Chandilar, the throne world of the Shi’ar Imperium. Its imperial city is a symbol of security and prosperity for the most powerful race in the known universe. The Shi’ar culture is based upon the worship of Sharra and Ky’thri, who once were gods at war, and now are gods in marriage. This religion is the basis for their power. The Shi’ar do not merely conquer other planets - they marry and absorb them, merging cultures instead of destroying them, turning conquered people into allies. The Imperium grows, and as it does, so do the headaches that come with controlling it.
In her aerie, high above a city still alive with activity despite the lateness of the hour, Lilandra Neramani sleeps. Or, at the very least, she tries. Sleep does not come easy for the Majestrix-Sh’iar. Lilandra has found that power and conscience are a burdensome combination. Lying on a very large round bed, Lilandra stirs, ‘Who is…?’ she calls out, when she senses someone in her chamber. She is almost glad of the disturbance - almost.
Looking up, Lilandra sees the alien called Jahf. ‘How dare you?’ Lilandra calls out. ‘Hologram you may be, but this is the imperial bedchamber! And your attention should be on your duties as guardian of the M’Kraan Crystal. Jahf apologizes to Lilandra, and tells her that it is those duties which prompt this disruption. ‘I cannot leave my post, but there is a crisis you must be made aware of’ Jahf reports. Jahf reminds the Majestrix that her primary duty is to prevent any intruder from entering the sacred crystal when the M’Kraan gateway opens, which happens once in a million years. Jahf points out that between such times, however, it still falls to her to guard and protect the crystal from harm. ‘I’m not sure how I could have missed it before, but this evening, I noticed…wait, I will show you’.
A hologram of the M’Kraan Crystal appears, and Lilandra, now out of bed, notices a beam of energy attached to the crystal, and asks Jahf what it is. ‘That, Majestrix, is why I disturbed you’ Jahf replies, revealing that, somehow, the infinite power of the crystal is being siphoned off, drained into deep space. Jahf tells Lilandra that the siphoning will likely not harm the crystal, but she thought Lilandra would want to know of this immediately. The purple-skinned alien with white hair remarks that the crystal is a symbol of faith, of the union between Sharra and Ky’thri. ‘This blasphemy must be stopped’ Jahf declares. Lilandra asks the guardian if she has been able to trace the origins of the siphoning. ‘Indeed’ Jahf replies, announcing that she will call up a hologram of the source planet. ‘Mother’s wing!’ Lilandra gasps as she sees the hologram.
Lilandra then falls silent, as this is far from the first time Lilandra has had trouble with the planet Earth and its people. Despite the fact that some of its heroes have been her allies in the past, Earth has proven itself quite a nuisance. Not for the first time, Lilandra wonders if it wouldn’t be simpler to just add Earth to the Imperium. But Lilandra could never do that. Her heart belongs to an earther, a terran named Charles Xavier, founder of the X-Men. Lilandra loves Charles deeply, though it pains her endlessly, and is one of the reasons for their current estrangement - ever and always, the Imperium must come first. Lilandra thanks Jahf and remarks that she serves her Majestrix faithfully. She instructs Jahf to return to her post now. Lilandra remarks that her duties keep her here on Chandilar, so she will instruct Commander Kai’tra and High Priest Dar’bikk to gather a force and investigate this phenomenon. ‘And Sharra and Ky’thri, I pray they come back empty-handed. Jahf tells Lilandra that she rests easy knowing the blasphemers will be punished, adding that with Kai’tra and Dar’bikk pursuing them, there will be nowhere on Earth for them to hide.
‘Where?’ the handsome hero and mutant refugee called Nate Grey wonders as he hovers high over New York City. Nate knows that somewhere out there is the cruellest, most twisted individual he has ever come across - the Dark Beast, known as McCoy. They both come from another version of this world, another reality where hope had been extinguished, where hatred had given way to devastation - to apocalypse. Whatever twist of fate saved them, put both of them here, Nate is grateful for the second chance. Already in this new world, Nate has gone up against McCoy several times. For a while now, Nate has been bowing to track the Dark Beast down once and for all, and put him somewhere, where his perverse experiments would never harm anyone again. Which brings Nate back to that question - where? But Nate isn’t worried, as it is only a matter of time before he locks onto the Dark Beast’s location. At the moment, Nate is the most powerful telepath, the most powerful telekinetic, and maybe the most powerful mutant on the face of the Earth.
Nate figures now that he has set his mind to it, there is nowhere on Earth the Dark Beast can hide. But he is wrong - there is one place. An alternate, hidden lab, one that Nate is unaware of from his previous encounter, buried deep beneath the oldest of New York’s subway tunnels. There, the Dark Beast has found a way to shield his location from all psi-scans. But, just because this lab cannot be psionically penetrated, doest not mean it is impenetrable, as the deadly being known as Holocaust appears, and drops down through the tunnels into the laboratory, where the Dark Beast is busy working. ‘Nemesis!’ the Dark Beast exclaims when he detects his visitor. ‘You’re late’ Dark Beast remarks.
