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Jeph Loeb(writer), Ed McGuinnes (penciler), Dexter Vines (inker), Morroy Hollowell (colorist), Comicraft’s A Deschesne (letterer), McGuiness, Vines & Hollowell (cover artists), Stephen Platt, Yu, Alyangula & Keith (variant cover artists), Irene Y Lee (production), John Denning (assistant editor), Lauren Sankovitch (associate editor), Tom Brevoort (editor), Axel Alonso (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)
Iron Man and Red Hulk battle the Living Laser and Radioactive Man. When Iron Man gets no response from Captain America, he begins to tracks his teammate down, unaware that Cap and the Falcon are captives of Cable. As the Techno-Organic Virus continues to ravage Cable’s body, his mind slips into the past - his future - specifically time spent with the young mutant Hope. Soon, Iron Man penetrates the freighter where Cable is holed up, and they battle, with Iron Man finding himself overwhelmed by technology that he will create in the future. More flashes to the future, Cable eventually captures Iron Man, before Cable is shot by the Red Hulk.
‘How many times are we going to do this dance, Laser?’ Tony Stark, inside his Iron Man armor, asks the Living Laser as they battle in New York City, specifically, the meatpacking district. The time is way past midnight, and the Living Laser fires energy at Iron Man, telling him that the Avengers made this a fight. ‘We were only looking to escape’ he explains. The Living Laser’s energy strikes Iron Man, and breaches his armor, but the armor initiates repairs, while the Living Laser moves closer and tells Iron Man that, in answer to his question, this will be the last dance. ‘Like HELL it is!’ Iron Man declares as he composes himself, and grabs the Living Laser by his wrists, forcing him downwards. ‘Who put this together? A prison transport carrying the Lethal Legion doesn’t just fall out of the sky!’ Iron Man demands to know, while asking what happened to the inhibitor collars.
Forcing the Living Laser to the ground, Iron Man holds one of his hands against his enemy’s head. The Living Laser swears that he doesn’t know, that none of them do. ‘It was like the ship got hit with am EMP. Made my teeth rattle’ he tells Iron Man, adding that the power went out, the collars failed, so they ran. ‘An EMP, hmm?’ Iron Man replies, before initiating an electro-magnetic pulse, firing it at close range at the Living Laser, who cries out in pain. ‘Make that a double’ Iron Man tells him. Iron Man turns to where the Red Hulk is battling Radioactive Man, and asks him whether he has heard anything from Captain America. The Red Hulk replies that Cap and the Falcon took off after Whirlwind. With the Living Laser lying motionless on the ground, Iron Man asks the Red Hulk ‘You got this?’ Red Hulk replies that he does, and continues to battle Radioactive Man.
Up in the air, Iron Man sees the Falcon’s bird, Redwing flying through the rain which pours down into the darkened city. Tony thinks it is odd that Redwing is flying solo, and takes to the air, while radioing Captain America, asking him if he can read him, but gets no response.
The reason Iron Man gets no response is because Captain America sits motionless, trapped inside a chair that covers most of his body. The Falcon floats in a vat of liquid in the room, specifically inside Blaquesmith’s freighter, on the Hudson River docks, in Lower Manhattan. Cable is inside the freighter, and tells himself that he has gone to war with the Avengers, done things others will question. ‘But if I’m right - and I have to be - there are no other options’ Cable decides, while telling Captain America ‘Even if you can’t speak, I know you can hear me in your mind, Cap’. Cable tells Cap that he did him a favor, explaining that the rig that is around his neck is tied right into his neurological system. Cable explains that the more Captain America resists, the more it scrambles his brain.
‘If I hadn’t stun-gunned you, you’d be a drooling mess by now’ Cable adds, while opening a cabinet, he tells Cap that he doesn’t want him dead, yet, as he needs more intel. ‘I’m going to pick off each one of you until one of you talks. That means some of you are going to take a beating for nothing’ Cable announces. Cable decides that what the Avengers do, or will do, to the one person he cares about more than life itself justifies his actions. Inside the cabinet is a version of the Iron Man armor, and Cable wonders ‘Why go after Hope? What do the Avengers want with my daughter?’ Cable reminds himself that he is dying, that the Techno-Organic Virus is running virtually unchecked through his body. ‘This may be my last day…but I made her a promise…I will always protect her’.
