The light sings to him. Softly, at first, but ever so clearly. So comforting. Until another, more familiar refrain intrudes. Just a whisper, no words… from the dark. The story of Nate Grey is not yet told. He’s not finished here. His life has barely begun. Code-named “X-Man”, his psyche floats through the air, towards the light. It takes all of his formidable strength and only the merest effort of his will to stop drifting for one short moment - looking back at this world, this Earth, that has so recently become his own. Nate senses this growing bond, more deeply than he actually knows it. Thought escapes him just now. He reaches out to the light, and moves towards it. Feeling is all. Other forces pull at young Nate again, inviting illumination. Of course, other forces have always pulled at this powerful boy on the brink of being a man. And Nate Grey goes his own way, nonetheless.
At that moment, Alex “Havok” Summers and Fatale of the Brotherhood of Mutants are in an industrial building, green gas radiates from a piles of boxes and crates where Nate’s body lies motionless. ‘Can’t touch him, Fatale…’ Alex warns his mysterious teammate, pointing out that the electro-plasma screens work both ways, keeping the gas in and them out. Alex supposes that the screens must have triggered automatically as soon as the canisters were blasted open, which means bio-evac protocols are in full swing. Alex explains that they need to reach the vault’s purifiers, rework the systems to allow personal access to the hot zone before it’s too late. ‘Too late already!’ Fatale declares, reminding Havok that Coldsnap-9 is lethal. ‘End of discussion’ she tells him. Havok pulls the doors closed, while Fatale continues ‘The little hero made his decision, his noble sacrifice… let him die with it’.
‘No. He’s just a teenager, Fatale. Just another kid with more power than he knows what to do with’ Havok points out as he and Fatale run down a corridor. A hatch at the end of it begins to close. Havok adds that just because Grey chose not to hitch up with the Brotherhood to join their dream-scheme to make the world a better place for man and mutant both, no holds barred, doesn’t justify a death sentence. X-Man couldn’t stomach even the remotest possibility of what they might do with a chemical weapon as dangerous as Coldsnap-9, a deadly gas that was as much his as theirs really, considering the fact that they tricked him into stealing it from Canadian intelligence. ‘Hardly a capital offense’ Havok decides as he and Fatale leap through the closing hatch.
Suddenly, a hologram of their teammate the Dark Beast appears. ‘Unfortunately, it appears unavoidable at this stage’ the diabolical scientist remarks. ‘Dark Beast?’ Havok gasps. ‘No one regrets young Nate’s foolish release of the gas, more than myself, I assure you… but my research on the Coldsnap lab-samples has proven it every bit as terminally toxic as its reputation’ he explains. The Dark Beast adds that, as such, the bio-hazard lock-down is also irreversible. Havok and Fatale leap through the hologram of the Dark Beast, while Havok calls out ‘If you’re saying what I think you’re saying “teammate”…’ Havok’s voice trails off. ‘He is’ Fatale declares as another panel slams closed behind Havok and Fatale, who must made it to safety.
Via the hologram, the Dark Beast announces that it is over - Grey’s bio-readings have dropped off the vault’s sensors. He reports that he is preparing Aurora and the others for relocation even as they speak. ‘Better safe than sorry, I always say - I do hope we see you there’ the Dark Beast tells Alex and Fatale. Havok sees the safety-seal panel up ahead opening out onto the rest of the tunnels slamming shut already. ‘If I get my hands on something more than a holo-relay of that son of a -’ Alex begins. Fatale tells him that she is still trapped out from the cargo-transfer yesterday, but energy starts to surround them, as Fatale teleports herself and Havok away. Fatale tells him that she will lead him to the Dark Beast’s other lairs next, and then he can decide exactly where this big, bad Brotherhood goes from here. ‘But Nate Grey is way beyond our help now’ Fatale remarks.
