A Test of Power
Men of war have long known that
warriors must often abandon
those verities they defend: peace, human kindness, love...
for they hold no meaning to the enemy. And so to win, do we
become what we despise, and despise what we become?
The blustery and frigid winter day could only partially dispel
the fetid odor that emanated from the Bethpage landfill. Neither
the smell nor the landfill itself were remarkable for Long
Island. Even though environmental politics and recycling were
in vogue, a few operating facilities still remained. Their
eventual promised closing would make a wonderful political
platform for a savvy local politician seeking office. In an
otherwise completely flat landscape, these manmade mountains
were actually the highest points on the island and, if one
were so inclined, offered an excellent view of both the Atlantic
Ocean and Manhattan. What distinguished this waste facility
from all the others was not discernable from ground level
but was located approximately two hundred and fifty feet below
Eight-hundred thousand years ago, a vast alien underground
complex was left here by the Celestials, a space-fairing race
of giants as old and mysterious as the universe itself. This
enormous complex contained a virtual treasure trove of seemingly
abandoned technology -- technology that was so beyond the
current standard it might be confused with magic.
During the thousands of years that the complex had been on
Earth, only two of its natives had physically ever set foot
inside the structure. At first glance, to say these individuals
were aliens might be closer to the truth than to classify
them as human. Although both were born of this earth, they
in no way resembled what would be considered the norm for
human beings, but were of a superior breed of human: namely,
mutants. But to classify one of the occupants of this complex
as simply a mutant would be a grievous error.
The irony of a base located under tons of human garbage and
refuse was not lost on the present owner and operator of this
stronghold. When he had first found this abandoned Celestial
monitoring station over four hundred years ago and converted
it for his own personal use, even he could not have forecasted
that the acres of land above the base would be used to bury
the waste of hundreds of thousands of human beings. But he
soon came to realize that layer upon layer of waste composed
of every conceivable material, all covered by layers of specialized
sand, was the best and most maintenance-free camouflage possible.
In addition, with the methane gas byproduct burned off by
the decaying garbage, even advanced thermal imaging satellites
would see nothing out of the ordinary. He considered this
his most important and secure facility.
Amidst a room littered with other worldly machines and advanced
technology, the immense stone throne that occupied the corner
of the dimly lit room was strangely out of place. The throne
itself was the only human comfort, if one considered
a cold, granular stone chair thousands of years old a comfort.
It was more of a personal item and had nothing to do with
physical comfort at all. Apocalypse had placed and positioned
the 20-ton rock-hewn throne in this very room himself.
The origin of this throne and the identity of its fabricators
would have solved a centuries-old archeological enigma. One
of the most ancient tombs, if not the most ancient, the Temple
of Hatsheput was found by Howard Carter in 1902 completely
intact and undisturbed. Carter fully expected to find Amenhotep
I and his two sons inside the gigantic structure. But the
sealed tomb and sarcophagi were empty and no record was ever
found to account for this mystery. Their bodies were never
mummified and prepared to facilitate their journey into the
afterlife befitting their position. Instead, if the truth
were known, they were left to rot out in the open sands, food
for the desert carrion.
In 1353 BC, Apocalypse had chosen three individuals to carve
his throne, not for their skill in stone cutting, but as punishment.
Amenhotep, one of the first pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty,
and his two children had been given this honor. Amenhotep
and his sons had labored at the base of the Theban Peak, called
el-Qurna by the natives, for over a year. Upon completion
of this task and without a single word, Apocalypse easily
lifted the ponderous rock and brought it crashing down on
his royal slaves. Their emaciated bodies were crushed,
mercifully ending their year of hellish servitude.
The pharaoh and his sons had also been told to carve their
names into the base of the stone. What they were mercifully
unaware of was that after their death, Apocalypse had pulverized
some of their remains by grinding their skulls into each of
the respective hieroglyphics that represented their names.
This was all done in the presence of Apocalypse's millennium-old
slave Ozymandias. Whether it was meant to serve as an example
or just a cruel whim of Apocalypse, Ozymandias did not know.
