First story :
St. Stephen’s cemetery, one year after Phoenix’s death. Jean’s elder sister, Sara, has come to leave some flowers at her sister’s grave. As she kneels down, Sara admits she doesn’t really know why she keeps coming. Jean died on the moon and her atoms were scattered; she isn’t really buried here. And yet, she feels that somehow she is. Sara confides that she’s scared. Her son, Tommy, is eleven. He’ll reach puberty soon. What if he has mutant powers like Jean? What if those powers cause his death as well?
Flashback to two years earlier
Shelter Island, New York. Jean and Sara are spending an afternoon at the seaside. Sara had only recently learned about her sister’s powers, thanks to her parents. Sara explains that they are still pretty shook up. Does Jean know what she is thinking right now? She doesn’t mind-scan her loved ones, Jean jokes. House rule. She adds that she figures they’ll spend the day sailing. For dinner, they’ll meet Scott and Sara’s husband, Paul, at a café. At that moment, they're accosted by two men, who invite them to their yacht. One of them ignores Jean’s gentle rebuttal. A mind-scan tells her that he is a sleaze. In a bad mood, she gives him a discreet telekinetic shove, causing him to fall off the pier, thus cooling his ardour. Later, while they are on the rented sailboat, Sara accuses her of having been rather hard on the guy. Jean explains that she habitually reacts to what people think, rather than what they say. She saw what he had in mind for them and reacted accordingly.
After a bit of banter Jean telekinetically levitates a picnic basket in front of them and unpacks it with her powers. Sara is rather frightened, seeing her sister’s abilities. She worries about her children and Jean becomes angry, as Sara’s unspoken concerns seem to be that the kids would be freaks… like Jean. The sisters finish lunch silently. Without meaning to, Sara has hurt Jean deeply. Neither woman notices a periscope breaking the surface off their starboard quarter. Pacing the sailboat is a submarine of unearthly design and unknown origin.
Suddenly, the ship runs into a fogbank Jean recognizes as unnatural. Jean tells Sara to use the CB radio in the cabin and broadcast a warning to other boats in the vicinity. Sara tries but only raises static. She suddenly notices how cold it’s gotten. She’s freezing, as is Jean, which shouldn’t be possible, as her telekinesis automatically adjusts her metabolic levels. Nor is her power having any effect on the fog bank. Suddenly, she cannot receive Sara’s thoughts anymore. Her sister is out cold and Jean is being affected too. Crying out for Scott Summers, Jean falls unconscious. She slumps against the taffrail and, with a gentle, casual grace, topples over the side and falls into the ocean. Unconscious, she doesn’t know that, in seconds, she will drown. Even if she did, the thought wouldn’t frighten her. She’d died before, the day she was reborn as Phoenix, and she’s walked hand in hand with death since childhood.
She was ten years old living in Annandale Road near Bard College, where her father was a professor. It was late summer. Sara was away at Girl Scout camp and Jean was playing with her best friend, Annie Richardson. As she walked inside, her mother warned Jean about playing in the front yard. They should watch out for cars. There was a blind curve in front of the house and fast cars wouldn’t see her.
Jean accidentally tossed the Frisbee too far and Annie ran onto the road to get it over Jean’s warning cry. She never saw the car that hit her and the driver never saw her. Jean shouted for her mom, while she ran to Annie’s side. Jean took her injured friends into her arms, telling her than an ambulance would come soon. Without warning, Jean felt a snap in her own brain and found herself inside Annie’s mind – experiencing Annie’s thoughts and emotions. Jean embraced Annie’s soulself, trying to protect her as the darkness closed in on them. But Annie’s lifeglow faded and finally disappeared, leaving Jean in the dark, her arms holding empty air. Again, she felt a snap and found herself back in her body cradling her best friend’s corpse.
A part of her seemed to die with Annie. She became a withdrawn, serious, almost haunted child. Her parents increasingly worried as time passed and Jean’s depression did not lift. They took her to a score of psychiatrists, none did any good. Jean cut herself off from people as far as she could. This self-imposed isolation was a battle for survival, for Jean could now hear people’s thoughts and her inability to shut them out was killing her. One psychiatrist finally referred the Greys to Charles Xavier, who had recently returned from the Near East after a terrible accident.