Timeslide, somewhere in the future:Cable sits slumped on the ground inside a building that is mostly demolished. ‘Nathan…are you awake?’ the young girl called Hope calls out to him as she walks over. ‘What’s all this stuff all over you?’ Hope enquires as she looks at her reflection in Cable’s cyborg arm. ‘Does it hurt?’ she wonders, as she presses her hand against his bulging bicep. ‘It’s aliveeee!’ Hope exclaims loudly, so Cable leaps to his feet, ‘Hope! What happened? What’s wrong?’ he calls out, urgently. ‘…Nothing…’ Hope replies quietly, looking up at Cable wide-eyed, almost scared.
Present:Cable realizes that he wasn’t the perfect father, and knows that another Avenger is coming for him.
‘So…the bird leads me…here?’ Iron Man tells himself as he lands on the deck of the freighter. His computer sensors tell him that the freighter’s owner is unknown, as is its origin. ‘Perfect. An onboard computer that comes up with zilch’ Tony mutters to himself. He walks down some stairs, ‘If this doesn’t spell “trap” with a capital “T”…’ Tony tells himself, when suddenly, he sees Cap and Falcon, both still held captive. His sensors alert him to the fact that Cap and the Falcon are attacked to integrated locks with C4 explosives. ‘Danger level extremely high’ the computer reports. ‘Who would do this - and why?’ Iron Man asks himself, when suddenly, a surge of energy is fired at him, and he falls to the ground. Cable emerges from the shadows, and reminds himself that he hasn’t always seen eye-to-eye with Tony Star, a “weapons man” that means well. ‘His life. His mind. Woven into all that tech. There was a time when we could have learned a great deal from each other’ Cable realizes.
‘You should listen to your armor, Stark’ Cable tells Iron Man telepathically, suggesting that he stand down now. ‘Cable…?’ Iron Man replies, confused. He gets back up and tells Cable that he doesn’t know what this is about, but that Cable is to get out of his head, and prepares to punch him in the face, but Cable grabs his wrist, and tells him to remember that as he takes him apart, he did give him a chance to surrender. A sort of shockwave energy ripples from Cable, forcing Iron Man backwards. ‘What did he hit me with?’ Tony asks his computer, which replies that a diagnostic relay indicates the armor design specifications are from Stark Industries. ‘What? Rerun the diagnostics for error. I know every piece of hardware I’ve created - I’d remember this’ Tony declares.
‘Not if you haven’t invented it yet’ Cable tells him, frowning, and releasing another blast, which sends Iron Man backwards, right through the hull of the ship. Cable uses the energy to fly out of the hole after Iron Man, and he telepathically exclaims ‘Meet the future…futurist’ as he drops down into the water, where he and Iron Man engage each other in physical combat. ‘Hard enough keeping the Techno-Organic Virus…in check…have to run the armor too…my mind…my body...coming unwound’ Cable thinks to himself. Iron Man’s computer continues to scan, while Cable tells himself that he cannot fail, and that all the strength he needs comes from her - Hope.
Even under water he casts forth energy towards Iron Man, whose computer has suddenly come up with a plan. ‘Gotcha’ Tony mutters, while the computer initiates the override system, and Iron Man releases a huge amount of energy, striking Cable under water and sending him reeling backwards, deeper down beneath the waves.
Timeslide, somewhere in the future:‘Hope! Let’s get a move on. The sun will be coming up and we don’t want to be here when that happens’ Cable barks out. ’Let’s go!’ the young girl replies, wide-eyed. ‘What is that?’ Cable asks when he sees metal scraps wrapped around Hope’s arms. ‘Take it off. Now’ Cable orders. ‘I…just wanted to be like you’ Hope tells him. Cable looks at his cyborg body parts and tells the girl that she never wants to be like him, not like this. Hope turns and walks away, ‘Hope…I…’ Cable calls after her. ‘Time to go’ Hope replies, the metal dropped from her arms to the ground. ‘The sun will be coming up and we don’t wanna be here when that happens…’ Hope tells Cable.
