Utopia. No longer just an island, but what Earth has become for the nearly extinct mutant race, thanks to the rise of the Phoenix Five. Their leader, Cyclops, hovers over Utopia and sees his friends and charges happy. Still he is bothered, looking for quiet, only to be reminded that, for a telepathic mind, there is no such thing, as the thoughts almost overwhelm him.
He teleports away to the Moon and sees the Earth from it. Maybe here he can think, he decides and wonders how Jean handled telepathy from such a young age without her head exploding. Jean, who died on this dust. Another surprise coming with the Phoenix power: It makes the memory of the loss fresh again.
He turns around to find how far back he has been taken. He is in the Blue Area of the Moon, where once the X-Men fought for Jean’s life. He didn’t mean to come here consciously. Is that a clue to what’s nagging him? He recalls this as the site of Jean’s greatest victory.
Years ago, Jean was the first to hold the untamed might of the Phoenix. It used her as its puppet committing xenocide. The Imperial Guard of the Shi’ar condemned her for its crimes. The X-Men fought to save Jean. A messy chaotic clash that ended in the cruellest and most loving act of grace he’s ever witnessed, when Jean—
He doesn’t finish his thought when he notices he has landed in the alley where Jean took her life, the alien weapon she used still there. He can still recall her shouting his name as she died. So why doesn’t he feel anything? he wonders. He looks at the place where Jean stood as she was incinerated, again replaying the memory.
He needs to talk someone, Scott decides. The one who knew him best. And so, from moon dust he shapes a simulacrum of Jean Grey, clad in her Phoenix outfit. So created, the simulacrum opens her eyes, and greets him with a smile.
How has he been? “Jean” asks. She likes the costume. Is it supposed to represent his power or remind him of her? He doesn’t need reminders, Scott replies stiffly. First loves tend to stick that way, she agrees. Not that he’s sentimental. In fact, he’s used the Phoenix Force very well and logically… so far.
The last two words bother him. “Jean” explains that she suspects the Phoenix Force mostly amplifies a person. When the Phoenix rebirthed her, it found expression through her emotions. They were always a little outsized, but the Phoenix made them so huge, there was no room under the sky for her joy, her grief, her love for him… In time, her feelings grew to stretch across the measureless cosmos, drawing it close and giving her a glimpse of infinity. And once that happened, everything outside her seemed so very tiny.
That was her experience, Cyclops decides, but he has always been more controlled than her, than just about anyone. She used to say that he invented repression. If anyone can hold the Phoenix Force in...
Come on! she scoffs. It’s not about losing control. It’s about losing perspective. Losing yourself. In his case, losing the emotional memory of all the struggle and injustices that define him. That’s why he came here. To test himself. To see if his soul could still connect to the single most traumatic moment of uncontrolled emotion he’s ever experienced. And it can’t.
Scott hesitates, then agrees. Self-sacrifice, nobility, grief, even love… they all seem so small. Like the memories of a dream: Whenever he tries to relive what happened here, he tells himself that her sacrifice was profound. But to be honest, it feels petty. What does that mean? Should he worry? Despite this power… this omnipotence, doesn’t he still have his humanity? If he did, she points out, would he have recreated a corpse out of moon dust?
Looking anguished, Scott lets her go and “Jean” dissolves. He flies back towards Earth, admitting that was one hell of a wake-up call. He knows he has to be vigilant now. He won’t let the Phoenix change him. Inside all this power, he has to preserve the man he’s always been. He has to remember why he fights. Because if he loses sight of that, what’s it all been for?