Xavier was a veritable renaissance man and, luckily for Jean, also a mutant telepath. Xavier sealed her mindreading abilities away until she was mature enough to handle them. Simultaneously, he helped her realize her telekinetic potential. After years of successful training, Xavier suggested that her parents enrol Jean in his school for Gifted Youngsters. Together with Xavier’s other students, Jean became one of the X-Men. One of them was the man she’d fall in love with: Scott Summers. Months ago, to save Scott and the other X-Men, she sacrificed her life. But, as she died, she tapped into a primal universal force. She became one with it and was reborn as Phoenix.
Feeling woozy, Jean awakes. The next moment, she jumps up as she takes in her exotic surroundings. Not only is she dressed in little more than a bikini top and a loincloth, her skin is blue and she is breathing underwater! She remembers that Namor’s species is blue and aquatic. Could he be responsible for that kidnapping? It seems rather out of character.
Suddenly, Jean hears a scream and realizes it comes from Sara. Why didn’t she sense her telepathically, she wonders, as she tries to run to her sister, only to find that doesn’t work to well in this environment. She starts to swim and finds Sara in the next room, transformed like her, but not taking it as well. Unlike Jean, she isn’t used to extraordinary experiences. Jean stuns her hysterical sister with a telepathic bolt and then forges a rapport between them to calm Sara. Jean notices that this is taking much more strength than it should. Something is inhibiting her psionic abilities, making this harder.
Sara recovers her strength and thanks Jean. A moment later, Atlantean guards enter their chamber and order them to accompany them to their master, who is eager to meet his brides. Jean tries to calm Sara while secretly fearing the worst.
They enter the stronghold to be welcomed by Attuma, self-styled scourge of the Seven Seas. Inviting them to dinner, Attuma explains that he has long stood in the shadow of the half-breed Namor. He has now devised a new strategy: he will abduct mutant females, transform them into water breathers with a genetic virus his scientists have devised and use them as breeding stock to produce a race of superbeings. Jean and Sara have the supreme honor of being his first subjects. He cups Sara’s chin as he warns Jean, calling her ‘Marvel Girl,’ that psychic dampers are focused on her. Should she resist, they will destroy her brain and she will live as a mindless vegetable.
Jean smirks realizing that Attuma is goading her. But she has picked the brains of his warriors and now knows what the dampers can do. The fuzziness was mostly due to the nerve gas and the effect is almost gone now. Jean tells Attuma that his devices may have been adequate against Marvel Girl, but don’t matter a damn against Phoenix. She unleashes her powers and transforms herself into her default state. A telekinetic force bolt causes Attuma to topple over, another one takes care of the psionic dampers. As the guards attack, Jean deflects their fire back at them courtesy of a tk shield. She grabs Sara by the arm and makes a run for it. Sara wonders why Jean’s skin is white again: how can she survive under water? She can survive anywhere, Jean replies and tells her to swim for her life.
Attuma appears in front of them, attacking Jean with his sword. Jean stops him in mid-movement, but barely as his strength is incredible. Jean falters for a moment but then resumes fighting, not intending to condemn Sara to a life as Attuma’s slave. Finally, she unleashes a psi-bolt, which throws the warlord into a wall. For a moment, she stands over his body, part of her wanting to finish what she’s started. Suddenly, his warriors join them. Jean’s instinct is to respond in kind. She knows she could destroy them all with but a thought. Instead, she hesitates and uses a gentler way, telekinetically smashing the corner stones that support the roof of the palace. Gravity does the rest. The roof falls and the soldiers flee for their lives. Jean and Sara swim outside and Jean secretly worries about what might happen, should she ever lose control of her passions.
Attuma, awake again, shouts after them that soon they will return of their own free will.
It is night when they finally reach the shore, having been helped by a school of dolphins. Sara excitedly tries to run ashore but, the moment she tries to take a breath, she finds that she can’t. Jean drags her underwater again and now realizes what Attuma meant. Sara has become a water-breather and can no longer survive in the air.
