Cable (1st series) #73

Issue Date: 
November 1999
Story Title: 

Joe Pruett & Rob Liefeld (storytellers), Larry Stucker with Dan Fraga (inks), Optic Studio (colors), RS & Comicraft’s Saida (letters), Mark Powers (editor), Bob Harras (chief)

Brief Description: 

Cable heads to X-Force’s base in San Francisco to warn them about the upcoming war against Apocalypse. Well aware he could die in the war to come, he bids his farewells to his former students. However, he strictly forbids them from becoming embroiled in this potentially deadly conflict. Naturally, the team are more than prepared to disobey him and come to his aid. In New York, Ozymandias, now freed from Apocalypse’s service, strikes an alliance with Blaquesmith. Meanwhile, Caliban, physically and mentally tampered with by Apocalypse and serving as Pestilence, his first horseman, arrives to San Francisco. After a brief altercation with an angry mob, Caliban succeeds in tracking down Cable and X-Force and vows he will destroy them all in the name of his master.

Full Summary: 

San Francisco bay. The Queen Cleopatra ship patiently sits, awaiting the dawn of a new day. Recently docked, she had returned from the ancient lands of the Middle East. Its crew sleeps, awaiting the morning light before unloading its bounty – with the exception of two, Boyd and Tom, who have privately decided that their wages earned do not match their wages desired.

The two men make their way into the cargo. Tom asks Boyd if he’s sure this is the hold with the Egyptian exhibit for the San Francisco Art Museum. Nobody’s been allowed down here since they left port. Boyd reminds him they’ve already been all over that. He got a good look at the inventory checklist for all the cargo, including their box numbers. The particular crate containing the Sapphire of the Sphinx should be right over here.

Eventually, they come across what is seemingly an enormous sarcophagus. “What the blazes is that thing?” Tom spontaneously exclaims. He doesn’t remember anything like that being loaded on board. Does Boyd? Boys reluctantly touches it: it’s warm… rock hard… almost a coral substance. If he didn’t know any better, he’d swear it was a cocoon of some sort.

Suddenly, the strange object begins to crack open. “Oh, my sweet Lord…” Boyd mumbles. There’s something inside… and it wants out! Finally, the structure bursts open in a loud explosion, sending the two men flying. The superhumanly strong, muscular, monstrous-looking mutant known as Caliban emerges and his first word is: “Cable.” Caliban announces he has returned after so many months of waiting… of hiding… of changing. The time has come for Caliban to walk once again amongst the weak. He knows what he has to do.

Boyd and Tom are, predictably, terrified. Stuttering, Tom asks Boyd what they should do. Boyd replies he doesn’t know; maybe the creature is friendly…? As if to deny this, Caliban roars and the two men flee. “Mutants,” Caliban bellows, as he exercises his mutant tracking ability. The one he has searched for is near… very near. So close he can almost taste him…

In the China basin district of San Francisco, Cable approaches the warehouse home of the outlaw mutant team known as X-Force, stealthily moving along the shadows of the abandoned perimeter. After months of separation, he returns to these people who are family to him. And there is a very particular reason why.

Suddenly, Domino ambushes Cable, landing on his back and forcing him to lie on the ground. She orders him on his feet; she’s not through with him yet. Without having seen her face yet, Cable assumes combat position, flaunting his staff. She may have caught him by surprise, but she’ll never catch him unprepared. She’s got about two seconds to step out of the shadows and reveal herself before she’s introduced to a new definition for pain. “Nice stick,” Domino scoffs. She notices he’s found a substitute for the heavy artillery. He may be modeling a new, slimmed-down look, but his stealth approach leaves a lot to be desired. What’s the matter? Is he getting old?

Cable finally recognizes her as she steps out of the shadows. He wonders if she welcomes all her guests this cordially – or is he the exception? Domino banters it was well deserved and way overdue. Cable apologizes: if this is about what happened in Hell’s Kitchen, he’s sorry. It was never his intention to hurt her. He was just confused, rediscovering himself, after so many years focusing only on his mission here. It was time for him to quit trying to be a messiah without first experiencing life as a person.

Domino reminds him he hasn’t exactly been a spokesman for AT&T since leaving X-Force behind. Cable applauds her: Domino, for not being a telepath, had always had a way of reading his mind. He rattles off the list of things that happened to him recently: The Harbinger; a cryptic message from Rachel; the Twelve. If they don’t know who or what they’re sacrificing their lives with, then what’s the reason to continue the fight?

