Only minutes ago, Excalibur returned home to their lighthouse on the west coast of Britain after their odyssey through alternate realities. All they want is some rest. What they get instead is the world-devourer Galactus, standing over their lighthouse.
His herald Nova joins them, chirpily announcing that Galactus has concluded that Phoenix’s continued existence is a threat to his own survival and he can’t accept that. It would really be best for all concerned if they just handed her over. With a threatening smile, Rachel asks if Nova is kidding. The other woman tells her she is quite serious and there’s no point fighting really. There is nothing Rachel can do to prevent this. Wanna bet? Rachel asks ominously, before slugging Nova with all her might.
Within a human heartbeat, Nova is out of Earth’s atmosphere still accelerating, finally landing on the moon. Nova is rather surprised, both at being hit so hard and at surviving this. Does she have so little faith in the handiwork of him who made her? inquires the Watcher. Is he going to interfere like he did when Galactus first encountered the Fantastic Four? Nova inquires slyly. Those days are done, he replies. His charge is but to observe. Music to her ears, Nova announces cheerfully as she flies off and promises him a show. Of that he has no doubt, the Watcher responds wryly.
Back on Earth, Galactus gets his machinery ready as he announces that striking his herald will do Excalibur as little good as it did Nova harm. His will shall not be thwarted. He explains that he will use this instrument to liberate the essence of the Phoenix of the physicality of its fleshy encasement and return it to the cosmos whence it came and where it rightfully belongs.
And what happens to Rachel in the process? Nightcrawler asks, agitated, demanding to know by what right Galactus does this. In sympathy, Meggan shifts her shape to look like him. Less sympathetic, Galactus retorts that he does not answer to lesser beings, nor brook the slightest interference. They should heed this warning or he will not be responsible for the consequences to them or their world.
Rachel smiles apologetically at the rest of the team, while they decide what to do with their options. Captain Britain decides that the answer is obvious. The next moment, he attacks Galactus’ instrument. Galactus points at him and a green-yellow spotted creature appears to attack Cap. Cap tries to hit it, only to find its form is totally malleable allowing it to absorb the full force of every blow. Even worse, at every point of contact, they stick together.
While Nightcrawler sighs about Cap’s inability to grasp the concept of teamwork, Meggan is agitated about her lover being in danger and rushes in, attacking the creature from a distance with her energy blasts. She is successful, as the creature drops Cap and she rushes down to save him. She chides him to wait for Nightcrawler’s cue next time.
Alistaire Stuart urges Rachel to come inside the lighthouse with him. Misunderstanding his intentions, she asks whether he figures running away is going to make a difference. He tells her he has got an idea. At the same time, the Watcher manifests on the mainland. Nightcrawler wonders if he has come to help them as he once helped the Fantastic Four. Alistaire points out that they can’t wait to find out and that he has an idea. Phoenix flies him inside the lighthouse.
Enjoying the ride? she asks teasingly. Alistaire is totally smitten with her and she warns him what to think around a telepath. They arrive in the basement to find something that seems to resemble Wembley Stadium with a full crowd. Phoenix tells Alistaire to take a look at the band – animal versions of Excalibur with the exception of Phoenix. Something that strikes Rachel. In all the alternate dimensions they visited, there was no analogue for Rachel Summers, never another Phoenix.
This is what happened to Nightcrawler, before the team moved in, Alistaire recalls. The lights go out and the next moment they see the cavern the way it is supposed to be with their train. While Alistaire theorizes on the nature of this cross-dimensional event, Rachel gently reminds him of matters at hand. Alistaire runs into the train and looks for a certain device he got. While he looks through the train, he explains that he got into a discussion of trans-temporal relativity dynamics with some chap from Gallifrey… Now where is the thing? Rachel finally points out that the device – that looks suspiciously like a flashlight - is where he left it – in his pocket.
Meanwhile, Meggan, Nightcrawler and Captain Britain have their hands full with the next threat Galactus sent against them. So far, the world devourer hasn’t spared them the slightest attention and why should he? Nightcrawler wonders. To him, they are little better than vermin. He has those creatures to root them out.
Galactus, in the meantime, is restoring the device Captain Britain destroyed with a few gestures, musing how odd it is that these puny beings constantly refuse to accept their limitation, as well as their proper place in the cosmos. Perhaps that’s because they never found either, Captain Britain blusters… and the battle continues.
A flash of light on the mainland distracts Cap and the next moment he is hit by one of Galactus’ creatures. Jumping after him, Nightcrawler thinks to himself that the man has a knack for getting hit. He catches Cap at the last moment before he crashes to the ground and teleports them away to the mainland, where they see both the Watcher and the celestial guardian, Roma.
Ignoring Nightcrawler, Cap asks why she is there. Roma explains that certain events are of such significance they must be witnessed first hand. And no, she anticipates his question, she cannot aid them. She is as tightly bound by the skein of fate and duty, as he, her champion Captain, is. This is a moment in the scheme of things which must stand or fall on its own. Nothing like having a guardian angel who chooses to be of absolutely no use when she’s needed most, Nightcrawler sourly observes.
Phoenix returns, but shouts out when she sees another figure that has joined the Watcher and Roma. A seemingly harmless middle-aged handyman. She knows him, she announces. Through her mother, he agrees. They got to know each other pretty well, fairly soon after she became Phoenix. And, of course, right at the end, when she chose to give it up. Why is he there? she asks agitated. Who is he? Cap demands. The man changes shape as he announces that he always goes where he is needed: from a pale Goth girl clad in black to a hooded woman, to a robed skeleton to his previous shape. For one. For all.
