Chapter 14: The Future and the Present
Sentinel Facility – Cable & Nimrod
Cable was in a bad position. He couldn’t move away from this one. His arm was damaged and one of his legs was mangled. He couldn’t reach his gun and his fight with Nimrod had sparked a fire that was spreading quickly. Chemical trails all over the area ignited, turning up the heat and filling their surroundings with smoke and vapors. But this did nothing to slow down Nimrod. It was going to finish this pestilent figure off once and for all.
Cable came to the past hoping to change the future. He made a promise to his team, his lover, his brother-in-law, his family, and everybody else that had been hurt or killed by the sentinel war. Now it seemed as though he wouldn’t be able to fulfill that promise as Nimrod’s eyes glowed in preparation for the final shot.
“I…can’t…fail,” he grunted in determination.
Nimrod took aim. It wasn’t going to be denied this time.
But just as it fired, a lone voice echoed through the flames.
“NOOOOOO!” yelled Scott as he ran to his son’s aid.
Ignoring an attacking sentinel that was bearing down on him, he narrowly avoided a barrage of shots and leapt through a wall of flame to get to his son. And with one desperate shot, he fired an optic blast through the smoky haze and hit Nimrod right in the head as it fired.
The resulting impact triggered a mini-explosion on Nimrod’s head. It fell back slightly into the flames, allowing Scott to come to Cable’s aid.
“Are you okay?” he said as he helped him up.
“I’ve been better,” groaned Cable.
Every part of him that was still flesh was sore. Nimrod loosened his teeth, damaged two limbs, and helped ignite a fire that burned his hand and face. Even for someone like him who had been through many battles, it made for some nasty wounds.
“That was really stupid, Cyclops! It could have turned on you!” grunted Cable through the pain.
“You expect me to let my future son die?” said Scott as he helped him limp away.
“I’m expendable. You’re not. You guys have to live. The future depends on it!”
“This isn’t the future. This is the present,” said Scott strongly, “We have to work together.”
It was typical Summers stubbornness. It wasn’t tactically sound. In some ways it was downright foolhardy. But seeing how his father came to his aid actually put a smile on Cable’s face. Turns out Jack and Domino were right. It did run in the family.
But they weren’t out of it yet. Nimrod had only sustained moderate damage to the head. It fixed itself quickly and reemerged to see that now the obstruction Cable was being aided by one of its primary targets, Scott Summers. It was a fortuitous development that could not only get Cable out of the way, but achieve part of its mission goals.
“Objective reactivated. Increase power.”
It began to charge for another shot, but then another presence emerged to protect the wounded Cable. Through the growing wall of flames, Jean floated in via a protective telekinetic bubble. She too had been held up by a sentinel, but Alex took charge and covered her so she could aid her family. Future or not, she wasn’t going to let anything hurt them.
“Get away from my son!” Jean yelled.
Summoning her vast psychic potential, Jean unleashed a wall of telekinetic power that would have made the Professor proud. She rammed Nimrod with force great enough to send it flying back through the flames and against a concrete wall. She hit it so hard it made an imprint on the concrete, effectively stunning the high-tech killing machine.
“Way to go, mom,” grinned Cable.
“Hurry up and get away!” said Jean urgently as she pushed the limits of her mind, “I’ll hold this thing in place.”
“That may not be enough,” said Scott, watching as Cable began shaking free.
“Then allow us to help,” said Vincent from above as he and Rogue flew in over the flames.
The battle against the sentinels had turned. More X-men were freed from the heat of the battle as more sentinels went down in an effort to defend Pierce. Vince and Rogue were one of them, having just toppled a sentinel respectively and seen the distress of their friends. Now Nimrod was their chief concern.
“Hold it steady, Jean. Ah just need one shot!” said Rogue as she swooped in.
“You…got it!” grunted Jean, struggling to keep the telekinetic hold up.
Rogue came in and delivered a punishing blow with all her strength behind it. The resulting bang echoed through the room and literally tore Nirmod in two, separating it from its legs. It tried to fire at Rogue in retaliation, but she flew away before it could get a lock. But the blast it did get off caused another round of fires. It had to repair itself now before the target got too far away. And this is where Vincent came in.
