Warren Worthington III had no idea
the horrible danger he had stumbled upon until it was too late.
After the incident with his father’s laboratory and the controversial “cure,” Warren decided to officially join Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, a place he felt he belonged. Not only that, but he asked Ororo Munroe, the headmistress, if he could join the exclusive X-Men, an honor bestowed upon only the most deserving faculty and students. Known for their heroic deeds, the X-Men were a clandestine group based out of the school who had gained notoriety around the country.
Several months passed, and Warren continued to mature, both personally and in the use of his powers. Affectionately dubbed Angel, he was strikingly handsome with sandy blond hair messily swept back from his face, a lean body, and a confident posture. But the thing that garnered him the name, which he now used as his official codename, was the pair of radiant white wings protruding from his back. With his broad wings fully outstretched, he was an amazing sight to behold. He had learned more about himself and flying than he ever thought possible, thanks to the other resident flyers, Ororo Munroe and Sean Cassidy.
After a mysterious call from Moira MacTaggert from Muir Island, Hank McCoy talked to the team about heading down to Egypt. She had detected a strange spike of mutant energy that had disappeared nearly as quickly as it had appeared. Hank conferred with the team and suggested an immediate investigation. Unbeknownst to Hank, Warren immediately recognized one of the projects his father’s company now sponsored, which happened to be within the same vicinity of the incident.
Sponsoring several archeological digs, Worthington Labs now sought to research human evolution, to include the recent emergence of mutants, through fossils and long-buried clues, which recently had shown that some of the gods ancient civilizations worshipped could have in fact been mutants. They had made astounding progress in their endeavor and had attracted worldwide praise and criticism for their findings.
Warren made light of the anomalous spike and announced that he would travel to Egypt and investigate. Since it was his father’s company, he figured it would be easier to maneuver through the red tape if he went alone. Getting a private jet was easy, and a follow-on helicopter ride would get him directly to the site. Reluctant, Ororo agreed only after several reassurances from him, coupled with a promise to stay in constant contact with the school.
He left the same day, managing some sleep during the plane ride to Egypt. Once at the airport, he transitioned to the helicopter, which arrived at the site in less than thirty minutes.
Warren leaped from the helicopter, dressed in khakis, hiking boots, and a t-shirt. His wings were bound underneath a jacket as to not attract unwanted and unnecessary attention. He covered his face as he squinted through the dust storm the helicopter kicked up. He spotted a woman waving to him through the haze, and Warren quickly closed the distance between them as the helicopter took off.
“Warren Worthington?” she shouted over the roar of the helicopter.
He nodded, throat still scratchy from some dust he had inadvertently inhaled. When his bout of coughing subsided, he regarded the woman with a smile. He had imagined someone much older with thick glasses, leathery skin, and a crackly voice. But she was the total opposite of that. If anything, she had some rather unique qualities about her.
The first was her hair and eyebrows, colored a subdued green. Against her fair skin, it actually seemed natural. In addition, her emerald green eyes twinkled with both curiosity and confidence. Her khaki shorts showed off long, toned legs, and her button down shirt, which was tied at the waist, exposed a fine set of abs and a curvaceous bust line.
Meeting Warren’s gaze, she stuck out her hand and introduced herself as Lorna Dane, and immediately began leading him to another location. “I’m in charge of this excavation. How much do you know about this dig?”
“Only what Dr. McCoy told me. There was a strange flux of energy in the area, which registered on our computers and some of the equipment at Muir Island. We’re just making sure there’s no trouble.”
“I understand. As you know, we’re searching for evidence of the existence of mutants before now, which has led us to this spot. We found some old scrolls that told of an entity called En Sabah Nur.” As if knowing Warren was going to ask a question, Lorna added, “It means the first one.”
“The first one of what?”
Lorna stopped for a moment. “It’s highly believed and supported by texts we’ve deciphered that this person could have been the first mutant.” She began walking and Warren followed, for some reason chilled by what he just heard.
They continued through a makeshift tent city. There were a few other notable people standing about, but Lorna ignored most of them and headed straight toward two men that didn’t look pleased at all with Warren’s presence.