Only Attuma’s scientists can reverse the process, Sara states gloomily. She could live with that if she were single. There is so much to explore down here. But she has a family. Jean tells her not to despair. She changed herself. Perhaps she can do the same for her. Jean carefully examines her sister. Warning her about the risk, she forges a link between them as intimate as the one she once shared with Annie and finally modifies her sister cell by cell. For as long as Jean works, they are enveloped by the huge energy form of the Phoenix.
With the process finished, Sara swims upward, relieved to find she can breathe again. She calls out for Jean and finds she is alone. She dives down again to find her exhausted, unconscious sister who’s being pushed up by the dolphins. Sara drags Jean ashore and attempts mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until Jean finally comes to. Later, the sisters have built a fire and Jean has telepathically contacted Scott. Sara mopes for a bit and Jean realizes that she’s afraid about her children being mutants. She decides to erase her sister’s knowledge, both of their adventure and her being Phoenix. Then, she’ll speak to the Professor to determine the genetic status of Sara’s children.
Sara understands what’s happened and believes that the psionic blocks devolved with Jean’s death. She wishes Jean hadn’t done that. Jean never got a chance to tell Xavier about Sara’s children. It’s very nearly too late now, Sara thinks and decides that she’ll have to talk with Xavier herself. She doesn’t feel so apprehensive anymore, though. If her children are mutants and they turn out to be a fraction of the person Jean was, she’ll be very, very proud. Praying that Jean is at peace, Sara leaves the graveyard.
Second story :
Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire during winter carnival. Sophomore Bobby Drake has come here on a visit and finds himself enjoying the ice statues of the carnival. He has been delighted to discover that this year’s topic is superheroes. He finds himself admiring the statue of his old friend, Angel. He is a little soured on the fact, though, that Angel is the only member of the X-Men present. Using his icepowers, he quickly changes that by creating a statue of himself – as the Iceman. Only moments later, he is joined by some students, who are not impressed, and wonder who stuck another statue in front of their frat house. One student asks if Bobby knows where it comes from and Bobby quips that it grew out of nothing. The other guy, Francis, threatens him in good humor and Bobby reciprocates with a snowball. A snowball fight starts with everyone against everyone and mostly against Bobby, till Francis breaks it off.
He and Bobby mock-insult each other a bit and Francis asks if he brought what’s her name, Mary or Jerry, with him. Bobby informs him that they broke up and Francis tells him he’d like to introduce him to a freshman in his dorm. Suddenly, a voice calls out for help. It’s a professor who’s shouting, as several masked men are trying to get away with components of the new computer system. One of the masked men swears at being discovered and orders the others to set their guns to stun. The gangsters start shooting at the students. Bobby Drake, however, has managed to duck out of the line of fire. Even as he angrily wonders what kind of people would rob a school, he ices up and attacks as the Iceman. He protects himself with an ice shield and finally imprisons the gangsters in a huge snowball. The campus police arrive and thank him and the excited students ask him to stay and join the winter celebrities.
Iceman can’t resist and, throughout the day, he contributes to the festivities in his own inimitable fashion. He invents games and rides for the students, adds new wrinkles to the ones already set up and enjoys himself thoroughly in a snowball fight against everybody else. As he wins time and time again, he drops out and begins to edge the others. As the students cheer him, he realizes how great it can be to work solo, not be lost in a team.
That evening in the Dining Hall several students ask him to stay at this college. He’d enjoy it here. Iceman is tempted. They are joined by Lieutenant Jimmy D’Angelo, a visiting alumnus who’s been asked by the campus police to help investigate this afternoon’s incident. He commends Iceman on his good work and asks the students what they saw. What were the thieves after, Iceman inquires. A new computer system designed by the Avenger Yellowjacket aka Henry Pym, one of the world’s top cybernetic whizzes. That toy was sent here for testing.
The campus policeman asks if they remember who sounded the alarm. One of the men in the lab, Iceman remembers. A student, Buba, identifies him as someone whom he has often seen in the math department, though he can’t really remember what he teaches, as none of his friends are in his courses.