“Oh no you don’t!” said Vince.
Flying above the area where Nimrod was trapped, Vince delivered a solid kick to the wall and triggered a major collapse that buried Nimrod in a pile of debris. The standard counter-tactic was to fly away, but since the Rogue separated it from its legs it couldn’t get air-born. It had no choice by to let the rubble cover it. It wouldn’t destroy the advanced sentinel, but it would definitely slow it down.
“That ought to hold it for a while,” said Vince as he flew back down to help his friends.
“And we better make good use of it,” grunted Cable, struggling to hold himself up, “Nimrod won’t stop as long as we’re still alive.”
“That Ah’ve gathered,” said Rogue, “So how do we stop it?”
“We’re already doing that as we speak,” said Cable as he looked around.
It was then the others saw what he was talking about. Bobby, August, Betsy, and Gambit just took down another sentinel with a combination of blasts. Ororo took down one as well with a few well-placed lightning bolts and Kitty finished off anything that was still moving by phasing through the head and shorting out their main circuits. Logan and X23 were also not letting up. Despite being bloodied and bruised in some areas, they were tearing into anything they got close to. Piotr even gave them a lift by heaving them up onto the head in their trademark ‘fastball special.’ One-by-one sentinels were falling. It was all working to their advantage.
Pierce saw this and watched anxiously. The sentinels made themselves vulnerable by trying to defend them. It allowed the X-men to concentrate their attacks. It didn’t help that the fire around the lab was spreading. The smoke was obstructing their sensors and those with exposed circuits suffered even greater damage. He could feel the noose tightening around him. His dream was on the brink.
“No…” he gasped, still trapped under the rubble.
By the time the last sentinel fell, the smoke was becoming a problem. The fires had spread so much that the surroundings were becoming inhospitable. Since this place was old it didn’t have a very good fire protection system. If it had any gas generators then the whole area was in danger of collapsing. They had to act fast.
“Man, you just had to start a fire, didn’t you?” groaned Bobby as his ice shell melted.
“Can’t you put this thing out, Iceman?” asked Kitty.
“No! This is exactly what we need!” said Cable, “The fire will destroy all traces of this place.”
“But what about Pierce?” said Piotr.
“He’s not going anywhere,” said Alex.
They all turned to see Pierce still struggling to get out from the rubble. He was still determined to rip every one of them limb from limb. His yells echoed over the growing flames.
“YOU PITIFUL FREAKS! I SWEAR ON HELLFIRE’S WRATH I’LL KILL YOU ALL WITH MY BEAR HANDS!” he exclaimed.
That pretty much sealed their decision. If Pierce was that determined to kill them, they wouldn’t help him. The X-men didn’t kill people, but that didn’t mean they had to save this monster.
“Okay, he just lost my sympathy,” said Warren.
“I agree,” said Mystique coldly, “If he loves these machines so much he can be buried with them.”
“Fine by me, but what about Beast and the Professor?” inquired Kitty, “Do you think they were successful?”
She had a point. Even of this place was coming apart, they couldn’t leave without the Professor. Jean placed her hand on her temples and checked. She was relieved to find out that the Professor had been successful. All the files and databases detailing Mastermold’s design and programming had been destroyed and so had Trask.
“Jean?” asked Ororo anxiously.
“He’s fine,” said Jean much to everybody’s relief, “He’s on his way, but he says the fire’s already reached upper levels.”
“Then we speed things up,” said Vincent.
He turned to Rogue again and she got the message. They both took to the air and flew through the growing haze of smoke, making their way to the upper levels. Along the way they saw fires erupting all over each level. This whole place was compromised. They had to get out of here fast.
When they reached the area of the head, they saw the Professor and Beast step out from the doorway. They emerged from a hall billowing with smoke and each coughed at the taste of fresh air. Beast looked winded from carrying the Professor the whole way so Rogue and Vincent helped them out.
