Only a smoking crater is left of the headquarters of the Gauntlet. Surveying it, Nate Grey muses that it didn’t go as planned. It – referring to the creature he fought moments before – pulled itself up the Spiral by sheer force of hate. Studying the arm it has lost, Nate remarks that it didn’t flinch at extremities.
He should have guessed it wouldn’t be of a mind to die. He deduces that it retreated down realities, but to come this far unaided… Its power must be on a par with Nate’s… He closes his eyes and focuses. He decides that it will be back if he lets it and it will be ready for Nate next time.
Other people have gathered around him, one man announcing that Nate must be a terrorist. He blew up that building. He doesn’t have time for this, Nate announces impatiently as he uses his telepathy on the people. He wasn’t here. He must be mad…
Firemen arrive and quickly find out from the damage that the building imploded. No bomb could have done that. They question witnesses but, after Nate’s little stunt, they don’t remember a thing.
Flying above the city, Nate fears that this is getting out of hand. He doesn’t want to kill anything or twist minds. Until he has a clear picture of the situation, things will only get worse. Only the Gauntlet has the information he needs. They are scattered now, but it won’t hide them from that creature… or from Nate. He knows their minds. He reaches out telepathically and scans the city. Nate smiles as he contacts the woman who has acted in a leading capacity before.
Ms Yoshida, he greets the woman who is sitting in the back of a car. Angry, she demands he get out of her mind. Blood trickling from his nose, Nate remarks that after the fight he just had it’s a strain picking out the minds of the Gauntlet from the ten million others in the city. He allows the other members to listen in and orders them to maintain the link for him. If he overloads, it could kill them all. They comply and Nate demands they tell him what happened the day they left the universe.
So he guessed, Ms. Yoshida states matter-of-factly. She supposes he will just rip the rest out of them, if they don’t tell him. She reminds him that they are all successful business people and used their advantage to build nice lives. When their nice lives got boring, they used their money to buy time to really explore their mutant abilities. Then they used their abilities to really explore.
Getting space suits was the most difficult part. Moving out of the universe demanded all their power and concentration. Diverting power for life support would have been fatally draining. They needed suits. Fortunately you can buy anything from the Russians these days. They’d already visited parallel Earths. One of their corporations derives considerable revenues from one of them. But this. This was Rutherford dreaming the shape of the atom. Just them and the pure unknown.
Sharing power in a circle they moved though space and time and ended up seeing a spiral of Earths surrounded by skeleton birds. They realized reality was three-dimensional. Not only are they parallel to alternate universes, but there are planes of existence above and below. It took a joint movement of minds in perfect concert to play them out of the universe. Down into the dark places. The broken universes. Where creation’s failures – or God’s, or whatever you call it – are stacked. Lifeless universes. Universes without time. Some with music instead of heat. Others where light moves at twenty-two miles per hour. Where flesh burns, or great alien dynasties pass intense lifetimes in minutes. The wrong places.
Nate continues that there they did something so heinous one of the natives dragged himself inch by inch across reality to come and get them. No reaction. Not even a denial? Nate snarls. They sicken him. They are supposed to be better than that. Why? asks Ms Yoshida. Because they are mutants? “Homo superior?” They don’t exist to satisfy Nate’s hypocritical morality. He invades their minds with barely a thought. Are they evil for doing the same to the Spiral? Why should they show creation more courtesy than Nate shows them? He knew they were idiots, Nate remarks. He’ll be back for them all. First, he has to fix this. He has to leave the universe.
Nate focuses… and he is gone… to rematerialize on the broken Earth. He blasts a hole in the ground with his TK and addresses the creature, annoucing that he knows what they did. He orders the creature to let it go and leave them to Nate. He promises he’ll make it right. Make it right? the creature asks, as it begins to climb upwards with only one arm. Nate is a liar, it decides. He wants to help, Nate assures him. Mockingly, the creature points out that the people from the good world only ever want to help. He tells Nate to look at him, at this place. What does he think he can do? What more can Nate rip out of him?
He drops to the ground, his arm stump still bleeding. Make it right? Nate knows what they did and he thinks it can be made right? He smears his blood on a rock and throws it at Nate, the stone mutating and growing spikes in mid-throw. They trapped us here! They stole our children!, Nate stares at him in horror.