Nate’s body lies sealed off, but the gas has subsided from all but one of the crates, where it continues to trickle out. In this cold, dark, abandoned hole, far beneath the streets of New York City, nothing stirs. Nate’s body simply lays there, unmoving, and darkness surrounds him.
While less than half-a-mile up, and just over four miles to the north, in the equally still and quiet basement morgue of Bronx County Hospital, long after hours. No staff are about, and the morgue is quiet and silent - until one of the doors lining the wall creaks open. The label on the tray says “Jane Doe” - and a mysterious shadow escapes into the night. The merest shade of a woman at first, what’s left of one who will never walk alone again. Wailing silent but surely in her wake, echoing for all the dead to hear. More doors open, and more trays holding the dead emerge from the wall.
‘We gotta talk -’ Nate’s spirit calls out as he looks down at his motionless body below. ‘Proud of yourself Nate? Wasting the last charge of that electro-stat gauntlet on the canisters - taking the brunt of the poisons yourself - was this the only solution?’ Nate asks. He wonders about his so-called psi-powers, the telekinesis that is finally come back to him bit by bit, or even the telepathy they usually rely so heavily on. ‘You ever even consider faking it first this time, casting some kind of illusion to get out of here alive - with the stupid gas - before taking the easy way out?’ he asks himself. The spirit of Nate Grey gets angry, ‘SERIOUSLY, boy!’ he shouts at his motionless body, then kicks himself. ‘Get up already!’ he calls out. Nate’s motionless body suddenly opens his eyes. ‘Who..?’ he utters.
‘Who else? The one you trust. The only one you trust’ Nate’s spirit tells his body. ‘Where…’ Nate’s body utters, weakly. ‘Right here. In our head, in our heart… same difference’ Nate’s spirit replies, touching his own bare chest. ‘But it looks like they vault - exactly like the Brotherhood’s underground vault - where I’m dying’ Nate’s body remarks. ‘Some things never change, chum. As usual, as always, the only point that really exists for here and now…we’ve never had any place for yesterday’s, you know, never made any room for tomorrows’ Nate’s spirit remarks, leaning closely into his body. He continues, ‘Maybe it was our accelerated aging process, spending more months in a nutrient-capsule than out of it…no real time for traditional emotional development, that’s for sure. And not too many bonding or attachment opportunities that we’d want to dwell on now’ he points out, while his body listens intently.
Nate’s spirit suggests that perhaps it was just the futureless world they were born into - a world already lost to one mad mutant’s subjugation of all mankind - human and mutant both. ‘Don’t suppose the cause really matters all that much now, though, as long as we could never imagine a hope for tomorrow…’ Nate’s soul begins, before the ghost - or psychic projection of Threnody appears, leaning over Nate’s body ‘There ain’t any’ she begins. ‘Threnody? You came back for me?’ Nate’s body asks, while his spirit squats down nearby and watches. ‘A long way, too’ Threnody replies. ‘Doubt you’d believe how far, tell you the truth. But I had to. I love you, I miss you, I want you - need you - more than ever now…’ Threnody tells him, ‘Death becomes you, baby’ she adds. Nate doesn’t respond. ‘Suppose I can wait, Natey…’ Threnody utters quietly.
‘But not forever’ a new voice calls out. ‘It - it can’t be -’ Nate utters nervously, as his body turns and sees the Forge of his homeworld, the Age of Apocalypse. ‘You and Terry and the rest of the troupe - the rest of our whole, broken, battered world - you - you’re all gone. If it’s really you, now - here with me…then I must be…must be…’ he utters, before beginning to cry. ‘Dead, Nathan’ Forge tells him. Forge tells Nate that he is sorry, that respiration ceased over a minute ago and circulation shut down shortly after that. ‘It’s just this brain of yours that never knows when to quit’ he explains. ‘Wait…don’t go Forge. You’re my last hope!’ Nate’s body calls out.