“Need a lift?” offered Rogue.
“Yes, that would be much appreciated,” said Beast as he cleared his throat, “The fire is spreading fast.”
“Then we best hurry,” said Xavier, “There’s no telling how much time we have.”
“Right, let’s get out of here,” said Vince strongly.
Rogue took the Professor while Vincent lifted Beast. They flew them down swiftly, avoiding the growing columns of smoke. The rest of the team had already made their way back towards the tunnel entrance. The situation was getting bad and the time had come for them to make their escape.
“Nice to have you back, Chuck,” greeted Logan.
“Likewise, Wolverine,” said Xavier, “Where’s Magneto?”
“Where do you think?” said Gambit snidely, “His boys dragged him out of the fight and left de hard stuff for us to handle.”
“Well to be fair, he was wounded,” said August.
“It’s still Magneto,” muttered Piotr with no love lost on his former boss, “Did you and Hank do what you had to?”
“Yes, Mastermold’s data is no more,” said Xavier, “We’ve stopped the uploading of its AI and deleted the program. Pierce has lost.”
That was, of course, music to everybody’s ears. They fought hard enough against Pierce’s robot army and were ready to leave them to the scrap heap. It looked as though the future was on their side again. Without the program, Pierce couldn’t run Mastermold. It was enough victory for them, especially since they couldn’t afford to stay much longer.
“That’s all well and good, Professor. But I’d be much more inclined to celebrate once we get out of here,” said Betsy.
“Yeah, this place is coming down fast,” said Scott, “I think we’ve overstayed our welcome.”
“Agreed,” said Xavier, “X-men, move out!”
That was all the team needed to hear. They had enough of this place anyways and were more than happy to leave Pierce to his own destruction. Upon picking up Xavier’s chair, everybody ran into the tunnel for daylight. Nobody dared look back. They were okay with the fire consuming Mastermold. Once this place blew, it would be no more. However, not everybody was so confident.
The only one who wasn’t in a hurry to leave was Cable. Scott and Jean helped him limp towards the doorway, but he couldn’t stop looking back at Mastermold. His face contorted with hatred as he looked into those cold, lifeless eyes that caused him and his family so much pain. Because of this monstrosity he lost his parents, his sister, and his lover. Even with the fire growing and the structure of the facility in question, that didn’t change one thing. He still existed. The future wasn’t gone yet.
He had to make sure there was nothing left of Mastermold and Pierce. Only then would he and Nimrod be erased from existence. Only then would the future finally be set right. Looking at both his parents, he knew what he had to do.
“Come on, Cable! Just a bit further,” said Scott as they neared the tunnel.
“No…I’m not done yet,” said Cable, stopping in mid stride.
“Nathan, we have to get out of here!” exclaimed Jean, “We’ve done it! We’ve won! Mastermold doesn’t have his program anymore and Pierce is done for.”
“That’s not enough!” he said strongly, “Mastermold is still here.”
“Let the fire take care of it,” said Scott, grabbing his arm, “We have to go!”
What he did next was the hardest thing he had done yet during this mission. As much as he wanted to follow his parents to safety and make up for all the time they had lost, he couldn’t stop now. He still had a mission to complete and he was going to do it even if it meant going it alone.
“I’m sorry mom and dad,” said Cable solemnly, “But there can’t be a single trace of the future left.”
Suddenly, Jean and Scott were telekinetically flung away from their son and into the tunnel. And before they could get up, Cable slammed his fist against the control mechanism on the wall and the heavy duty steel doors slammed down, sealing him in.
“CABLE!” exclaimed Scott as he tried to get up in time to stop the doors.
“No Nathan! What are you doing?”
But there was no going back now. The door was closed and their future son was out of sight.
“I’m finishing my mission. It’ll be okay…I promise,” he told them.
Scott and Jean pounded relentlessly on the heavily reinforced door. They refused to leave their son behind to die in this hell-hole.
“Stand back! I’ll blow it open!” yelled Scott.
But it was here where Logan and Ororo saw this going on and sprang into action.
