Deep within the body of the Progenitor:
Jean Grey, incandescent with rage, uses her psychic energy to utterly destroy the antibodies barring their way. Get the hell out of their way! she orders. They haven’t got all day! Iron Man mutters that he thought she wasn’t the Phoenix anymore. Wolverine replies that she is still Jean, and Jean was all the fire anyone ever needed. She’ll calm down.
Ajak hopes she doesn’t. She consults her map and believes they are making good progress. Mr. Sinister scoffs. Save him from priests and their beliefs. Don’t give them belief! Give them facts! Give them empirical evidence! Give them something they can use! As the others run ahead, Makkari signs she still has the gag they used on Sinister somewhere, and Ajak laughs. Sinister demands to know what she signed. He refuses to be mocked by somebody who isn’t even wearing epaulets!
They reach a larger space but more antibodies are incoming. Ajak states she needs time to ascertain their course. Sersi tells Jean the constructs are rubbing up against the First Principle. The Eternal can’t fight them, unless she… Jean telepathically allows Sersi, Makkari and Ajak a Principle bypass and orders them to kick their asses. The two priests attack.
Iron Man addresses Sersi. He gets why the priests are here. They built this thing. He gets Sinister – he’s a weirdo expert. He gets Wolverine, sneaking, stabbing and Jean’s support animal. And he gets Jean, as if anyone could say no - but why is she here?
As the two fight antibodies, Sersi tartly reminds him that they were having lunch together and then he had his friends beat her up and kidnap her, remember? He accuses her of deflecting. Sharply, she snaps that she represents the Eternals. Ajak and Makkari are priests and are not entirely trusted. Why should they trust her? Iron Man asks. She failed her test. Why did she fail? Sersi looks down and remembers.
She remembers arguing with Ikaris. Sersi implored him not to tell the humans that one of them always dies when an Eternal is automatically resurrected. How can he not? Ikaris shoots back. He is meant to guard humans. He died protecting them so many times. And each time he did, he… They have to know.
Sersi begs him to think, even though it is not in his nature. The Eternals would have to live with this forever. Even if they could find a way to remove their immorality, the sin would still be there. They would never be heroes again. Good, is his reply. They aren’t heroes. Angrily, she tells him he is making the choice for all Eternals. He can’t choose a punishment for everyone!
Ikaris teleports away.
Seris telepathically contacts Eternal criminal-for-hire Jack-of-Knives and asks if they are looking for work. Well, she has a friend whom she needs to trick into staying quiet about a certain inconvenient truth…
Instead of telling Stark this, Sersi lashes out: he passed because a malfunctioning attempt at a god decided he did. It is based on Tony’s nervous system. Clearly, he is narcissistic enough to pass himself.
He retorts his narcissism is cut with a healthy dose of self-loathing. And she is deflecting again.
Sersi destroys the anti-bodies that snuck up behind him and states she was deflecting the floating things that were about to kill him. Can they get a move on? she demands. She is getting tired and if they manage to save the world, she’ll have to segue straight into organizing a “we saved the world” party.
The battle currently over, she apologizes. She is frustrated and surprised it judged the Eternals at all. They are creatures of scripture and coding. They are compelled. What choices do they ultimately have? Makkari signs the Scripture can be interpreted. It can judge them on their interpretation, and it did. She failed. Sersi asks who still has an outstanding test. He does, Sinister reveals. He is sure it is saving the best for last. Ajak remarks it started her judgment and stopped. She awaits its final verdict.
Wolverine warns that more antibodies are coming and Jean suggests maybe Ajak’s test is to get them to the center of this reality-warping maze from hell. Which way? But Ajak seems to be in a trance.
The astral plane:
Addressing Ajak as its priest, the Progenitor, now in the form of a healthy Celestial instead of its Frankenstein form, stands at the top of a maze. It asks if she believes it can be this. Ajak believes so. Then walk the path to it, it instructs her. Ajak walks up a stairway to enter the maze. In front of it, a Deviant greets her by name. Ajak asks if she knows her. She has no memory of her. The Deviant introduces herself as Cataka and shows Ajak her kids.