But his present position of servitude after thousands of years
was a testament to Apocalypse's intense dislike of men born
into power or wealth, as well as the complete obedience he
managed to instill.
Apocalypse's booming voice suddenly
issued from the shadows reverberating off the walls. He leaned
forward on the throne scanning his surroundings, his cold
luminous eyes matching the unearthly glow that emanated from
the alien machines. "I will no longer permit you to observe
me clandestinely Watcher. Show yourself, Uatu, or I
will expel you from my home."
The twenty-foot form of Uatu materialized just to the right
of Apocalypse, suspended ten feet above the floor. A large
bulbous head completely out of proportion with an extremely
slight body, the Watcher resembled more of a caricature of
a human being than an alien. Clothed in flowing white robes
reminiscent of members of the ancient Roman Senate, the Watcher
spoke in a quiet voice that was almost effeminate. His docile
temperament and gentle mannerisms belied a being of enormous
cosmic might and resources. "You were able to detect my presence
before I allowed it ... impressive. Have you recently discovered
a new piece of pilfered Celestial technology or has your unique
mutant physiology manifested a new ability?"
"I am a newborn babe in comparison to you and your venerable
race of observers." Apocalypse emphasized the
word observers, his voice thick with disgust. "Use your great
powers of observation and tell me."
Uatu ignored the sarcasm. Apocalypse had made it very clear
during one of their many past encounters that he despised
apathy and inaction. To Apocalypse, the entire race of Watchers
represented everything that he loathed and considered weak.
"You believe that you now have the means to not only bar me
from observing you, but to forcibly remove me?"
"You have always been a source of interest to me, Uatu. That,
and only that is why I tolerate your presence. Rest assured,
should my tolerance waver, you will have an answer to your
question," Apocalypse said, eyes narrowing. "You are here
to impart some information and observe my reaction no doubt,"
Apocalypse said brusquely.
"Impart? No. I only wish to observe your reaction to information
that you are already in possession of. Sinister has begun
in earnest to move against you."
Apocalypse smiled. "Of course."
"And this brings you some measure of pleasure?" Uatu had
an open look of curiosity on his normally expressionless face.
"I have been witness to some of the most devious and conspiratorial
minds in human history. Sinister should not be underestimated.
His exposure to Celestial science has allowed him to leap
so far ahead of even the most brilliant minds on your planet.
There is no telling what he may yet achieve. His brilliance
may prove to be your undoing."
"He is precisely what I expect him to be. I freed his mind
and body from the shackles of convention and time. He was
chosen for his genius and strength of will. His exposure to
Celestial technology was carefully orchestrated and achieved
the results I desired. And should he usurp me, so be it. That
is the natural order of things."
"Exactly what are the results you desire?" The Watcher
asked his question in an unusually pointed manner, revealing
that he had devoted a great deal of thought to the subject.
"There are mysteries that surround you that even I have been
unable to discern ... and that should be impossible, which
in itself is another mystery. Your barbaric and primitive
nature defined by your predilection for public violence is
all that you have allowed your enemies to see. Your ideas
and goals are regarded as simplistic, no different than the
countless tyrants that your world seems to produce in abundance.
I contend that they are anything but simplistic. Your objectives
while hardly benign, are not as desultory as they seem to
Apocalypse regarded Uatu for several moments before responding,
his voice sounding like the rumbling of a dormant volcano
that was slowly coming to life. "What other questions about
me plague you, Watcher?"
Uatu also paused for several moments before responding, choosing
his words carefully. Apocalypse rarely spoke a length about
his plans, let alone entertained questions. "At any time during
the course of human history you could have easily subjugated
the entire world's populace without any effort, yet you have
not. Even to someone who is not native to this world and based
on your martial philosophy, this has always seemed incongruous.
It is, unfortunately, not the way of your kind. And to now struggle
for dominance in the present when there are vastly greater forces
that can be brought to bear against you is sheer insanity. What
better way to control the survival of the fittest philosophy
that you profess to adhere to with you as humanity's sole ruler?