“What the hell are you doing, Cyke?!” exclaimed Logan.
“We have to go back!” exclaimed the X-leader, “Cable’s in there! He…”
“He what?!” gasped Ororo, “Why?”
“I don’t know. He just did it,” said Scott, already reeling with worry, “But we have to go back for him. We can’t leave him behind!”
“No way,” said Logan strongly, “You blow that thing and we’ll all be dead!”
“I don’t care! I’m not leaving my son!” cried Jean.
“Jean…” said Ororo, grasping her shoulder firmly, “He made a choice.”
“He said it himself, Jeannie. He’s on a mission,” said Logan, “Let him finish it.”
Scott and Jean exchanged looks. They didn’t want to accept it. But there was no going back. Like Slayer before him, Cable made a choice. It was the kind of dedication that could only come from someone with the Summers identity. He was from the future, but he was still their son. And as much as it pained them, they had to leave him behind.
“Nathan…” said Jean, turning back to the sealed door.
“Come on, you two! Let’s go!” urged Logan.
The couple still hesitated, but then Logan and Ororo grabbed them by the hand and forced them to run with them. Tears were still in their eyes and they dared not look back. The future was in Cable’s hands now. The most important thing they could do now was trust him.
Back inside the growing inferno, Cable was limping his way up towards the rafters. Along the way he found his gun and telekinetically retrieved it. Once it was in hand, he charged it up for one final blast and made his way up the rafters. His damaged left leg slowed him down, but he still had one good leg to drag himself by and that was enough. His mechanical arm was still damaged, but he could still move it slightly, allowing him to keep his balance. The heat was intense and the smoke was already choking his lungs, but that didn’t matter. He had to finish what he started.
As he started scaling the rafters, he noticed the pile of rubble where Nimrod had been buried was starting to move. Nimrod must have repaired itself and no doubt it would come to protect Mastermold at all costs. So he moved faster, grunting with each labored stride.
“Damn leg! Come on! Come on!” he urged, fighting through the pain, “I did this before! I can do this again!”
It was the same story, but in a different time. He made this run before, scaling Mastermold and taking it out. There was only one way to make sure this thing was truly destroyed. He had to blow up the core power center. One of the reasons Mastermold was so hard to stop was because it had unlimited power. It was driven by a compact nuclear reactor that could generate enough power to sustain it to last centuries. In the future it was heavily shielded and required a great deal of explosives as well as the sacrifice of several skilled mutants. Since Mastermold wasn’t complete in this time, he hoped the shielding would be less and the only thing he would have to do was shoot it.
He started hearing deep vibrations in the floor. He suspected the fire had reached gas storage tanks and other chemicals. If he didn’t hurry he may very well get caught up in one as well, so he stepped up his efforts. As he passed a hall of doors, some of them blew open as tanks exploded and spread the fire even further. At this point Cable had to cover his mouth and hold his breath for the final push.
He finally reached the core area at the chest level. It was located about halfway up from where Hank and the Professor had gone. There was still a lot of construction junk around the area so it wasn’t heavily guarded. And as he expected, the shielding around the core was only partially complete. There was only a few initial layers of lead and steel. But more importantly, there was a console that would open it.
“Got ya,” said Cable with renewed determination.
Mastermold couldn’t run now. Slamming his fist on the big red button, the core opened to reveal a glowing green center of energy. It was intense, bright, and probably radioactive. Chances were he already had already taken in a lethal dose of radiation. But that didn’t matter. He wouldn’t have to live much longer anyways. He just had to destroy the core and leave Mastermold in the past where it belonged.
“This is for all the blood you’ve spilled and all the suffering you’ve inflicted,” he proclaimed bitterly, “But more importantly, this is for my family.”
He cocked his gun and prepared to fire. Victory was almost at hand. Then suddenly, a presence lunged from behind him and tackled him to the ground.
“Rahhhhhhhhhh!” yelled Donald Pierce, “You will not destroy my creation!”
“Augh!” howled Cable, feeling more bones break as Pierce bent his arm the wrong way.