Soon, the Dark Beast has placed Holocaust into some equipment, and tells him to relax. He adds that he is not sure if this will hurt or not, but that it is necessary. ‘McCoy, why do insist on calling me by my birth name?’ Holocaust asks. McCoy tells him that it not just a name, but his destiny, to be humanity’s nemesis. McCoy instructs him to be still, and remarks that with luck, this will be the last core sample they will need. McCoy taps away at a computer console and explains that then they might find out why Holocaust’s armor cannot access some of the features he built into it. ‘When I created this exo-skeleton, I certainly never expected anyone to come along with the power to tamper with it’ McCoy remarks, adding that he hopes they never run into Onslaught again. ‘What the -?’ he calls out, when suddenly, there is an explosion in the laboratory, as the outer wall is busted open.
‘Stand where you are, terrans! I am Commander Kai’tra of the Shi’ar!’ the commander announces. She wears green armor and sports a mohawk hairstyle. She is flanked by several Shi’ar warriors in red armor. They all carry large weapons. Kai’tra informs the Dark Beast and Holocaust that they are both wanted for questioning on charges of sacrilege, by authority of Majestrix Lilandra, she then orders them to surrender. ‘Surrender? Your words mean nothing to me, alien! And though I am weakened by my “friend’s” experiments, I will never surrender!’ He breaks out of the contraption the Dark Beast had him in and declares ‘Despite McCoy’s argument to the contrary, my name is Holocaust, woman! Let me show you why!’ he exclaims as he fires a blast of energy at the Shi’ar.
The Dark Beast also engages the warriors in battle, ‘Out of the way, alien fool! You violate my home, destroy my lab…and I don’t have any weaponry nearly as advanced as yours. So thanks for the loan!’ he exclaims as he steals one of their weapons. ‘We are prepared for you, McCoy! You should have surrendered!’ Kai’tra declares as she blasts McCoy from behind, striking him down. ‘Alien cow! McCoy is not my friend, but he is my ally! You have signed your death warrant by attacking us today!’ Holocaust warns the Shi’ar, holding one of them by their necks. Holocaust, born Nemesis, fights on. Powered by rage, he has been weakened by the Dark Beast’s tests and treatments. Ironic then, that in trying to perfect, and even to magnify his power, he has left himself vulnerable, as the other Shi’ar warriors fire their weapons at him. ‘You were offered a chance to surrender, terran. Remember that, as you scream in agony!’ one of the Shi’ar calls out. ‘Oh, I’ll remember. I’ll -’ Holocaust begins, before he screams, as the blast penetrates his armor. ‘But how?’ Holocaust wonders, before boasting that he will destroy them all. He then fires the final blast in the battle - upwards, shattering a portion of the ceiling, raining rubble down on top of the Dark Beast’s laboratory, burning through everything in its path…
…and erupting into the sky above Manhattan! ‘Whoa!’ Nate calls out when he sees the blast in the sky nearby. ‘Now there’s something you don’t see everyday’ Nate tells himself as he flies in the direction of the blast. He supposes that his hunt for McCoy will have to wait a while. And, as the city around him is reacting to the explosion, Nate is just focused on getting to the scene of the disaster. He doesn’t sense the sudden arrival of Shi’ar soldiers below, even though he is the focus of their thoughts. ‘There! Our sensors placed us quite close to our target! Now, quickly, before he can get away…’ one of them calls out, and two of the warriors fire their weapons upwards, striking the surprised Nate, who cries out in pain, and falls to the ground below. Nate is surrounded by the Shi’ar warriors, and tells them that he has no idea why anyone would want to dress up in Arnold’s “freeze-armor”, and he doesn’t care. ‘But there are a couple of things I want to get straight. First…getting shot at really ticks me off!’ Nate exclaims as he engages the Shi’ar in combat, he grabs one of them and warns the warrior that he has about three seconds to tell him why he shouldn’t trash them all.
‘I’ll be more than happy to answer that question, boy. You are badly outnumbered’ one of the older warriors remarks as he aims his weapon at Nate, while Kai’tra stands nearby. ‘You might want to brush up on your math’ Nate replies as he telekinetically throws several of the warriors away from himself. Now before some rubberneckers get trampled…I suggested you all take off. And next time you want to talk to me…try starting with “hello”!’ Nate exclaims as he throws more of the warriors to one side, then hovers over the remaining ones, taking them out telekinetically, also. ‘Hello’ Commander Kai’tra declares as she moves towards Nate who has positioned himself on top of an abandoned bus. She tells Nate that she thought he would have been more cooperative, given their information and his connection to the X-Men. ‘But, then, how could I expect reasonable behavior from one whose very presence is heresy against the crystal and the Shi’ar Imperium!’ she exclaims.
