A large crater steams amidst a snow-covered landscape, as Nate Grey clambers up an embankment, trying to get clear of ground zero. He himself is smoking, having lain in the crater for some time before being able to make the effort to move. He looks like a young man, perhaps no different than most, except he may be the most dangerous being on the planet.
He stands and surveys his surroundings. All around him, snow-covered mountains dwarf him. After what he has just been through, he cannot be sure he hasn’t stumbled into heaven. It’s like nothing he’s ever seen. His memories, such as they are, are of a world where the air has been choked with war-filled smoke, and his life overwhelmed with bigotry and hatred.
Nate Grey grew up in what can best be described as a dark reflection of our world. It was a world in which a mad tyrant named Apocalypse split the planet in a genetic race war; mutant versus human - and everybody lost. That world is gone now and Nate has landed here. He is possibly one of the most powerful mutants on Earth, but he doesn’t know about love, or independence, or freedom.
He wanders away from the crater and through the snow, not knowing exactly where he is headed. He can only remember being in the stronghold of Apocalypse in a battle for his life. His head aches terribly, jumbling with thoughts, his memories of a mission that went somewhat awry. He feels that he has to find Magneto, but for now rests against a tree. The snow is cold, and he wonders how this can be. Where on Earth is he?
He makes his way to a road and staggers across it as a juggernaut approaches. The driver sees him, but it’s too late and, despite sounding his horn and flashing his headlights, he smashes into Nate, knocking him clear into the air. The truck skids sideways, narrowly avoiding jack-knifing, and the driver gets out, thinking he’s killed the boy for sure. He finds Nate lying in the snow, his body spewing energy as he groans in pain. Finding him still alive, he helps Nate up and they stagger back to his truck. The trucker speaks but Nate doesn’t understand his language. The trucker speaks English, but says it isn’t too good. He advises Nate to get some sleep, while he continues his journey to Geneva.
In his fevered state, Nate drifts from consciousness, his mind swimming with the world he has lost and the confusion he has found. It’s like flipping through a scrapbook. The pages turn so quickly, there can be only sparks of memory. The haunting loss of a man named Forge, his protector, Mister Sinister, an evil man who sent Nate adrift in a sea of lies, and a brief encounter with a man and a woman (Scott and Jean) whose importance is lost in the haze. The images he sees are visions of another world and another time; nightmarish glimpses that build with clarity. He then sees a battle with Apocalypse himself, a battle interrupted by another with a being called Holocaust. There was an explosion, removing Nate from that place, that time – that purpose.
Nate wakes and his face distorts at the memory of what Holocaust did. The trucker wonders what he is saying, but his thoughts soon turn to fear as Nate turns on him, his left eye glowing with energy. “Who are you? he asks. “What kind of vehicle is this? Do you work for Apocalypse? Tell me, or I swear I’ll kill you!” Despite not understanding his words, the trucker knows when to quit and he leaps from his truck in desperation. Nate screams, “Where am I?” and extends his psionic energy outwards, destroying the struck and its highly flammable cargo. The result is devastating. What’s more disturbing is that, without the guidance of someone like Forge in his life, is there anyone who can control this impulsive young man?
As quickly as it erupted, the moment has quelled. Nate lies once again face down in the snow, as his actions begin to dawn on him. He knows that was stupid. Forge would have kicked his butt from there to… wherever. He used to say, “Every time you use your powers, it’s like a beacon shining right at Apocalypse.” He turns his head and sees a sign which reads, ‘Montreux, Switzerland, 2km.’ He knows he is far from home, but doesn’t realize just how far. He gets up and begins to walk, knowing that he must be more careful, and to cover his tracks and thoughts.
(Xavier Institute, Salem Center, moments earlier)
Half a world away, Charles Xavier, arguably the most powerful telepath in the world, counsels Bishop, a time-displaced mutant who has a unique problem. He is chopping wood, but is troubled by what feel like dreams to him. It’s like trying to remember a dream right after you wake up, only he knows it wasn’t a dream. Charles advises him to take it slowly. “Whatever you experienced, I have no doubt…..” Charles suddenly breaks off as he receives a flash of major psionic power. He tells Bishop it was like the one he felt the other night, and then it was as if whoever did it cloaked himself from him. That must have happened before, enquires Bishop. Never, replies Charles.
