‘We’re falling, Nate Grey! Do something, fast, before -’ the alien called Urch calls out as she and Nate Grey plummet through the wall of the corridor above them, along with debris, into blackness. ‘Just hang onto the kid, Urch - and don’t panic!’ Nate calls back telepathically. Both Nate and the alien female are wearing black costumes which all prisoners in this mining facility wear. A strange energy creature hovers next to Urch. ‘I’ve got you!’ Nate telepathically tells Urch as he grabs her and surrounds them all in a telekinetic force field. Nate is armed with one of the shovel-like weapons that are used in the mines, and as debris collapses overhead, Urch points out that they are trapped, and the Overseers will be right behind them. As Nate and Urch land on solid ground, Nate tells her to relax, ‘I know what I’m doing!’ he exclaims as he slices away at some of the rock formations in the cavern, causing rubble to fall down around them, blocking them off from the Overseers.
Nate’s telepathy allows him to read Urch’s mind, understanding every word of her alien language. His contact-telekinesis gives him the ability to manipulate matter with nothing more than a touch. His entire life experience has taught the fugitive young mutant how best to use these powers. ‘They’re gone!’ one of the armored Overseers’ calls out as a group of them arrive in the cavern, smoke billowing from the large pile of rocks in front of them, blocking their access to Nate. One of the Overseers’ instructs another to contact the Overlords and tell them to secure all access routes immediately. ‘We’re still a good eight miles underground the prisoners can’t get far’ he states, while, nearby, a cloaked figure watches.
Elsewhere, in an exotic chamber, a floating device hovers over the large round bed and speaks: ‘My apologies, your ladyship, but you asked to be kept abreast of the situation below… and there is an attempted escape in progress!’ the device declares. ‘From the reformines?’ the women in the bed asks, sitting up. A picture of a Shi’ar is resonated on the device, as the Shi’ar announces ‘A newborn and two others, including X-19, are already -’ to which the woman in the bed shouts ‘GREY?’ and gets up, ‘Nate Grey is on the loose, here in my kingdom?’ she asks, announcing that this is grim news indeed. ‘Despite the… modifications made to the fledgling mutant’s psionic upon arrival - I knew it was a mistake to bring him here!’
In the cavern, Urch asks ‘What next, hero? We’ve got a cold and hungry baby to worry about, and all you’ve done is dig us in deeper - literally’ she points out. Nate points out that it will take a while for the Overseers to catch up to them now. ‘And by the time they do - we won’t be at the mercy of their magne-slicers anymore -’ Nate begins, before he screams in pain and clutches his wrist. Nate pulls away, and realizes that the magne-cuffs on his wrists are psi-sheened against his own telekinetics. Urch tells Nate that he won’t force them off, before remarking that there are other ways of doing things. Her cuffs then drop to the ground, and as she reaches for the helmet covering her face, Urch explains that the Overseers’ slicers cut through anything and everything as the both of them know, so during their initial attack on their work-contingent, she positioned herself very carefully and took a few well-placed blows to the wrists - and neck. ‘You have no idea how long I waited for this’ Urch announces, her helmet removed, revealing her humanoid appearance, although she has blue skin and large elf-like ears.
Urch sits beside the blue alien baby and reveals that this is the very first time she has seen the world without the restrictions of that cursed helmet. ‘And I won’t allow my sister to suffer the same’ Urch ads. ‘Your sister?’ Nate asks, confused. Urch informs Nate that it was her mother who was the woman that died on the birthing table - a thief, by law, who was sent to this penal colony over twenty years ago, where she met her father, another petty thief, in the reformines, shortly after that. ‘My only crime was being born, a few years later… into a system that prevents anyone from every leaving. The energy creature that follows Urch makes a noise, while Nate smiles and tells Urch to guess again, for although he still doesn’t have a clue as to who put him here, or why, he can think of plenty of possibilities - but that no innocent deserves punishment for the sins of another.
Nate sits down next to Urch, who holds the baby, and he asks her to tell him more about their captors, about where they are, while they warm up together with the babty. ‘Urchaala. My full name is Urchalla’ the alien reveals. Nate tells her that is a pretty name, and he leans in towards her, ‘No, no, I meant -’ Urch begins, as Nate tells her that he knows, before asking what is with her pet, as all of a sudden he is acting strange. The creature buzzes about above them, as Urch informs Nate that Fuzz is more partner than pet, a self-actualized fuzzy-logic program she recently befriended, which sometimes gets too frisky for its own good. ‘You know how that can be, I’m sure’ Urch adds. ‘Looking forward to pursuing that line of thought, Urch - vigorously - soon as we hit the surface’ Nate remarks as Urch holds her sister in her arms. ‘About that my friend… there are some things you need to know - to understand - to accept’ Urch tells him.
