Chapter 5: Family Ties
Magneto and Nimrod
Nimrod was about to fire on Magneto, one of the main targets it had been programmed to kill at all costs. The master of magnetism was still dazed from the initial blast that destroyed most of the cave, leaving him at the complete mercy of this ruthless killing machine.
“Primary weapon engage,” read Nimrod’s weapon systems.
It wasn’t taking any chances this time. The target had to be eliminated. But just as Nimrod fired, Pietro shot up and ran with all his might to his father’s aid.
At speeds well beyond what a normal human could manage, the young speedster lunged towards his father and shoved him out of the path of the blast. The shot hit the wall instead, but the intensity of Nimrod’s power created a miniature explosion that sent shrapnel of rock and debris flying throughout the room. And while Lance, Pyro, and Exodus were sheltered behind the flaming wreckage of their console, Pietro wasn’t so lucky.
Magneto could only watch in a daze as his son was scorched by the blast, the rock and metal tearing into his young flesh with ease. He only got scrapes and bruises, but that pain didn’t even register as his paternal instincts kicked in.
“Pietro!” he exclaimed, catching his son in wake of the blast.
“Holy…” gasped Lance, nearly gagging at the blow Pietro took.
It was uncharacteristically brave of the cocky speed demon. But Nimrod had no such admiration for sacrifices.
“Target re-acquired. Engage full power.”
“Barbaric monstrosity!” bellowed the master of magnetism.
Summoning his powers, Magneto levitated two large metal beams and flung them at the machine that dared harm his son. He sent one right through Nimrod’s head and used the other to wrap its limbs in an iron tight grip. His eyes seethed with anger. He was going to tear this thing limb from limb. But Nimrod had a surprise for him.
“Attack analyzed. Activate retaliatory protocol M.”
The skin of the high tech killing machine came alive and its arms shifted into two sharp metal blades within the metal bind. The edges flashed bright red as Nimrod sent power to the edge of the blades, making them red hot and allowing them to slice through the metal beams. Magneto tried to tighten his grip, but this monstrosity was a lot stronger than it looked.
“Good God,” gasped Exodus, “What is this monstrosity?!”
“I don’t know, but let’s see if it can take the heat!” said Pyro.
While Nimrod was pulling the other steel beam out of its head, Pyro activated his torches and churned up a massive fireball. Nimrod made no effort to avoid it as the flame engulfed it from every side. Magneto used this opportunity to get himself and his son out of the way. He could already feel the blood seeping into his hands. Pietro was hurt and hurt badly. He looked down to see his face contorting in pain and it looked as though he was going into shock soon.
“Hnn…” he groaned.
“No Pietro! Don’t pass out! Stay conscious!” urged Magneto.
While Pyro contained Nimrod, Lance and Exodus ran to their dazed leader. Lance held back a gag upon seeing how bloodied Pietro was. He really took the blunt end of that blast and was losing blood fast.
“Oh man…” he said, looking away from the sight.
“He’s hurt badly,” said Exodus grimly, “We must get him out of here!”
“Agreed,” said Magneto grimly, “But first…”
But before Magneto could finish, a blast came from the fireball surrounding Nimrod and hit Pyro’s torches.
“Ack! My hands!” exclaimed the Australian mutant.
The fireball faded and Nimrod emerged from the flame. There was still a gaping wound in its head, but now that it was clear it could repair itself. Magneto and his team watched in a mixture of amazement and dread as this strange beast fixed itself. It didn’t bode well for stopping it, especially with one of them already injured.
“This is not good,” grimaced Lance.
“It would seem so,” said Exodus, “What should we do, Magneto? Shall we stand and fight?”
“No! As much as I’d like to tear this monster apart, Pietro needs help!” said Magneto, watching anxiously as his son’s face paled, “Hurry! To the escape pods!”
“I’ll cover you,” said Lance, putting on his helmet, “If this thing won’t burn or break, we’ll see how it handles being buried!”
Exodus guarded Magneto’s back as they ran out the back end of the cave through the smoke. Despite his stinging hands, Pyro followed close while Nimrod shifted its aim from him back towards Magneto. But blocking its line of sight was Avalanche, not a main target but still very high on its primary list.
“Target identified. Primary Target: Lance Alvers. Codename: Avalanche. Threat level: major.”