‘Reasonable behav…? I have no idea what you’re talking about, and no more “connection” to the X-Men than you do, I suspect! But if you to throw down with me, I’m standing right here!’ Nate calls back. ‘No connection to the X-Men? Excellent. Then we need not be concerned about them coming after you!’ Kai’tra declares as she fires her weapon at Nate. A bullet, like a hockey puck, is fired at Nate, who takes note of it, and asks ‘Did you miss the fact that I’m telekinetic?’ But, the Shi’ar miss nothing, and as Nate attempts to use his telekinetic power to destroy the projectile, he realizes his mistake, and cries out in pain, clutching his head, for this is a Shi’ar psi-bomb, and when Nate lashes out with his mind, its component parts explode and latch on to his psi-signal, chasing them back to their source. It is really very messy. Nate then collapses to the ground. Kai’tra stands over him, and tells Nate that she hoped it wouldn’t be necessary to hurt him. ‘You made it an easy decision’ she adds, before instructing one of the soldiers to get him back to the ship and to not worry about being gentle.
Invisible to Earth’s comparatively primitive technology, the Shi’ar royal cruiser, Wingspan, orbit’s the Earth. It is a massive vessel, its crew and troops numbering more than 1000. And all to secure the three beings captive behind closed doors. Several guards stand in front of the doors, and inside the room, the heretics are restrained in differing harnesses, lined up next to each other. ‘I’m trying, McCoy, but whenever I attempt to use my power, it’s as though these restraints drain it from me, bleeding me dry’ Holocaust announces, before suggesting that McCoy do something, as he is the scientist. ‘Believe me, I am also trying’ McCoy replies, announcing that he recognizes these aliens, the Shi’ar, from the X-Men records. ‘And thanks to Xavier’s pups, I’ve used their technology before’ McCoy adds, explaining that the Shi’ar are light years ahead of Earth technology, and yet, there is something else here, it is as though the Shi’ar new what to expect of them. McCoy points out that these harnesses are clearly customized for each of them. ‘And on the other hand, even I haven’t been able to test the full parameters of Grey’s abilities yet’ McCoy remarks. ‘Perhaps when he comes around…’ McCoy begins, as Nate opens his eyes.
Images shown from Nate’s memories:
Nate Grey is healing, thanks to the Shi’ar med-techs who strapped him into his restraints. But he suffered severe trauma, and it is anybody’s guess when he will finally come around. For the moment, his unconscious mind is trawling through another trauma, a whole world of it - and the singular triumph that brought that world to an end. In that horrible other reality, called the Age of Apocalypse, the entire universe was threatened by the energy within the M’kraan Crystal, and all because a single shard had been chipped from the supposedly indestructible gem. Not so indestructible after all, but strong enough for Nate to use as a weapon against Holocaust. He drove the shard though the monster’s armor at the very moment when his entire reality collapsed around him. Yet somehow, that act, those energies coming together as one, had saved him…had preserved him, kept him intact as reality warped around him.
Nate fad fallen to the soil of a new Earth, a world where humans still ruled and where the X-Men fought to keep to keep the horrors he had known his whole life from ever occurring. Despite his untreatable paranoia, this less than perfect new world might have been paradise for Nate, if it weren’t for the fact that he wasn’t alone. The same energies that had brought him to this reality had brought others as well. Holocaust, the son of Apocalypse, the twisted devil doctor known as McCoy the Dark Beast, and one other, as well - the sadistic, malformed creature known as the Sugar Man.
‘Wake up, Grey!’ a voice calls out. ‘Come on boy! Wake!’ the voice cries. ‘Wanna make sure yer all awake!’ It is the Sugar Man, and he walks into the room, flanked by several Shi’ar guards, as he declares that he wants to make sure everyone knows the Sugar Man took down three of the most powerful mutants in the world. ‘After that whole Genosha deal feel apart, I got no respect. But nobody’s gonna mess with me after this!’ he boasts. ‘How dare you? You loathsome little troll. I’ll rip your heart out for this!’ Holocaust warns the Sugar Man, while the Dark Beast, calling him Nemesis again, tells him to calm down, for his own sake, explaining that their restraints draw on their own power to hold them. ‘The more you fight, the stronger you make your bonds’. Nate realizes this too, glowing with energy as he tries to break free, the restraints just become more difficult for him to fight against. ‘Oh, so it’s back to Nemesis, now, eh? Well, don’t think you can scare Sugar Man’ the horrid creature exclaims.
The Sugar Man continues, reminding everyone that they ignored him long enough and laughed at him. ‘But who’s laughing now, eh? I’m gonna show you who the real heir to Apocalypse is!’ Holocaust calls the Sugar Man a snivelling worm and points out that his father wouldn’t have noticed the Sugar Man if he didn’t have to scrape him off his boots. ‘You were never anything but a third-rate lackey, and you’ll -’ he is then interrupted by the Dark Beast, who suggests to the Sugar Man that he take leave of them now, as tempers are running high. ‘And I believe we all have some thinking to do’. The Sugar Man turns to leave the room, announcing that he is going, but not because he is afraid of any of them. He laughs and declares that the Age of the Sugar Man has begun. Nate turns to his fellow captives and tells them that he has no idea how Sugar Man ended up with these aliens, or what his agenda could be for them to capture the three of them like they are old pals or something. ‘But I’ve gotta say, seeing that sleazy moron diss you two is worth the hassle. Completely’.
