The noise is impossible to describe. Thousands upon thousands of individual voices, rising and falling in unison, echoing back from the towering dome of Madison Square Garden - unthinkably, inconceivably loud. Then louder. And the smell, the inescapable potpourri of sweat and skin and… mustard… is worse.
‘Man these women can move!’ Nate Grey a.k.a. X-Man exclaims as he sits towards the front of the spectator seats at ground level, watching the game. He isn’t so thrilled about the mobs, however, so many people crammed so close and tight, like the slave pens of Apocalypse where he was raised, where he had to fight and struggle for every breath of air.
Suddenly, the crowd goes wild and moves like a wave. Nate joins in and leaps up, grinning. His blonde companion tells him to take it down a notch, pointing out that it is just “the wave”, and that it is a football tradition, anyway. ‘How can you resist, Jam? The home team needs all the help they can get tonight, way I hear it!’ Nate replies. A man sitting next to him asks if it is because of last week’s injuries, and what kind of yutz thinks that is going to slow them down. ‘Actually, I’m pretty sure it was - you. This guy wants to know what kind of yutz you are!’ Nate remarks, pointing at another man, then getting his attention and pointing to the first man. ‘I wasn’t talking to you!’ the first man shouts, raising his fist at the second man, who exclaims ‘I wasn’t talking to anybody!’, while Nate just smiles and moves away from them.
Young Nate Grey is a relative stranger to this world, but he is not without his resources, for telepathy and telekinesis, to name only two of his unmatched mutant abilities, and a spreading circle of friends. ‘Seriously competitive, this women’s basketball league!’ Nate remarks, before thanking Jam for inviting him. ‘It was Bux’s idea, believe it or not. But considering what you did, Nate… what she and Marita are saying you did for me’ Jam replies. Nate asks Jam how the arm feels now. Jam looks at her arm and replies that it feels exactly the same, and adds that, as she keeps trying to tell him, she remembers the beginning of the accident, the bike skidding out of control to avoid some speeding cab or something, but everything else is a blank until she came out of the coma a few days ago with nothing more than a headache.
‘And an organic reconstruction that even I shouldn’t have been able to pull off’ Nate thinks to himself. ‘Not without surgical skills I didn’t know I had… and definitely not without being consciously aware of it at the time’.
Jam tells Nate that she doesn’t remember losing her arm, or his miracle healing at the hospital. ‘Feels like nothing’s changed’ she remarks. ‘Fine by me’ Nate thinks to himself, although the whole thing has already made him the focus of a lot more attention than he is used to.
Suddenly, he hears gunshots from somewhere in the seats above. Nate and Jam turn around, and see a man in strange armor holding a weapon, while a bomb is strapped to his body. ‘CAMERAS, PLEASE - I’m ready for my close-up!’ he shouts, his weapon smoking from the gun shots.
The terrorist announces that, for the sake of posterity, at least, he should make the customary introductions. ‘History shall know me as a Destabilizer, one of many among you… and the rest of you, I’m afraid, are nothing more than martyrs to our cause!’ he threatens. They are a just and righteous force-of-arms aiming for the complete destruction of all symbols of world separatism - spreading the message that nationalism is an outmoded concept that promotes disunity among the larger family of man. ‘In the name of peace, long and lasting - and with the aid of bombs like this wired to his body, they intend to take full advantage of this evening’s much hyped well-covered media event to make that point loud and clear.
The timer on the bomb is down to four minutes and fifty seconds. The spectators begin to run in panic, and Nate tells himself that it isn’t a bad idea, but he and Jam move towards the terrorist, for Nate, knowing the very real horrors of war, the horrors of his own childhood on a world at war, he can’t help but sympathize with the Destablizer’s intent - for an Earth without borders or artificial division isn’t a bad idea at all, really - it is just the execution he finds fault with. Nate decides that there are too many innocent people here - way too many, the largest number of minds he has ever been exposed to in one place, far as he can tell, the most he has ever tried to work through at one time. It always takes a moment longer to telepathically pinpoint a stranger, especially without some kind of psi-signature to look onto, when suddenly, Nate finds him.