“I don’t know what you are pal, but you’re in over your head,” scowled Lance.
The young mutant rolled his eyes in the back of his head and roused a tremor that shook the entire cave to its core. He had to be careful not to make the whole plateau cave in. He just had to jar this area enough to bury this thing and hopefully destroy it in the process.
Nimrod sensed the tremor, but continued its attack program without hesitation. It aimed at Lance and prepared to take him down, but just as it was about to fire some large rocks from the ceiling came tumbling down right on top of the robot humanoid. They were heavy so they pinned it down onto the ground. More chunks followed as this sub-cave within the plateau started coming down, covering Nimrod in a heavy pile of rock.
“Fix yourself from that,” grinned Lance as he ran off to catch up with the others.
It didn’t seem like anything could survive that. That thing had to be crushed like a tin can by now. Lance was confident that was the last they would ever see of that thing and left it to rust.
But underneath the pile, Nimrod was still as active as ever. Its sensors were jarred, but still very much intact. And even a mountain of rock wasn’t enough to keep it from fulfilling its mission.
“Situation assessed. Activate protocol A.”
The metal humanoid shifted its form, making itself smaller so it could have some room to work with. Then it merged both arms and formed a high powered drill with a super hard tip. With the signatures still locked, Nimrod began tearing through the rocky debris. Once it got a path going it activated its rocket boosters and plowed swiftly towards the direction of its targets. It didn’t take long before it broke through into the narrow passage that Magneto and his team escaped through.
By now they were gathering inside several metal orbs they had on standby at all times for just this sort of thing. Only they never thought they’d have to use them this soon. Exodus, Pryo, and Avalanche each climbed into their individual orb while Magneto got in his with Pietro still in his arms. The speedster was already coughing up blood, hinting that he had some internal bleeding. He was still partially conscious, but he wouldn’t last long without medical attention.
“Escape pods, disengage,” ordered Magneto.
The launch tunnel opened and the orbs levitated. They then flew in close tandem through the tunnel and existed through a second passage out the side of the plateau. But before they even reached this point, Nimrod was catching up to them.
Its sensors picked up on the magnetic activity. This action was expected. With one of their own wounded, they were on the run in hopes of saving him. Nimrod was intent on making sure that didn’t happen. Now back in its humanoid form, it took to the sky with the magnetic signature locked.
From here Nimrod had two possible strategies. It could either pursue and engage the fleeting targets or follow them until they led it to more targets. The first was the most logical, but the second could prove more tactically sound. For a moment its processor weighed the options and in the end the second won out. The main target likely didn’t expect it to reform so quickly. This ignorance should help in ensure that more targets would face the same fate as Magneto.
“Target pattern locked. Entering stealth pursuit mode.”
While Nimrod fell back, Magneto’s focus remained on his son. It wasn’t looking good. Pietro’s body chemistry allowed him to heal fast, but with all the shrapnel he took that might not be enough. There wasn’t a hospital near his base and he doubted any human doctor would understand his physiology enough anyways. That left only one other option.
“Magneto, do you read me?” said Exodus through the built in communication link in his orb.
“Yes,” he replied in a low tone.
“Where are we heading? Do you know of a facility we can bring young Pietro?”
“There’s only one I’m afraid,” said Magneto solemnly, “And it may mean having to gravel.”
“Yes…we must seek Charles Xavier,” affirmed the master of magnetism, “He and the X-men are Pietro’s only hope.”
Outside the Caves
Morale amongst the X-men was tenuous in the hours that followed Cable’s revelation. Mystique and Logan had since left for supplies via a motorcycle they had packed in the X-jet. Xavier, Hank, and Sage gathered around Cable on the X-jet so they could go over the data in his arm. Scott, Jean, Vince, and Emma were present as well. Scott and Jean were still struggling with the fact that this man was their future son. Vince and Emma stuck close to them for moral support and also to keep baby Jack indoors.
For a while much of the team just walked around the outside of the cave. It was strange to have the knowledge that the future was going to be full of war, destruction and death. Cable mentioned that some would die in the initial onslaught. And as grizzly a thought it was, many couldn’t help but wonder if they were one of them. Cable didn’t mention names. No use making things any more complicated. Now there was only speculation and everybody had their theories.
