First story :
This story is a reprint of X-Men (1st series) #118. There is, however, one additional page.
On the island of Kirinos, Jean Grey worries about getting home. She has come to a small police station near the shore to report her missing bag. The police chief reclines on his chair, legs crossed on his table. She tells him that he hasn’t heard a word she has said. He replies that his English is pretty good and better than she speaks Greek. She surprises him by continuing the discussion in fluent Greek. On the radio, quietly, an announcement comes in about the mystery earthquake in Japan.
She informs him that someone has stolen her bag, all her clothes, her money, her passport; everything. He replies that she was very careless. The procedure is that they notify the American embassy, banks, relatives or whoever she likes. They send replacements. Jean asks how long that takes and he casually replies, “As long as it takes.” In his thoughts, the chief is pleased that it could take quite a while. He’d like to see how long her arrogance lasts when she is forced to sleep on the street and beg for food. Jean is horrified at his lack of respect but shows no outward signs that she has read his thoughts.
She tells him that perhaps she can go to Athens, but he puts his hands behind his head and says that’s impossible. Without proper travel documents, she must stay here. “Why is that not a surprise,” she replies before thanking him and turning to leave. As she does so, she gives his chair a slight telekinetic nudge and the chief topples backwards and he lands with a thump. The radio is thrown from the table, just as the announcer is mentioning that the rescue units have been assisted by the X-Men. Unfortunately, Jean is out of earshot.
Once outside, she smiles at putting one over the chief. A handsome young man approaches her. He asks her to excuse him, but he overheard her conversation with the chief and tells her that if she is in some trouble, he should very much like to help.
When you sail the Cyclades, that chain of sun-washed islands to the south and east of Greece, scattered across the Aegean Sea, it’s a lot like stepping through a time warp. Jean Grey is here, having left the modern, madcap world behind. The world she has found, in many essential ways, is the same today as when Jason and his Argonauts sought the fabled Golden Fleece. The stark beauty appeals to Jean’s eyes. The moment she steps ashore, she knows she made the right decision in coming here.
Her relaxation lasts but a moment. As she checks out the island, standing on the harbor side, a small boy nudges her in the small of the back, which sends her over the edge and into the Mediterranean. He is with two friends and one of them picks up Jean’s travel bag, as they make a run for it. Jean lands unceremoniously with a splash.
A weather-worn fisherman pulls her out onto his rowing boat and asks if the ruffians did her any harm. She replies that it’ll take her a while to get over the embarrassment. All those years in New York (not to mention the X-Men), you’d think she’d have learned to be more careful. She speaks to him in his natural tongue. Standing at the front of his boat, dripping wet, with her hair bedraggled, she thinks that this is terrific. What’s the use of being Phoenix, if her telepathic power won’t warn her of any attacks and her telekinesis won’t keep her out of the drink? She didn’t even get a decent look at the little creeps and now questions her decision to come here.
Leaving the police station, Jean finds herself with no money, no clothes, no passport and having had no help from the officer. Sitting on a step, she knows that she’s stuck on this rock until replacements arrive from Athens. She has no idea how long that will be and if she has to sleep rough and go hungry until then; tough. She is annoyed at the attitudes of the police chief and thinks that maybe she could use her powers to fly her to the mainland. That would only cause more trouble though and she really doesn’t want to break any laws if she can help it.
A man behind her excuses himself, but he couldn’t help overhearing her conversation with the chief. He tells her that if she is in some trouble, then he would very much like to help. She looks up at him and asks if he would consider being robbed of everything you possess ‘some trouble.’ He replies that anywhere but Kirinos, probably so, but on this island it’s only the most minor of inconveniences. He introduces himself as Nikos. Jean offers him her name and stands. Nikos asks if she would do him the honor of joining him for lunch and, under the circumstances, how can she refuse.
They make their way to a nearby restaurant and seat themselves opposite one another at a table in the corner, overlooking the island. She asks if he makes a habit of rescuing stranded tourists and he answers by saying, “What better way of meeting lovely ladies?” She says that this, then, is part of some dark and devious plot. “Of course; however did you guess?” he replies. “Didn’t you know I can read minds?” Jean says. They banter as if they have known one another for a long time and Jean appears to relax in his company. She leans back and says she’s stuffed. Her svelte figure is lost forever. Nikos replies that it isn’t from where he’s sitting. She asks if this is what is meant by old world gallantry and adds that, as soon as she receives her money she wired for, she’ll pay him back. Confidently, he tells Jean that the pleasure of her company is more than sufficient compensation.
He then asks if she needs a place to stay. Jean frowns and says that it’s turned into a lovely day, so please don’t spoil it. He acts wounded by her suspicions, but adds that the sad truth is, too many tourists have been ripped off, so as a result - no cash, no room. While sleeping under the stars may be romantic for a night, it can get old very fast. All he offers is a room and all he asks is her friendship. Leave the rest to the fates.
(later that night)
Nikos greets the three young boys who had stolen Jean’s belongings at his home. They provide him with the bag and he provides them with a reward for their efforts. He orders them to leave and says he’ll be in touch should he have need of them. They are ecstatic with their reward, a fortune to them. Now stripped of his disguise, it is not Nikos, but Jason Wyngarde, a.k.a. Mastermind, who tosses her belongings into the fire. He wants her possessions destroyed and Jean Grey to remain where she is until he is ready to let her go. She had given him quite a turn earlier when she spoke of reading minds, until he realized she was only joking.
