Plunging down the Spiral of parallel Earths with her otherwordly twin and the unconscious Nate Grey, the mightiest mutant of Earth 611 (actually 616), Nicola Zeitgeist wonders if they killed this Earth 253.
Had they not walked between worlds, the destroyer Qabiri wouldn’t have come to keep them from ever reaching his pure Earth and tainting it. He beat Nate in three seconds. He obliterated her world. He wants them dead and any Earth they ever touched. He can’t be stopped. All they can do is run.
Nicola turns into her energy form and Sister Perpetua shouts at her not to abandon them. Nicola tells her not to panic. She created an energy shield around them, as the Earth they are heading for seems inhospitable. Why did Nicola bring them there? Perpetua asks. Nicola is confused. She thought Perpetua brought them there. She’s never been this far down the parallels before. The air’s exploding. They land in a lake.
Moments later, Nate raises them upward in a telekinetic bubble. An acid sea, the air’s acid too, he observes. They are on a broken Earth, an Earth that formed improperly. They can’t survive there. Whose idea was this? Wasn’t it his? Perpetua asks. He’d never have chosen a world where it takes most of his concentration to telekinetically filter enough oxygen from the air to breathe, he replies snarkily. He has to be conscious to walk the Spiral, he adds, his nose beginning to bleed. It’s not easy. Nicola angrily states that she doesn’t even know what the Spiral is. She’s still not sure who they are.
Nate explains that, on her Earth, it’s called parallels. A sequence of Earths stretched across existence, all unaware of each other. Others call it the Tree of Worlds or the Corridor. Qabiri from an Earth high in the sequence calls it the Darkness.
Clenching her fists, Nicola vows that she will kill Qabiri. Nate reminds her that she doesn’t have the power. Even Nate’s is a shadow of his. If he keeps this up, he’ll have a cerebral hemorrhage. They have to leave before they die, but he needs to know something. Of the hundreds of Earths to run to why choose this one?
Nicola insists it’s nothing to do with her. She can’t take people down the parallels. Nate reminds her she also claimed to be unable to survive the end of her Earth, and yet here she is. Is it a coincidence she and Sister Perpetua look alike? Nicola reminds him that they are counterparts from different Earths. Hasn’t he ever met a counterpart while world-walking? He acts like she’s got an agenda! Perpetua asks both of them to stop. Someone’s out there.
Outside their bubble, unprotected, a blonde woman, another lookalike, rises advising them that this place is dangerous. She is Hassan, champion and explorer from the Emirate. She didn’t expect to find others this far down the Serpent’s Tail. She too is dangerous when provoked. So why are both women wearing her face?
Edinburgh on Earth 611. Suddenly, the sky is burning, and then so are the people on the street. Qabiri has arrived. Where is Nate Grey? he asks.
A plane strikeforce has noticed him. Realizing he is hostile, they attack. Qabiri just points with his burning sword and they all explode. Floating down to the ground, he asks a frightened boy where Nate Grey is. Who? the child asks, confused. He should know him, Qabiri replies. His actions condemned the child’s Earth. It will end shortly. He does this only to protect his own world. He orders the boy to tell his people to gather with those they love. There’s nothing else they can do. They have until Nate Grey arrives. He must die with them, so that he doesn’t taint other Earths. So that their sacrifice won’t be pointless. The boy runs away.
In the meantime, Nate and his entourage have arrived on that Earth as well in the Himalayas. Hassan complains that she’s never been to this Earth. Is there anywhere warm on it? Yes, but being near civilization will be a bad idea when Qabiri arrives, Nate replies.
He asks Hassan why she was on that broken world. A whim, she replies. She doesn’t know. He does, Nate replies. She was called. And who would have done that? He? she asks. Them. He points to Sister Perpetua and Nicola who angrily informs him that he is out of his mind. He reminds her again that she survived the death of her own Earth when she swore she couldn’t. Hassan was found alive and unprotected where nothing can live. Hassan snarls at him aggressively. Nate continues that since the women met, all of them have done impossible things.
She hasn’t, Sister Perpetua points out calmly. She most of all, Nate replies. She has no eyes. But since she’s come into contact with Nicola, she’s seen. It was so natural, she didn’t even notice. He came to cure her. He thought she was a mutant, but she isn’t. He thought she had impassable walks in her mind, but they’re no walls. They’re voids. So wide and deep no bridge across them is possible. All of them have them. But different voids as if they fit together like a puzzle.
Nicola and Hassan gather around Perpetua almost protectively as Nicola snarls that they already figured that out. They’re parallel versions of each other from different Earths. Are they? Nate muses. Perpetua remembers her father’s abuse. Nicola recalls materializing as an Earth spirit without explanation. Hassan was selected by her caliph to control an unknown energy from the stars. Surface memories. Fabrications. The three women stare at him with identical looks on their faces.
Nate continues. Nicola and Perpetua got them off Nicola’s Earth when he couldn’t. Meshing so effortlessly, they didn’t even realize they were doing it. Hassan heard a psychic summons across reality and came running. They are not parallels. They are pieces of a singular being and they don’t want to recognize it.
Nicola accuses him of being insane as she shifts into her energy form ready to attack him. Quite possibly, Nate agrees. His eye flashes as he engulfs them in energy. They are running out of time. He asks them to forgive him.
With this display of power, Qabiri senses Nate’s return and as well that with him is a power far greater than Nate’s. What has he done? the three women accuse Nate. They now look identical, three perfect blondes in togas with stripes across their legs and arms. Stripped away their self-delusions, Nate explains. They are perfect. What if they don’t want to remember? Hassan asks. Perpetua states that she wants to know. Can Nate heal them? If they allow it. Do it, Perpetua decides. Again he links them.
That moment, fiery energy strikes him courtesy of Qabiri. Did he think he wouldn’t find Nate? He strikes again with Nate erecting a telekinetic shield, but it doesn’t hold and Nate has to evade the blow. He turns around. Qabiri’s energy blasted away half a mountain.
Qabiri takes that moment to wrestle Nate from behind. The Earths he has killed are his fault, Qabiri snarls. The world-walkers should have stayed on their own worlds. He only protects the Brilliant City from corruption. They made it necessary. Nate focuses… in vain. Nate’s power is nothing to him, Qabiri boasts.
He gets ready to kill Nate, when fiery energy like his hits Qabiri who falls to the ground. Disgusted at being profaned by the muck of the darkness, he flies up again to behold the united form of the three women. She accuses him of strange standards. He addresses her as Idris. He knows her? she demands. Qabiri explains that she fled the Brilliant City eons ago. They always wondered what became of her. The darknesses have corrupted her. Unchecked, it will corrupt the Brilliant City as well. Is that what she wants?
Nate takes Idris’ arm, explaining that there are still man voids in her mind. She’s far from complete. If she fights Qabiri, she will lose. They have to leave. Wherever they go, he’ll find them, Qabiri warns them. This world will still die first, before it generates more world-walkers. Destroy it then, Nate retorts. He can’t fight Qabiri. He accepts that. But he’ll waste time. Time’s on Nate’s side now. Qabiri made a mistake. He knows what Qabiri’s afraid of. With those ominous words, Nate teleports himself and Idris away.
In the Spiral between worlds, Idris states that Qabiri will come after them. Can they really fight him? No, Nate admits. What are they going to do? she asks. Find out what frightened her so badly she had to scatter herself across reality to get away from it, he decides. Idris doesn’t understand. What good will that do? What then?
Then? Nate asks. Then he does something evil.