“This sucks,” said Ray, kicking a stone into the cave.
“No kidding,” said Sam, “How in the hell do look forward to the future when you know some of us are gonna die?”
“I don’t know, but it’s driving me crazy!” exclaimed Kitty.
“Calm down, Katya,” said Piotr, trying to console his girlfriend.
“I can’t!” she went on, “There’s no telling who will make it and who won’t.”
“And I can’t imagine losing anyone else,” said Amara sadly, “It was hard enough when Jack died.”
“I know,” said August, placing a hand on her lover’s shoulder, “I’ve been around enough death in my life to know how hard it is to deal with.”
“Speak for yourself, August,” said Bobby, his usual upbeat down now very flat, “I don’t want to believe it, but we’ve had these sort of things before. First there was Apocalypse. Then there was Selene.”
“Yeah, I have to say our track record is pretty bad,” said Roberto, his hands shoved in his pocket.
Everybody seemed pretty down. And who could blame them? There was a chance that some of them may be dead in the near future and there was nothing they could do about it. Some, however, refused to give into despair.
“Come on, guys! Enough with the melodrama!” groaned Jubilee, “We’re X-men for crying out loud! Why are we sitting around moping about something that hasn’t happened?”
“Yeah, don’t you watch movies?” said Tabitha, trying to lighten the mood, “Now that we know about it, maybe we can change it.”
“News flash, Tabitha, we couldn’t change the last two times something like this happened,” said Bobby.
“Hey, third time’s the charm right?” she said with a shrug.
Everybody looked at Tabitha strangely. It was strange how she could make light of a life and death situation like this. But then again this was Tabitha. It was in her nature to take such things lightly. With the life she lived she almost had to.
While some argued, a few others sat off to the side away from the crowd. Jamie, Rahne, and Laura sat near a rock just inside the cave. Laura was anxiously waiting for her father and so was Ororo. She was on lookout with Warren, flying overhead with for signs of any danger. She could tell she was worried. Ororo loved Logan too and even though he could handle himself, that didn’t keep them from worrying.
Jamie and Rahne provided good support. As Laura’s closest friends her age, they had done a lot for her since she came to the institute. But at times she envied them. Jamie and Rahne had each other and Laura didn’t know that feeling outside her parents.
“Think I’ll die when they attack?” mused Rahne.
“What? Why would you think that, Rahne?” said Jamie, his arm draped around her shoulder.
“I don’t know. I just have a bad feeling, you know?”
“Believe me, Rahne. We all do,” he said softly, “But I don’t think you’ll be one of them.”
“What makes you so sure?” she asked hopefully.
“Because you can’t be,” said Jamie strongly, “I couldn’t stand to lose you.”
His kind words earned him a smile from Rahne as she nuzzled Jamie’s shoulder. He smiled back, holding her closer in the midst of this difficult time. In reality they didn’t know who would live or die, but they couldn’t let it get to them. They had to stay strong.
Laura didn’t comment on such affections. She was content to leave them be. But at the same time she was curious too. She already suffered through the loss of Jack and that had been hard enough. Such feelings of sadness had been so unfamiliar to her and she didn’t want to go through it again. She was tempted to try some of that praying stuff Kurt often did, hoping she wouldn’t have to feel it again even if it was in the future.
“Hurry back, dad,” she said to herself.
Over near the jet, Irene sat calmly with Remy, Rogue, Kurt, Wanda, and Betsy. Unlike the others she had lived her whole life dealing with knowledge of the future. There were many times she had been haunted by such dark visions and this was no different. Of the entire team, she seemed to be the calmest despite recent events.
“So you really saw all this too, Ms Adler?” asked Betsy, “Is that why you’ve been under the weather lately?”
“I’m afraid it comes with the territory,” said Irene solemnly, “Seeing the future takes a lot out of you, especially when the dreams I have are far from pleasant.”
“So how do you deal with it?” asked Wanda, “I have enough nightmares about the past. I can’t even imagine dealing with the same crap for the future.”
Irene sighed to herself. It was a simple question, but one she had been struggling with for many years.
“It’s not easy, I assure you,” she said, “Believe it or not, you get used to it.”
“Remy don’t see how that’s possible,” said Gambit, who was sitting next to Rogue.