Thanks to his power of illusion, the thoughts she perceives are as false as the face she sees. Nikos is but a façade. Smoking a cigar, he pictures her in his mind and thinks how sweet she looks. She should enjoy it while it lasts. His hook are in her and, though she doesn’t know it, before long they’ll be sunk in deep. She will never be rid of them. Then, he will play Pygmalion to her Galatea, and transform her into a Black Queen worthy of the name.
Nikos appears at Jean’s bedside with breakfast on a tray and asks if she slept well. Magnificently, she replies. She readily tucks in and compliments him on his culinary skills. This is almost too good to be true. He asks her to allow him to make things even better. Among his many talents, he is a guide and, if she wishes, he will show her the island; the secret, hidden places where the tourists never go. Jean says that sound wonderful but she only has the one dress. Nikos, of course, has a solution and Jean says that, the way his eyes are twinkling, she bet he does.
He shows her a closet filled with enough clothes to open a boutique. Nikos tells her that ladies come and ladies go, and often things get left behind. Jean tells him that there’s only one problem; the dress isn’t quite her style, or size.
She steps from the closet wearing a very short, figure-hugging green dress. Nikos says she looks magnificent, but Jean feels like a bimbo. Nikos replies by asking whose fault is that. Is she one of those people who believe that clothes really do make the woman? Jean asks him to dress like this, and then tell her, but she says this with a laugh. Beggars can’t be choosers, she thinks, and knows that she does actually look good, and why should she be ashamed of that?
The couple head off into town and Nikos proves as good as his word. The next few days become a never-ending delight and Jean finds that Kirinos is the next best thing to paradise. The more she is with Nikos, which proves to be pretty much constantly, the more she enjoy herself. One day while they are out scuba diving, nature takes its course, and they find themselves embracing in the shallow water. Jean immediately turns away, feeling that she shouldn’t have kissed him. Nikos says that this is what they both want and begs her not to run away.
All the way home, Jean is hounded every step by ghosts. She looks silently at Kirinos by night, and Nikos informs her that the people are celebrating the Festival of Aphrodite; a night consecrated to love when all cares and woes are cast away. He asks Jean if he has offended her but she replies that he hasn’t, it’s just that she was in love. Nikos asks if he left her, but she tells him that he died. “People tell me that I shouldn’t blame myself; that I couldn’t have saved him, but deep down inside…” Nikos rests his head on her shoulders, as she adds that she should have found a way, but she failed. It hurts more than she ever dreamed possible.
Nikos assures Jean that to mourn is natural, but to shut yourself away from life and deny all feelings; where’s the sense in that? Jean looks away and replies that, if she can’t feel, she can’t be hurt. Nikos asks if the pain is so awful that she must turn her back on joy. Jean tells him that she appreciates what he is trying to do, but she would rather be left alone. He stands and tells her that there is time enough for that when she is dead. For now, she should come with him, laugh with him, live!
Reluctantly, Jean takes his hand and is led to the festivities. The night dissolves into a myriad of sparkling, swirling sensations. The music strikes a resonant chord in her blood and the strong drink of the islands ignites her blood. Nikos’ touch fans the flames white-hot. Her emotions run riot during the evening and her telepathic power touches every consciousness about her, an awareness she’s able to mute, but not shut out entirely. Tonight, she doesn’t mind though, for the thoughts she perceives are joyous ones. She wonders if the festival is more than simple tourist entertainment. Perhaps there is true magic here.
The couple heads away from the town and to a secluded area with ancient ruins. For the first time in weeks, the terrible ache in her heart begins to ease. Jean is pleased that she trusted Nikos. He tells her that he led her to this temple mount so he might lead her soul, who knows where? They stare down at the town and Nikos says that this is how the gods of old must have lived. High above the mortal world, they gazed down at humanity, knowing we existed solely by their sufferance; able to shape man’s destiny for good and ill with but a wave of the hand. They could bring life or end it, living totally for themselves without the consequences of any action; a law forever unto themselves.
Nikos stands behind Jean and holds her by the shoulders. “Imagine such power, such glory! What could you do with it. People would fear you, respect you, worship you.” Jean replies that mutants wouldn’t have to hide anymore. There’d be no more hatred; no more X-Men would have to die. Nikos asks if that would not be the most wondrous of worlds, worth any price to bring about. Jean suddenly takes flight and says yes. Nikos adds that mutants are the gods of Earth. If she would pick up the mantle…
Jean becomes overwhelmed by Nikos’ words and the Phoenix raptor lights up the evening sky. Jean revels in the power of the Phoenix. She says that he offers what she already possesses, for she is Phoenix. Now and forever, the power of creation is hers. Through her, the circle remains unbroken. From her, comes the end that it itself a new beginning. Hers is the fire that consumes, yet from its ashes brings forth new life!
However, sensing the dichotomy, Jean suddenly snaps out of it and lands, saying no; that isn’t her. It’s not what she wants. Phoenix is a name; nothing more. She is a human being. She is Jean Grey! She runs away, frightened by everything that is happening to her; the emotions, the power, the hunger and the loss. Watching her leave, Nikos, or rather, Mastermind, says to himself that her psyche is even more fragile than he imagined, which is more good fortune than he could have hoped for. With Jean Greys corruption comes his total victory over the X-Men. Make no mistake about it; she will be his, sooner that she expects, and far more easily than she dreams possible. In her heart and soul, she already is the Black Queen.