There are parallel Earths strung along a spiral from one end of reality to the other. Our Earth is a median world. At one extreme are the broken Earths, ruined worlds where creation went astray. On the other end is the Brilliant City- A singularity. Perfection on the head of a pin. A timeless home to a perfected race of unfathomable power. Nothing ever changes in the Brilliant City. Visitors are unheard of. Until now.
Nate Grey and Idris manifest above the Brilliant City. Why are they there? Idris demands. This is the pinnacle of everything they understand as reality, Nate explains. Qabiri’s homeworld, and hers. Qabiri’s willing to destroy all other Earths to keep it pristine. She ran from it so violently, she split herself across existence. This place is the key to stopping Qabiri, he believes. Idris wants to know what he’s planning. To help her, Nate promises. There are gaps in her psyche. He’s never seen anything like them. But there’s residue of secrets as well. What were her secrets? Unwilling to reply, Idris turns away.
They are joined by other inhabitants of the Brilliant City, who come flying up. They are not welcome here, Nate and Idris are told. Leave or be extinguished. Nate replies that one of theirs is “extinguishing” the lower Earths. Qabiri, the other being, Melchior replies. Nate wants them to stop him. No one else can. Qabiri left here, Melchior replies. He’s no longer one of them. They have no interest in him or the Darknesses. Were he to erase it all, why would they care? Nate’s eye flares up in anger. That’s all the rest of existence is to them? he shouts. Darkness? Does perfection exclude compassion? Leave, he is ordered again. If he’s there to taint the Brilliant City, he won’t get the chance, he is warned.
It occurred to him, Nate admits, but he wouldn’t. He doesn’t like to destroy things when he can avoid it. He points to Idris. Ask her why they are there. They will continue this when he’s back. With that, he dematerializes.
Idris addresses Melchior, telling him she’s come home. He recognizes her.
Earth 611 (actually 616). Qabiri in the skies decides to act. Nate Grey has fled. His cowardice only dooms more Earths, Qabiri predicts. Any Earth that birthed a world-walker will birth others, any Earth touched by a world-walker will birth others. Any world-walker could carry the taint of the darknesses to the Brilliant City. They cannot be allowed to exist. This Earth must end now. He summons his fiery energy.
Five minutes more won’t kill Qabiri, Nate who has appeared behind him states. He hasn’t come back to fight, he quickly adds. They both know Nate’d fail. They have things to discuss. The Earth will still be there for Qabiri to destroy when they are done talking. Or is patience beyond his understanding? Nate can see where it might be. He realizes concepts like space and time barely exist in the Brilliant City. What does he know of the Brilliant City? Qabiri asks suspicious. It sounded so interesting he had to see it for himself, Nate replies seemingly harmlessly. It still stands. For now, he adds. It will always stand! Qabiri shouts as he unleashes a killing blast at Nate.
“Nate” is revealed to be merely a projection, which informs him that Nate isn’t stupid enough to face Qabiri again physically. Qabiri demands he show himself or he will destroy Nate’s world. The image turns to a giant face of Nate as he states logically that this is a thin threat. Qabiri will destroy this world anyway. By the time he finishes, he’ll be too late. The Brilliant City will be gone. Unless he destroys Nate first, before he torches this Earth. Nate knows Qabiri can find him. Their mental link is a road map he can follow. But it will take time. He’s going to listen to Nate.
As Qabiri keeps on looking for Nate, Nate begins to explain that he is the mutant shaman of this Earth. He exists to heal and guide his tribe, though he must live outside it. He accepts that. He embraces the contradictions. He loves them as a parent loves a child, without question. It’s part of his job to negotiate with higher and lower dimensions, such as Qabiri’s. But he’s confused. He recently visited a broken Earth as far to the bottom of the Spiral as the Brilliant City is to the top. A world of constant murderous change. With survival their only goal to the creatures there life was precious beyond belief. Nate floats over an iceberg, still projecting as Qabiri closes in.
Nate continues that Qabiri’s world has been unchanged since time began. It’s always the beginning of time there and the end and they imagine all life as meaningless as their own. So which is the higher world and which the lower? Can Qabiri hear him?