Why let history unfold the way it has? Why allow people and
resources to be wasted on imaginary border disputes, provincialism,
or petty squabbles? Why allow scientific pursuits and ideas
to be squelched by ruthless dictators, religious zealots and
"One could argue that the conditions of war, want, conflict
and strife are necessary ingredients for the maturation of
most successful species. While this is sadly true, you, Apocalypse,
were uniquely in a position and have the power to create this
state yet improve upon it a thousand fold.
"For the physical traits that you so value, you could have
forcibly bred the strong as you deemed appropriate;
primitive genetic manipulation by ensuring that only the most
fit bred with the most fit. You could have easily created
the fighting and the accompanying harsh environments that
you hold are the forge of the mighty, all the while maintaining
enough control to eliminate the waste of open warfare. Think
of how throughout your history scientists and visionaries
were imprisoned or killed because of religious or political
beliefs. Throughout your lifetime you witnessed weak and cowardly
men by any standards, in positions of power actively stunting
the growth of your race. Yet you chose to sit idly and observe
what transpired. Where were you, Apocalypse, and why did you
not see fit to 'cull the weak from the strong'?" Actual emotion
had crept into the Uatu's voice.
"You have clear knowledge of future realities where you have
attained complete power in the manner you currently advocate.
In all those realities your world is on the brink of complete
collapse, your race on the precipice of total extinction.
This is the condition that you believe will allow humanity
to compete with other more technologically advanced races
and spread among the stars?"
Uatu continued, not even pausing to allow Apocalypse, if
he were so inclined, to answer any of his questions. "The
Celestial technology that you possess and have jealously hoarded
for centuries could have been shared with the greatest minds
throughout your history. Think of where mankind would be today,
technologically, if you had gathered these minds together,
allowing them to study and share in the utilization of these
future marvels. The S'hiar and the Skrulls would be technological
children in comparison. Yet you have done nothing to protect
against the very aliens that you claim are a threat."
Apocalypse's face was like granite, expressionless. Yet Uatu
could somehow tell that he had Apocalypse's attention and
that he was listening intently.
"Another mystery that has perplexed me is how you were first
able to gain entrance to a sentient Celestial device. (1)
I am the only individual on this planet, perhaps even within
a thousand light-years, who possesses any knowledge pertaining
to automated Celestial tools. Are you aware that it is impossible
for any species other than the Celestials to access and
operate any of their devices? Certainly a prudent precaution
because the results could be catastrophic. My own race has similar
safeguards against any of our technology falling into the hands
of any of the more primitive races. Failure to have adequate
safeguards in place would be an equivalent transgression to
direct interference with an alien culture. The Celestials are
even more judicious concerning their technology. Even I
would be unable to utilize their technology, forcibly or otherwise.
Accidental possession or operation of any their equipment would
bring about an immediate response from the Celestials themselves.
Yet here you sit in an abandoned Celestial monitoring station
using technology that is forbidden to any race other than the
Celestials. You operated 'Ship' for centuries completely unhampered.
And even more puzzling: your ability to operate devices well
beyond even the most learned individuals in you scientific community
... devices constructed to respond only to the mental
signature of a Celestial ... devices suited to aliens
thousands of feet tall. Yet some of the devices I see before
me have some how been tailored to suit your needs. What
you have accomplished is categorically impossible. Despite your
impressive prowess in several areas, you have absolutely no
aptitude for any of the scientific disciplines. That is why
you chose Sinister to aid you due to your own extremely limited
capability in that area."
Uatu expected an invective. He hoped for one, which spoke
of his desperation. He knew that Apocalypse would not answer
any questions directly but thought if he could trigger an
uncontrolled emotional response, it might reveal something.
Apocalypse's eyes glowed like molten ingots of white-hot
steel. "You seek to uncover a conspiracy where none exists."
His voice remained low but contained a menacing intensity
like the sound of distant rolling thunder of an impending
storm. "My contempt for your ilk is readily apparent. I have
concealed nothing about my agenda. You and the rest of the
alien filth pervade this planet like a disease. Skrulls, S'hiar,
Kree, even your lifeless race seek to control or dominate
humanity in one form or another. They are inferiors ... you
are inferior and will fail. I would reduce this planet to
a smoldering cinder before I allow you or anyone else dictate
its future. My goal is an evolutionary necessity, to elevate
the natural inhabitants of this world ... to put humanity
on an equal ground with the myriad of older races of this
galaxy. Only through superior strength will we be allowed
to dictate and govern our ultimate destiny. If it is at the
expense of another individual, a thousand, or an entire race,
so be it. You well know that without my intervention, this
world would have fallen prey to invaders several times. I
simply seek to insure that my race survives, no more, no less.
