that some high tech killing machine came back with them bent on killing each one of them. Now he revealed something totally mind-blowing. Not only was he the future leader of the X-men. He was their future son.
Nobody knew what to say. How could anyone comment on something like this? Cable looked dead serious if not a little intimidating. Standing besides his parents was a big deal. Traveling several decades into the past to stop a killer from destroying any hope of peace was traumatic enough. Now he was face to face with his young parents. As if his head wasn’t already messed up enough.
“You’re…our son?!” exclaimed Scott, finally breaking his silence.
“Future son,” corrected Cable.
“But you’re still our son, right?!”
“Uh…you want to calm down, Scott?” coaxed Alex.
“I can’t calm down! I…I just need a minute!”
Scott started pacing while Cable stared indifferently, hiding his emotions as he felt the critical eye of his parents on him. Jean wouldn’t stop looking at him. He could sense she was trying to peak into his mind, but he kept her out. There were a lot of things he didn’t want her to see, but she didn’t have to in order to confirm his claim.
“Nathan…” she said, taking a step closer.
Cable didn’t stop her. Normally he never let anybody get this close, but it had been so long since he felt his mother’s touch he set aside his tough-guy attitude. He had to stop himself from getting too worked up as she trailed her hand down his battle scarred face and looked into his eyes. He even let his shields down so she could sense with her own mind that what he said was true.
“It’s true,” said Jean, “He is our son.”
Trusting Jean’s word, the X-men took a moment to digest this.
“Wow…talk about a total mind trip,” said Amara, rubbing her head.
“Dude, Scott and Jean’s future kid…” said Bobby, shaking his head in amazement, “I gotta say I don’t see the resemblance.”
“Shut up, Iceman,” grunted Cable.
“I don’t know. I can see some,” said Kurt with a half grin, Cable’s tone reminding him of Scott when he got angry.
“Jean, luv, are you sure?” asked Betsy intently.
Jean stayed close to the imposing soldier. Cable did nothing to reveal his thoughts. He also tried not to show much emotion, but she noticed how his stern poise faltered. And for a man who didn’t falter in the face of a time traveling super sentinel that said it all.
“Yes,” she said with total confidence, “I believe him. I can sense it.”
“Oh come on,” said Tabitha, rolling her eyes in exasperation, “If he’s really your son wouldn’t he at least have the same hair color?”
“Or at least have similar powers,” said Roberto, who seemed to share the same sense of disbelief.
“For your information, my hair is white because I got a little to close to a nuclear blast,” said Cable with a harsh scorn, “As for powers, does this prove it?”
His mechanical eye flashed and he lifted both Tabitha and Roberto into the air with his telekinesis. It caught them off guard and they immediately started tumbling. Having bore Jean’s telekinetic attacks before when they acted up in class they knew how it felt. It was humiliating confirmation for everybody was quickly accepting.
“Whoa! Hey, put us down! We believe you already!” exclaimed Tabitha.
“Yeah, take it easy, amigo! You’ve made your point!” exclaimed Roberto.
“That’s enough, Cable. We believe you,” said Scott, who finally stopped pacing.
“Whatever,” shrugged Cable.
He let the two mutants down with some of their dignity still intact. Some tried hard not to laugh. Sam was one of the ones who couldn’t contain it and ended up getting punched in the shoulder by Tabitha.
“Okay, now Ah really see the resemblance,” said Rogue.
“Yeah, I remember that trick,” muttered Jubilee.
“Guess that makes him a chip off the old block, non?” said Remy with a humored grin, giving Scott an nudge.
“Shut up, Remy,” muttered Scott.
But teasing aside, some grew more intrigued by this revelation. If Scott and Jean had a son in the future, what else could that reveal about their future selves?
“This is, like, totally amazing!” said Kitty as she clamored around Cable, “Hey, do you know if any of us will have kids?”
“Of course,” said Cable, “I grew up around you guys. I know who marries who and in what order. I know the names of your kids. I also know which one of you don’t survive the initial attack and never live to get to that point.”
“Uh…am I one of them?” asked Bobby.
“What about me?” asked Jamie, sounding equally anxious.
“Or me?” said Rahne, also getting into the act.