Qabiri flies through Nate, shattering his form. The shards pull together again. Does he see? Nate asks. Qabiri never had to adapt. He doesn’t know how to, so Nate can pull the same trick on him over and over again.
Is he the real one? Qabiri asks. Yes, Nate replies and fades away before Qabiri can grab him. But something did change in the Brilliant City once, didn’t it? he asks. Idris found something. That’s why she ran away. He thinks he’ll go see what it was.
Left alone, Qabiri screams in denial.
In the Brilliant City, Idris asks whether they remember her. She’s their friend, Idris, who is no longer among them, Melchior replies. Why did she leave? Idris asks. It doesn’t matter, Melchior replies, clearly speaking for the others. She’s been to the darknesses. She’s contaminated. They all fire energy at her with Melchior’s judgment that the Brilliant City must be preserved.
Nate appears at that moment, breaking that energy flow. What do they think they’re doing? he asks angrily. She’s not their enemy. He’s not their enemy. He stands protectively over Idris, as he shouts that their enemy is right behind them. He’ll destroy both their worlds if not checked.
Qabiri appears in a halo of dark energy. A transparent deception, he scoffs. Melchior and he are brothers. He knows Qabiri would never harm the City. Come and die, he tells Nate.
Melchior turns to Qabiri, informing him that he isn’t welcome there. Qabiri is incredulous. He isn’t serious! What he’s done he did for them! Again, the citizens of the City fire energy, this time at Qabiri. Like Idris he is contaminated, Melchior explains. He knew that when he left return was impossible. Nothing has changed. After all, he’s given up they’ treat him like this. He sacrificed everything for them, Qabiri screams as he fires back.
Nate protects himself and Idris in a telekinetic bubble from the fight. They have a few second while the others are distracted. Is she ready, he asks. Why is he trying to help her? she asks in return. She’s not one of his tribe. She is, Nate replies. She’s a mutant. A changed being in a place where change in impossible. She did what she shouldn’t be genetically capable of. She learned what she couldn’t have learned. She shredded herself among the Earths and invented false memories to ensure she’d forget herself. He can’t put her back together again. But he can psychically reconnect her across worlds. He touches her forehead and proceeds to do so.
Qabiri blows away his attackers and by doing so destroys part of the Brilliant City. What have they made him do? he cries in horror.
Idris is also horrified as Nate connects her with her selves all across the Spiral. She remembers. It can’t be true! She recoils on herself, holding herself while Nate states disappointed that it’s all so… so pointless!
Qabiri faces him menacingly. This is all Nate’s fault. He engineered this. He knew beasts from the darknesses could never tolerate perfection. A city is easier to rebuild than a psyche, Nate retorts. And this place is nowhere near perfection Does he want to know what Idris did? She looked up, that’s all. He orders them to look. They do so.
Above them the Spiral goes on. Mysterious shadowy beings tower over them. The Brilliant City is at the top of the Spiral they can see, Nate explains. But there’s a spectrum beyond. This is what Idris saw. Beings so great, the denizens of the Brilliant City are even less than the lowliest creature in all the Spiral is to them, so great they don’t even notice them. This is no less a broken world than any other. This was the knowledge so consuming, Idris couldn’t bear it.
With the citizens of the Brilliant City in shock after that revelation, Nate walks amidst the rubble cradling Idris close. It’s over, he tells her. It will never be over, she replies. Her people… will survive, he cuts her off. The Brilliant City will survive. Reality caught up with them. That’s all. All they’ve really lost is arrogance. And Qabiri?
He looks at him in the rubble, crying, possibly mad. He has nothing left to fight for, Nate replies. Idris sighs that she left to avoid this. Nate said he’d help her. She doesn’t want to be Idris anymore. Who would she like to be? he asks with a smile.
Sister Perpetua prays. Her visions of terror no longer haunt her. Has she finally atoned? Are her torments truly ended? She is not worthy of the Lord’s mercy. She firmly vows with the help of his grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin.
Unseen by her Nate muses that she saved countless lives on countless worlds. The sin was his. He guessed what would happen when he “cured” her in the Brilliant City. He planned on it. Forget, he tells her. It’s the least he can do for her. But he can never forget. Go in peace.