The Brilliant City, an unimaginably beautiful place, surrounded by black space. Two months from now.
Walking the broad silver pathways, while not touching the ground, are beautiful more than human beings, some displaying facial markings, dressed in togas and tunics. Two of them are arguing. One man, calling the other Qabiri, accuses him of being wrong. The city has always stood. Immaculate. Inviolate. Nothing can change that. They have always stood. And they always shall. His companion, Qabiri, tells Melchior that he places too much faith in tradition. Things are shifting.
In the darknesses? Melchior asks disinterested. The darknesses are corrupt, imperfect worlds. They are not their concern. They are, Qabiri insists. They know of them. They’ve dreamed of them since their time began. They know how to reach them now. If they allow it, the lower beings will devour them. They must be made to choose: be perfected or be destroyed.
As Qabiri steps to the edge of the pathway, Melchior points out that they are neither soldiers nor missionaries. Contact with the lower worlds is forbidden. It will only corrupt them. He places little faith in his own purity, Qabiri observes. Do they wait then, until they are overrun he asks, as they are joined by more. Until the undercreatures dance in the stained rubble of the Brilliant City? They are mightier, but the others number in the trillions. If they learn the City is more than a dream, they won’t be able to stop them.
They’re no threat, Melchior insists. Nothing imperfect can survive within the City. And once it was thought they were the only being who could walk the Spiral, Qabiri reminds him. That’s now untrue. No old wisdom is dependable anymore.
Trying to reach out, Melchior remarks that Qabiri’s proposition is monstrous. Genocide beyond imagining. It can only bring disaster. But the Brilliant City will live, Qabiri points out. The City must be defended whatever the price. Melchior can do what he likes, but he will do what he must.
Over Melchior’s warning, he runs and jumps over the edge into the awaiting darkness. Melchior just muses that this was foolish. Qabiri belongs to the darkness now.
Qito, Ecuador. Six months ago:
It is as though several natural disasters at once are hitting the city. People are running off in panic. Above the town floats a figure in the air. Watching the destruction below him dispassionately, he stretches out his thumb and slowly, Caesar-like, it points downwards. Within the next few moments the destruction is completed… and Nate Grey just watches.
Horrified, Nate Grey awakes from a nightmare in his hotel room, clutching his chest. Madelyne Pryor steps into the room, asking if he is all right. She heard him cry out. A bad dream, he explains. He crushed a city, because he could. All those people… They didn’t matter to him at all. It was sickening. Getting dressed he explains that he needs to take a walk. In Buenos Aires at 3 a.m? Maddie asks incredulously. He is not concerned with being mugged, Nate remarks. She supposed not, Madelyne concedes with a smirk. A walk sounds like a good idea.
A little later, they walk the streets of Buenos Aires. Nate admits that he is not sure if it was a dream. When he uses his telekinesis, there’s a vibration. It stays with him a while. He felt it when he woke up. It was very strong. He used his powers that night. And he doesn’t remember when. He continues that there is a lot he doesn’t remember. How long have they been traveling now? Three weeks? Ontario. Singapore. Auckland. Here. Why did they do that? He can’t remember why.
Several begging children accost him while Madelyne points out that his life has always been aimless. He admits she’s right, but…
A child accosts Madelyne directly. With glowing eyes, she calls him a cockroach. While Nate walks on, oblivious, Madelyne uses her power to kill the child in front of the horrified other kids. Nate just continues that evil event cast their shadows before them. He feels something awful will happen.
Suddenly, he stops. It just occurred to him it was her idea to go to all those places. Why? She touches his forehead in a soothing gesture, reminding him she was created to give his life direction. She tells him to forget about it. Ok, he replies. What were they talking about? he asks. She reminds him that he was agitated. They decided a walk would clear his head. Is he better? He thinks so. He isn’t sure. He’d swear there was something else.
They stop at a news-vendor, he sees the headline Quito destruido!!!. A whole city destroyed. He did this, Nate realizes. He can’t know that, Maddy suggests. He does. He wants go there and find out. She asks him to take her with him. Why would he do that? He wonders one moment, to agree the next. He may need her there, when he finds out the truth.
He flies them there and Nate is horrified at what he finds. The destruction is total. Nothing left but rubble. How many people lived here? Does it matter now? Maddy asks before cryptically adding that he is really everything she could have hoped for. What is she talking about? he demands. He is out of control. No, he isn’t, she replies and tells him to look again. What does he see?
Looking down, he sees that the profile of a face is etched into the ruins. Her face. She made him do that. It happens, she agrees, stroking his face. Go to sleep. Nate is willing to comply before catching himself. Grabbing her wrist, he tells her to stop. All those people are dead because of them, he shouts. Why? Madelyne replies that he is making her angry now. He has no concept of what a bad, bad idea that is.
He fires telekinetic energy at her in vain. This isn’t possible, he exclaims. He made her. She only exists because of him. That’s a lovely fantasy, she replies. Every Nate Grey tries to cling to it. She fires energy at him and unlike him hits home. Madelyne explains that he created his Maddie, but she isn’t his Maddie. He created a phantom, a door for her to walk though. When he made his Maddie, it was because he was waiting for her. Who is she? he asks weakly. She is Madelyne Pryror, she replies. The only true Maddie Pryor he’s ever known.
She continues to explain that she replaced his Maddie several months ago. She’s been worming into his head ever since. The destruction of Quito was a final test to ensure he is fully operational. She needs an intact Nate Grey. Nate doesn’t understand. Maddie offers a hand and an explanation if he takes her home. Where’s home? he asks. She tells him to read the front of her mind. If he lets her she can show him the most amazing things, she tantalizes. As they hold hands, Nate sees a spiral of worlds and the fall and they arrive.
Nate feels sick and Maddie tells him that he is fighting himself too much. That sort of thing should be second nature to him. He looks around to see that they are standing on the roof a building in a high-tech city. Yet it is beautiful and he has never smelled air so clean. Where are they? he asks. Manhattan, comes another voice. The man introduces himself as Mr. Scratch and, addressing Madelyne as “your majesty,” he welcomes her home.