|— C.G. Jung, from "Memories, Dreams, Reflections"|
A globe-shaped perfume bottle called Nostalgia falls through the air. Laurie Juspeczyk and Jon Osterman teleport from Dan Dreiberg's living room to a hillside on Mars. Laurie can’t breathe its atmosphere and collapses, nearly suffocating before Jon remembers that he needs to give her an aura of oxygen to breathe. Laurie sputters furiously at Jon as she catches her breath. She starts to shout at him until she notices the large glass clockwork castle he created sitting in front of them. As they walk inside, Jon tells Laurie that they are there to “debate earth’s destiny.”
Jon claims to know how the conversation ends. His non-linear perception of time aggravates Laurie, but she follows him inside the castle. He tells her they are all “puppets,” but he’s the only “puppet who can see the strings.” To Jon, there is no past or future. He asks Laurie to describe her earliest memory. She remembers holding a “snowstorm ball” with a small castle inside and listening to her parents fight in the next room, near divorce. Laurence Schexnayder knows that Sally Jupiter had an affair, and that Laurie isn’t his daughter. When Laurence and Sally find Laurie listening to them, she’s so startled that she drops the snowstorm ball.
Jon tells Laurie that she was his “only connection” to Earth, so when she left him, he left the planet. He now feels more connection to Mars than to Earth. He wants to show Laurie around, but she refuses to be teleported again, so he lifts the glass castle into the sky and they go flying across the landscape. Laurie asks Jon if the end of the world, all that death, would bother him. He replies that an end to human suffering and struggle, which never goes anywhere, wouldn’t bother him at all.
Laurie recalls being 13 years old and seeing Sally with a gathering of first-generation vigilantes. Laurie overhears them wondering if all of their crime fighting actually achieved anything. Hollis Mason asks Laurie if she’s read his new book yet, but Sally implies that there is something in it that Laurie should not read yet. Byron Lewis, formerly known as Mothman, arrives, but he’s old, shaky, and clearly confused. He drops his glass on the floor. Laurie wonders if that’s the life she’s meant to look forward to. Back on Mars, Laurie admits that life seems futile, but it exists, which must give it some value.
As they look at Mars’s vast and dramatic landscape, Jon asks Laurie if she thinks it would look better with an oil pipeline running through it. Jon thinks Mars’s “chaotic terrain” is superior to what human life would have made of it, though Laurie thinks her life is plenty chaotic. She recalls being 16 years old at the Crimebusters meeting. After Jon leaves the meeting, she meets the Comedian and vaguely flirts with him. Soon, Sally storms up and takes Laurie away, though Laurie doesn’t understand what is so bad about the Comedian. As they drive away, Laurie thinks that Edward Blake looks sad and alone. She feels sorry for him. Sally and Laurie drive a few blocks, then stop. Sally tells Laurie everything about her life, about Blake, and about her own fears.
Laurie asks Jon if human pain and experience mean more to him than rocks in the sand. Jon answers “no.” He can see the atomic structure of every object and the vastness of the universe, which makes humanity seem “brief and mundane.” Laurie wants to end the conversation, but Jon says the conversation will end with her in tears. After that, he will return to Earth and see many dead bodies, but some “static” obscures his view of the rest of the future. Eventually, he will kill someone in the snow, but he does not know who. As they fly over Mars, Jon tries to make Laurie appreciate the landscapes, but she refuses. He asks Laurie if the human heart has the same triumphant “peaks” and devastating “chasms” that the landscape does. She thinks that the human heart has such “chasms” when it feels pain.
Laurie recalls a banquet in 1973 with various heads of state. Everyone shakes Edward Blake’s hand. He jokes about some murdered reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and casually implies that he was behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Laurie is drunk and furious. She’s read Hollis's book and knows what Blake did, and she hates him. Laurie approaches Blake, throws her drink in his face, accuses him of raping her mother, and shouts until Jon arrives and teleports her away. Laurie doesn’t know why she’s retelling this story to Jon on Mars. She tells him to land the castle, and they set down.
Laurie wants Jon to send her back to Earth to die with everyone else. She notes that she isn’t crying like Jon said she would, so maybe he’s wrong about everything. However, Jon tells Laurie that she intentionally does not understand the events threaded through her life, as if she believes herself “too delicate” to handle the truth. Laurie realizes the connections between all the scenes she’s recalled with Jon: Edward Blake is her father. Laurie screams “no.” A globe-shaped perfume bottle appears in her hand and she hurls it at the wall. When it shatters, the whole clockwork castle shatters around them as well and falls to rubble, leaving Jon and Laurie standing on the Mars sand.
Laurie cries that her life is nothing more than a stupid “joke.” Jon tells that he does not think her life is meaningless, which confuses Laurie. He says she’s changed his mind. Jon states that life is a series of “thermodynamic miracles,” events so improbable that they seem miraculous, like oxygen turning into gold. For every person who exists, hundreds of billions of sperm cells died, but only one fertilized a human egg and formed a being. Every person on earth is a miracle; they just forget it, since life on Earth seems so commonplace. From the perspective of another planet, Jon sees things clearly again. He tells Laurie to dry her eyes and take solace in the fact that she is a living miracle, “rarer than a quark.” They will “go home.”
Various clippings from Sally Jupiter’s scrapbook reveal snippets of her life: A letter from a King Taylor states that he wants to turn what would have been a super-hero movie about her into an adult film called Silk Swingers of Suburbia. Captain Metropolis writes her a letter suggesting that they team up and begin forming the Minutemen. Laurence Schexnayder proposes marriage through a letter, calling it a “viable partnership proposition.” An interview transcript reveals that Sally doesn’t hold hard feelings against Eddie Blake, and that she believes Laurie will someday thank her for pushing her into the hero life.