Everybody started asking questions. The shock was clearly wearing off. Everybody believed him now. Cable was the son of Scott Summers and Jean Grey and had detailed information about their futures. It quickly got to the point where they annoyed him. This was taking valuable time away from the mission at hand. Thankfully, Logan stepped in.
“Enough already!” shot Logan, helping to silence the others so he could address Cable, “Alright bub, you’ve made your point. You’re from the future and you’re technically family. So what now?”
“I’m still working on that,” said Cable restlessly, “I didn’t exactly come here with a plan, remember?”
“Except stop Nimrod,” reminded Beast, “Might you have any data on that creature we could look over? Sage and I have a knack for dealing with technology.”
‘Not as good as your daughter will,’ he thought to himself, which Jean picked up on and laughed at, “I’ll give you what I have. All intelligence data is in a storage cube in my arm. But I don’t know how much help it’ll be. We don’t exactly have a lot of time to work with.”
“Big deal. As long as we lie low that thing shouldn’t find us,” shrugged Ray.
“Don’t underestimate Nimrod,” warned Cable, “This thing always finds a way. We just have to stay a step ahead of it.”
“And what step do you think it’s at now?” inquired the Professor, “Is there any way to predict its next move?”
Cable paused for a moment and started pacing. He had been fighting sentinels all his life and knew how to take them down better than almost anybody. But this was no ordinary sentinel. Nimrod was a force all its own. But it was still a sentinel. He had to assume that much of its program was basically the same.
“Let’s see…” he pondered, “It probably reformed so it would most likely go into search mode and start scanning for us.”
“And how exactly does it do that?” asked Sage, speaking as the X-men’s chief technology expert.
“By the same way all sentinels find mutants. It has sensors that detect the X-gene to determine whether or not someone is a mutant. Only difference with Nimrod is that it’s looking for specific targets.”
“Well if we’re its targets like you said then what’s the problem?” said August, “We’re all here, aren’t we? What more can it do?”
“With the hardware that thing has, any number of things,” said Cable, “Which is why we have to stay here and lie low until we can formulate a plan.”
“I was afraid you’d say that,” muttered Vince.
“Yeah, in case ya haven’t noticed, we aren’t exactly equipped for a long term camp out,” said Rogue.
“And I have a baby to take care of,” said Emma strongly, “How do you expect us to protect him out here?”
“We don’t have a choice,” said Cable strongly, “Nimrod has every one of your signatures archived. You can’t hide from it. Nobody can.”
“You’d be surprised what I can hide from,” said Mystique strongly.
“Not from this,” said Cable sternly, “We can’t afford to give Nimrod any chances. It only takes one misstep and the whole future could be changed.”
“As if it could get any worse,” said Rogue in a grim tone.
“Oh it can, Rogue,” said Irene ominously, “It most certainly can.”
Rogue turned to Destiny, who raised her all those years when Mystique was away. She, like the rest of the team, had come to respect her power for telling the future and this was one instance where she had support in the form of someone who experienced it.
A heavy silence fell over the X-men. This was a lot to take in. They just found out their future was full of death, war, and darkness. It sure didn’t give them much to look forward to. Cable even said some of them were going to die in the initial attack. He didn’t say who, but it left many wondering what their chances were and if they even wanted to know.
Scott and Jean exchanged looks, feeling a mixture of heartache and confusion. This was supposed to have been the happiest time of their lives. They were supposed to get married, start a new life together, and work towards a better future for them and their kind. Now their future son was telling them of many hardships ahead.
Other couples felt the same despair. Vince and Emma were especially concerned. Looking down at their beautiful son, they shuttered at the knowledge that little Jack would grow up in a bleak, desolate future. But for some, this was not the time to give in.
“Then it’s settled,” said Professor Xavier with a new sense of determination, “For now, we shall remain here until we can formulate a plan. But we’re going to need supplies.”
“Leave that to me,” said Logan.
“Me too,” said Mystique, “Even if that thing does find us, it’ll have a heck of a time getting through me.”
“I’ll go too,” said Cable.
“No,” said Xavier firmly, “I need you to stay here so you can give us as much data as possible. You said you had some stored in your arm, right?”
“Yes, but I don’t see it being much help to us now.”
“Let us be the judge of that,” said Sage, “You want us to trust you? You have to work with us.”