Not for her friends, Rachel protests threateningly. Not today. Is she threatening him, he asks. She orders him to go back and leave them alone. He has brought enough grief to her and hers.
Alistaire interrupts her, warning her that Nova is returning. With a grin, Rachel remarks that she wondered what kept her, before telling Death that they aren’t done. As she flies away, he replies that, as long as a single star burns in the firmament, they are never done.
Rachel psi-links Excalibur, filling them in on Alistaire’s plan. Nova closes in with superspeed, determined to give Phoenix far better than she got. Rachel is waiting for her. At the last moment, she ensnares Nova with a telekinetic lasso, whirling her around to build up her speed and then firing her at Galactus. This time, Galactus actually falls and Alistaire follows it up by firing the odd device at him.
Captain Britain warns Alistaire that that’s a trans-temporal anomaly. Does he have the slightest notion what forces he is playing with? Alistaire explains that it’s meant to bounce Galactus to the ultimate reaches of time and space, as far from here and now as possible. Does he really think it’s that easy? Cap asks doubtfully.
Suddenly, Meggan screams in agony. Galactus stands restored, remarking that he is the Then, the Now and the Yet To Be. No mere mechanism is his equal, much less his better. He is unharmed, not so his herald. For that, they shall pay.
Meggan shouts out “no.” He started this; he is the one to blame. Drawing energy from the Earth, she grows in stature and in power, swearing he will harm the world no more. Phoenix flies up and shouts at her to stop. Her draining all that power means she is destroying the world she wants to save.
Rachel apologizes. Of all people, she should have known better. Meggan could drain the planet dry and would still be no match for Galactus. It’s only her life he wants. Best for her friends and her world, she give it to him, she explains to Meggan. She says good-bye to Cap with a handshake, to Kurt with a hug. She turns to Alistaire, who can’t think of anything witty to say. Rachel shushes him with a kiss, telling him she always knew how he felt about her. She’s sorry she could never return the same.
Better get this over with, she announces, before she changes her mind and decides it’s the big guy who should make the final exit. As Rachel allows herself to be strapped into the machine, Nova crows that she talks big, but that’s all. Phoenix is the one about to be discorporated. Because the cost of winning isn’t worth the fight, Rachel retorts. Nova should take a cue from her boss. She doesn’t hear him crowing. Maybe she should follow his example.
Galactus begins the process. Meggan buries herself in Brian’s arms, refusing to look, whereas Kurt stoically announces that one of them must bear witness. They owe Rachel that much at least. Nova suddenly shouts out in terror that the stars are going out. Roma finally talks, telling Galactus that this is his folly. Rachel is Phoenix, living embodiment of one of the primal forces. He can no more divide her spirit from flesh than he can life from death. There is a natural order to her being, as to his and all creation.
Galactus explains that his sustenance is living planets. The Phoenix can obliterate an entire cosmos. And from that death bring about new life, Death interrupts. But Galactus is changing that. Breaking the pattern. Is that his wish? the Watcher asks. To condemn the cosmos to ultimate extinction and himself to an eternity in a void, wherein exists not the smallest potential for life. Can even Galactus endure such desolation? Unless that’s what he wants, Death asks as he walks closer to Galactus. Perhaps his time has run its course. He has handed so many over to Death’s care, why not lay down his burdens and join them?
He is, Galactus replies, as he switches off his device. Supreme unto himself. He will not be bound by entity – or concept. His machinery disappears and Rachel is freed. He concedes to Phoenix that the day is hers, and with it an awareness of her role in the scheme of things, he suspects she would much rather have remained ignorant of. She has a destiny. He wishes her well of it.
Her friends greet her exuberantly. As the cosmic beings disappear, Death tells her to remember their little talk. Be seeing her. Not if she sees him first, Rachel shoots back with a crooked smile.
Elsewhere in Britain, unknown to Excalibur on a train racing through the night, their missing teammate Kitty Pryde sleeps away the trip to school. This isn’t where she wants to be.
After she learned at Courtney’s flat that she would have to attend school her, first reaction was a succinct Someone will die for this.
The man from the school board explains that while there is no question of her academic qualification to enter university their concern is over her socialization. He goes on to explain that Kitty spent the past few years in a private school, undergoing an education that was essentially a one-to-one tutorial. Which may leave her somewhat unprepared for the rough and tumble of university where such treatment is virtually non-existent. Students are expected to participate fully in all facets of university life. That’s a considerable adjustment in the normal course of events. In Kitty’s case, since she is significantly younger and a foreigner, they felt it best to err on the side of caution for Kitty’s own good.
Courtney agrees as she ushers Kitty outside. A term, possibly a year in a quality secondary school, will allow her to properly acclimate herself. Is he for real? Kitty demands. Courtney suggests she can always not go to school or university. Teach herself. She wants to go, Kitty admits. Then she has to do so on their terms, Courtney tells her, until such time as she can make her own. It won’t be that bad she tries to comfort her. St. Cyril is nowhere as stuffy as it sounds. After all, she went there. Didn’t do her any damage.
She hands her the tickets and tells her everything’s arranged. How awful can it be, Kitty tries to convince herself. School’s a school. She bets within a term tops she’s running the place.