Evening. The sun sets. In a hill, a herd of sheep are blatting. Nearby, a black line running along the ground clearly indicates a terrible presence: the earth burns and exudes smoke where it was touched. The line advances across stripes of greenery, leaving behind hideous details that attest to its existence, like the charred bone of a human leg. In a car in the city’s suburbs, a couple has also been deprived of their lives, now turned into lifeless skeletons. In the city’s dark alleys, a group of people are now nothing but cadavers.
In a motel room, Nate Grey sleeps the slumber of the just. By his bed are leftovers of food and drinks, a Coke can, a Pizza Hut carton box, some Chinese food. Plunged in a deep sleep, Nate is unaware of someone entering the room and approaching him. A mysterious, cloaked figure, with red hair and high boots leans above him.
Suddenly, a woman in an apron enters the room, carrying a steaming tray. She explains she brought him some broth, to see if they can get his strength back up again. Sure, he can’t hear her, not her words, not yet, but it’s been almost a week now and…
Finally she sees the cloaked figure leaning above Nate – Madelyne Pryor. “Shoo,” Maddie tries to scare her and the woman takes flight, dropping the tray. Caressing his hair, Maddie suggests that Nate gets up already. She knows he’s not sleeping, just like she knew she’d find him, sooner or later. When he first crashed out of the clouds like that, after telekinetically bringing down the rains to save Clifden and she – they – couldn’t feel him for so long…
She suddenly pauses and asks him who the girl was. Ostensibly worn out, Nate admits he has no idea – honest. After the fall, he passed out. Madelyne doubts that. He blacked out, maybe, but not unconscious. Not right away, at least. She should know. Nate asks her if she thinks it’s a new symptom of his burn-out. A sign that the psi-energies threatening his body… threatening the whole world… are finally reaching critical mass. “Or exhaustion, more likely,” Maddie retorts. Plain and simple overexertion. She reminds Nate he tried to stop an earthquake for breakfast and then they took on an avalanche for lunch. She advises him to get some more sleep already. He’s a mutant, not a god. And she’s… she’s nothing without him anymore; she dramatically claims as she exits the room and lets him be.
Less than a block away, a middle-aged couple snores blissfully in their bedroom. Suddenly, a being consisting of pure, radiant energy storms into the room. Waking up, the couple, confused and horrified, wonders who – what – he is… The being’s energy arms extend and coil around the man and woman’s ankles like cuffs. The couple’s screams of pure, indescribable horror resonate throughout the entire neighborhood. When the being is done with them, they are but charred, smoking carcasses. “Not quite. Not quite enough,” the murderous creature states.
The innkeeper is conversing with a friend about the latest hideous murders. Another two already tonight, just down the lane – but he’s one to talk, of course. He reveals that he heard them screaming like banshees, old man Feeney and his wife. “Feeney the tailor?” the other man asks for clarification. Feeney the cobbler, the innkeeper corrects him – far as they can tell from what’s left of…
Seeing Nate descend the stairs that lead to the hall, the innkeeper tells his friend to hang on. He turns to Nate and informs him that he owes him for six nights. No prob, Nate allays him – thing is, though, and he thinks the innkeeper looks like a man who might understand this, he’s really not carrying any cash on him just now… so how about he works it off in trade instead? Just a little telekinetic touch-up here and there. Inspecting the hall, he begins working his magic.
By use of his telekinesis, he repairs the table leg, realigns the door hinges, re-stitches the carpet, re-sticks the wallpaper… “And the staircase?” mumbles the astonished innkeeper. Fixing it, too, Nate ensures him it will never creak again. “A mutant…?” the innkeeper’s friend mutters. The innkeeper argues he is not a bad one, for that. “’Ta then, boyo,” he sees Nate off. Nate reciprocates farewells.
Outside the inn, he finds Madelyne waiting for him. He asks her where she’s been. He got tired of lying around waiting a couple of hours ago. “Let’s go already and do it,” he insists. Madelyne is confused. Nate explains that she is to teleport him back to New York. Straight into the X-mansion itself, if she can. He is eager to find out what the X-Men did, finally, what connection they have to the psi-pulse that cost him – them – their telepathy, and what they can do to restore it.