‘Ah, listen to him, Nemesis. The pup has a personality now. You’d think he was a “real boy” instead of just a weapon built in our old friend Sinister’s lab’ McCoy remarks, adding that Nate talks as if he has a life beyond his destiny, the reason he was created - to destroy Nemesis’s father - to kill Apocalypse. Nate replies that Sinister was nothing compared to McCoy, that his destiny is even simpler: ‘To be the master of lies. To twist souls to mirror your own perversity. If only I could have fulfilled my destiny as well as you fulfilled your own’. Holocaust just frowns at Nate, when suddenly, another Shi’ar enters the room, surrounded by many guards. ‘Here me, infidels!’ he booms. ‘Oh, great. Something tells me this isn’t the cavalry’ Nate mutters, as the Shi’ar introduces himself as High Priest Dar’bikk of the Shi’ar Imperium, servant to the Majestrix Lilandra of the House of Neramani, and, above all, servant to Sharra and K’ythri, the Gods in Marriage, the two who are one, the union from which sprang the entire universe.
The aged Shi’ar tells the captives that they three are a twofold abomination, and were it his choice alone, they would all be dead now. ‘But the Majestrix is merciful. She has decreed that if your heresy can be erased, you may yet live’. He claims that they are aware of their origins, thanks to the assistance provided to them by their fellow heretic, the Sugar Man. ‘You are not even of this reality - abominations in the eyes of the gods and the universe. For that reason alone, you should be destroyed’ Dar’bikk announces, before telling the three that is not why the Shi’ar came for them, rather, it is because each of them holds within them a small, shimmering of energy from the M’kraan Crystal. He tells them that the M’kraan Crystal is one of the most powerful objects in the universe, but more importantly, it is sacred to the Imperium. Dar’bikk explains that their faith believes that it was the gift presented to Ky’thri upon his wedding to Sharra, as a symbol of their union. ‘By your very presence, you defile our faith’.
Dar’bikk continues: ‘Armadas which controls dozens of systems, spilling over from one galaxy to the next…the most powerful military force in the universe…an empire weeps at your sacrilege’. He adds that the small taste of the essence of the crystal is in each of them, but that the greatest sacrilege is on the part of he who had been called Holocaust, and is now apparently known as Nemesis. ‘Within that one is a small shard, a fragment of a M’kraan Crystal from another reality’, Dar’bikk points out and reveals that its presence on this plane of existence is the greatest of insults to their faith. ‘Thus, before we attempt to drain you others of the M’kraan energies that shimmer within you… we will tear the abhorrent crystal shard from the monster’s heart’. Dar’bikk declares that if these things cannot be accomplished, they will be left with no choice - to preserve their faith, they will all be executed as heretics. ‘You have got to be kidding me…’ Nate utters.
‘Hello? Hello? Okay, I guess you’re not kidding’ Nate mutters as the Shi’ar vanish and the door slams behind them. Holocaust, the Dark Beast and Nate all frown at each other, and Nate remarks that he won’t mind dying so much, as it seems like he has been preparing most of his life for it. ‘Cowardly whelp! If I’d known Sinister had built you to -’ Holocaust begins, before Nate interrupts: ‘you’d have done what, Nemesis? I was built to destroy your “father”. Don’t think I can’t kick your -’ Nate begins, before McCoy tells them to shut up. ‘Both of you! And listen to me…if you have any interest in getting our of here, I have plan’. Nemesis and Nate narrow their eyes as McCoy announces that, unfortunately, it will involve them working together.
Nate knows that his “allies” are both focused on McCoy’s plan, so he decides to psi-scan the “psycho-twins” as he calls them. ‘Holocaust…or Nemesis…now that McCoy’s manipulating him…is pure lunatic rage. He really didn’t know about me and Sinister’. Nate discovers that the Dark Beast’s mind is locked up tight, but he knows what he is doing, playing Nate and Nemesis against one another. ‘I just wish I knew what he hopes to gain long term by it’. Nate thinks that he can’t worry about that now though, as first they have got to get out of here. ‘And here comes our ticket’ he decides as the doors slide open, and the Sugar Man, along with some Shi’ar, enter. ‘Well, well, well. So you meet the High Priest? Sweet guy, isn’t he? He was surprised when thy drained the crystal essence from me. Very dangerous, really. And now they owe me one, for helping to track you three’ the Sugar Man reveals.