‘Such as?’ Nate asks. Urch informs Nate that his psionic rewiring s internal, and with the single exception of an open relay to and from his neural language-clusters, he is limited to direct-contact telepathy and telekinesis only. ‘Yeah, well, we’ll see about -’ Nate begins when suddenly, they both go wide-eyed, ‘From those shadows… a Darkle!’ Urch gasps, as the cloaked figure from earlier has entered their blocked-off part of the cavern. ‘A darkle?’ Nate asks, staring at the strange-looking being, who has grabbed Fuzz. Urch reveals that the Darkle is the survivor of an early bio-lap explosion, according to legend, and rumor has it that the subjects sabotaged their own medical procedures in order to escape the pain once and for all - but they didn’t die. The Darkle releases Fuzz, while Urch continues: ‘Not technically at least’, while Nate lunges forward, and falls through the Darkle. Urch presses her head up against the rock, ‘They’re trying to tell us something, Nate Grey! Something about this wall! Something…big!’ Urch declares, and an instant later, a large drill bursts its way through the blocked off area of the cavern. ‘Gone again…how?’ one of the Underseers’ asks as they find no trace of Nate and the others. ‘How do they do that?’ they wonder.
‘Excellent call back there, Urch! If you hadn’t heard that thing coming…’ Nate’s voice trails off as he leads Urch down a tunnel. ‘For whatever reason, the Darkle warned us just in time…’ Urch points out. They make their way into a chamber of pods, where other prisoners are sleeping. Urch tells Nate that they are here, so they need to keep it down now, as workers are only given three hours for their primary sleep-cycle, so they can’t afford to wake anyone. ‘But my father’ Urch remarks. ‘Grun?’ Nate asks, surprised. Grun wakes, and is surprised to see his daughter alive. ‘And beautiful - but your helmet, child - your head -’ he begins, but Urch tells him that he can wait. Grun wraps his arms around Urch, who introduces him to his new daughter. ‘Perfect. Absolutely perfect. Just like her sister’ Grun declares, while Urch informs her father that mother saw her, and she knows she saved the baby, at least. Grun decides that Urch’s mother is at peace now, and tells her that wherever her mother is now, she is surely in a better place than here. ‘And we’ll honor the last gift of hers with all that’s left to us - her name ‘Marchalla’ Urch remarks.
Nate observes the family reunion, and decides that it is his turn to exit, quickly and quietly, while he still can. But Fuzz starts making a strange noise, and Urch looks over to Nate, and grabs him by the wrist, ‘Not so fast, Nate Grey! Now that ‘Ella’s safe and sound with our father, you’re not going anywhere…without me!’ Urch calls out, but Nate tells her that it is too dangerous, and that it will be easier and faster to fight his way out of this hellhole alone - but swears that he will come back for her and bring help. ‘You’ll be lost in moments…’ Urch declares as Fuzz follows them down the corridor. ‘Up and out, girl. How hard can that be?’ Nate asks. ‘Actually…we crossed into the highly-restricted outer-perimeters a good ten minutes ago, hero’ Urch reveals, adding that if she hadn’t steered him left instead of right back there - twice, then he would have sauntered right into the smelting-slag pools - instead of marching straight up to the gates of hive’s-edge!
They stand at the edge of another cavern, this one is tiled, and Urch explains that it is the origin-point for all the north-western supply-chutes, into and out of the reformines. ‘The loading docks -?’ Nate asks, telling Urch that he couldn’t be happier, really, as she has delivered them straight into the most heavily-manned and secured site that he has seen yet. Urch tells Nate to give her some credit, as she is the daughter of thieves. She adds that she heard all about this recently-patched incoming supply-chute from the workers who repaired it. She suggests to Nate that with a few tricks of his telekinesis, she figures they should be able to slip in and force their way out against - but before Urch continues, the Darkle phases through the wall. ‘Hold that thought. Your new buddy’s back, Urch - out of nowhere again - but something’s different this time… wrong’ Nate decides.
The Darkle stares at Nate, when suddenly, he raises his arms and gets the attention of the Underseers’. ‘Totally blowing our cover!’ Nate shouts. ’The runners - here - ’ one of the Underseers declares as they turn and face Nate and Urch. ’Destroy them both!’ one of the Underseers’ shouts, and they fly towards Nate and Urch. ‘The Darkle is no friend of mine, Nate Grey… he’s been following you!’ Urch exclaims ‘Says who?’ Nate asks as he tosses the weapon he has been carrying at the Underseers. It is charged with his telekinetic energy, which explodes against the Underseers, knocking them back. ‘Forget it! We’re surrounded, outnumbered - losing ground by the second - do you trust me?’ Urch calls out to Nate as they run down another corridor. ‘Any other choices…?’ Nate replies. ‘Nope’ Urch tells him. ‘Then I’m right behind you’ Nate declares as he and Urch leap into a open panel against the wall.
They fall through a tube, ‘But where the…?’ Nate begins as they land in some water. ‘Waste-disposal chute. I’m afraid’ Urch announces, adding that it is the only way out, as the two are sucked downstream. Nate puts a telekinetic bubble around their heads, while up above, the Underseers’ start firing down the chute. ‘If they’d attempted to flee through the supply-channels, the runners would have been sliced to ribbons by the new bio-containment laser-grid!’ one of them declares, adding that the sewage system requires no such dense-measures. ‘They’ll drown in toxic-sludge… long before reaching the next access-valve’.