Seeing into the terrorist’s mind, Nate can see the other terrorists in his thoughts, more zealots, all equally read to trigger their own bombs at any sign of trouble. There are six more, scattered throughout the crowds. But even this one doesn’t know exactly where. Nate decides that it will take too many precious seconds to find them all, to drop them one by one like this. He knocks the first Destablizer back with a psychic bolt, and realizes he best thing bigger, so energies whirl up and around him as he creates an electro-magnetic psi-pulse to temporarily short out any and all mechanical systems within range, which means lights out and bombs away.
The stadium is plunged into darkness, but the emergency generators come on, and lighting starts to strobe on and off. ‘But the game’s as good as over’ Nate tells himself as he is confronted by the terrorists. Nate recalls how Forge spent so many hours, so many days and weeks teaching him how to create that electro-magnetic pulse, how to telekinetically cull the necessary energies from the planet’s magnetic field, focusing them through the charged current of his own brain. Nate does it again, knocking the terrorists out and destroying their bombs. He wishes that Forge was here today, to see how much he learned. ‘Just wish he were here, today. Alive. Everything would be so much easier’ Nate tells himself, smiling. The young hero then telekinetically lifts the terrorists up and “slam dunks” them into the basketball hope, while thinking that if Forge was here, he wouldn’t keep making so many mistakes.
Suddenly, the crowd starts chanting out Nate’s name. He turns and looks at them, before hovering above them. A reporter turns to his camera, ‘You saw it here first, folks - WNYW. Live from the Garden - our own Manhattan Marvel - Nate Grey, single-handedly putting away a cadre of deadly political terrorists!’ the reporter declares. He continues, asking ‘Who is this new overnight super-sensation? Exactly what is the incredible power that he wields? And is he single, or spoken for? Stay tuned for out prime-time special…“Nate Grey, thy name is Mystery”!’
At that moment, in the busy office of the Daily Bugle newspaper: ‘Get real. This isn’t some cheap tabloid talk-show… it’s a newspaper, Jonah, a major metropolitan newspaper. With a reputation and a responsibility’ Robbie Robertson tells Jonah Jameson as they look at the front page of the next issue of their paper, a photo of the handsome Nate Grey and the headline “Local Hero”. ‘A reputation that I built, Robertson… and a civic responsibility not to support vigilante justice by anyone! Not while I’m still publisher! Now change the headline, Robbie!’ Jameson orders. Arms folded, Robbie points out that the kid saved lives, tens of thousands of lives, and deputized or not, that makes him a hero. ‘More importantly, it made him a hero to half of New York, all the athletes and fans… the media and the media-hounds, who were right there in the thick of it… not to mention their families and friends, just now realizing how lucky they are to be welcoming their loved ones home again tonight’ Robbie explains.
Daily Bugle employees go about their busy work while Robbie and Jonah continue to argue, and Peter Parker stands with them, looking at the photo. Robbie tells Jonah that so long as he is editor-in-chief, the Bugle will continue to honor its obligation to reflect the opinions of this city, of all its people, not just its single loudest minority. ‘THEN YOU’RE FIRED!’ Jonah booms. ‘Again?’ Robbie mutters.
‘Life as you know it, Nate… is sooo over’ Peter thinks to himself, while wondering why Nate didn’t listen to him, as he warned Nate to keep a low profile to avoid the public as much as possible. He tried to make him understand how easy it is to get swept up in all the wrong things, how quickly it can spin out of control. Peter recalls even sharing his own life-changing experience with the spotlight, an experience that cost him his Uncle Ben, until it finally forged a boy named Peter Parker into the one and only Spider-Man. ‘Guess I was wasting my breath on Nate, though… maybe we all have to learn from our own mistakes’ Peter tells himself.
Meantime, at Nate’s Soho loft, Dr Marcus Arlington the Third sits in his wheelchair in one corner of the loft, while Marita looks into the refrigerator, as the boy Roust stands near her. Eating lots of food, he tells Marita that he and the “Greyster” go way back, almost to last month, which is why he is here now, before asking Marita what is with “Wheels” back in the corner. ‘Ain’t he the hospital quack who was treating Jam, the one what couldn’t do squat for her ‘til -’ ‘Cheese food?’ Marita wonders. ‘Who actually buys cheese food instead of cheese?’ Roust asks ‘Does the phrase “beggars can’t be choosers” mean anything to ya, lady?’ Marita points out that she is a guest, an invited guest. ‘You and Doc Arlington are the lovesick peritos that followed Nate home, sniffing around for scraps’ she remarks, while supposing that the press can’t be far behind now, either.
