Nate Grey is in a small sailing boat off Muir Island. He finds it strange returning to the island, considering how things went the last time. He needs to understand what is happening with his power. He’d hoped it was pure exhaustion at first - maybe even the shock of discovering that he somehow recreated Madelyne Pryor out of thin air. Whatever it is, it’s been a week now and nothing’s changed. His own psionic power might finally be killing him.
His old friend, Forge, had warned him of this possibility, and Moira MacTaggert herself insisted he’d never see the age of twenty-one, but he’s not prepared for death. He wants Moira to prove that is no longer the case. Nate wonders whether, if he could find this reality’s Forge, he would help him. As he scales the rocks leading to the island’s high plateau, leaving the sailing boat behind, he thinks about how he never imagined it would be so hard without his telekinesis. It was all he could do, with the assistance of his passive telepathy, to stow away on Swiss trade routes to the British Isles and find prime hiding spots in choice cargo holds. Still, he doesn’t like returning to Muir Island, especially under these circumstances. But, as his friend Peter told him just a few days ago, he’s running out of options.
(a few days ago)
Nate wanders through the Daily Bugle’s busy offices, not registering two people talking about a Jane Doe being found at the cemetery. Unknown to Nate, Threnody died there, and the journalists aren’t sure whether if she died as a result of a bizarre explosion or not. The autopsy should determine the cause. Nate calls out for Peter, and Peter quickly ushers him away from interested parties. He knows right away that Nate isn’t really there in the office with him, but he plays it cool. He’s psi-projecting himself from halfway around the world to New York City.
The two men walk out to the roof where Peter sits on top of the Bugle sign. Peter warns him about doing this. It’s one thing for the latest legend of the week to drop in for a photo shoot, but it’s another thing for an apparent mutant to drop by in his astral form for an intimate tête-à-tête. Peter reminds him that some people don’t like mutants, but Nate explains that this is why he took the elevator instead of just appearing by his side. He learns fast.
Nate explains that he didn’t have much choice. His body is in Switzerland, alone in the Alps. With his telekinetics burnt out, he can’t get to New York any other way. Peter presumes that he must have come to him for help because he might see this as an initial symptom of his illness. He tells Nate that he’s honored, but this is out of Spider-Man’s field of expertise, and way too critical to ignore. “The next obvious choice has to be the X…” Nate cuts him off before he can finish the sentence. Peter says that he needs to ask the right people for advice, and Nate knows he’s talking about Moira MacTaggert, as he can read Peter’s thoughts. He explains that he’s met her before, but…
Nate then realizes that Peter is right. Nate might have some serious reservations. He wasn’t exactly a welcome guest last time; although he acknowledges that he didn’t exactly act like one. However, he figures he can take a dose of Moira over the X-Men anytime.
His boat has gotten him in under Excalibur’s radar this time, and he figures the boat will be safe in the cove until he needs to return to the mainland. Once he reaches the top of the cliff and pulls himself onto safe ground, he overhears Nightcrawler and Amanda Sefton talking. Kurt is dressed in tartan, acting out the Scottish nobleman role. Nate tweaks their perceptions in order to screen him from their basic senses. He needs to find Moira, and doesn’t need Excalibur on his back.
Suddenly, Wolfsbane appears, looking for Kitty Pryde. She sniffs the air, not able to identify something being carried in the wind. Luckily for Nate, she doesn’t pick up on his presence and she bounds up the rocks to where Kurt and Amanda are. She is excited as she has something planned for the evening.
Nate approaches the main building and enters via Pete Wisdom’s wide-open bedroom window. Once he’s inside, Kitty makes a sudden appearance, phasing through the wall wearing only a towel following a shower. She fails to notice Nate, and informs Pete that breakfast is warm and waiting. If not for Nate’s psi-screens, she would have spotted him straight away.
He continues making his way through the complex and finds himself at Moira’s lab. The team is becoming concerned for her. Recently, she discovered she was the first non-mutant carrier of the Legacy Virus, and she’s been holed up in her lab a lot ever since. Nate knows that she might not help him, but he has nothing to lose. He opens the door, only to be faced with Moira MacTaggert, plugged into a series of hi-tech cables and machinery and aiming a laser-sighted gun right at him. She explains that her cyber helmet that shields her from his psi-tricks has been tracking him ever since he set foot on Muir Island. “Talk fast.”
(Soon, Falls Edge, Virginia)
Moira puts in a call to Falls Edge, X-Factor’s headquarters, but Val Cooper picks up instead. She apologizes, saying there’s been an accident. X-Factor is dead. Moira tells Nate she’s sorry, but it appears Forge is dead, along with the rest of his team. Nate, munching on a plate of food, thinks it hardly matters. It’s not like he knew him or anything, and there’s no way he could live up to his expectations. He also doesn’t really believe her, as he can sense this world’s Forge out there somewhere, though he doesn’t know exactly where. He figures Moira is either wrong or simply lying to his face. He can’t tell for certain as long as she’s wearing the helmet.