The Sugar Man grins and asks Nemesis if he is ready, adding that this should be fine. Suddenly, the Sugar Man looks shocked as Nate speaks telepathically into his head, informing him that McCoy asked him to psi-link the two of them so the aliens can’t hear him. ‘Indeed I did, Nathan. And thank you. I want to apologize, Sugar Man. I was wrong. Nemesis was wrong’ the Dark Beast says to the Sugar Man via Nate’s telepathy. McCoy claims that none of them every truly appreciated the Sugar Man’s cunning or his power, but he has them now, indeed. ‘But think what we three Horsemen of Apocalypse could do working together! The world would be ours: one massive blaze of chaos, such as Apocalypse never dreamed!’ McCoy declares. ‘With a dark triumverate of rulers to lord over a doomed planet, to crush it underfoot, it would be sweet, wouldn’t it?’ McCoy asks.
‘Sweet, ooh yes’ the Sugar Man grins, while Nemesis is being transferred to a large contraption so that the crystal shard can be extracted from his body. ‘Sweet as sugar!’ the Sugar Man exclaims as he opens fire at the Shi’ar. ‘No! What are you doing? You will free the heretic!’ one of them calls out. ‘I’ve got news for you, alien scum. The heretic is free!’ Nemesis booms as he stands up, free from the restraints. He boasts that he is free to destroy every living soul on this vessel. ‘It may be as Nemesis that my father created me, and to honor him, I’ll embrace that name once more…but you Shi’ar will know me as Holocaust for the few short minutes left of your lives’. Nemesis then turns his attention to the still restrained Nate. ‘But first, a little business to attend to…’ he announces. ‘Wait! ’the Sugar Man exclaims, stepping between Holocaust and Nate, with the now free McCoy. ‘You dare might, troll, I ought to…’ Holocaust begins, before McCoy tells him that is enough, as they are allies now.
‘Allies, yes. But didn’t help you just to die now. We’re gonna need Grey to get out of here. Trust me’ the Sugar Man tells the others. ‘Trust you, Sugar Man? Don’t trust any of you! And maybe these things could hold your powers, Sugar, but even I don’t know the limit of my powers!’ Nate exclaims as he bursts free of his restraints in a burst of psionic fury. ‘Very impressive, Grey. I look forward to the day I can finally get around to killing you without interruption!’ Holocaust exclaims. ‘You…wish…’ Nate utters as he steadies himself. However, a loud alarm has started to sound. ‘Grey, you idiot! Your escape must have the entire ship on alert!’ McCoy snarls. ‘No! You think? Guess I should’ve just waited for you boys to decide whether or not to execute me, huh?’ Nate replies, as the doors slide open and a platoon of Shi’ar warriors enter. ‘Halt, prisoners! You Cannot escape!’ one of them calls out.
McCoy and Nemesis start to engage the warriors in combat, and McCoy tells Nate that if he would like to get out of here, he would suggest less sarcasm. ‘You could lend a hand at any time…’ he adds. Nate replies that he has their backs covered, as he can keep an eye on them from where he is over here. ‘Ignore him, McCoy. We don’t need the coward’s help!’ Nemesis declares. He blasts a hole in the wall of the laboratory where they have been held, and the four make their way out after easily taking down the warriors. ‘Not at the moment, but as I told you, we will. We’ll need to work together if you all want to get off this ship!’ the Sugar Man calls out as he follows the others. ‘Great! My life depends on three lying, murderous, raving psychotics’ Nate mutters.
The four survivors of a reality that never was fight their way to the central core of the Wingspan, defending their flank as the core’s magnetic vacuum draws them in. Nate would have been more than happy to submit to whatever the Shi’ar Had in mind if he knew for certain that it would keep Nemesis and the Dark Beast from ever returning to Earth. But without that guarantee, Nate can’t risk it. ‘Keep them back, Nemesis! I’ve got McCoy. You grab Sugar Man and let’s move! If Sugar Man’s right, the core should draw us much closer to our escape route!’ Nate calls out, while holding the Dark Beast in a telekinetic field, he and Holocaust blast their way forward. Holocaust grabs the Sugar Man but shouts back ‘Don’t presume to instruct me, boy! And don’t think I’ve forgotten what you were born to be!’ This causes Nate to reply ‘No more than I’ve forgotten what Apocalypse had in mind for you!’ and remarks that it is too bad Holocaust turned out to be such a disappointment for Apocalypse.
If getting them all out alive is the only way to make sure he is still around to stop them from fulfilling the horrifying vision of the future he’d seen in McCoy’s mind…well, it doesn’t leave Nate with much choice. They arrive at the duct system, just like the Sugar Man said, so McCoy asks how it is the Sugar Man has come to know so much about the Shi’ar and this vessel in such a short time. Sugar Man explains that once he was on board, it was simple to gain access to schematics and history. ‘The Shi’ar are a proud race. Knowledge is power, McCoy, as I’m sure you know’ the Sugar Man replies, adding that he knows things about McCoy that hr might not want Nemesis to find out. McCoy lunges forward and throws the Sugar Man up against a wall, ‘Imbecile! You’re fortunate that Nemesis and Grey are ahead of us! I don’t care what you think you know, but I’ll tell you what I know’ McCoy declares. ‘You helped the Shi’ar track us down, even helped design weapons they could use to capture us - you didn’t think I’d miss your hand in that, did you?’ he asks.