Domino remarks that everything that comes out of his mouth sounds like a political address. She suggests they cut to the chase: Why here? Why now? Cable reminds her he’s lived and prepared his entire life to be here at this precise moment in time. Either he’ll fulfill his destiny… or he’ll die. Simple as that. That’s why he’s come to say his goodbyes.

In New York City, in Cable’s safe house, secreted in Hell’s Kitchen, Ozymandias moves like an apparition, neither alive nor dead. Recently freed, he now seeks to prevent the ascension of his onetime master, Apocalypse. His desire for redemption – or is it revenge? – has brought him into a very unlikely alliance with Blaquesmith. Ozymandias greets Blaquesmith and announces it is time. Is Blaquesmith’s pupil ready? “I pray so, ancient one,” Blaquesmith can only reply.

Back in X-Force’s headquarters, Cannonball and Jesse Bedlam are playing a video game, competing against each other, while the rest of the team, comprised of Sunspot, Meltdown, Warpath and Dani Moonstar, watch. Cable walks into the room. A few short months ago, they broke away on their own. He let them go. It’s a decision that has weighed heavily on him ever since. He’s not sure of what welcome he’ll receive when he walks back into their lives but past experience has taught him to be prepared for the worst.

Domino introduces him: “Anybody want to see what I found lurking around outside?” “No way!” Meltdown exclaims on seeing Cable and screeches his name, before she jumps into his arms and hugs him. Nathan awkwardly greets her. “Cable? Talk about cruelty to children,” Bedlam remarks upon hearing Nathan’s codename, without having set eyes on him yet, still absorbed in his game. What kind of mother would put her own child through life with a name like that?

Cable grabs Bedlam’s shoulder, startling him. “You must be Jesse Bedlam,” he tells him, knowing all about him already. Former operative of the M.U.S.E., the Mutant Underground Support Engine. Born with the ability to create a bio-electronic field capable of disrupting mechanical and electronic devices. Bedlam admits that the other guys weren’t kidding: Cable is one scary mother.

Cable and Cannonball face each other, their awkwardness palpable. Nathan is glad to see Sam back with X-Force. It’s where he belongs. Sam assumes he always knew that but he had to find out for himself. Finally, the two men embrace. Sam admits it’s good to see him; it’s been a while.

Cable sits among his former students, enjoying the closeness and warmth that comes from the cohesive bond that is a family and remembering that a famous writer once asserted that “you can never go home again.” Thinking this literary line over, he is glad it is the exception and not the rule. He has come home – and the fact it may be for the last time makes it that much more poignant.

Since nobody else seems to want to volunteer any information on the subject, it’s up for Nathan to ask the obvious: where’s Theresa? Meltdown mumbles something. Moonstar is surprised Cable doesn’t know. Domino struggles to explain and Warpath finally reveals she’s gone; she’s left X-Force. Cannonball explains that a few weeks back they found themselves in a battle against the New Hellions to save the entire West Coast. Their old X-Force buddy, Feral, slashed Theresa’s throat open. Sunspot was able to get her to a hospital in time to save her life, but her voice was another matter. She was depressed and confused and left in the middle of the night. Meltdown explains they haven’t heard from her since. She left a note, saying she needed time to come to terms with what her injury may mean to her, not only the loss of her voice but of her power as well. Moonstar adds that Siryn asked for privacy and they’ve decided to respect her wish.

Cable reflects on Feral. He had thought he could teach her… tame the savage beast. It was a mistake to bring her into X-Force. First, she attacked Cannonball and now Siryn. He should have taken care of her when he had the chance. If she did it once, it stands to reason she would do so again.

Dani reminds him they’re not his students anymore and, as such, not his responsibility. They know what they’re doing and what to expect. None of them are naïve about the world and the way it works. They’re going to make mistakes, but they’re going to learn by them. Theresa knows as well as any of them what the risks are, but she chooses to fight and not give up. Feral may have been a mistake, but none of them can fault Cable’s decisions or his heart. They can’t dwell on what happened. They just have to move on and face the next tomorrow.