Cable didn’t like the idea of anybody leaving his sights, but Sage had a point. He needed to cooperate if they were to have any chance at stopping Nimrod. And if anybody could hold their own out there it was these two. If they were anything like the future X-men who helped train him then they should be okay.
“Fine, I’ll stay. But take my gun just in case,” said Cable, handing his gun to Logan.
“Good, because no offense Cable, but your looks could draw quite a crowd in public,” commented Laura.
“Don’t remind me,” he muttered, looking down at his metal arm, “Just hurry back. If Nimrod sees a chance it’ll take it.”
“Whatever, bub,” said Logan, looking over the weapon, “How do you work this thing anyways?”
“It’s a gun, Wolverine,” said Mystique, grabbing it from his hands, “They all work basically the same. Leave it to me.”
It seemed as though they would be fine, but that didn’t make Cable or anybody else in the team feel any better. It looked as though they were in this for the long haul. They had an advanced killer robot from the future after them and the only way to stay out of its sights was to hold up in the middle of nowhere. It was sure to be a rough, but until they had a plan they could only watch and wait. With any luck, the information Cable provided would help them fight back against Nimrod and the dark future that lay in store for them.
Mutant Liberation Front Base – Magneto
On a small rocky plateau located in the heavily wooded areas of Northern Canada, Magneto arrived back from a reconnaissance mission. He flew in via one of his metal orbs, entering through a hollowed out circular entrance on the side. Inside he passed through a dark tunnel with rocky sides, arriving at a large dome-shaped catacomb deep within the mound.
Lights flickered on as the orb arrived at a central bay area. This area was covered in metal and lit with fluorescent lights. It was the central hub to several smaller areas, most of which were hallowed out caves full of unpacked equipment. Overall it wasn’t much, but for Magneto it was his base of operations.
Once the orb landed, the top opened and Magneto stepped out. He was greeted in the bay by his son, Pietro, who had been waiting for him for the past few hours. As always he had that impatient look on his face, but he refrained from his usual showboating around his father.
“So how’d it go?” he asked casually.
“Not as I hoped, son,” said Magneto as he removed his helmet, “I tried appealing to the Morlocks, but that Evan Daniels was a nuisance. He still commands the most influence and given our history I doubt he’ll endorse us.”
“I could’ve told you that,” scoffed the speedster, “I don’t know why you even bothered with them anyways. How much help can a bunch of sewer dwelling freaks be anyways?”
“They’re still our brethren, Pietro,” said Magneto firmly, “If the Mutant Liberation Front is to be successful we must appeal to all mutants, not just the ones who look appealing.”
“Whatever,” shrugged Pietro, shaking his head, “You keep looking and we’ll keep trying to make this dump more livable. I mean seriously, why base this whole thing here? We’re in the middle of nowhere for crying out loud!”
“Adapt,” said Magneto firmly, “It may not look like much now, but mark my word. This facility will one day be a beacon of hope for all mutants who wish to stand against their oppressors.”
“Well if that’s what you want I’d step up recruiting efforts. Because Exodus, Pyro, and Avalanche just aren’t enough.”
Before Magneto could scold him further, he ran off in a flash of speed. The master of magnetism could only shake his head in exasperation. While he had been trying to develop more of a father/son relationship since the Apocalypse affair, it was slow going at times. They had a lot of issues stemming from years of negligence. But they were slowly getting there. It was even harder with what happened with Wanda and it was sure to hang over them both for a long time.
For now he had his work. Apocalypse had been a life-changing event, but his goals remained the same. He still believed that mankind would never accept mutants and the only way their kind could ever gain respect was through force. But he had moved away from the idea that humans should be wiped out. The point of his newly formed Mutant Liberation Front was to fight for respect and recognition. It would only be when mutants were recognized as a real power that they would finally assert their place.
But so far his front was off to a slow start. He had only a handful of member. While Wanda left him, Pietro still stuck by him. Pyro also joined up, but he was less centered on the principles of what they were doing and more on the opportunity to burn things down. Recently, he also got Lance back to their side. Having walked away from the Brotherhood, he tried his luck as a musician. However, that didn’t work out so he gave Magneto another shot. Last, there was Exodus. He was an odd figure, but he saw him as a messiah to mutant-kind and was fiercely loyal. Magneto suspected it was because when he found him he was doubtful of the future of mutants. But adulation aside, he was a valuable member.