I will guide its ascendance as I always have. And should I
have discovered a means to aid me in this endeavor, only a
fool would choose to ignore it ... or share it.
"Over time, I have come to understand you and your fellow
Watchers. You are now acting outside the bounds of your code
of beliefs. Have you not sworn a pledge of noninterference?
Is this not the credo that governs every individual
of your race?" Apocalypse's tone was both mocking and threatening.
"Tyrants are usually quite adept at putting forth specious
arguments, but you have not provided any answers to my questions,"
Uatu said calmly. "Although there is a ring of truth in much
of what you say, I believe it is part of a much grander conspiracy
whose scope I am only now beginning to discern. I also recognize
your considerate reminder of my sworn oath as nothing more
couched threat. You may think of me as weak Apocalypse, but
I no longer fear exposure to the fellow members of my race.
To a small extent, any of the interlocutions you and I have
had over the course of many centuries has been a violation
of that oath. But this transgression among many is necessary
due to the gravity of the threat I believe you pose. I could
never convince my close-minded brethren that a single human
is as dangerous as I believe ... nor convince them to even
consider any action." Uatu's expression was strangely one
of regret and sadness.
With that, Uatu withdrew to his base on the moon. He had
only revealed a small measure of what he knew to Apocalypse
in order to first gauge his response. Uatu had often wondered
what Apocalypse would say if he knew that he had dedicated
many years and an entire laboratory to the study of him. Not
only did he study Apocalypse's agenda and machinations to
determine his objective, but his mutation as well.
Uatu had observed humanity for countless generations. Mutants
were possibly the next step in mankind's evolution but had
only recently come into being. They were of great interest
to him, complex almost beyond understanding and unique in
the entire known universe.
Humanity's knowledge of mutantkind was limited and tainted
with prejudices and misconceptions. Contrary to popular belief,
all of Earth's mutants were able to tap into psionic
energy to varying degrees. Not only telepaths, but energy
manipulators, shapechangers, -- all mutants utilized psionic
energy. Some mutants were able to store this mutant energy,
for want of a better term, more proficiently or in greater
quantities. Others were able to access it faster and deliver
it in greater quantities. The reasons varied and could be
attributed to many factors: skill, willpower, physiology or
psychology. Human beings were such a complex amalgam of feedback
systems: neurochemical responses driven by genes switched
on in their brains determining behavior, and vice versa. Even
Uatu had been unable to completely categorize all the different
reasons behind the manifestation of various abilities. But
psionic energy was always present and used directly or employed
as means to control other energy. Scott Summers's absorption
of solar energy and its safe use could only be accomplished
and facilitated by the presence of psionic energy. The mutant
Storm controlled an enormous amount of psionic energy in order
to change complex factors and dynamics to bring about almost
instantaneous weather changes. Yet none of these mutants registered
as traditional psions because psionic energy had many forms,
the differences too subtle for humanity to yet recognize.
The source of the energy was also extremely difficult to identify.
Uatu himself had only been able to determine the source about
half a century ago.
Even among mutants, Apocalypse was an extraordinary being.
His mutation, to Uatu, was a thing of wonder. Apocalypse had
repeatedly stated to his enemies that he had the ability
to control every molecule in his body. While this was true,
his basic mutant ability went far beyond just the control
of his molecular structure and extended to his own atomic
and even sub-atomic structure. This single facet of his numerous
abilities, gave Apocalypse both tremendous offensive and defensive
capabilities and access to enormous energies. Precise control
of every atom that made up his being allowed Apocalypse to
increase his bodies density to unparalleled levels. Strengthening
and weakening molecular bonds, bonds between atoms, even bonds
between sub-atomic particles; Apocalypse could make himself
completely invulnerable to any weapon. His seemingly metallic
outer shell was nothing more than a reflection of this ability.