At that moment, Nate is clinging to a ledge, while Urch hangs on to him, and Fuzz hovers next to her as the waste water passes beneath them. ‘Incredible, Nate Grey. Without those last-minute telekinetic bubbles of yours, trapping extra oxygen for us…’ Urch remarks, while Nate explains that it was really just the smell, he reacted instinctively. ‘Of course. And Fuzz is doing the same even now - instinctively static-cleaning us both to get rid of that smell. It has nothing at all to do with how we work together’ Urch remarks as they climb back out through the panel and Fuzz darts about over them. ‘Right. But we did it, Urch. Made it all the way here, up - and out…’ Nate begins as they look up at exotic, spiralling buildings before them, while the Darkle peers out at them from the shadows. ‘The Shi’ar Imperial Throne world - more magnificent than I ever imagined!’
‘Shi’ar? The race most likely to have sent Modt and Jahf to take me down for “crimes against the M’Krann Crystal“, according to the X-Men…that’s why I’ve been dragged here to another world! Another world…not just another Earth… another variation on my birth world…but a different planet altogether, hundreds of thousands of light-years from -’ Nate begins, when suddenly, ‘FREEZE!’ one of the Underseers’ shouts, as a large number of them swarm around Nate, Urch and Fuzz. Then, a hologram of Lilandra appears. ‘It is over, runners. End this here, now, without further need of violence - and no repercussions shall follow. So speaks Lilandra Neramani…’ Urch suddenly drops to her knees, ‘Majestrix of all-that-is-Shi’ar - our forgiveness, please, she-who-brings-peace-and-progress…’ Urch declares. ‘What?’ Nate asks, while Urch tells Lilandra that never would they raise a hand against the monarch who has done so many wondrous things for all that the worlds of her domain. ‘For the world of my people - my parents -’ Urch begins.
Lilandra tells the young Krillian to understand that they have not accomplished their miracles without sacrifice. ‘The gardens required weeding, the bad seeds require constant culling, to allow such flourishing’. Lilandra then instructs her soldiers to return them to the reformines without delay. ‘WHAT?’ Nate shouts. He shakes his fist at the projection of Lilandra and tells her that she can’t mean that. ‘You’ve got no idea what’s going on down there - what’s being done to your “loyal subjects” - you can’t even imagine the extent of the horrors committed in your name…against innocents!’ Nate roars. Lilandra turns away, ‘There is no such thing, X-19’ she responds, hanging her head. Nate is furious: ‘People are being punished for what they might do, “Majestrix” not what they’ve done! Punished in cold, callous, Inhumans ways - because you’re afraid to face the truth!’ Nate uses his telekinetic power to push the Overseers away.
‘Oh, really?’ Lilandra asks. She looks angry and turns to Nate: ‘And just what do you think you can tell me that you haven’t already, boy? What will I hear that I haven’t heard before, thousands of times - from many criminals far less destructive and dangerous than yourself!’ Nate grabs Urch and flies over to the floating platform where the illusion of Lilandra is projected. ‘Nothing, I guess…so I’ll show you’ he tells her, touching Lilandra’s face, he announces that he will psi-link her directly into every dirty little detail of the miserable life Urch lived, from birth, due to crimes committed by her mother and - ‘A hologram!’ Nate gasps, as his hand just passes through Lilandra’s face. Nate supposes that it is some sort of two-way photo-electrical transmission from the real Lilandra’s actual location, no doubt.
Nate realizes that it is electrical, just like Fuzz, and hopes that Fuzz might be all they finally need to connect. Nate touches Fuzz, and the connection goes right through into Lilandra’s mind. She hears the constant cries of the damned, growing ever louder. And, with just one touch, nothing more, the mighty Majestrix of an empire that encompasses galaxies upon galaxies, truly sees the reality beneath her feet for the first time ever. She can’t escape the echo of their friends and families, shrieking and screaming and wailing with grief and loss - the stench of their sweat and tears everywhere, the taste of blood in the very air around her. She feels it - all of it - knows it now, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Nate ends the connection, and Lilandra cries. She can never, ever again deny it.
Change begins slowly. Almost four days later, an indescribably powerful boy starts off on a new journey, a long-overdue return to his home, and whatever else awaits. As Nate lies in the capsule that is shunted out into space, the Darkle watches him. The world he leaves behind however pays him no heed, it seems, except one girl, one singularly determined and courageous young woman has been granted a voice in the wake of his visit. ‘Goodbye, Nate Grey’ he calls out as she watches from an observation window. Her family, her world at least, will never be the same again. She will make sure of that. Urch stands with Grun and Lilandra on a platform, Fuzz hovers nearby. This is just a beginning, and Lilandra looks skyward, ‘Farewell’ she utters to Nate.