McCoy releases the Sugar Man and reminds him that he has tortured and killed for curiosity alone. ‘You’d best keep your mouth shut, and help us get out of here. Otherwise, I’m certain there are some amusing experiments you could help me with’ McCoy threatens the Sugar Man, who replies ‘I…see your point’. They join up with Nate and Nemesis and the Sugar Man announces ‘Ah…here we are’, as he tells Nate that this is where he comes in. He explains that the door operates on the same principle as his restraints - any force thrown against it is absorbed and used in its defense. Sugar Man reveals that Grey can use his psi-talents to reach inside and force the guards to open up. Nate frowns. He is no saint, but he is not completely comfortable with the idea of hijacking people’s minds, even if they’re aliens - but he knows that it is the only way. Then, even as the door begins to open, a blast of energy is fired at the odd foursome. ‘Grey, behind you!’ the Sugar Man calls out. ‘This way! Execute the heretics!’ one of the approaching Shi’ar warriors calls out.
The door ahead starts to open, and McCoy points this out to Nemesis, who replies ‘Yes. We won’t be needing them anymore’ as he fires a blast towards Nate and the Sugar Man. ‘What are you…you backstabbing son of a…if I hadn’t erected that psi-shield in time, we’d have been toast!’ Nate tells the Sugar Man, his psi-shield extended around him, too. Nate supposes that the truce is over, and tells the Sugar Man to watch his back while he takes care of the traitors. Nate fires a blast of energy at Nemesis and McCoy, but as he turns around, he sees the Sugar Man running away from him. ‘Why, little troll’ Nate mutters, before seeing that the door is closing. McCoy and Nemesis run, and Nemesis warns Nate that they will meet again, and that hr will take his time when he kills him. ‘Y’know, your bragging is getting so tired. Let’s just do it now. Come on, Nemesis, you can’t run from your destiny, right?’ Nate calls out as the door closes.
Nate makes his way into the next chamber, ‘Let’s go at it! You and me, right here, right…whoa! Okay, now this is a really big ship. I gotta get me one of these’ Nate exclaims as he sees the hangar bay that he and his non-allies have entered. The Sugar Man has led them all to the Wingspan’s launch bay. As he sees it for the first time, Nate suddenly realizes the extent of the Shi’ar Imperium’s power. McCoy and Nemesis are battling dozens of Shi’ar guards as they attempt to get to a vessel near the hangar bay exit. Nate joins the fray, and tells Nemesis to hang out there for a second, as when he is done with these belligerent morons, it is time for that date with destiny Nemesis has been so uppity about. Warriors surround Nate, while Nemesis blasts his way through his opponents, telling Grey that if he is the greatest obstacle in this world, his path will be remade in his father’s image, even sooner than he had hoped.
More Shi’ar warriors rush into the hangar bay, ‘Quickly! These weapons worked on the heretics before. Now, we shall…’ Commander Kai’tra calls out, but Holocaust blasts the new arrivals, ‘Fools! You expect me to just stand here, knowing what your weapons can do?’ he asks, he tells them that without the element of surprise, they don’t have a prayer. Kai’tra tells her group to fall back and regroup. She declares that she will not allow a Shi’ar elite detachment to be defeated by a trio of sacrilegious terrans. ‘They will not escape’ one of the warriors assures the commander.
Holocaust looms over Nate, ‘At last, Grey, destiny is here. Sinister may have made you to destroy my father, but he couldn’t have known about me’ Holocaust remarks. ‘Yeah, well, either that, or he didn’t consider you much of a threat’ Nate replies. ‘That is the last insult I will bear, boy!’ Holocaust declares, before firing a close-range blast of energy towards Nate. ‘Is that the best you can do? Didn’t even dent my psi-shield!’ Nate calls back as he remains safe inside his psi-shield. Coward, why don’t you strike back?’ Holocaust asks. Why indeed? The answer is simple. Nate is too busy thinking to do more than defend himself. Thinking and remembering. The exo-skeleton that contains the radioactive energy that makes up Nemesis’s body is impenetrable… almost. After all, Nate has already penetrated that armor once.
‘Y’know, Nemesis, I hate to cut this short. I mean, it being a date with destiny and all, but it occurs to me, you know, that you’re just not in your father’s league. Even if it is just to get you off my back…you’re going down!’ Nate replies, remembering that the weapon he used to pierce Nemesis’s shell before it still around. Nemesis then screams, ‘ARGH! NOOO! The crystal! What have you done?’ he shouts, as Nate telekinetically pulls the alternate reality M’kraan Crystal shard from Nemesis’s body. ‘Done? I kicked your butt without even lifting a hand’ Nate replies, adding that he has given the Shi’ar just what they want - they got their crystal back. The crystal is held up telekinetically by Nate who exclaims ‘This thing’s been the cause of all this trouble? Just because it doesn’t belong here, any more than we do?’ He then reaches out with his power, finds the tiny flaw within the crystal shard, and rips it apart with his mind. The explosion becomes a whirlwind of energy which reaches out to the three survivors of another reality, and leeches all the M’kraan energy from their bodies. ‘Well, I’m not going anywhere, but if the Shi’ar think this thing’s an abomination…I’m more than happy to get rid of it for them’.