He could change his own bodies material properties in seconds
... transmutation of elements, adopting any substances atomic
structure ... substances so unyielding and dense that they
could never exist naturally.
Apocalypse also used his control over his own sub-atomic
structure to release incomparable energies and could direct
it wherever he chose. Apocalypse could literally create a
controlled fission or fusion reaction just by utilizing and
forfeiting a small portion of his own mass.
Earth's scientists had only relatively recently uncovered
the hidden power of the atom. They had discovered this first
through physics and mathematics, and then through dangerous
Nuclear fission occurs when the nuclei of certain isotopes
of very heavy elements, isotopes of Earth elements such as
uranium and plutonium capture neutrons. The nuclei of these
isotopes are just barely stable and the addition of a small
amount of energy to one by an outside neutron will cause it
to split promptly into two roughly equal pieces, with the
release of a great deal of energy and several new neutrons.
With Apocalypse's ability, he was able to do just that and
produce a brief self-sustained reaction ... an energy beam
of devastating proportions.
Uatu was quite certain that Apocalypse didn't even possess
the most rudimentary knowledge concerning nuclear fission.
But just as primitive man or even an animal need not understand
electrochemical responses and nerve synapses in order to move
-- Apocalypse didn't need to understand how he could break
bonds between sub-atomic particles to generate and control
Uatu had observed Apocalypse closely, utilizing the most
sophisticated devices available to his race's science. No
known device could mimic Apocalypse's control of sub-atomic
particles or attain the level of efficiency with which he
was able to deliver the energy. Apocalypse's control concerning
the strength of the beam was uncanny. He could vary the intensity
and never came close to utilizing the upper limits of this
ability. He normally chose to stun or incapacitate any foe,
many times tempering his blows. Uatu knew that this had nothing
to do with any concern for humans or mutants. He believed
that Apocalypse did not wish to exhibit the level of power
and control that he had attained.
The full extent and monstrous consequences of another of
Apocalypse's mutant abilities was only known to Uatu. During
the X-Men's recent encounter with another delusional mutant
bent on world domination, a small portion of Apocalypse's
heinous acts were revealed to a certain few, the enormity
of the atrocity almost too incredible for the mutant team
to believe. Through a series of seemingly unrelated events,
Genesis, the adopted son of Nathan Dayspring, had stumbled
across a revival crèche of Apocalypse. There he found
hundreds of thousands of human beings in Celestial stasis
containers that were inexplicably modified to channel their
life forces into Apocalypse. (2)
Some of the humans had been in stasis for centuries, in a
state of non-life, slowly being leeched of everything that
gave them life. The life-energy he absorbed had little to
do with Apocalypse's immortality. It served only one purpose:
to grant him more power.
This life-energy or cosmic energy was part of the fundamental
make-up of every living creature in the universe. Humanity's
theologians called it the soul, while mathematicians decribed
it with a fledgling theory called Quantum Chromodynamics.
This theory proported to explain the relationship of strong
nuclear forces. But to humanity's present level of understanding,
the theory was mathematically intractable and makes few predictions
that can be compared to experimental evidence. This was again
due to the fact that humanity was incapable of measuring the
existence of very short-lived particles with certain resonances,
But only very few beings contained this energy in significant
quantities to allow them to manipulate matter and energy as
easily as any simple creature of flesh and blood could manipulate
an appendage. Both his race and the Celestials had this ability.
The "World Devourer" Galactus also had this ability but existed
at at even higher plane of reality, requiring him to continuously
replenish his life-energy. But all these beings were ancient
even by Apocalypse's standards, and had evolved as a race
over millions of years, or in the case of Galactus had preexisted
this universe. Somehow Apocalypse had discovered that he could
somehow absorb and store this life-energy in his body ...