Lorna noticed their expressions and glanced at Warren. “That’s Shiro Yoshida,” she paused for effect, “and a mutant. He’s a renowned superhero in his country. Shiro’s here as a representative of Japan, who helped finance a portion of this dig.”
She then motioned to the other with a quick head nod. “And that’s Hector Caliban. He’s been doing digs like this for years, an expert. Despite his rough attitude, he’s been an invaluable asset to this project.”
“And what about you?”
She smiled. “I’m a geophysicist. I’ve been running this entire excavation since it started.” Lorna led him to the two men standing next to one of the larger tents in the camp.
“I thought you said one of the X-Men was coming along,” Hector pointedly said, giving Warren a withering glance. “I was expecting that beautiful African or maybe that sultry red-head. Even that Southern belle would have been nice. But this guy is just the head honcho’s son.”
“Why is he here, Lorna?” Shiro asked, as if making it a point to give Warren the sense that he was an unwelcome outsider.
She replied, “Warren’s here on behalf of the X-Men, endorsed by Dr. Hank McCoy. They detected a subtle power spike with their equipment as well. Since this excursion is funded by Worthington Incorporated, Warren volunteered to assist.”
“I don’t need some high-flying, rich boy X-Man tagging along,” Hector shot.
“And I really don’t need a loud-mouthed, obnoxious dimwit with us either. But we don’t get to choose our company. So like it or not, Warren’s with us.” Lorna locked eyes with Hector, readily accepting his challenge, praying that he would take it a step farther. But Hector conceded, waving his hands in surrender.
“Whatever,” Hector resigned. He obviously blew the comment off and began to prep his backpack for the descent.
Lorna gave a smirk of triumph then began barking orders. “Okay, let’s get ready to enter the tomb. Doug, monitor our progress,” she called over to the computer technician. He threw a thumbs-up her way, then returned to his work, seemingly at home with the computers. Doug Ramsey looked like he was much more suited to monitor their progress than to actually be in the tomb, uncovering ancient mysteries.
A mild-mannered technician, Doug’s boyish face betrayed his young age and the vast amount of intelligence he had, having been recruited to participate in such an important undertaking. Shaggy blond hair managed to fall into his eyes after a few minutes of typing, which he automatically swept back to the left, leaving his dark brown eyes to continue scanning the computer screen without obstruction.
“We’ll be in radio contact with you the entire time,” Doug turned halfway from the computer. “You all should be careful down there.”
Lorna smiled, surprised by his genuine concern. It was really the first time she had to deal with him since they first started. Most of the time, she managed the dig from the nerve center, never really venturing out into the field. But with her boyfriend, Alex Summers, currently working for Dr. Nathaniel Essex, Lorna felt she needed something to take her mind off the fact that she missed him.
Lorna turned back to Shiro and Hector. “Are you two ready to go?”
They both nodded, grabbing their respective equipment. Hector had a palm-sized console that looked expensive and sophisticated. Shiro threw a worn satchel over his shoulder and fell in behind Lorna and Warren. Hector took up the rear.
Warren glanced back and noticed Shiro and Hector were far enough away not to hear if he whispered something to Lorna, if super hearing wasn’t one of their powers.
“Hey, thanks for earlier,” Warren whispered.
Lorna smiled, her voice just a little above a whisper. “No problem. You just have to know how to handle these guys. Are you ready for this?”
Warren nodded assuredly as Lorna led them into the depths of the tomb. As they progressed, Warren noticed Hector taking readings with the device he had, while Shiro had taken out a small notebook and scribbled annotations every so often. Lorna’s flashlight bobbed back and forth as they seemingly walked for hours. Warren was caught a little off guard by the size of the hallways. There was no way he could fly through such a small space.
They crossed a bridge that teetered over nothing then ended in a large room. Warren expected to see gold and antique treasures scattered about. But the room was bare, save a rather large casket against the far wall. Movement from the other side of the room caught Warren’s eye.
“Who’s there?” he called.
The figure stepped into the dim light, his face still hidden by shadows. Assuming it was a he, the man was dressed in a long robe with a sash across the chest, one that Warren always imagined prophets or philosophers to wear.