Suddenly, the air moves like eaves, as Nate, holding Jam, materializes and explains ‘Unless I’ve taken to disguising my comings and goings with some simple molecular rearrangement’. Jam asks if someone is throwing a party and forgot to invite them. ‘Not with Grey’s music selection, no way’ Marita replies . Nate tells her to talk to the owner, when, or if, he comes back from Europe, but that she might not want to mention what he has done with the place. ‘In fact, you might not want to mention me at all’ he adds quietly.
Marita asks Nate who won the game, while Dr Arlington strokes the leaves of a withered plant. Jam tells Marita that she is not going to believe this one, while Nate goes into the kitchen and Roust follows him. ‘Looking fresh Nate, m’man! B-ball must really agree with ya or something, I swear -’ he begins. Nate announces that he is starved. ‘You and me both, buddy’ Roust remarks.
Nate opens the refrigerator and looks annoyed when he sees how empty it is. ‘I was thinking, again, see… about my brother, ya know, and all those other people that Jack Knife killed because of you - because of his vendetta against you, I mean - and I was wondering, ya know, hoping really…’ Roust’s voice trails off. ‘Where’s my cheese food?’ Nate asks, before snatching the sandwich from Roust’s hands. Hestarts to eat it, while asking Roust how many times he has to tell him - he can’t raise the dead. Marita, Jam and Arlington all turn and look at Nate, as Roust asks ’Can’t, hero…? Or won’t’.
‘Can’t’ Nate thinks to himself. He looks at Jam and Marita while reminding himself that Madelyne Pryor, wherever she is, is the exception that proves the rule. The way he figures it, Maddy’s personal piece of the Phoenix Force, supposedly a living ember from the very heart of creation, makes her an exception to every rule. ‘I have to believe that, or…’ Nate’s thoughts trail off, before telling Roust that he is sorry, sorrier than he knows, but that he only helps people to help themselves - that is just the way it works.
‘Until the cops showed up to haul off the Destabilizers and we finally slipped out’ Jam tells Marita. ‘Solid!’ Marita declares, while Nate remarks that it is probably all over the news by now, which they could watch, if they could find the remote control, which he is sure he left right here. Nate sits down on a couch, while Roust tells Nate that he is sure he could find it for him. ‘But first, see, I was thinking, maybe ya could just try -’ he begins, while Nate telepathically remarks “Mute”, before deciding that he will do it the old fashioned way - telekinetically, and turns the television on, as a reporter’s voice can be heard saying ‘The scene at Madison Square Garden, earlier this evening, where a bold new superstar defeated an armed gunmen…’, before Nate changes the channel, where his image is shown, asking ‘Is that thing on?’ and Nate recognizes this scene from Washington Square Park the other night, his first press ambush. ‘Remember?’ he asks everyone, before asking if he really sounds like that, while Roust, still on “mute” waves his arms about.
Marita and Jam ignore Nate, as Jam asks where Bux is. ‘Chica’s hyper, J. You know how she gets’ Marita replies, explaining that she bolted five minutes after dropping the tickets off, and they haven’t heard from her since. ‘Can’t even imagine what she’ll pop up with next’ Marita adds.
Nate looks at the television, and declares that it looks more like the camera puts on twenty pounds. ‘And that shirt doesn’t help any either. I mean, could I wear anything tighter?’ he asks, while the reporter on the recording asks Nate if he has any comment on the alleged miracle at Empire State Hospital following his mysterious visit. ‘Only that I’m happy for her, you know… real happy’ Nate replied on the recording.