Present:Cable tells himself that he only wanted what was best for her, that Hope knew that. ‘She must have known that…’ Iron Man flies up out of the water, carrying Cable’s motionless body with him. ‘You slipped up, old man. Whatever I build - past, present or now I now, future, is all based on the original Stark data code that I made the armor with. You were essentially wearing my DNA’ Iron Man explains. ‘Unless…that DNA has been corrupted’ Cable replies telepathically. He tells Stark that it is Askani, and explains that is a language he won’t hear for thousands of years. ‘But I grew up with it. Translation: You’ve been shut down’ Cable announces, as Iron Man’s armor suddenly flares up, and seemingly disables itself. ‘You slipped up, old man!’ Cable exclaims as he shoves his cyborg elbow against Stark’s armor, then using the strange power, takes flight, holding the unmoving Iron Man. Cable surges forward through the air, knowing that the virus is spreading into his lungs, he finds it harder to breathe. The image of Hope flares up in his eye, as she calls out to him.
Timeslide, somewhere in the future:‘Dad…?’ a slightly older Hope calls out as she walks beside Cable. ‘Hmmm…?’ Cable mutters back. Head down, Hope asks him what it is like - the Techno-Organic Virus, that is. ‘Darkness. Just out there at the edge of my mind’ Cable replies as they walk across a barren landscape. ‘Like when you can’t remember a name or a place. Except that you don’t want to remember it. So I have to continuously…subconsciously…use my telekinetic ability to keep it at bay’ he adds. ‘Always?’ the girl asks. ‘Always’ Cable tells her. ‘But…how can you?’ she asks. Cable explains that he just “does”, explaining that it is like people with cancer, no one gives you a second choice - you learn to live with it even though you know it’s killing you.
Hope tells Cable that sometimes she thinks about how his parents sent him into the future when he was just a baby, and how hard that must have been. ‘I would’ve died if they hadn’t…’ Cable points out, while Hope adds she thinks that is just like her, because Cable took her into the future to save her, as well. Cable reaches out and takes Hope’s hand and tells her that there is a difference, as he will never leave her.
Present:Tony Stark is trapped in one of the chairs that Captain America is held in also. Tony struggles to speak, but cannot. Cable tells him that he is wasting his time, and explains that these chairs were designed by Magneto, and that he used them on the X-Men. Cable reveals that somehow that technology will wind up in the Avengers’ hands, along with the Weapon X tube that the Falcon is bottled up in. He adds that there is more tech, too. Anti-mutant tech. ‘I want to know how and wh-’ Cable begins, when suddenly, a powerful weapons blast knocks him over. ‘I gotta admire a man with a really big gun collection’ the Red Hulk declares, standing over Cable, with the target pin-point of the gun aimed down at Cable.
Cable realizes that he doesn’t have anything left in him now, while the Hulk declares that they have a situation here, and informs Cable that he has read the SHIELD files on him. ‘Soldier. Time traveler. Mutant. Terrorist. And to top it off, you’re supposed to be dead’. The Red Hulk admits that he knows from experience that those accounts can be exaggerated.
Timeslide, somewhere in the future:‘Nathan. You’ve got to fight it!’ Hope exclaims as she crouches next to Cable, who has fallen to the ground, his body in agony.
Present:Cable can hear her voice. He looks up at the Red Hulk, who remarks that this freighter is booby-trapped six ways to Sunday, and that since he doesn’t know how much time they have before any of the C4 explosives goes off, one way or another, he is determined that Cable will tell him how to free the Avengers.
Timeslide, somewhere in the future:‘Come back to me!’ Hope calls out, tears forming in her eyes.
Present:‘My daughter…’ Cable thinks to himself. ‘Talbot…’ Cable whispers. ‘Who…?’ the Red Hulk asks. ‘…fought you before…and every time…you lose’ Cable declares.
Timeslide, somewhere in the future:‘You made me a promise!’ Hope exclaims as she continues to worry for Cable.
Present:The Red Hulk grins wickedly and tells Cable that he has had good and bad news. ‘The good news is you’re still alive. The bad news is - I’m not Talbot. And we’ve never met before. So you’re dealing with a Hulk of a different color…’
Timeslide, somewhere in the future:‘…you said…you would never leave me…’ Hope exclaims as tears stream down her face.
Present:As Cable’s face becomes completely overcome by the Techno-Organic Virus, looking completely like a robot, he tells himself ‘I made a promise to her…’
Captain America, Iron Man, Red Hulk (all Avengers)Falcon (inactive Avenger)Redwing
Living Laser & Radioactive Man (both Lethal Legion)
In flash-forwards to the futureCableHope
As an infant, Cable was sent into the future in X-Factor (1st series) #68.