Moira names a few of her friends who have been lost to her recently, and figures now more than ever they should focus on those left to them. She asks Nate if it’s normal for him to be consuming so much food. If not, when did this appetite start? Recently? After the episode he described with Madelyne Pryor, she wonders if it could be related to her siphoning his power. Nate replies that he’s never really paid much attention to his eating. He’s never related it to his psionic power, or lack of… until now.
Moira thinks it’s the first of the changes to come. Mortality has a way of forcing you to re-examine each and every step you once took for granted. She reckons that what he’s described to her has Earth-shattering implications. The Phoenix entity itself, at the height of its cosmic grandeur, could hardly have created life like that. However, they shouldn’t jump to any conclusions until they have all the facts.
Nate wanders around Moira’s lab while she runs some tests, looking at the costumes and armors that have been collected over the years. He feels that Moira’s bedside manner leaves him cold, but then he doesn’t make it easy for her. Considering her own problems and the fact that he did sorta blow the place up last time he passed through, he’ll let it slide. Moira finishes her tests and she informs Nate that her initial data confirms what she’s been claiming all along. His T.K. negative, but…
(meanwhile, in a forgotten tunnel below New York City)
Dark Beast runs his long fingernails over a map of Muir Island. “X marks the spot, kiddies,” he exclaims. Havok asks, “How can you know, doppelganger. How can you be sure he’s even there?” Dark Beast replies that his name’s McCoy, Doctor McCoy, or Dark Beast if he’d prefer. Havok replies that he knew Hank McCoy, and he is no Hank McCoy. Dark Beast says that Alex talks as if his world’s Beast is already dead. Alex replies that he is, to him.
Dark Beast asks Alex to trust him. He’s kept track of this ‘X-Man’ since the moment he fell to this plane from his own. His is the kind of power you can never let out of your sight. If they’re truly serious about getting his new little frat off the ground; if they really mean to take Xavier’s dream to the next step, to build a world where man and mutant can live together in peace no matter who gets hurt doing it, then Nate Grey is exactly what they need. “Who we need,” replies Alex. Dark Beast reckons it’s just a matter of how you put it. On that note, he warns them not to mention his name at all, before Havok and Fatale teleport away.
Moira turns away, and Nate asks her to complete the sentence. He doesn’t want her to keep secrets and treat him like he can’t handle it. Moira then turns quickly and aims a gun at him, firing immediately. Nate leaps away from the blasts and runs for cover. Moira grabs the gun with both hands and follows him around the room, blasting constantly. She then pursues him through the complex until she comes to a dead end. She realizes at the last moment that he must be above her and, as she looks up, Nate lands on her, knocking her helmet off. She is now sensitive to his psi-powers, but she managed to hit him point blank in the chest with the gun.
He then checks himself and discovers that there is no damage. Moira explains that the gun was set to stun. She was trying to be convincing, making him believe that she was a real threat, dangerous enough for him to need his telekinesis. She wanted to get past his conscious mind to his baser instincts. Despite this, his telekinetic powers didn’t return. They’re gone.
She activates a large holographic display, showing the correlation between his psi-patterns then, and now. The test readings they ran last time compared with the current ones show that nothing has changed. There is no loss of range and no indications of diminished capacities at all. There is, however, a new sub-frequency riding through it all. She hasn’t had the time to identify the source, but she has good reason to suspect that Nate is actually suppressing his own powers. Nate thinks he should have known. He’s his own worst enemy once again. “Or your own best friend,” replies Moira.
Nate makes his way outside the complex to the edge of the cliff, maintaining telepathic contact with Moira as he walks. Moira believes this might be a symptom of his circuit-breaker systems shifting into overdrive, trying to protect his body from his mind. Nate knows that this means that Moira can’t help him do anything about it. He has one last question for her, however. He asks what if his telekinesis had reawakened with his fear, that deep dark instinct for self-preservation she was so determined to stoke. Moira replies that she’s getting to know him, and she trusted his better nature. Nate’s glad they didn’t get a chance to test that one.
As he adds that Moira couldn’t quite spark the ember she found, or fan that flame, Havok and Fatale appear beside him, and Alex tells him that they can. They can start a fire to end all fires. They can help each other. Nate is surprised by their appearance, but picks up no hostile thoughts from either. He does feel like he has some connection with the man, though. Alex introduces them as Havok and Fatale, though Nate can call them The Brotherhood!