Madelyne advises him to slow down fast. They can’t rush into anything here – anything. He needs to take some time first, to heal and plan – with her. Nate understands the implication of what she says: not with them, she means. “C’mon already, Maddie,” he tells her. He reminds her he’s got no more love for the X-meddlers than she does, she knows that… but his telepathy was one of the six senses he used to navigate the world around him. The most important of the six, he’s coming to realize; the fullest. She has to take him to the X-Men. Madelyne retorts that no, she doesn’t – and she won’t. She will help him. They can work together to accomplish their goals, but they won’t follow orders blindly. She won’t be anyone’s pawn – not again. Never again.
Nate wonders if she’s listening to him at all. Does she hear what he’s trying to tell her here? He’s crippled, incomplete, not whole anymore. Maddie reminds him that he’s also nowhere near being the bright, glowing target that he’d be back in New York, back in the spotlight that’s already burned him pretty badly. Not all that long ago, does he remember? Do Gauntlet Psi-Ops ring any bells to him? Armored soldiers of who-knows-whose army, armed to the teeth? She alerts him that the heat’s still on back there – full-flame.
Nate suggests she tells him something he doesn’t know; something that might help. Despondent, he flies down from the roof he was standing with Maddie. Madelyne follows him, as the crowd below watches them, gasping in awe. Maddie finally decides to tell him something new: has she told him the one about the surprise guest that popped up at the party after Nate left last week? Even stranger than the usual type, from what she saw. Some sort of Tech-Gnome, with a drilling-bore built into its head. The remains of its head, actually – recovered from the Clifden rubble. She suspects it might have had more than a little to do with so many ‘natural catastrophes’ hitting one tiny village at the same time.
Back at the Fox Run Inn in Clifden, the locals are gossiping about Nate and Maddie and how they tackled the catastrophes a few days ago. The bartender explains these two were cousins of the McMurphys – actually the fake identities used by Nate and Maddie while there – up from Wexford for the weekend. He is certain they are neighbors of a friend of his wife’s niece – he, himself, knows both of them for years! He explains these two took on two of the wee people and an avalanche without raising a thirst – he saw it all with his own eyes. Truth on his Dad’s grave! A bit further, another fellow sarcastically mentions to his friend that the bartender’s dad is actually in Florida, retired. His friend agrees – would that have been before or after… what’d he call it… the rain of fire? Before or after last call, more like it, another woman mocks.
Sitting all by himself in a table with a pint of beer, Ness contemplates he’s dead – dead to his people, now and forevermore. The man named Ness no longer exists, for all intents and purposes… only the Witness remains. Witness to a future – the end of that future, really, all futures – being charted by a single solitary boy: Nate Grey. Ness gave up everything to track him down, abandoned everyone, and he finally did catch up with him here – only to lose him again just as quickly. Nate left him with nothing but this… scrap – the remains of a Tech-Gnome.
Ness recognizes the soil residue from the earthquake-torn valley, the rock dust from the top of the mountain and the soot. This confirms the drone’s presence at all three of the disaster sites, if nothing else. But the hardware itself is meaningless to him, telling him very little – except that someone else, somewhere else, is also after Nate Grey.
Elsewhere, in the interior of a huge aircraft that serves as the headquarters of the Gauntlet, someone asks for a report from the ship’s computer. “Series Z tests completed. Catalogued. Target primed: Accessible for acquisition” the computer reports.
Nate and Madelyne soar under the nocturnal firmament. Nate asks Madelyne if she’s serious. He wonders: this Tech-Gnome she found, where is it now? Madelyne hopes it’s in the bottom of the ocean by now, back in Clifden. Nate is indignant: something that dangerous, something that may have been their only lead to an entirely new threat and she just threw it away? Below at a park, seeing the airborne pair, the crowd keeps wondering what they are: “Birds?” “Planes?” A guy with a Mohawk haircut banters it’s not Shamrock, for sure.
Maddie tries to explain to Nate it’s not like that. She never, really… actually she… Finding herself unable to reveal the truth to Nate, she contemplates that she never had it; the stranger did. The stranger with the yellow eyes – those piercing yellow eyes she recognized from the shadows of Nate’s future vision. The pale stranger who dropped in out of nowhere during the fire last week, seeking advice… but she’s not ready for Nate to start asking questions she’s can’t answer. Not yet. Addressing Nate, she tells him to forget it; doesn’t matter. He’s missing the point. No more reacting, that’s what she’s saying. No more jumping through their hoops, dancing to their tunes… anyone. Everyone. She suggests they get proactive.