“Oh it’s possible, Remy,” said Irene, “You just have to remember that no matter how bad the future looks, it is still fluid. Sometimes it unfolds in unexpected ways.”
“So ya think that maybe we’ll be able to do something about the future Cable told us about?” asked Rogue.
“I zhink zhat’s vhere faith comes in, mien sister,” said Kurt, “For zhe zhings ve can’t know or be sure of, ve have to have faith zhat everything vill vork out.”
“Well said, Kurt,” said Irene.
Wanda smiled, moving in closer to her boyfriend and even managing a brief smile. Rogue smiled as well, not surprised that Kurt’s faith would hold strong. She often wished she had Kurt’s faith, but he seemed to have enough for all of them when it came to the future.
On Board the X-jet – Cable
It was uncomfortably silent as Beast and Sage worked with the X-jet’s limited computer systems to analyze the data stored in Cable’s cybernetic arm. It turned out there was a lot to sift through. The components they were dealing with were very advanced even by their standards. Sage and Beast struggled at times to read it, but they managed to uncover a wealth of information. However, there was nothing so far that would help them defeat Nimrod.
“My word, there’s a lot of data,” groaned Beast, “Have you uncovered anything, Sage?”
“Not yet,” she said, rubbing the bridge of her nose, “This stuff is pretty advanced. It’s going to take some time to organize it.”
“Time is something we don’t have, I’m afraid,” said the Professor, “We must focus on the information concerning Nimrod and Mastermold. They are vital to formulating our strategy.”
Beast and Sage sighed at such a task. It was so much easier said than done given how complex these things were. So far they got only what Cable had already told them, but there was still a lot to sift through. They identified some other files as well which seemed to be pictures and profiles of X-men and allies they had yet to meet. It was tempting in many ways to peak at those files. Maybe in them they would see if they had a kid together down the line. But for now, such curiosities would have to wait.
Cable sat quietly on the seat next to the computer. He had a wires running out of his arm and helped out whenever he could. But he wasn’t the most tech savvy person in the world. He was a soldier. He could only give the data. It was up to them to interpret it.
He tried not to make eye contact with Scott, Jean, Emma, or Vince. He could feel their eyes on him the whole time and it was getting pretty uncomfortable. He had a feeling that he would have to tell them at some point that he was the son of Scott and Jean. He just didn’t think it would be this awkward. And they still had many questions.
“Cab-I mean Nathan,” said Scott, getting up from her seat, “Can I ask you something?”
“What is it, Cyclops?” he muttered.
Scott felt somewhat annoyed that he called him by his codename when he was technically his father. It was strange given the circumstances, but he brushed it off.
“What happened to us? I mean, with our family,” he asked.
“I’d rather not say,” said Cable, “Sometimes it’s best that you not know your future.”
“I don’t care. I want to know,” said Scott strongly, “I see that look in your eye. I know it because I’ve had it myself. You lost something and I’m not talking about your limbs.”
Cable muttered a curse. He forgot how perceptive his father was and he wasn’t even psychic. He picked up on the loss that was written in his eyes. Scott had it when he lost his family. It was dead giveaway that something similar happened to Cable. And it was a story that Cable never liked to talk about. But knowing how stubborn Scott was, he wasn’t going to let up until he told them.
“It’s wasn’t pretty, that’s for sure. I still have nightmares about it to this day,” sighed Cable, “But you’re right. I did lose something. I lost a hell of a lot in fact. Everybody did.”
“Was it…was it in the initial attack?” asked Jean, now becoming interested as well.
“No,” said Cable, shaking his head, “In fact, you guys went above and beyond to save a lot of people that day. You overextended yourself, Jean. You used so much power you were in a coma for a while, but you recovered. Hell, it could have been worse if…”
Cable stopped himself right there. He was about to say the word ‘Phoenix,’ but then he remembered that they didn’t know what that was. And it was probably best they not know until the time was right. So he continued on.
“If what?” asked Jean.
“It’s not important,” he said, “But after the initial attack, it all went downhill. The survivors went underground where Xavier re-organized the team with the new goal of stopping the sentinels. I was really young at the time, but this where you and the rest of my relatives started training me.”
“Relatives?” said Scott curiously.
