Here, at the Canadian Yukon, the top of the world, Nate Grey came to know tomorrow… and scream. Then, mere moments ago, thunder rumbled through the frozen earth beneath his feet, a shadow loomed, eclipsing both the light of the sun and the last of its warmth… and the Great Beast known as Tundra was upon him.
Tundra rises his feet, intent on crushing him. Nate gathers all his strength, and projects a telekinetic field, rescuing himself from being squashed. “Get… off!” he clenches his teeth. An outburst of psionic energy pours out from him and shatters Tundra into tiny fragments of rock.
Nate levitates himself in the air, inspecting the damage he caused to Tundra: the Beast is now flattened to the ground, literally immersed into the Earth. Nate’s thoughts run elsewhere. He knew he’d be taking a risk, trying something new like that, peering into the future to see the end of his life. So he flew all this way north, just to hedge his bets – to make sure he wouldn’t be endangering any more innocents, ever again. However, he wound up waking some kind of local mud-monsters, instead – the Great Beasts, to be precise.
Tundra suddenly rises from the ground, still incorporated into his primary element, the Earth, and grasps Nate with his fist. The Great Beast opens his mouth, roaring at his captive. With his telepathic powers, Nate senses and recognizes in a searing instant that the Great Beasts were released – rather than awakened – from the ravaged, desolate wasteland that was once their lush and thriving nether-plane, rife with life and living. But Nate decides he will not stand for it – not again; not even if it kills him. Bursting forth with psionic energy, he shatters Tundra’s hand into pieces. Aching, the Beast lets go of him. Nate lands in a nearby forest.
“How about now, chum… do you need me now?” Madelyne Pryor sneers. Nate looks up and sees her, comfortably seated on the branch of a tree, clad in dark blue. No, he strongly rejoins, not if he has to beg… never! Empowered by his defiance, he telekinetically propels himself towards the Great Beast and skewers himself right through its throat, effectively decapitating Tundra. Glaring below, he notices Madelyne’s gone again – no real surprise. No help there, anyway. Nothing substantial, that’s for sure, nothing he can rely on. He’s on his own, as usual.
Making an survey of the damage he caused, he confirms that Tundra is indeed headless now – this body may even be down for the count – but has already realized Tundra is connected to the Earth somehow, using it as his physical anchor to this plane, so he could re-form anywhere, come back from any direction, including right…
… below me?” The thought flashes in his mind for a split second, before he sees Tundra’s giant mouth opening up… and swallowing him alive. Tundra feeds. Glowing now, in response to the strange new energies seething within, growing even, fueled by the power of Nate Grey, filled with it… to the point of bursting.
Tundra explodes in a deafening thud and Nate is hurled on the ground nearby. Crawling in pain, he realizes that it felt like that thing, the elemental essence of it, absorbed enough of him, of his distinctly other-earthly energies, to repulse even itself. Tundra won’t be pulling back itself together for a long time – if ever – but Nate himself has got nothing left… nothing…
Madelyne stands above him. She claps in mocking applause: “Well done, hero.” Now what is he going to do about the other two? “Other… two?” Nate wonders. Miles away, Kolomaq and Shomon advance towards civilization.
In the aircraft that serves as headquarters for the Gauntlet organization, one of the agents informs Commander Scanlon that they’ve finally got Nate Grey. According to their computers, he’s in the heart of the Canadian Yukon. But the nano-tracers from last week’s gassing can’t last much longer in Grey’s lungs. And they’re reading a lot of other… activity in this region, as well. They’re going to lose him again – soon. Scanlon orders him to secure a channel for bridge-support. He also orders him to forward the ground-zero coordinates and request authorization for immediate transport, code Goldstar-prime, while Scanlon himself will gather the Gauntlet.
In another part of the base, the Psi-Ops, private soldiers of the Gauntlet, are having a training session. Agents Vise and Barone are fighting off against fellow agent Fontaine. Seeing Fontaine at a standstill, Vise asks her if she’s ready to give up already. Is the coward ready to turn tail and run again, like she did out in the field, dragging Barone and Vise along with her, just when she had the target dead to right? Barone notices that no response comes from Fontaine. Not a word – not even a shot fired in her own defense. He deduces she must be up to…
Vise interjects: something is buzzing through the battle cracks in her helmet… in her head… her wiring! She removes her helmet: the wires in her head are throwing sparks, while blood is streaming from her nostrils.
In the Canadian Yukon wasteland, Madelyne informs the exhausted Nate that the Great Beasts come from an age long before theirs – long before good or evil, right or wrong, for that matter. They’re hellstorms, nothing more or less; living, breathing tornadoes of mystical energy consuming everything in their path without restraint or remorse.
Maddie goes on to reveal that it took the combined might of Canada’s strongest super-players – Alpha Flight – to defeat the Beasts last time out. Madelyne learned about them back when she was on monitor duty for the X-Men, studying their files. It seems the dimensional walls separating the Beasts from Nate and Maddie are at their thinnest up in this area. Best Maddie can figure out, Nate’s explosive little tantrum at the finale of his sneak-peak into the future blew those walls wide open for a moment, just long enough for three of them to come through again. Tundra wanted more of the same, she supposes. More that he could stomach, apparently. But Somon the Artificer and Kolomaq of the Snows are heading south already, straight for what they laughingly call “civilization.”
“So how about it, then?” Maddie asks Nate as she crouches next to him. Just a little of the spark he gave her when he had nothing; he should let her give just a little back to him. She notices he doesn’t even have the strength to refuse her anymore, does he? She can give him that much, at least, whether he wants it or not.