That night, a new robbery is taking place in the computer center. Carrying out the computer components, the villains gloat about his afternoon’s robbery just being a distraction so the men could sneak in a little extra box, which the cops then “returned” into the lab. A man was hidden in the crate, who could then easily shut down the alarm and unlock the door. Professor Thatcher, the man who sounded the alarm in the afternoon, tells the man to be quiet. Does he want the whole world to hear it? It’s no big deal the other man points out, as everybody is asleep.
Professor Thatcher and his men carry their booty down fraternity row, passing the ice statues of the superheroes. Thatcher gloats about the impotent heroes, while absentmindedly looking at the statues he passes: The Vision… the Thing… Iceman… Iron Man… Ms. Marvel… The Submariner… Angel …Iceman … the Scarlet Witch … Ghost Rider… Thatcher stops in his tracks. Two Icemen?
The second statue suddenly comes to life and attacks, encasing one of the thieves in a sheath of ice. The gangsters shoot at him, but Bobby whips up an ice shield, followed up by some iceboats All he while, he thinks to himself how nice it is to be working solo. Maybe he should transfer to this school. He follows the running Thatcher and causes him fall, courtesy of an ice-slide. Angrily, Thatcher attacks with the weapon he's concealed in his cane. Iceman falls in pain and momentarily transforms back into his human form but then determined he pulls himself together and ices up again.
He follows the running Thatcher on an iceslide, which Thatcher blasts with his weapon. Thatcher runs down a ski slope and Iceman, creating himself a pair of skis, follows, hoping that Thatcher won’t be able to hit a moving target. What neither of them expect are the group of drunken students coming just out of the frat house. Having no idea of what’s going on, Francis and the others offer them a beer. Thatcher threatens that he has set off a chain reaction in his blaster. Unless Iceman lets him leave now with the plans, he shall let it build up to critical mass. The ensuing explosion will kill them all. Iceman encases the cane in a thick icebubble and then, creating more and more ice from his fingertips, sends the bubble upwards until the cane detonates.
As Thatcher is arrested, Lieutenant D’Angelo asks Iceman what put him onto Thatcher. It wasn’t hard to figure, Bobby replies. A robbery that was obviously engineered to fail and a so-called professor that no one in the faculty had ever heard of. As the students celebrate Iceman, D’Angelo asks if Iceman is so great, how come he’s never heard of him. Because he’s always been overshadowed by his teammates, Bobby thinks. He replies though that the lieutenant will be hearing a lot from him in the future. ‘Cocky punk,’ D’Angelo thinks to himself.
Third story :
A rare quiet afternoon at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters has the X-Men gathered before a TV set watching ‘The Mark of Zorro,’ Nightcrawler’s favorite movie. Wolverine scoffs at it. What’s the point of watching a movie when you’ve seen it so often that you can recite the dialogue by heart? Plus, the hero is a wimp. Colossus defends the protagonist, claiming that Zorro is a true defender of the worker, like the heroes of the revolution in Russia.
Suddenly, a noise alerts them. It comes from heir mutant-detecting machine, Cerebro. Nightcrawler teleports ahead and informs the others about Cerebro’s incredible finding. Apparently, Cerbro has detected half a mutant in Poughkeepsie. And there’s actually a place called Poughkeepsie?
Shortly, the X-Men’s jet arrives in Poughkeepsie, where they see… half the Vanisher. The other half seems to be cut off by some kind of blackness. Months ago, after his defeat at the hands of the Champions, the Vanisher tried to escape by his owns style of teleportation. Darkstar stopped him literally halfway, using her mysterious darkforce power. At long last, miles away, the rest of the Vanisher has reappeared.
Nightcrawler reaches out to him. Big mistake. Take two mutant teleporters, add a low densitiy energy field of unknown origin and a big bamf can be heard on the other side of the city, as, surrounded by the rolling mass of Darkforce, Nightcrawler and Vanisher are flung across the dimensional barriers, bursting through myriad of realities until, at last, they are separated and land somewhere.