“Yeah, I’ve got a lot of them,” said Cable with a slight chuckle, “Keep this too yourself, but Logan marries Ororo and later become my godparents, which technically made Larua my cousin.”
“Well, no surprise there,” said Jean, smiling at the thought of Logan’s reaction to that.
“And there were plenty others. Betsy and Warren married and had a two daughters and a son I got along well with. Rogue and Remy got hitched as well, although I remember Mystique having a lot to say about that.”
“I can only imagine,” said Emma, rolling her eyes.
“Jamie and Rahne even got married, which was really something considering it was in the middle of the war. They even managed to have a few kids that would later go on to be great X-men that I led into battle.”
“Wow, those two?” said Jean with a hint of intrigue.
“Yeah, so much for young love,” shrugged Scott, “Then again I should talk. Who else?”
“Plenty, but I’d rather not go into more detail,” said Cable in a more serious tone, “Remember, some don’t make it and some take very different paths. But the one constant was always you, Professor Xavier. You were the one that kept us all together. You helped us understand one another when we were on the brink. You even helped me master my psychic powers. I called you Grandpa X until I was ten.”
Scott and Jean looked over at the Professor, who couldn’t help but blush somewhat at the revelation. But it did seem fitting. He was like a father to the both of them so it was only natural they would trust him with such a title.
“Thing is the X-men have always been my family. They helped raise me and my sister to be fighters for the new generation of resistance against the sentinels.”
“Wow, back up…sister?” said Jean, “You mean we have a daughter too?”
Cable’s expression grimaced for a moment. He probably shouldn’t have let that slip, but there was no going back now so he brought up a picture on his hologram projector.
“Yeah…she was my older sister,” he said in a strangely dark tone, “Her full name was Rachel Anne Summers.”
Scott and Jean gazed in amazement at the picture showing Rachel in her early teens with him and the two of them besides them. They were all in uniform. Scott couldn’t help but smile at the look in Rachel’s eyes. She looked so much like Jean.
“I can see who she takes after,” grinned Vincent as he and Emma watched as well.
“Me too,” said Scott.
“More than you think,” said Cable as he went on with the story, “And this picture is the last one ever taken of us as a family. Shortly afterwards our base was raided by a sentinel and you two died protecting us. I remember Rachel trying to cover my eyes, but I still saw it.”
Cable had to fight to keep himself from getting choked up. He still maintained the poise of a strong soldier, even with dark memories like this. But this was one memory that always struck him.
“First it hit you, Jean. I heard you scream and watched as you fell to the ground. Then I saw you, Scott. You blew the sentinel away and ran towards her. At first I thought she was just hurt, but when is saw that look in your eyes I knew it. I may have been young, but I knew it. Rachel knew it too and started crying. We probably would have died with you, but then Wolverine came along and grabbed us. I kicked and screamed, but he wouldn’t let us go. That’s the last time I ever saw either of you. The whole place blew up with you still in it. At first I didn’t want to believe it. Then we found your bodies.”
Cable had to stop there. His face contorted in pain as he remembered that day. Beast and Logan had been there. They told him and Rachel that their parents had died and they found the bodies. Neither he nor Rachel wanted to believe it. Then he ran past them and saw for himself. They tried to stop him, but he still saw it. He saw the charred remains of his parents. That more than anything haunted his memory.
“Oh God…” said Jean in a weak tone, covering her mouth in disbelief.
“Yeah…I know,” said Cable, “It’s not the way anybody wants to go, but that more than anything made me determined to be an X-man. I figured I could finish what you started and follow your example.”
Scott and Jean were silent for a moment. They were at a total loss. Finding out how they were going to die sure didn’t sit well, especially when they had been talking so much about building a new future together for their wedding. Now it seemed as though that future had nothing but hardship.
But at the same time, they couldn’t help but feel pride in Cable. He became such a strong fighter and a proud X-man, largely because of their example. As grim a story as it was, it also showed they did alright raising as parents. And that was a powerful feeling.
“Well I don’t know how much it matters now, but…thanks, Nathan,” said Scott.
“Don’t thank me yet,” he said, his stern tone returning, “All this fighting will be for nothing if we can’t stop Nimrod.”
“Even so, we’re very proud of you,” said Jean warmly, “I can’t imagine how much pain it must cause. But for what it’s worth, I’m sorry it had to happen this way.”