‘So modest!’ ‘So cute!’ ‘Attaboy!’ people in the crowd called out, while Nate asks the girls what they think about his hair, whether it works on screen, but he quickly shuts up when two people appear on screen with brown hair and a white streak at the front. ‘Want him! Want him bad!’ the woman says, while the man declares that Nate is the bomb. A woman is shown on screen, crying, she announces that Grey helped her to find the strength, somehow, somewhere inside herself, to survive a mother’s worst nightmare, and that she will always be in his debt for that, but that Nate couldn’t save her son from cancer. ‘No’ Nate gasps, and causes the television to explode. ‘I couldn’t he tells himself, getting up and walking away. ‘I didn’t… I didn’t know how…’ Nate utters, while Arlington grabs him by the arm, ‘And neither do I, son. But maybe, together, we could learn’ he suggests. ‘Doctor Arlington?’ Nate asks, surprised.
‘Marcus, please. Call me Marcus’ Arlington tells Nate, explaining that he has held his tongue long enough, trying to put this all into some kind of scientific perspective for himself. ‘Your gift is power, Nate. A healing power, if you want it to be’ he states, motioning at the plant, which now appears healthy. ‘When we first met - when I put my hand on your shoulder, most likely, even as you were apparently picking my name out of my thoughts - some sort of conduit must have opened between us, siphoning some of that power into me’ Arlington suggests. ‘At the same time, exposing me to your medical know-how, while I was still touching Jam’s arm. Explains a lot’ Nate remarks. ‘Your smarts, my skills, her will…’ his voice trails off, while Arlington points out that they effected a combined “Cure”, that none of them had the ability to accomplish alone. Nate frowns and thinks to himself that even if his psionics, the same raging psionics that are killing him, slowly but surely, had to take on a life of their own to do it - again.
‘I’m not a mutant, though, I’m not regenerating the power. So I have no way to know how long it will last’ Dr Arlington explains. He adds that his gift is more about nursing and nourishing, in any case, that it will take work, studied discipline and practice. ‘Time to understand how to best utilize your raw energies, instead of wasting them on -’ Arlington begins, before Nate shouts ‘Another one? Another condescending doctor-type who wants to tell me what to do, and how and when to do it - to rein me in before I might do something that you people don’t understand or control!’ Nate is annoyed, and turns away, while Dr Arlington asks ‘What makes you think you have a choice about this, Nate?’ and whether he doesn’t recognize a responsibility to use his power as wisely as possible, to spread his light as widely. ‘I’ve got things to learn, Arlington, I admit that now. But I one of the lessons I have learned is that I always have a choice… to do what I can’.
Nate strides towards the large round window, and Marita tells him that she is all his. ‘My turn to hit the streets with the hottest hombre to roll through the big, bad apple since - OYE!’ she shouts when Nate walks past her, ignoring her. Nate tells Marita that he is not her toy, and adds that he is not anyone’s toy soldier. ‘This is no longer a ride, boys and girls… it’s a calling!’ Nate announces as he materializes outside the loft, and, hovering over the street, is astonished by what he sees below. The noise is impossible. Thousands upon thousands of individual voices suddenly rising as one, thundering up through the concrete canyons of Soho. Unthinkably, inconceivably lout. Then louder and louder. They chant his name from the streets and the rooftops. ‘ALRIIIGHT! Now I’m pumped!’ Nate exclaims.
Nate tells himself that it is almost impossible not to feel juiced in the face of this kind of reception, here on his own doorstep. He wonders how they found out where he lives though, and realizes that it was Bux, and he sees her right down there at the head of the parade, as usual. ‘NATE!’ Bux screams, her fist pumped in the air as she leads the chant.
Meantime, at Once Police Plaza, reporters and their camera crews have gathered outside. ‘Any more of those lunatics out there’ one reporter asks. ‘No comment’ an officer replies. ‘Expect anymore incidents?’ another asks. ‘No comment’ comes the reply. ‘Few words about the hero who saved the day’ one reporter remarks. ‘No comment’ the officer responds. Another reporter speaks into the camera and states that it is a three-ring legal circus here, as the self-proclaimed Destabilizers, the political terrorists thwarted and captured by Manhattan’s own man of mystery, Nate Grey, less than an hour ago, are being brought in under FBI custody to face formal charges.