Nathan doesn’t know what to say. He’d like to think if he’d been there things would have been different, but he’s really not so sure. X-Force isn’t the wet-behind-the-ears bunch he first recruited. They’ve grown… matured… become men and women. He’s a better man for having known each and every one of them. And for that he’ll always be grateful. Having said that, there’s something else he needs to share with all of them.

He produces a CD and reveals that it contains the location to every safe house he has across the globe, along with other survival information they may find crucial in the months to come. The CD is theirs to keep. He’s presenting it to them now because his time with them grows short. It’s very possible that in the immediate future he will die.

Meanwhile, nearby, the savage Caliban is in pursuit of Cable. Months have passed since his abrupt disappearance from the team. Not only his physical appearance, but also his innocent soul has been perverted by his master, Apocalypse. Today he has returned not as the childlike being they once knew as friend, but as an agent of destruction and death. He senses that Cable is near, as are others he once called friends. He realizes he will need to camouflage to hide his ugliness from the city’s surface dwellers, and will also needs nourishment to give him strength. After grabbing a shirt and a pair of pants from a laundry line, he begins rummaging through a dustbin.

A boy shows up and expresses the view that Caliban isn’t going to find any food in there worth eating. Caliban grits his teeth: isn’t the boy afraid of him? Smirking, the boy insists he isn’t. Caliban looks like some wrestler he saw on TV once – “the Mutant Marauder” or something like that. He’s a bad guy, but his dad tells him it’s all fake and the wrestlers are really good friends when they’re not fighting. He asks Caliban if that’s true. Without waiting for a reply, he asks Caliban if he’s hungry and reveals his dad has got a restaurant down here. His father has to bring him to work with him on account of the boy’s mother dying about a year ago. Maybe they can sneak up some scraps when his dad’s not looking. The boy admits he does it all the time when he’s hungry.

Caliban is still incredulous: does his face not frighten the boy? The boy recalls his mother telling him “don’t judge a book by its cover” and he tries not to. Plus, he saw The Elephant Man once. It was pretty sad. The Elephant Man just needed a friend and the boy thought, if he ever had the chance, he would be his friend. The boy then leaves and promptly returns with some food on a tray. He got some bread and a little bit of some kind of pasta dish. He’s confident Caliban will like it; his father’s a great cook.

As they sit down to have their meal, the boy’s father appears with a shotgun. He asks his son, Tommy, to come over to him, carefully, slowly, with no sudden moves. Trembling with fear, the man advises Tommy not to do anything to startle the monster.

Tommy, however, refuses to move, and stands in front of Caliban, facing his father. His father is at loss: what is he doing? He demands he get away from that thing! Tommy begs him not to shoot. Caliban is not a monster; he’s his friend! He can’t shoot him! His father insists Tommy step away – now. As Caliban turns around to leave, Tommy asks him not to and assures him he won’t let anyone hurt him. As the boy goes after Caliban, he is run over by a truck.

Now carrying his unconscious, injured son, the father urges him to hold on. He’ll get him to the hospital… everything’s going to be just fine. Furious, he turns to Caliban: he did this! He hurt his boy! Caliban acknowledges that the boy was kind to him; Tommy was Caliban’s friend. Caliban has not had many friends. Tommy’s father had a gun and threatened Caliban. Caliban only ran away so that no harm would come to the little boy. “Liar!” the man screams. He’ll see Caliban burn if his boy dies.

Hearing all this commotion, a crowd begins to gathering around them. So many questions are on their lips: Did the man say this thing’s a mutant? Did he kill that boy? “Burning’s too good for ‘em, if you ask me,” another person opines. As the angry mob is spurred on by the father’s rage, Caliban remembers a time when he would have fled to escape the approaching confrontation… but as the gathering mob is soon to discover for themselves, this is no longer the same Caliban.

In X-Force’s headquarters, Meltdown asks Cable not to talk of death. Cable insists he doesn’t mean to scare them. He’s just being realistic. All of them know that he came back to the twentieth century to prevent something horrible. Where he comes from, there is none of this. No schools, no careers, no happy families, no civilization. Apocalypse was – or will be – responsible for this, if Cable doesn’t stop him now. And the final battle is coming. Nathan’s never been particularly good at expressing what’s inside. He wanted each of them to know how he felt – how proud he is of them all. No matter what happens, he’ll never forget them.