What happened next caught Cable off guard. Jean got up, walked over to her future son, and hugged him. He was taken aback at first, but soon found himself embracing the gesture. He hadn’t felt his mother’s grasp in so long. He had almost forgotten how good it felt. Even for all the pain he endured, it was still every bit as comforting as it was when he was just a little boy.
Scott got up and hugged him as well. Cable wasn’t usually one to get emotional, but this was one instance where he didn’t mind. To Hell with the future and all the tragedy that was to come. This moment was long overdue for all of them.
Sage, Hank, and the Professor didn’t comment. They just smiled, finding it humorous in some ways that someone as stern and tough as Cable would be so touched by the embrace of his parents. But it didn’t surprise Vince and Emma. As they sat together, huddling around baby Jack they couldn’t help but smile.
“Guess there are some things the future can never change,” said Emma.
“That’s for sure,” smiled Vincent as they stared affectionately down at their son.
For all the horrors in the future and present, there were still times for family moments. These were the kinds of things they were fighting to preserve. It made stopping Nimrod all the more important.
Over the Xavier Institute – Magneto’s Team
The orbs carrying Magneto and his team neared at the Xavier Institute. Pietro’s condition wasn’t getting any better. His wounds were deep and if the internal bleeding didn’t kill him infections surly would. Magneto tried to buy time, tearing his cape up and wrapping some of Pietro’s wounds. It helped slow the bleeding, but he was still coughing blood.
“Come on, son. Hold on! We’re almost there. Just hold on!” he urged.
Pietro let out a labored groan, letting his father know that he was still partially conscious. But there was no telling how much longer he could hold out.
Finally, they arrived at the Xavier Institute. He opened his sphere so he could fly out and find Xavier. But to his horror, there was nobody there. He didn’t see a trace of activity. He flew in lower, trying to get a glimpse through the windows of anybody who might be able to help them. But he saw no one.
“Charles!” he yelled out, “Where are you, Charles? I need your help!”
He did another round of flybys, looking for anybody who might be present. Usually, this was the point where his presence was detected. Either Wolverine would smell him or the security cameras would see him. But there was no such activity this time. There really was nobody home.
“What’s the hold up, boss man?” said Lance from his sphere.
“They’re not here!” grunted Magneto in frustration.
“You mean Xavier?” asked Pyro.
“No! I mean there’s nobody! If there were they would have seen us by now and come out!”
Lance was getting nervous. He and Pietro may have clashed a lot, but he was still his friend. They lived together for years and he didn’t want him to die either. But the situation was getting progressively worse. Something was definitely going on.
“So what now, lord Magneto?” asked Exodus.
“There’s only one hope left,” said Magneto grimly, “I’ll have to call out to Xavier and pray he’s in range.”
It was an extreme move. Magneto never called out to anybody with his mind. He was always very strict on keeping it guarded from telepathic intrusion. But he had no choice. Pietro’s life was at stake.
‘Charles! Charles, can you hear me? For the sake of all things holy, answer me!’
While Magneto awaited a response, Nimrod kept a close eye on him and the rest of his team. It kept its distance, flying in low and manipulating its skin so that it blended into the background of its surroundings. Near as it could tell, they didn’t know it was there. So it remained in stealth mode watching and waiting for an opportunity.
For a moment it seemed as though the target was doing nothing. He was just hovering in mid air over the institute, not saying anything or making any moves. It was a strange course of action. One of the other subjects was dying and he wasn’t doing anything. Perhaps they did know they were being watched. It didn’t pick up on any outgoing transmissions.
Nimrod weighed its options. If its stealth was compromised it had to make a move. There was still a high probability that it could get a shot off. Then suddenly, the main target’s poise shifted. His expression changed, turning from despair to one of hope. Nimrod’s sensors didn’t read why, but now Magneto was on the move again. He returned to his sphere and flew off in an eastern direction. And according to Nimrod’s memory, it was the same direction the vapor trail from the X-jet flew earlier. The probability of success had just been raised significantly.
“Continuing pursuit. Maintain stealth mode. Objective: follow main target Magneto to main target Charles Xavier and destroy.”
Up next: All of Nimrod’s targets converge and the future hangs in the balance.