Inside the lobby, FBI agents march the hand-cuffed terrorists along, while photographers take photos. ‘Decision on whether or not to prosecute in the federal courts’ a reporter asks, but gets no comment. ‘Identities of any of the individual suspects’ another asks, but once again, is told ‘No comment’. ‘Spontaneous parade of citizens heading this way as we speak’ someone else announces. ‘No comment’ an officer replies. ‘Possibility of Grey for some kind of public office’ another suggests. ‘No comment’ the officer declares, while one reporter announces ‘Although defense attorneys from some of the most prestigious law firms in the city began gathering here within moments of the developing hostage situation…’ another reports that ‘…District Attorney Tower has repeatedly reiterated his intention to follow procedure to the letter on this one!’
‘Unfortunately this is as far as we can follow’ a reporter announces, while the flash from a camera gets right in the face of one of the Destabilizers, stunning the terrorist, and causing his comrade to catch him when he falls backwards. ‘Hang in their kid. Our fearless leader swore we’d never have to spend a single night in hail. Don’t forget…not a single night’ the blond terrorist assures his comrade. One reporter announces that reliable sources tell them that the Destabilizers will first be photographed and fingerprinted, and then led through state-of-the-art metal detectors to pick up any overlooked weapons or contraband. As that process occurs, one of the officers involved in the scanning alerts his sergeant to one of the Destabilizers who has a live-wire under his skin. It starts reacting to their x-ray emissions, and an instant later, there is a massive explosion.
‘Holy…’ one reporter utters. ‘Move it move it move it!’ an officer shouts. ‘There are people in there, people!’ someone calls out as people rush towards the explosion.
And, not far uptown, ‘No…’ Nate thinks to himself as he watches a reporter of people rushing to the explosion, as a reporter states ‘…still frantically trying to put together the pieces of this tragedy, even as they treat the victims’. The reporter adds that initial reports from within suggest that the suicide squad was somehow rigged to detonate upon exposure to the police metal-detector itself, implying a well-thought out scheme, and broader agenda, possibly even just a first strike. ‘No, no, no, no, NO’ Nate tells himself, recalling how he read all of the Destabilizers’ minds, all of them, before turning them over to the cops - and there was no knowledge of anything like this. A crowd begins to gather around the storefront where Nate is watching the television screens. ‘Impossible’ someone calls out. ‘What’s going on?’ ‘See for yourself’.
The reporter announces that officials have already put out an all-points-bulletin on the young man known as Nate Grey. ‘I don’t understand’ Nate thinks to himself, while wondering where Bux is, as he has to find her, find someone to talk to. The reporter continues, ‘The so-called “hero” who delivered these Trojan-Horse terrorists into the hands of our unsuspecting authorities’. ‘Wow… Nate did that?’ someone in the crowd utters.
‘Works for me’ a voice calls out from within a purple-colored stretch limo. Two men sit in the back of the limo, and their clink their wine classes together. ‘I wish I could say the same’ the mind-controlling Purple Man remarks, adding ‘I funded this latest promotional stunt for your “global village”, Flag-Smasher. I paid for the stolen bombs that threatened Madison Square Garden….because they served my purpose as well as yours. This was not part of our bargain’. Flag-Smasher is hidden in the shadows of the purple-interiors of the purple limo, while the Purple Man declares ‘I had no idea about your little sub-dermal fail-safes’. ‘Neither did my men. That’s why the boy never saw it coming’ Flag-Smasher explains.
‘In my field, Killgrave, explosives have proven a most powerful way to punctuate one’s point. And all my people are sworn to die for the cause, if necessary’ Flag-Smasher explains. ‘How fortunate, Smasher. For you’ the Purple Man replies, angrily crushing his wine-glass, his eyes flash, and his voice changes as he orders Flag-Smasher to open his door and get out of the car. And because he says so, simply because this strange purple man with his penetrating purple eyes and his velvet-thick voice says so…it is so. ‘I expect you will make quite a martyr’ The car door opens and Flag-Smasher steps out - over the edge of a cliff, where he slams into some rocks below, before falling into the water at the bottom of the cliff.
The panel separating the driver from the rear of the limo opens. A woman with red-hair is driving the limousine - it is Bux! The Purple Man calls out to her, and Bux asks ‘Where to next, boss?’ while the Purple Man looks at an old photograph of his estranged wife and daughter - Melanie and Kara - and tells Bux that it is time to go to the finish line - before it is too late for all of them….