‘Can I go home now?’ Nate calls out to the Shi’ar, but Nemesis moves towards him, ‘You’re not going anywhere, Grey, not until -’, he is interrupted by Commander Kai’tra whose soldiers fire at Nemesis, and she declares that once and for all, the infidels will not be allowed to escape. ‘Woman, you have pushed too far! Escape is no longer the plan. You will all be destr…wait!’ Nemesis utters, ‘What…what is happening?’ he asks as his form starts to change within the armor. The Dark Beast smacks away some of the Shi’ar who try to apprehend him, and remarks that this fight is rapidly becoming tiresome, so he thinks it is time to make their exit. ‘But what’s become of Nemesis, now?’ he asks. Nate replies that he hurt him, and adds ‘After all you’ve done to me, it’s about time I hurt you too, don’t you think?’ ‘Grey!’ McCoy exclaims. But before Nate can harm McCoy, a blast of energy is fired at him. McCoy turns to the Shi’ar and remarks that he never thought he would be this pleased to see his enemies’ reinforcements.
McCoy turns around and sees Holocaust, his glowing armor gone, now he appears as a blond-haired, blue-eyed young man in a black spandex costume. ‘Time to go, my friend’ McCoy calls out. ‘What’s happening to me?’ Holocaust asks. ‘You created my armor, explain this…this body! How will we get out of here if I cannot…’ he begins, before suddenly, he transforms again, back into his recognizable form. ‘Shut up and fight!’ McCoy exclaims, explaining to Holocaust that, simply put, his armor is lo longer hindered by the shard’s conflicting energies. McCoy picks up one of the Shi’ar guns and tells Holocaust that as he created his armor, he can help him to use it properly. ‘But not if we don’t get off this ship!’ he points out.
Nemesis fires some energies at the Shi’ar and tells McCoy that he doest not understand - ‘You knew of this…knew that I could change my shape…and never told me? Even when you first built it for me!’ he declares. The Dark Beast fires the Shi’ar weapon and replies ‘There’s a lot about your armor that you don’t know. When I constructed it, we were rivals’. He explains that the shard interfered with many of its functions. ‘What do you think those experiments in my lab were for? Besides, we may have been adversaries before, but we’re allies now’. ‘Are we?’ Nemesis snarls. McCoy points out that they both know what the other is capable of, and suggests they do not squander it here. ‘Do you want to be a minor league player like Sugar Man, willing to lick the boots of any master…or do you want to be an empire-builder, like your father?’ McCoy asks. ‘We’ll follow your lead. For now’ Holocaust replies. ‘Then follow me now. We’ve got to get out of here!’ McCoy declares.
As they approach a teleport stage, McCoy remarks that Grey is keeping the remaining Shi’ar soldiers busy, so he will be covering their escape without even realizing it. McCoy states that between his time with the X-Men and their captivity here, he has learned enough about Shi’ar technology that he should be able to activate this teleport stage. ‘Yes. Excellent’ he remarks after examining the controls. He instructs Nemesis to stay within the boundaries of the platform. ‘Come on, McCoy. You didn’t really think I’d leave here…without making sure Grey was dead, once and for all?’ Holocaust asks as he fires a blast of energy at the viewing portal in the hangar bay, causing it to shatter open. ‘Well done, Nemesis. With that viewing portal shattered, the vacuum of space won’t merely kill Grey. A breach of that size may well destroy the entire vessel. A lesson for the Shi’ar that Earth is under new management’ McCoy declares, as the teleport stage activates and the two vanish.
There is silence, but for the wind, sucking at Nate. Before the viewport is shattered, Nate was ready to collapse from exhaustion, the use of his powers has drained him. After trashing his restraints, battling the Shi’ar, the Dark Beast and Nemesis…he was about to fall down if he couldn’t lie down. He could happily have slept for a month. But now, in the hurricane of black silence pulling at him, he is prepared to close his eyes for the final sleep. He tries to take a breath, and finds instead that the silence, the void, reaches down into his lungs and tears the last oxygen from them. In a moment, Nate Grey is going to die. Shi’ar warriors and spacecraft are sucked out into open space, while Nate tries again to scream, to deny the death that has come for him. He doesn’t have the air. Instead, he reaches within himself and gathers the last spark of his consciousness together - and lashes out. With superhuman effort, Nate holds his telekinetic shield in place over the massive breach in the viewport, sealing the Wingspan’s launch bay from the void of space.