Turning over, Cable saw that Pierce had taken extreme measures. In order to get out of that pile of debris, he separated himself from his legs. Now he was just a torso with arms that clawed his way up to this level to stop him. He had rage in his eyes and was on a warpath.
“You and your team are a menace! A pest!” he exclaimed as he punched Cable across the face, “Mark my word, my machines will crush you and every one of your comrades!”
Cable tried to grab hold of the gun, but Pierce knocked it away. There would be no weapons now. Pierce was going to kill this man to death with his bear hands. Cable tried to fight him off, but Pierce held on by grabbing hold of his neck with both hands. Now he had him in a death grip and he was going to watch and take pleasure as he drew his last breath.
“Ack!” choked Cable.
“Can’t you see, mutant? It’s over! You never had a chance! The presence of Project Nimrod is proof! Mastermold will succeed! The machines will rise! Your kind is already dead! You, humans, every one of them! We are the masters of this world! We are the future!”
“The future…is now.”
Gritting his teeth through the pain, Cable used his only remaining limb to deliver the final blow. He thrust his undamaged right leg upwards, knocking Pierce off of him and causing his grip to loosen. Once he was loose, Cable closed his eyes and summoned his telekinesis. And with one firm shove, he flung Donald Pierce into the heart of the core.
The second he impacted, the core began to destabilize. Intense energy surged through Pierce’s body, effectively frying the rest of his flesh off in a flash and mangling his mechanical arms to an unrecognizable shape. From here, sparks flew and the glowing intensified. An alarm then went off within the room, warning of core instability. This thing was going to blow and take everything inside this hell hole with it.
But Cable made no attempt to escape. Gritting his teeth in anguish, he crawled up to a nearby wall and waited for his end. He knew these would be his last moments. He knew from the second he jumped into that time portal that it may come to this. The future he came from would only be destroyed if the last remnants were destroyed as well. That meant he couldn’t exist and neither could Nimrod. He had to take that monster with him into oblivion. So before the end came, he sent them one last telepathic message.
‘It’s over, X-men. Pierce, Nimrod, and Mastermold are gone. The future is yours now. Make it a good one. And mom and dad…thank you. I love you both. Goodbye.’
His body was battered and bruised. His arm and left leg were mangled and useless. His face was a bloody, swollen mess and his arm was stinging with pain. His mind was totally spent, having no more strength to pull off psychic feats. He coughed out blood, his lungs charred from smoke inhalation. But for Nathanial Christopher Summers, none of it mattered. He completed his mission. Now his family and friends would be safe. All the suffering he endured wouldn’t happen. He himself wouldn’t even exist. He and everything else in this facility faced total destruction.
As his last seconds ticked by, he saw Nimrod enter through the door. It had come to aid its master, but it was too late. It saw the core and every possible reading was critical. There were no life signs of creator, Donald Pierce, and Mastermold was on its last breath. It then turned to Cable, the obstruction that kept it from its targets.
“It’s over, Nimrod…for both of us.”
Then it happened. The core exploded with a deafening bang. And Cable and Nimrod were consumed by the light, forever fading into the oblivion of a future that was now no more.
The X-men ran with all their might to get away from the complex. When they escaped from the tunnel they all took cover in a large ditch far from the entrance. They came across Magneto, Lance, and Pyro along the way and urged them to take cover as well. Scott and Jean were the last ones out, having been urged forward by Logan and Ororo. They tried not to think of their future son and the pain he must be in at the moment. All they could do was urge each other.
“Come on Jean…just a little further,” said Scott, holding his fiancé close as they drifted further from the facility.
Then they all heard Cable’s final telepathic message. It was weak, but crystal clear. Everybody had already taken cover in the ditch. Only Scott and Jean hadn’t done so. Upon hearing that message, they turned back towards the facility where their son was finishing his mission.
“Nathan…” said Jean, reaching out to him with her mind one last time.