So far their fight had been a struggle. At first Magneto tried to infiltrate established power bases like SHIELD and the Hellfire Club in hopes of expanding mutant power. But so far that hadn’t panned out. Nick Fury of SHIELD turned out to be more vigilant than he anticipated and had since given up. The Hellfire Club was even more of a disaster. Not only did he lose Mastermind and Mystique in the process, but he also underestimated just how ruthless those people were. Such a mistake set them back and it was beginning to get frustrating.
“Hey boss, can you give us a hand up here? This stuff is heavy!” came Lance’s voice from one of sub-caves.
Magneto set his helmet on a mantel and sighed. He had such high hopes for the Mutant Liberation Front, but for now they were pitifully short-handed.
As he made his way to the cave, Exodus met up with him. Ever the loyal follower, he clamored around him for details on their progress.
“How goes your reconnaissance, my lord?” he asked.
“I’d rather not talk about it, Exodus,” said Magneto coldly, “Have you finished setting up our control hub yet?”
“No, but we’re close I assure you. We just need more time and more manpower.”
“That is something we don’t have at the moment,” said the master of magnetism, “I’ve already attempted recruitment from established mutant groups. Our only hope now is to find new signatures and seek them out. It’s slow, but it’s our only option at the moment.”
“I’m sure there are plenty out there who will heed our message,” said Exodus, “You are the only true champion of the mutant cause right now. Fate, I believe, is on our side.”
“I wish I shared your confidence, my friend. But I’m still a realist. The only way we can establish ourselves is to win support from the emerging generation. Xavier has his school, but only we can offer a true future for mutants. That much I have confidence in.”
Exodus fell silent, feeling disheartened at Magneto’s solemn state. It was true to some extent. Their cause would be all for nothing if they didn’t have numbers to support themselves. For the time being it seemed that Charles Xavier had the upper hand. He not only had more mutants on his team, he had more support from the public. SHIELD was on his side and so was the government to some extent. Meanwhile Magneto was classified by some as a terrorist.
It was a title Magneto did not take kindly. He resented being called a terrorist when his goals were simply liberation for his kind. Part of that also stemmed from his desire to distance himself from his pre-Apocalypse persona. He didn’t want to be the cold, calculating overlord anymore. He wanted to be a real leader. But even when he was trying to do more good, he found that it was a hell of a lot harder to make progress. It was times like this he almost envied Charles Xavier
Up in the cloudy skies over Canada, Nimrod was closing in on its target. Since its first main target had eluded it, the advanced killing machine engaged in the next logical step in its mission. If it couldn’t track the first main target then it would go after the second one. And if its intelligence files were accurate, the pre-programmed coordinates in its memory banks should lead it right to him.
There were two main locations stored in Nimrod’s files. One was the Xavier Institute where target Professor Charles Xavier was based with his X-men. The other was the base of the Mutant Liberation Front, led by main target Erik Lensherr. According to its knowledge center, the base was in its infancy during this point in time. But the main target still resided in there and it would be tactically beneficial if it could take the target out before he could even establish his movement.
Descending from the clouds, Nimrod flew over the coordinates. The image from its time and the one it saw through its scanners matched perfectly. This had to be the place. A quick X-ray scan revealed a large layer of iron ore, which Magneto no doubt used to manipulate the structure to set it up. Its scanners also detected heat signatures inside, indicating that the base was currently occupied.
“Mutant signatures confirmed. Scanning for entry point.”
Nimrod made another pass, flying lower around the base of the plateau in search of any weak points it could exploit. After a thorough scan, it found what appeared to be a circular section of hollowed out rock. A quick X-ray scan revealed it was an entry point.
“Entry point located. Proceeding with infiltration.”
Nimrod then flew up to the entry point and formed a laser in its right hand. And with surgical precision, cut a circle around the hallowed out entrance. Then with a simple blast from its high powered eye lasers, the heavy doorway was blown inwards to reveal a long passage.
As Nimrod flew in, Magneto and Exodus met up with Pietro, Lance, and Pyro to check their progress on their new command console. Like Asteroid M before it, this base was going to have a fully functional computer system capable of integrating mutant activity from all around the world. The design was similar to Cerebro, which Magneto helped Xavier build back when they were still friends. This one operated differently, but the function was the same. But with their current manpower, it was slow going.