As she touches his head to replenish his energies, Nate weakly implores her to just let him die here already, so he won’t take half the world with him, like they saw as his future. Point taken, pal, Madelyne replies. Of course, who says his death here and now won’t do worse? He doesn’t want her help, she gets that, really… but would it make a difference to know that someone else needed his help? Touching the frozen ground below her, she projects a image of events currently transpiring many miles away and shows it to Nate: the two other Beasts approaching some… sort of outpost?
Maddie deduces it’s a commercial-research. From the look of it, it is large enough to staff dozens. “Directly in the path of the Beasts…” Nate murmurs. And those two take awfully big steps, Maddie adds. Nate wonders how he can know she’s not lying… about the Beasts… about everything… just to get a rise out of him? Why should he trust her?
Madelyne is surprised at the word uttered: trust? Always Nate’s big question, isn’t it? His big issue. Thing is, considering who they are to each other and all – how he brought her back to life, from the very pits of his heart and soul – she may very well be the one single person in this sad, sorry globe who can’t lie to him. She asks Nate to trust himself. Just once. Before it’s too late. With this, she extends her glowing hand to him, prepared to take off with Nate. While elsewhere, the two Beasts manipulate the winds, about to strike at the outpost.
In the Psi-Ops training room, Vise swears to Fontaine that she will kill her! She’ll tear her apart with her bare hands if she…
“Enough!” Commander Scanlon restores her to order. He admits Vise is good – maybe even the best agent what they’ve got. She doesn’t have to prove anything here. Vise groans. Scanlon goes on to add that, as a cyber-psi – as the lone Gauntlet operative requiring artificial enhancement of her natural mental skills – she’s vulnerable to infiltration and disconnection – just like that. He then turns to Fontaine and applauds her: training shows. Fontaine agrees. Scanlon orders everybody out of uniform – now. Their first field-skirmish turned out to be assessment enough for all of them, spotlighting the strengths and weaknesses of target-Grey… and their operation. It was never meant to be anything more than that, of course, and they knew that going in, but…
Baron rejoins that he knew, maybe. Barone doesn’t remember anyone bothering to tell them, though. Perhaps because none of them have yet proven able to shut their trap, Scanlon briskly retorts. He reminds Barone that, despite his recent transfer from field to command-status, he is still a telepath. Barone should try not to forget that… if he expects to be here tomorrow. He announces they’ve been issued a sanction-on-sight order, along with the necessary hardware upgrades. He orders agent Vise to suit up again. Radiation-shields first, unless she’s got a death wish. He advises her to get good with the full range of her new ordnance, and then get better. He then tells Fontaine to come with him, and exits the room.
In Canada, Madelyne admits she doesn’t recall much about Kolomaq, but she remembers that Somon needs people; he possesses them or something. She and Nate teleport in the outpost where the Beasts were to strike… and find the whole area scorched to the ground, completely demolished. Nate is devastated, contemplating the loss of life, until Maddie assuages him: no one was here when the Beasts came through. They’re all out there, all of them, just a couple of miles in that direction, she says as she points him to the location. They are in the field, at an excavation site of some sort, alive… for a few more moments.
At the excavation site, the researchers fill with dread at the sight of the two Beasts, looming at the horizon, steadily approaching. “Monstres!” the project coordinator screams in French. He urges his fellow researchers to wake the workers, warn the others… and protect the artifact; hide it! They all start running in panic.
Nate and Maddie teleport in mid-air, a bit further from the Beasts. Nate wonders why she didn’t just teleport them right on top of the Beasts – why she didn’t stick them straight in their faces already? Maddie replies it’s because she’s not he, he needs to understand that. Her self-sacrificing days are way behind her. There are things she can teach him, places she’ll take him… and places she won’t. And she won’t go up against the Great Beasts unleashed.
Nate retorts that neither will he – not two of them; not if he doesn’t have to. Soaring towards them, he muses that they’re linked to this dimension through the Earth itself – through some kind of mystical thing he doesn’t understand and doesn’t need or pretend to understand. But one he might be able to use.
Just then, Somon detects Nate’s presence in the vicinity and warns Kolomaq to hold it; there is something here. Something pungent, powerful… something he would taste… Nate thinks that he could tear a page from the Gauntlet’s book of tricks here, and try a variation on the stunt they used to escape him: psionically isolate the planet’s gravitational pull on the Beasts, and telekinetically interrupt it.
Nate’s dangerous gambit works: the Beasts are abruptly, violently expelled from Earth’s gravitational field and catapulted in outer space, akin to two fiery heavenly bodies. Strained from the excruciating effort, Nate can’t believe this worked. He never tried anything like it before. He decides he never will again… and then collapses, emitting forth rays of powerful light from holes found all over his body.
In the Gauntlet headquarters, Scanlon is alone with Fontaine. He is aware of her question – a question neither of the other two would ever bother to ask. Why does the new operation-imperative already abandon the first-capture protocol so soon… “Against a boy,” Fontaine completes the question. A teenager, she points out to him. Exactly, Scanlon concurs with a dark expression. A teenager who can do this… with a thought, he adds as he motions outside the window, at the ground below: a giant star-shaped area can be seen where the Beasts previously stood. He gives her a piece of advice: no more questions.
In a thick forest below, the mysterious Ness approaches the edge of this “ground zero” on his snowmobile. He is a strange man, of an even stranger people, who has only recently returned from the shadows into the light from a dream, a nightmare, really. The death of Nate Grey and his new world, screaming and struggling all the way. His snowmobile reaches the edge of the ground zero and Ness is abruptly bumped into the air, landing inside the crater. He feels residual electromagnetic charge within the immediate blast-zone. It is disabling electronics, like his snowmobile. It fused Earth for miles, literally, from what he can see. He decides Nate is here. He is determined not to bear witness to it again.