“Welcome,” the man’s gravelly voice echoed in the tomb. “You must be here to place an offering for my lord.”
Lorna shined her flashlight in the man’s direction. “Offering? No, not at all. Are you lost?” Lorna assumed that the man was a native that had somehow gotten past their security, which was supposed to be impenetrable, and gotten turned around down here. There was no telling how long he had been wandering around, but because he didn’t seem to have any food or water, it couldn’t have been more than a few hours at most.
“Lost?” the man repeated and chuckled, a deep, throaty laugh that boomed off the walls. “No, child, not lost.”
“Who the hell are you then?” Hector probed.
The man stepped forward. Warren immediately noticed that something was quite wrong with him. His clothing, face, and hands were all the color of wet sand, somehow animated by means incomprehensible to Warren.
“My name is Ozymandias,” he replied. “And you should watch your tongue in the presence of the great Apocalypse.”
“Apocalypse?” Lorna repeated, feeling that they had uncovered something dangerous. “This is the burial location of En Sabah Nur, the first one.”
“One in the same,” Ozymandias answered calmly. “Come, step forward to pay tribute to the great Apocalypse.”
“We are not here for offerings,” Shiro replied with heightened tension.
Ozymandias suddenly regarded them with disgust. “If you are not here to give offerings, then you must be tomb raiders. And as such, you will be punished.”
“Punished?” Shiro drew his hand across the air, a band of flames leaving behind a trail which quickly dissipated. “No one will be punished on this day.”
“Shiro, wait!” Lorna cried, but the warning came too late. Shiro let a blazing fireball rip forward toward Ozymandias. The strange messenger stood fast as the infernal flames wrapped around him, scorching the ground around him.
“Too hot for you, fly boy?” Hector jeered, noticing Warren’s expression.
Warren stood in shock and surprise. Shiro had lashed out without hesitation, burning the strange man to a crisp. Or so he thought.
The flames flickering around Ozymandias quickly dissipated, and the older man stood in front of them, regarding them with an unhealthy interest. “I should have seen it before. My prophesy was correct. You four are the Horsemen, foretold many, many moons ago. The time has come for Apocalypse to awaken and begin his reign once again.”
Warren felt a pit form in his stomach. He suddenly felt as if they had made a terrible mistake by coming here. They couldn’t do this by themselves, not this far underground. They had to get help or at least get back to the site. They had to contain whatever his Apocalypse was before it escaped. “We’ve got to get out of here,” he quickly interjected, leaving no room for argument.
But before they could move an inch, the stone top to the casket flew off and landed with a clatter several feet away. A hand appeared over the side and a hulking body followed behind. Now fully standing, the one Warren assumed was Apocalypse loomed over them, at least eight feet tall. Covered with various shades of cerulean armor, the gray-faced, blue-lipped giant stood and crossed his arms, studying each of them with pupil-less eyes.
“My lord,” Ozymandias reverently whispered as he fell to one knee.
“It is time, isn’t it, Ozymandias?”
“Just as I prophesized, my lord. And your four horsemen have arrived to serve you.”
Apocalypse’s unnaturally wide mouth erupted into a hideous smile. “Four mutants, worthy of serving me, have offered themselves to become my new horsemen?” Without waiting for an answer, he then said, “Then I shall grant you your desire.”
Warren opened his mouth to protest, but the air was knocked out of him as he was thrown by an unseen force into a pod that he only now noticed. While he flailed through the air, he noticed the other three suffering the same fate. Then he landed inside and the pod sealed shut.
Warren’s blood was racing and he could feel his heart pounding out of his chest. All he could think about was trying to contact the others. He knew that they had stumbled into something way over their heads, but there was no way that he would be able to warn the X-Men.
Warren then heard muffled protests of alarm coming from the other pods, which meant that everyone else was okay. He pushed on the glass window, eventually pounding furiously, in an attempt to escape. Though he knew that they were far past the point where they could possibly get away.
Apocalypse leaned toward Warren, as he beat on the inside of the glass. “Soon, my archangel, we shall weed the weak from the strong and lord over all creation.”
That was the last thing Warren heard before a shroud of darkness covered him. And then the screams began.