“How much longer are we going to fool around with this gizmo?” whined Pyro, “I’m ready to get out there and start fighting again!”
“Patience, Pyro,” said Magneto, “This hardware is necessary to coordinate our activities. Once it’s fully functional, we’ll begin making plans.”
“Well that could be a while,” said Lance as he crawled out from behind a console with a toolbox in hand, “I got a B in shop class, but that doesn’t qualify me to put together something like this.”
“Oh quit your bellyaching, Lance. Would you rather be back in Detroit trying to be a third rate rockstar?”
“Shut up, Pietro,” scolded Lance, “You’re the one with the super speed who always boasts he can do anything. So how about a little help?”
“I’ve been busy with other stuff,” he shrugged.
“Pietro…” scolded Magneto.
“What? I have!” he said defensively.
“Doing what, mate?” scoffed Pyro.
The speedster fell silent for a moment. Usually he’d tell everybody to back off at this point, but with his father in the room that wasn’t so easy. Such was the consequence of him trying to develop a better relationship with his kids.
“Well?” said Lance impatiently.
Pietro was about to answer when suddenly, an alarm went off and a red light flashed just over the door. It saved Pietro from explaining himself, but brought on a whole new urgency.
“What the hell is that?” exclaimed Pyro over the noise.
“It’s the security system,” said Exodus as he flew over to a table with a couple of PC’s and a laptop, “Something’s tripped the alarm.”
“We have an alarm?” said Lance with a surprised expression.
“Of course,” said Exodus, “Do you really believe lord Magneto would be so naïve to leave our facility unguarded?”
Pietro suppressed a groan. As nice as it was to have someone loyal to their cause, Exodus’s adulation of his father really got on his nerve sometimes. He looked up to him like some sort of messiah when the kinds of things he did to him and Wanda were hardly worthy of the title.
“Whatever,” said Pietro, rolling his eyes, “It was probably just set off by a bird or something.”
“I don’t think so,” he said grimly, “You better come look at this, my lord.”
With a new sense of urgency, Magneto flew over to the desk and looked on the computer screen. When they first moved into this base he set up small magnetic trip wires that would warn him of any unauthorized entry. It was a crude system nowhere nearly as advanced as he would have liked. But it was better then nothing.
On the screen he saw a map of the facility with a red blip entering the main bay. It was moving fast so it couldn’t have been a bird or something mundane. And from the looks of it this thing was coming right at them.
“What is it?” said Magneto intently.
“I don’t know, but whatever it is it’s coming right for us.”
In the main bay Nimrod just passed over the central area where Magneto had landed. Its scanners picked up strong traces of magnetic activity indicative of the main target’s mutant attributes. It led down one of four sub caves where the signature was strongest.
“Target locked. Entering attack mode.”
Nimrod’s thrusters kicked into high gear and it flew head first into the cave where Magneto, Pietro, Lance, Pyro, and Exodus were still trying to make sense of the intrusion. The closer it got the more concerned Magneto grew. His instincts told him this was something major. So he issued the only order he could think of.
“Everybody move out!” he ordered, “Get to the escape pods!”
“What?” said Pietro, not taking it seriously, “Come on, how bad could it…”
But before he could finish, a blinding flash shot through the cave and struck the console in the center of the cave. It immediately burst into flames, sending a shockwave that blew everyone in the room back against the walls.
For a moment, they were too stunned to react. The console was in flames, filling the cave with smoke. All that hard work looked as though it would be their death trap, but that was the least of their worries.
“Ugh, so much for the console,” groaned Lance, “What the hell was that?”
“Uh…I think we’re about to find out,” said Pyro as saw a figure emerge from the smoke.
Magneto rubbed his head and watched as the tall humanoid hovered towards them, its eyes glowing with intent. It looked menacing and calculating, something the master of magnetism knew all too well. But there was something else about this strange monstrosity that caught his attention. It was focused entirely on him.
“What is this?” demanded Magneto, “Who are you?!”
“Main target Magneto locked. Objective: destroy.”
Up next: Magneto and his team fight for their lives as more family ties are revealed.