She asks if Ajak remembers long ago when she was first created and went and fought the prehistoric Avengers? A million years ago or so? Ajak recalls they killed her. Cataka explains she died, so Ajak could return. She was the first mortal life Ajak took, then adds Ajak cannot pass unless she kills her. Clearly unhappy at that Ajak nevertheless kills her with one blow. The children stare at their mother’s corpse while Ajak enters the maze.
A little later, Ajak is accosted by a human called Vart. Did she know why there were humans around one million years ago? he asks. Interesting story - apparently his grandmother was part of a group that fell into a chronal rift which… Ajak kills him. How many must she kill? She demands. Suddenly, she sees a corridor in front of her with beings on each side. All of them, she is told. A million years of death on her hands. Every one a step toward it. It needs her to remember all the steps. Ajak accuses it of cruelty but will do as it wishes.
At the end of the corridor, she kneels down. She re-walked a path made of bones that she made from living flesh. Does she pass? The Progenitor appears to her as Makkari and signs: “not yet.” It failed Sersi because she worked towards hiding this from the humans. It asks why Ajak never revealed this secret. Ajak retorts she may be a priest but she is also practical. What does it help for the humans to know? They would hate the Eternals and it would change nothing as the Eternals are literally incapable of changing who they are. This is why they need their god. She did not die deliberately or callously. She saved the world many times. Yes, she has profited from others’ loss, but humans in the rich countries eat well from the pain of those in the poor – in cities made giant from conquest and empire. For any of them to judge the Eternals is naught but delusion!
The Progenitor replies she has well practiced arguments, as she had long to practice them, and even then they only apply to the rich, not the poor. She was a priest for all those years. She talked to the gods. And it thinks what an unfaithful priest she proves herself to be…
Before they created the current Progenitor, she called the ghost of the old one. She thrashed that god, once given the chance. How does she expect the new inhabitant of the body to believe she is true? It fires an energy blast at Ajak, asking who could trust a priest who would fight a god? That is the only priest you should trust, she snaps back.
She fights the body of the old Progenitor and shouts she served her gods faithfully, until the truth of other Eternals’ nature was revealed. The gods failed her, not she them. She believes in a true god and all her thrashing of the old was making way for the new. Only when it frees them can they even dream of performing penance. All costs are worthwhile to deliver their people and make a better world! She would murder a million false gods for the chance of one that is true! She stands over the body of the old Progenitor. She is many things, but she is not a hypocrite! Ajak announces.
It would be better for everyone if she were, it decides. A priest spouting empty pieties is nothing compared to the harm a fanatic like her can do. It shows her the devastation that it is currently working in the world. This is what she has done to all the cities of Earth to create her god. Could it be worth this even now?
It’s not too late for it to be a better god, Ajak announces stubbornly. She has faith. There is faith, and there is too much faith, the Progenitor announces, and gets ready to move its thumb downwards.
Ajak physically holds back its hand. Not yet, she orders. This may all be a test. For her… and perhaps for it, too. She does not believe it will fail her, and she does not believe she will fail it. Surprisingly, the Progenitor accepts. It states that Ajak’s psychic firewalls were compromised to allow Jean Grey to mitigate the First Principle. It has now reactivated her firewall. There will be a final conflict… and she will have freedom. With the First Principle there is no freedom, Ajak retorts. She can no more harm it or allow it to be harmed than to she can reverse the flow of the stars in the sky. The Progenitor clarifies that in those final moments she will have true freedom, whatever that means.
Ajak is back in her body and the others didn’t notice what transpired. Which way? one of them asks her. She announces that she knows the way and points toward a shaft. It should take them there. She flies ahead. Iron Man asks if she is sure. Of course, she is not sure, she replies, but she has faith.