Most days, it had been a diner with crappy coffee, but a decent plate of scrambled eggs whenever he was feeling a little peckish. Sure, the time changed, the era, as Nate carefully sewed himself into the edges of the timeline to avoid the paradoxical circumstance of running into himself, but it was always the same. The contact was always the same, ordered out of the timeline as an ever-present contact - not of the Commission on Superhuman Activities, but higher up the clandestine food chain Nate was never so keen to talk about.
As far as anyone needed to know, SPYRAL didn’t exist and he definitely wasn’t one of their agents.
But this wasn’t “most days” - a lot of days weren’t “most days” when one could spend a good two weeks out of the month trying to wrangle teenage hormones and malfunctioning telepathy - and stepping into his apartment brought not the relative security that it did most days, but an extra push on an ominous hair trigger that suggested there was something coming down the pipeline that Nate wasn’t aware of. It was dark - it usually was - but that didn’t mean it was empty and the telepathic flash of light that encompassed his left eye was struck down just as readily as Nate could draw his weapon.
“Get tired of the chase?”
Theirs had always been a game of cat and mouse, two halves of the same being - one brought up a hero, the leader of Clan Chosen, the one who would bring about the destruction of Apocalypse if he played his cards right while the other, the villain, Apocalypse’s chosen heir who was, ultimately, invalid; but while Stryfe might have never been suitable enough to become such an immortal power, that didn’t mean he hadn’t found a way to claw and scratch and destroy those that stood in the way of power - something he didn’t have here, not like he had with his New Canaanites to take action to his demands, but maybe he didn’t need it. There were other ways - other people - that Stryfe could have used to his advantage and Nate could only hope that it started and stopped with him.
But it never really did, did it?
Through time and space, from futures where he had yet to grow into the duplicate that sat before him down, staring back at Nate like a vile reflection, to pasts neither had any place in and those pocket moments in between that only saw blood on his hands in what were vain rescue attempts, Stryfe had followed him. Stryfe had found out what was important to him - who was important to him - and Stryfe had used it to his advantage, setting himself up for the everlasting chess game that had become his opposition with Cable. What it could be now, Nate couldn’t say nor did he put any names in mind just in case Stryfe hadn’t gotten so far, but then again, if he showed up here, perhaps he already had.
“Are you going soft, Nathan?” Stryfe teased. “Or just growing old and tired? Wasn’t that the problem last time?”
“Don’t tell me you came all the way out here to gloat? Don’t you have better things to do, like children to scare?” Nate replied, cautiously aware of those stepping out of the shadows, poised and ready in their larger numbers to attack. He could already feel the electricity rise in the air, the hair on his arms standing up on end in the growing charge of an impending hit, but he remained unmoved amiss the circle that formed. It wasn’t a winning scenario no matter how Nate attempted to slice it, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t right where he was supposed to be in the timeline - something he took extra stock in as he played out the rest of this encounter in short form, no powers of precognition needed.
“No,” Stryfe commented as he stood up, each word and motion, punctuated by the sudden rip of electricity through the apartment, smacking Nate in the back and sending him crashing through the floor from Conduit’s and Triptych’s debilitating assault. He could still feel it in his muscles as his opposition knelt down in front of him, rifling through his pockets while maintaining a crushing telekinetic weight Nate found himself struggling to push up.
“But I do have a life to ruin,” he said, flipping through his wallet, eyeing the identification cards and photos found within only to flash them over to Nate. “I’ll be taking these, Nathan,” Stryfe said, belongings that might have been of any use pocketed.
And the rest?
The rest would simply go up in flames, Andrei Cutov’s part of the cover up as the air itself seemed to excite into flames - perhaps the result of malfunctioning appliances in the apartment or, as his pyric form more readily took to, a firebird ripping through the furnished space. The concussive force, shattering windows and crashing through walls to send his would-be neighbors spilling out of the building to escape the flames.
And among them, an imposter.