Nate arrives in Montreux and thinks that the buildings, the cars and the way the people are dressed don’t seem right. It is a sunny afternoon in the downtown district. People here take lunching at some favorite bistro for granted but, to Nate, it feels horribly foreign. He makes his way past a playground and hears children laughing. Aren’t they afraid? he wonders. Aren’t they aware of the danger? He places his hand on the criss-crossed wire-fencing and asks himself if he was ever that young. He sees a woman caring for her young children. There’s like a wall in his head, blocking out so much. Then, inexplicably, as if a hand had been removed from his eyes so that he might see, a name strikes him. “Jean. Jean Grey.” In the same instant, it chills him because, tragically, he doesn’t know its significance.
He continues his reconnaissance of the town, past locals, whose thoughts he can read but cannot understand. He must find somebody who he can trust - but who? Despite his frustration and panic, he is still capable of wonder. He looks through a shop window at television sets and thinks they are remarkable. He sees himself reflected back at him on a half-dozen screens, caught on CCTV. He looks pretty bad; no wonder everyone is looking at him. If he doesn’t get a grip, he’s gonna be dead. He doesn’t know how all this happened, but there has to be a way to get back home.
He comes across a sign for Las Vegas on the side of a bus. It’s all very confusing, but he keeps walking, hoping it will all make sense soon and that it’s not some sort of trick. As he wanders, he sees a man across the street wearing a hood. Could it be? he wonders. He dashes across the street, calling Forge’s name, but, as he reaches him, the man turns around and it’s just another stranger. Nate recoils and comes to the conclusion that Forge really is gone. He sinks to his knees. ‘Lost,’ he thinks. ‘There’s no one here who knows me, no one to help me…’ The stranger suddenly turns around and looks at Nate. He only hears the words ‘help me’ as a whisper but, where his first instinct was to shove this stranger away, now there is a sense of the familiar. He is now drawn to help.
He doubles back and extends his hand to Nate, apologizing for startling him. He didn’t realize just what bad shape he was in. Nate doesn’t understand the words, but the act is simply one of human kindness. It will prove more valuable than he knows. The stranger says he’ll take him to a hospital, but Nate replies that they’d look for him there; he needs someplace safe. He doesn’t know how it happened but suddenly there is no language barrier for him to overcome. It’s weird, he thinks, but by thinking about it, he can finally understand what he’s saying. He must have somehow used his power to help him communicate. Maybe things are starting to go his way. The stranger helps him walk and tells him he has an extra room. Everything’s going to be all right.
It takes only a few minutes by Jeep to reach his cabin, nestled high in the Alps. It’s a simple home where Nate can finally relax. The stranger informs Nate that he has a son around his age. He’s away at school. He introduces himself as being Sven Claris and Nate thanks him for helping him as they climb the long stairway to his home. Inside, a warm fire welcomes Nate. Sven says he wasn’t expecting company and needs a few things from town. When he gets back, they’ll have some supper. He asks for Nate’s name and he provides it. Sven asks him to get some rest and he’ll be back soon.
As he lays his head on a cushion, he doesn’t know why he used the name Nate Grey. Was it just that he had to say something, or was it somehow connected to that other name, the woman Jean? As he drifts off to sleep, his mind dances with the vision of a red-haired woman, her special face dancing like the snow outside, snow where only moments ago it had been clear.
Nate’s mind is a dangerously powerful thing. Capable of connecting with psionic energy in ways he himself cannot comprehend. His injuries are severe and, out of self-preservation, his mind reaches out to someone who could be of aid. He hears a creak and knows he cannot have slept for very long. He sits up and asks if it is Sven. A female voice replies that she thought he might be more comfortable with a blanket. He turns as the woman places her hand on his shoulder and asks who she is. The woman removes her hood and reveals a familiar face with long red hair. “My name? My name is Madelyne Pryor.”