Disorientated, Nate sucks greedily at the new oxygen rapidly pumped into the bay by the ship’s emergency systems. As the emergency blast doors begin to close over the viewport, Nate can barely hold his head up, and blood starts to flow from his nostrils. And when the door has finally closed, Nate simply falls to the floor. Only by instinct does he use his telekinesis to slow his descent at the last moment. He looks up, as the Shi’ar warriors surround him and point their guns at him. ‘You’ve…uhnn…you’ve gotta be kidding me!’ Nate exclaims. High Priest Dar’bikk rushes forward and instructs Commander Kai’tra to lower her weapons, for all of them to do so. ‘In the name of the Gods in Marriage, Sharra and Ky’thri, all must kneel in homage to the Majestrix-Shi’ar, Lilandra of the House of Neramani!’ the High Priest declares as Lilandra appears in the hangar bay.
Lilandra thanks Dar’bikk and explains that her presence is merely a hologram, and adds that she would not ask even the lowest life form to kneel for a moving picture. The hologram of Lilandra turns to Nate and states that she has been appraised of the events of the past hours. ‘Despite that you came to us as a captive, you have used your abilities to save the lives of the remaining crew of this ship. For that, you have the thanks of the Imperium and its Majestrix’. Lilandra announces that Nate and those others who should not exist, yet do, are no longer considered heretics, now that he has destroyed the false crystal shards, and the M’kraan Crystal is no longer being leeched of its power. Lilandra tells Nate that he has saved lives here today, but the others who are abominations in the eyes of the universe did nothing but kill. Lilandra adds that they must be punished, although the Shi’ar most powerful scanners cannot locate them.
Nate tells Lilandra not to worry, as he is sure it won’t be long before he runs into Dark Beast and Nemesis again - and next time, they won’t get away. ‘Well done Nate Grey, and well said. You are free to go’ Lilandra reports. ‘Is that it?’ Nate asks. ‘What happened to “oh, sorry we abducted you and tried to perform potentially deadly experimentation on your body, not to mention leaving you with a really massive freaking headache”!’ Nate exclaims. Lilandra remains silent. ‘Hey, just asking’ Nate mutters before standing on the teleport stage. The High Priest declares ‘Though you were not born into this reality, this universe, boy, I will pray that you find your place in it’. Commander Kai’tra tells Nate that he is a fine warrior, and adds that, perhaps, one day, they will meet again. ‘Yeah, I’m so looking forward to that’ Nate replies, as he then vanishes from the Shi’ar vessel.
‘Wait! What about me?’ the Sugar Man calls out as he appears behind the High Priest. ‘What about you, worm? Where’ve you been hiding all this time?’ Kai’tra asks. Sugar Man points out that he kept his part of the bargain, and tells the commander that he doesn’t belong on her home planet. ‘You most certainly don’t. Put him back where you found him!’ Kai’tra instructs another Shi’ar. ‘No! Wait! Anything but that!’ Sugar Man pleads.
Several days later, at South Street Seaport, a favorite spot for tourists on the southern tip of Manhattan Island. A place of life, and vivid color, of laughter and profound humanity - just what the doctor ordered. Nate walks through the busy crowds of people, he has so much to think about. He has psi-scanned the whole city, and there is no sign of McCoy. He recalls that Onslaught made Nemesis invisible to psionic, but wonders why he can’t find the Dark Beast. He decides this is weird, and doesn’t know why it is so important to him. He looks out over at the Statue of Liberty and realizes that this sure isn’t’ destiny. ‘Sinister may have engineered my birth, but that doesn’t make me his weapon’. He wonders if it is being friends with Peter Parker that has got him so revved up. ‘What’s he always say? With great power must come great responsibility’.
Nate looks out over the water, ‘Sounds kind of silly…doesn’t mean it isn’t true’. And it doesn’t help that Nate can’t stop thinking about what the Shi’ar called them. ‘Are we “abominations”?’ he wonders. The Shi’ar and that whole experience has got him thinking what else is out there, beyond the stars. Nate looks up at the starry sky, and decides that, for now, he still has a lot to learn about this world. ‘What’d that High Priest say? He’d pray I’d find my place in the world’ Nate remembers, deciding that was nice of him, actually, as he can use all the help he can get. Nate thinks he is starting to work it out, though, he really does. But before he will ever really feel at home here, he has to make sure that this world won’t ever become like his own. Nate turns to walk away, unaware that he is being watched by a blond-haired, blue-eyed man in a trench coat - Holocaust!
Nate remembers that when he first came into this reality, he brought some of his world’s greatest horrors with him - they are the real abominations - Nemesis with all the power Apocalypse bred into him - and the Dark Beast, manipulating Nemesis every step of the way. Nate knows that together, they still might be able to destroy this world. But, on the other hand, maybe destiny has something to do with it after all. Nate wonders if he could have survived the destruction of his own reality just so there would be someone with the power and knowledge to save this one from the same horrors? ‘Man, I don’t know. Probably just need some sleep. Destiny. What a concept’.