Then in a deafening bang, the whole facility exploded. A column of fire shot out through the tunnel where they had come from and plumes of smoke and fire erupted from inside the mountain. Bright flashes of yellow-orange blasts shattered rock and scattered ash and debris into the sky. The explosion was so intense the whole inside of the mountain collapsed, ensuring that nothing within would ever see the light of day.
Scott and Jean hit the ground. Scott protectively covered his fiancé, clinging to her as they waited for this moment to pass. Yet in the back of their minds they knew what had happened. Cable triggered this. He did it knowing he and everything inside would be consumed. It was a sacrifice for the good of the future. And he made it knowing his existence would be erased.
Now he was no more. The ordeal was over. The X-men rose up from the ditch and watched in a mix of awe and sorrow. They too knew there was no chance that Cable was alive. It hit them hard, having already endured such a loss with Slayer. But none were hit harder than Scott and Jean.
“Oh God…Nathan,” sobbed Jean, “He…”
“I know, Jean. I know…” said Scott, unable to hold his tears back as well.
Then in a fit of sorrow, she buried her face in her lover’s shoulder and cried. He hugged her close and wept as well. Even though he came from the future and they had only known him for a short while, he left an undeniable impact on their lives. He was still their son and they were proud of him.
As Scott and Jean wept for their son, the rest of the X-men rose up and bowed their heads in sorrow. They watched as fire and smoke consumed the mountain that once contained civilization’s ultimate demise.
“Oh my God…” said Kitty sadly, placing a hand on the shoulder of her friends, “I’m so sorry, you guys.”
“I can’t believe he really did it,” said Betsy, offering her condolences as well.
“But I think he knew,” said Vincent distantly, “Just like Jack, he knew the only way to save the future was to sacrifice himself. Because as long as he existed, there was a chance his future could come to pass.”
“So…does that mean we don’t have to worry about all that nasty stuff happening down the line?” asked Bobby.
“Not entirely, Bobby,” replied Vincent, “It just means the future is obscure again.”
“And as Destiny always tells me, that’s how it should be,” said Mystique.
It was somewhat comforting. Cable spoke of many dark events in the future. Now that he was gone all was right again. Now nobody knew what was going to happen. It was scary in some ways because they found out just how quickly it could go downhill. But at least now there was hope.
Even Magneto, who got into this fight for the sole reason of avenging the attack on his children, was taken. Having recovered mostly from the wound in his torso, he stood up and lent his condolences to Scott and Jean. He knew all too well what it was like to lose family. He didn’t know Cable much, but his sacrifice still resonated with him. He was a martyr for his kind and the future.
“I guess this means you and I won’t be teaming up one day to save the world, Charles,” said Magneto.
“Maybe not in the same sense, old friend,” said the Professor, “But I hope that one day we can still come together. If not to save the world, then certainly to help it.”
“And I would look forward to that day,” said the old holocaust survivor, “But for now I have my fights and you have yours.”
“I understand,” said Xavier solemnly, “Just remember that it’s never too late to overcome the past.”
“I know. It’s nice to know that there’s someone out there who never lost faith in me.”
Despite a history of bitterness, the two old friends smiled. Cable’s revelations showed that it was possible for them to work together and achieve so much. Maybe the future would bring them together again, but for now they had other concerns to attend to. Xavier had a wedding at his mansion to plan and Magneto had his children.
As the explosions faded and the moment sank in, Scott and Jean sent one last prayer to their future son. Wherever he was, they would miss him. They had every hope in the world they would see him again. They still planned on getting married and if the family Cable described was any hint, they had a lot to look forward to.
“So that’s the kind of kid you two raised…not bad,” commented Logan.
Scott and Jean, still in an embrace, turned to their friends and smiled.
“You should be very proud,” said Hank.
“We are,” smiled Jean, wiping another tear from her eye.
It was finally over. The battle for the future had been one. The price had been high, costing not just the life, but the very existence of one of them. But for all his inconsistencies, Cable was not to be forgotten anytime soon. Because of him the future was theirs again. Where they went from here was anybody’s guess. And that left so many reasons to be hopeful.
Up next: Epilogue