Landing down with Maddie, Nate suddenly finds an entire crowd of people gathered around them, eyewitnesses of their flight. “Sooper-heroes!” one of them enthusiastically screeches. Nate sarcastically assumes he’s been called worse but… “Yankees,” another guy yells. “Sort of, but not…” Nate tries to explain before a woman cuts him short, asking him if they’re here to do something about the murders. Nate is surprised to hear this news: “Murders…?!”
Several people in the crowd blurt out what they know: “Couple o’ kids, a few days back”, “Car on the edge o’ town”, “Stripped to the bone”, “Shepherd just west o’ the city, first.” Never mind, Nate tells them and tries to explain it’ll be a lot faster if he just dips straight into their heads and… Oblivious to his explanations, the crowd keep on babbling about everything they’ve heard on the story so far: “Junkies yesterday”, “Alley downtown”, “Two homebodies tonight”, “Same area, 14 Barrington Lane.” Never mind, Nate sighs and gives up.
A bit later, crowd has gathered outside the house of Feeney the cobbler, the middle-aged man who was murdered in his bed together with his wife. The on-lookers gossip about the victim: Was he the tailor’s brother? Was the murder same as the other stiffs? Not a shred of flesh left, another one reports.
Inside the victims’ house, a police inspector is debriefing two Interpol agents. The bodies were discovered in this condition a little under two hours ago, in response to reports of screaming. Footprints burnt into the immediate surroundings, just like the other crime scenes, but the steps stop dead right outside the back door, as if the killer just sprouted wings and flew off from there. The female agent asks him about the glow. Radiation traces, apparently, the inspector explains. He advises the two agents, McScully and O’Mulder, against touching the bodies. What branch of Interpol did those I.Ds say they were from again? Without bothering to provide an answer, ‘McScully’/ Maddie thanks the inspector and takes her leave with ‘O’Mulder’/ Nate.
Maddie tells Nate they’ve seen enough. More than enough, Nate agrees. Age of Apocalypse energy signatures all over those corpses, from head to toe. They both saw and felt it… and they both know that Nate is just one of only four beings in this planet tainted by that particular radiation! As the two assume their true forms and exit the victims’ house, Madelyne corrects him: only one of four he’s aware of. He shouldn’t go flying off the handle here. Nate reminds her that Age of Apocalypse is his world; his Earth. She heard the inspector herself, the times and places of the other killings are all within his reach, all while he was out cold. Madelyne banters there’s no real surprise there. He should face facts: he’s been out cold more often than not lately.
Seeing those two civilians exiting the crime scene, two policemen shout at them to hold it. Without paying attention to them, Nate repeats to Madelyne that the Age of Apocalypse is his world, his Earth… and then skyrockets himself outside the Earth’s atmosphere. Under tremendous stress, he manifests a psionic energy signature and wonders: is he so out of control finally that he’s slaughtering innocents now in his sleep? Randomly draining people of their life energies just to feed a body… fuel an engine… heading straight for dead-end overload anyway…
Suddenly overwhelmed by pain, Nate moans. Madelyne advises him to stop and breathe. Kissing him full on the lips in order to pass oxygen to him, she also encourages him to think. Contained as the two are in Nate’s psychic bubble, Madelyne quips that thinking is what he’s supposed to do best, after all. She asks him to just take one last look at the Earth he’s leaving behind; the only Earth for him now. Marked by three other Age of Apocalypse energy-sources, even without him. She pinpoints the three energy-sources for him and Nate figures them out: one is Dark Beast, probably, and another in Africa that could be Sugarman but… Madelyne sees it herself: the last one is currently shining brightly in the general section of Dublin, Ireland. “Where I’m not…” Nate realizes – yet.
In Dublin, a fiery form, akin to a comet lands outside a house and, soon, the energy-based murderous lifeform enters a bedroom, where three young women sleep in bunks. Suddenly, Nate and Madelyne come crashing in through the wall. “Not another step, butcher…” Nate growls, “don’t touch those girls!” Enough people already are dead because of Nate, because he didn’t put the killer down for the count a long time ago, but he knows exactly who – and what – he is now! With that, he unleashes a blast against the murderer. He should’ve figured it out right away, really, as soon as he saw how brutal and… and…
Seeing how he struggles to finish his sentence, Madelyne indignantly asks him if it’s his first time in a girl’s dorm, wondering whether he’s distracted by the various young women in lingerie! “Ouch, Grey… you really should try not to be so hard on yourself!” the murderous being snarls and turns around, now bearing Nate’s own face! In absolute shock, Nate and Madelyne gasp this is not possible!