and utilize it when required. (3)
Over many centuries and at the expense of countless living
beings, Apocalypse had greatly added to his own considerable
Over centuries, perhaps millions of individuals had fallen
to this horrific fate because of Apocalypse's discovery. Not
one, but several of these crèches existed in different
locations around the globe where Apocalypse could go to replenish
or supplement his own energies. Over the last few centuries,
Apocalypse's power had grown to such proportions that not
even several of the most powerful of Earth's mutants could
hope to stand against him. His ability to absorb and store
life-energy gave him his greatest advantage against any potential
foe. It was this energy coupled with his mutant energy, and
the energy he could liberate by breaking the atomic bonds
of his own physical body, that made him unique even among
It was Uatu's belief that Apocalypse learned of his ability
to absorb life-energy from other living beings on Ship. Uatu's
monitoring equipment had been unable to actually view what
had transpired while Apocalypse was on the Celestial ship.
While this was not unusual due to the myriad of screening
and defensive devices any Celestial ship contained, Ship had
been damaged and most all of its primary systems shut down.
Uatu should have been able to observe Apocalypse on Ship but
could not. Another mystery. In addition, a distress signal
that was immediately activated when Ship had crash-landed
went unheeded by the Celestials and ceased to operate shortly
after its activation.
It had always struck Uatu as odd that in many ways he understood
Apocalypse better than Apocalypse's mutant enemies. He certainly
had an advantage because of his technology to observe Apocalypse
for many years, but Uatu was still an alien. While human beings
knew relatively little about Apocalypse's mutation, it was
common belief that everything 'mechanical' was taken from
the Celestials. It was believed that Apocalypse encased himself
in some form of bio-organic armor -- Celestial armor fashioned
by Ship. Nothing could be further from the truth. There was
one thing that Uatu was certain of after observing Apocalypse
for countless centuries: Apocalypse truly believed that in
a personal challenge of strength or power, there was no nobility
in an unfair contest. To defeat an enemy with anything other
than his own natural mutant ability or strength would be dishonorable.
The use of any type of weapon, let alone armor to protect
himself would be an anathema to him.
He had exhausted all but one possibility that might assuage
Apocalypse from his course of action. He had already done
enough to irrevocably damn him in the eyes of his brethren.
He would be executed should he be found out. Uatu would be
the first and only member of his race ever to suffer this
fate. Although it was not shame or his death he feared ...
Uatu represented a considerable threat to his ultimate plans.
He had known that any exposure to Uatu over the centuries
while dangerous, had also been of inestimable value. Uatu
had concluded what any fool would once they had determined
he was not insane. Over many centuries, he had carefully buried
lies within truths to conceal his primary objective. Uatu
might have outlived his usefulness. Could he kill a Watcher?
Certainly a worthy challenge of his might, or a foolhardy
one. Although a part of him relished the thought of an open
confrontation, guile was a more appropriate course of action.
He smiled. I might even impress you with my cunning,
Nathaniel, Apocalypse thought. And Uatu was correct ...
Sinister was indeed a formidable adversary. Over the last
two centuries Sinister had attempted to kill him several times
and had come rather close to succeeding. He had almost chosen
too well, he mused. Even now an apparatus that was attuned
to Sinister's bio-signature indicated that he had just departed
"You see Highborn, Sinister seeks to recruit
Magneto to his cause," Apocalypse rumbled. "No doubt he will
be successful. Magnus has great power but is weak in other
ways. Sinister will have found a way to make him do his bidding.
"Together, they could present a formidable opposition, Master."
The deference was always clear and distinct whenever Ozymandias
"Indeed. Sinister's attempt to rally mutant opposition against
me is no more than a feint. Even Xavier's brood is not foolish
enough to blindly trust Sinister. They have no idea of his
true plans ... but neither do I," Apocalypse said sounding
mildly pleased. "He is the first true test of my fitness to
survive in many centuries. He believes our goals conflict
and will not rest until I am dead."
"Would my death please you, Ozymandias?" Apocalypse asked,
looking down at Ozymandias.
"I..." Even after thousands of years, Ozymandias wilted under
the direct gaze of his master.
"You need not contemplate such an occurrence ... ever," Apocalypse
Continued in Chapter
Wolverine #100 - Did anyone but me wonder
where these people came from and why the X-Men did nothing
to help them?
X-Factor #67 - Apocalypse's ability to
drain life essences first revealed.
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