Nightcrawler takes in his alien surroundings, wondering where he is and where the Vanisher disappeared to, not to mention the small nugget of how he is supposed to get home – or at least to Poughkeepsie. Maybe staying wouldn’t be so bad, though, he realizes, as he finds himself welcomed by a group of scantily clad lovely amazons, who offer him a job as their god or king, if he is inclined. Males are scarce around here, they explain, and they make the most of them, when they get them. He’d love to, Nightcrawler replies, but sooner or later he’ll have to go – he tries to teleport, but it doesn’t work and he just makes a poot noise. He’s trapped.
Not too far away, Vanisher, covered in darkforce finds himself accosted by another group of amazons, who also offer him godhood, since beggars can’t be choosers. Vanisher takes to the offer with less charm than Kurt, warning them that he is the great and powerful Vanisher and doesn’t brook any familiarity. He too tries to teleport and finds he goes putt instead. Vanisher realizes that Darkstar’s darkforce is still cancelling his teleportation powers. He recalls that Darkstar could shape the stuff into weapons. He pulls at the darkforce covering him and creates a sword, which goes soft a moment later, much to the ladies’ amusement and his embarrassment. The ladies ensure him that he’ll enjoy godhood and take him away.
Elsewhere, Kurt is being celebrated in style at a banquet hosted by his group of amazons, who explain to him that there are no males on this planet and they make every man who comes here a god. As they also mention a high turnover rate, Kurt asks how many gods they’ve had. A few, they come and the go, one of the women explains. They don’t know where, but the oracle would probably know. Kurt asks to be led to the oracle and the girls comply. They lead him into a cave, where Kurt finds a sort of TV set. “There is nothing wrong with your set” appears on the screen and Kurt switches the set on.
The image of an elderly, grandmotherly but tough-minded lady appears on the screen, warning him not to make any fun of her. She’s SEHV, toughest ol’ oracle he’ll ever meet. Nightcrawler explains his situation and Sehv tells him that ‘s no problem. There’s a crater a few miles from there – the well of the centre of time that exists in every reality. If he jumps in there, he’ll be homefree, as long as he leaves with everything he arrived with. Try to leave something behind or take something extra and not even she can guess where he’ll end up. As a final warning, she tells him that this is a great dimension but it has some drawbacks. He’d better watch his tail for as long as he is here. Kurt wonders if she was serious or just trying to be portentous.
Days later and miles away, Vanisher has been showered in gold by his amazons. Suddenly, Nightcrawler appears before him out of the shadows. Vanisher angrily berates him for scaring him. Nightcrawler explains the problem. He wants to go home – or even back to Poughkeepsie - and he can’t get there without Vanisher. The villain isn’t interested in going. Nightcrawler threatens to use force and Vanisher runs, asking the girls to help him. They just watch, though, as the two men, each reaching for a sword, start to fight. Nightcrawler, who is much more accomplished as a fighter, kicks Vanisher in his posterior and follows this up with a left hook. Vanisher throws a hot cauldron at him and runs. He’s determined. Nightcrawler jumps after him and tackles him. Vanisher gives up and the girls wave them good-bye, as Nightcrawler walks them to the crater.
Crackling energy comes from the crater and Vanisher refuses to jump into that. He focuses on the darkforce again and creates a fist from it that takes Nightcrawler prisoner – for a few moments until it loses its grip and drops him. Nighcrawler warns him not to try any more foolish stunts. Vanisher throws a glob of Darkforce at him. Only a black spot is left on the ground and Vanisher happily believes that he has obliterated his foe. Instead, however, Nightcrawler starts to climb out of the spot of darkforce. It’s amazing, Kurt states. Just like a pool of shadows. He fell right through it. He takes up the blob of darkforce and recommends Vanisher put it back into his suit. He doesn’t think he can afford to lose any more. The fabric is wearing thin.
Suddenly, a huge reptile-like monster attacks them and both men jump into the crater. Again, the darkforce seethes around them, until it is at last exhausted and they emerge in Poughkeepsie before the X-Men, just after they disappeared. The Vanisher warns them to stand back, until he gets a good look at himself and finds he is naked. Embarassed, he disappears. Storm asks for an explanation. Where has Kurt been? Paradise, he replies. And one day he’s going back. But right now he’s going - bamf.