Tabitha reminds him that X-Force and Cable are a team. If he has to fight Apocalypse, they’re going to be there with him. Cable insists they won’t and tells her he’s sorry. Sam isn’t sure he likes what Cable’s been trying to tell them. If he thinks they’re about to let him run off into a situation he doesn’t think he’ll be walking out alive, then he doesn’t know them as well as he thought – no disrespect intended. “None taken,” Cable replies. But if none of them understand what he’s saying, he’ll make it plain and simple. They’re not going. End of the debate.   

Domino intervenes and reminds the team that she knows Cable better than anyone. People skills are not his forte; strategic planning is. X-Force may be needed elsewhere. Not as the first wave of attack, but as fresh reinforcements for when the fighting intensifies. They’re the ace in the hole in case something goes wrong. They may be mankind’s last line of defense.

Bedlam wonders why everyone’s so eager to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. Cable as much as told them to butt out. As he said, this is his business. If he wants to pull the ‘lone wolf’ act, then, by all means, they should let him.

“Back off, amigo,” Sunspot snaps at him. Until he knows the history the rest of them have with Cable, he doesn’t think it’s Bedlam’s place to give them uninformed opinion. Cable saved their lives more times than he remembers and given some of them second chances they otherwise would not have had. Bedlam angrily apologizes. He didn’t mean to insult their drill sergeant. Cannonball argues this is not the time to fight among themselves. They have to stay focused on what’s important, on what may be expected of them. Nathan agrees that Sam’s got a point.

The discussion is interrupted by a couple of nearby gunshots. Cable wonders what the blazes that was. Sam suggests it sounds like there’s some kind of commotion down towards the fisherman’s wharf. What that a gunshot he just heard? More like multiple shots, Cable suggests; police issue, by the sound of them. He asks Sam to give them reconnaissance. He is to let them know where things stand, but do it quietly.

At that precise moment, Cable’s telepathy picks up something headed their way. Its mind is in turmoil, its thoughts are malignant. He wants to pull away from it but he can’t. He tells everyone to assume battle positions: they are about to have incoming! Sunspot flares up and announces he’s ready. “So am I… I think,” Bedlam hesitantly adds. Cannonball asks Cable who their attacker is.

Before Nathan has the time to answer, Caliban breaks into the room. The prophecies have been fulfilled, and though it makes Caliban sad, they must all be destroyed! Caliban thought Cable was his friend, but Cable abandoned him and forgot about him. Now Caliban has become something else. Now, he is Pestilence, the first Horseman of the Apocalypse. With dawning horror, Cable remembers the tunnels and Caliban’s terror. He also remembers Ozymandias’ voice: “You are to believe that you left Caliban safe in the care of a trusted friend. By the time this illusion fades, it will be too late. Such is the will of En Sabah Nur.

Nathan realizes Caliban didn’t leave X-Force. He was taken and it happened right under his nose. Now he has to fight him – or watch X-Force die.

Characters Involved: 

Bedlam, Cannonball, Domino, Meltdown, Moonstar, Sunspot, Warpath (all X-Force)

Caliban/Pestilence (Horseman of Apocalypse, former X-Force)


Boyd, Tom, Tommy and other people in San Francisco


Story Notes: 

Ozymandias abducted Caliban on behalf of Apocalypse, giving Nathan the hypnotic suggestion that Caliban is being treated by a friend, in X-Force (1st series) #70. X-Force parted ways with Cable in the same issue.

Cable and Domino had an argument in Hell’s Kitchen back in Cable (1st series) #55.

Cable confronted the Harbinger of Apocalypse in Cable (1st series) #65-68.

Cable last encountered Rachel Summers in Cable (1st series) #71.

Ozymandias was freed from Apocalypse’s service in Cable (1st series) #53.

X-Force fought New Hellions in X-Force (1st series) #87-90. Feral slashed Siryn’s vocal cords, causing her to lose her voice in X-Force (1st series) #90. Siryn quit the team in X-Force (1st series) #91.

Feral attacked Cannonball way back in X-Force (1st series) #2.

David Lynch’s 1980 film The Elephant Man recounts the life of Joseph Merrick, a man well-known in Victorian England for his severe face and body deformities.

You Can’t Go Home Again is the title of a 1940 novel by Thomas Wolfe.

Written By: