Nathan Summers' birth was carefully orchestrated by the geneticist Mister Sinister, who had created his mother Madelyne Pryor as a clone of the mutant telepath Jean Grey. Soon after, Pryor was corrupted by demonic influences into using baby Nate as a sacrifice to open a portal between Earth and the demon-infested dimension Limbo, but was opposed by her husband and Nate's father Cyclops, his teammates in X-Factor, and his former team the X-Men. Sinister planned to use Nate as a weapon against his former master, Apocalypse, but Apocalypse learned of this and had Nate captured and infected with a deadly techno-organic virus. After Apocalypse was defeated by X-Factor, a member of the Clan Askani - a sisterhood dedicated to opposing Apocalypse in the alternate future of Earth-4935- offered to save Nate's life by taking him to her own era. Desperate, Cyclops agreed, and Nate was taken 2,000 years into the future of Earth-4935, where the Mother Askani, actually his time-displaced half-sister Rachel, had him cloned in case the virus could not be cured. Minions of Apocalypse attacked and stole the clone, taking it to their master, who raised the child as his heir, Stryfe.
Rachel pulled the psyches of Scott and Jean into the future of Earth-4935 to help keep Nate safe, and, as Slym and Redd Dayspring, they raised him for the next 12 years, teaching him how to use his mutant powers to keep the virus at bay. After the teenage Nate defeated Apocalypse, he traveled to the last Askani enclave and was welcomed as the Askani'Son, "the Chosen One." After the enclave was attacked, Nate regrouped the surviving Askani into the rebel Clan Chosen. Nate later fell in love with young novitiate Aliya Jenskot, and soon they were married and had a son named Tyler. Following one clash with Stryfe, Aliya was killed and Tyler was captured. Stryfe brainwashed Tyler, and in a subsequent encounter, Nate was forced to shoot Tyler to save his Clanmate Dawnsilk. After Stryfe used a time travel device to flee into the past, arriving in the late 20th century, Nate followed. He arrived in Scotland, years before his birth, and was taken in by geneticist Moira MacTaggert, who taught him how to speak English. He adopted the codename Cable, as a metaphor for being a link between the present in the future. Moira sent him to visit her friend Professor Xavier in the U.S., and en route he encountered the feral mutant Wolverine, aiding him against another agent from his own time, D'Von Kray. Meeting Xavier, Cable helped design the security systems for his mansion in exchange for lessons on how to live in the 20th century.
Cable formed the mercenary group the Wild Pack, later the Six Pack, and took missions from Tolliver, secretly Tyler, which often put them in conflict with Stryfe and his Mutant Liberation Front. Cable made occasional trips back to Earth-4935, at one point returning with a space station he named Graymalkin, after the address of Xavier's mansion. Returning to Earth-4935, Cable discovered that Sam Guthrie, the New Mutant Cannonball, existed into the 23rd century. Cable believed Sam was an immortal mutant, and returned to the present to guide Sam's ascension. With the aid of his mercenary ally and sometime lover Domino, Cable reorganized the New Mutants into the strike team X-Force. Later, Cable's former Six Pack teammate Kane was critically injured in a failed attempt to oppose Stryfe. To save his life, Cable transported Kane to Earth-4935, where he was saved and stayed with the Clan Chosen to recuperate, while Cable returned to the present. During his absence, Stryfe had made an attempt on Xavier's life and sought to frame Cable for the deed. Believing himself the true son of Cyclops, Stryfe kidnapped Cyclops and Jean. Cable came to their rescue, but during the struggle both he and Stryfe fell into a temporal rift. Displaced far into the future, scientists of that time saved Cable's life by using Stryfe's brainwaves. Cable and Kane later returned to the present, but upon arrival Cable discovered that Graymalkin had been destroyed, preventing him from returning home. Stryfe's mind eventually took control of Cable's body, but after being confronted with the truth of his existence he relinquished that control.
When the psionic entity Onslaught hampered all telepathic abilities on Earth, Cable began to succumb to the TO virus. After attacks by Onslaught's herald Post and a mentally-controlled Hulk weakened Cable further, he found himself allying with his nemesis Apocalypse in order to rescue the young mutant Franklin Richards from Onslaught, after which Franklin helped Cable suppress the virus. Later, Cable learned from journalist Irene Merryweather of a plot by the enigmatic Hellfire Club to obtain Apocalypse's power. Cable was too late to prevent them from unleashing Apocalypse's Harbinger on the world, but he managed to defeat it with the aid of the Avengers. Realizing that the culmination of his destiny was near, Cable asked Irene to chronicle his life. Soon after, Cable learned that he was one of the Twelve, mutants supposedly destined to usher in a golden age for their kind. Apocalypse intended to use the Twelve to boost his powers to allow him to alter reality and had them captured. Cyclops seemingly sacrificed himself to stop Apocalypse, and Cable joined the X-Men to honor his memory. Subsequently learning that Cyclops was still alive, Cable and Jean tracked him down to Egypt. Jean forcibly removed Apocalypse's essence from Cyclops' body, allowing Cable to seemingly destroy it. His purpose in life apparently complete, Cable returned to his mercenary ways, eventually forming the Underground resistance movement to oppose the clandestine Weapon X Project. A failed infiltration attempt of the Neverland mutant concentration camp saw them captured and the knowledge of Neverland wiped from their minds. Cable later found himself at odds with the mercenary Deadpool over the One World Church and their planned use of the Fa�ade Virus to transform the world's people into blue-skinned beings like themselves in the hope of bringing about peace on Earth.
Cable ultimately realized that his body would be unable to contain his vast energies, and so set out to save the world before he died. Rebuilding his space station as the floating city Providence, Cable realized that the only way to force the people's of Earth to see the potential of a unified future was to unite them against the common goal of opposing him. Initially opposed by the super-spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. and the X-Men, Cable faced the cosmic-powered Silver Surfer, which caused his powers to burn out rapidly. He used his teleportation matrix to surgically remove the portions of his brain that controlled his mutant abilities, effectively lobotomizing himself. Deadpool then enlisted the aid of the Fixer to merge Cable with a techno-organic embryo, restoring his powers. Cable subsequently reformed X-Force to oppose the ancient evil named the Skornn, which he was able to destroy at the apparent cost of his own life. Cannonball and his fellow former X-Force member Siryn joined Deadpool on a quest to find Cable, and after finding his life force scattered across alternate realities, they collected it and returned to their own universe to discover that Cable had reverted to an infant when the mutant sorceress the Scarlet Witch reshaped reality. The mutant technosmith Forge was able to restore Cable, who began aging rapidly. Faced with being overwhelmed by his powers, Cable expended them by curing Deadpool of the brain damage he had suffered years earlier at the hands of Weapon X. As he re-aged, Cable's powers returned.