Another “ghost” appears before Nate’s body, this time, Madelyne Pryor. She kicks his slumped over body, ‘The selfsame Madelyne Pryor you recreated out of nothing at all - clone of your alternate mother, and either your best friend or the worst enemy you’re ever going to know’ she tells him. Nate’s right eye opens and looks at her, as she tells him that she is his hope for tomorrow, living proof that you can come out the other side of death. She kicks his body again, and he falls flat on his face, blood trickling from his nose. Threnody, Madelyne and Forge vanish, leaving Nate’s own spirit standing over his body.
‘Help me…’ he utters. ‘Forget about it, pal’ his spirit replies. ‘Not how it works. Never was, never will be. We help strangers, sure - risk everything for them, even - but not ourselves. Not when it counts’. Nate’s body tries to crawl towards his spirit, who explains that they have never been responsible for what is killing them, true, for the poisonous Coldsnap, or the fatal flaw in their own design - all these blistering, burning energies that one mortal body was never meant to wield.
Nate’s spirit continues, pointing out that they have never done anything much about it, either - they started turning to others recently, trying hard to trust again. ‘Threnody was the first to reopen that door, I suspect. Then Peter Parker, and Dr McTaggert, and even Summers and his wretched Brotherhood’. Nate’s spirit moves in closer to his body, ‘Right church, Nate…wrong pew’ he tells his motionless body. ‘You and I - together, heart and soul - have the most powerful mind on tow words. That much we’ve never doubted’. Suddenly, Nate’s body moves, his hand reaches up and grabs his spirit, ‘And if it can be the death of us…then it can also be our salvation’ Nate’s spirit calls out. There is a massive explosion in the tunnel, ripping upwards, as Nate’s body and soul are reunited as one.
The powerful young mutant flies out of the crater that is all that remains of the tunnel. His clothing in tatters, he picks up no telepathic reading of any injured or dead in the fallout. He realizes that this train yard where he has emerged is as empty as the abandoned tunnels where the Brotherhood reside. ‘Sheer luck I suspect’ he thinks to himself. ‘One minute, I’m dead - but not quite done, I guess. The next, my telekinetics are back in full-force, out of nowhere -’ suddenly, he stops mid-flight and falls to the ground below, landing with a WHUD. ‘Or not’ Nate mutters.
Nate walks with his head hanging, through a park where people are out enjoying the day. They turn to him, ‘It’s him!’ someone utters. ‘From Hoppy, who heard bout him from the bouncer’s bother at the Avenue C after hours’ another person remarks. ‘Fancies himself a local oracle or something, telling fortunes and all -’ another man utters. ‘He’s back! But what happened to him?’ a woman wonders. Nate tells himself that Washington Square Park is so crowded, all hours - day and night. But he is so tired, he can’t make it the rest of the way to Soho, to the loft. He heads into a thick area of trees and bushes, and huddles down, curled up, he cannot seem to get warm, his head is ringing louder and louder, pounding - but he smiles, for he is alive. ‘To spite myself, of course. Just to prove I could take what “I” wouldn’t give’ he tells himself. He has figured that much out, at least, but knows it is not enough to get him through the night.
As Nate passes out, three women - a blonde, a redhead and one with dark hair appear, under a bright light. ‘Jam…?’ the one with dark hair asks, holding a large knife. All three women wear shades over their eyes and have exposed midriffs. The blonde woman leans down and touches Nate on the head. ‘It’s him’ she confirms, then there is blackness.
Meantime, in Soho, ‘GREY?’ a voice calls out as dark shadows emerge around inside Nate’s loft in the dead of the night. A small figure appears, ‘Take way more that four locks and an alarm system to keep out one of the Abomination’s forgotten, chump…and you got a lot worse still coming, Roust is here to tell ya!’ Roust calls out, wide-eyed, he is searching for Nate, and senses someone or something moving among the shadows. ‘C’mon out o’de shadows already - I know yer in here - I heard all dat slithering around a second ago…’ Roust cries, but gets no answer.