Ireland, County Sligo, a monastery. A young pale elfin-looking boy, who sits floating in the air, reads a poem:
Had I the Heavens’ embroidered cloths,
enwrought with Golden and silver light,
the blue and the dim and the dark cloths
of night and light and half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.
Does he like the verse? He addresses a monk named Brother Francis. Calling the boy Feron, the monk replies that he likes it very much. Its author, William Butler Yeats, truly understood the human soul.
Is he still alive? Feron inquires. Sadly not, comes the reply. He was laid to rest in this very county in 1939. Feron feels that, while the words are beautiful, they were inspired by pain. Brother Francis agrees. Pain of rejection, the fear of unrequited love.
Are all in the outside world driven by such passions? The boy asks. How can he explain? the monk wonders. This small monastery and the monks within have been Feron’s world since he was born. So much has been denied to him. Feron smiles and assures him he accepts his destiny. He is Feron.
He is a prisoner to his destiny, Francis sighs, last of a thousand generations charged as sentinels to await the rise of the Anti-Phoenix. It is too great a burden for one so young. Feron assures Brother Francis that they have prepared him well. They have blindly maintained the traditions of their forebears to preserve the purity of Feron’s mystic skill, the monk replies, by keeping the boy isolated, his feet bound in the skin of the mythic black boar.
The boy is accepting of this. For, in the instant his naked feet touch the ground, he shall inherit the full powers of the first Feron, he who survived the great Deluge. And then the Phoenix will answer his summons. Is that time upon them? the monk asks. Yes, comes the reply, the air is charged with evil force… the storm is gathering.
A plane flies through the night sky and flies downward a short distance beyond the monastery’s crumbling walls. Meggan (carrying Rachel), Cerise and Captain Britain (carrying a hesitant Kylun) are flying down while the plane’s pilot Nightcrawler looks for a suitable place to land.
The heroes land and are welcomed by Kitty Pryde who tells them they scared everyone out of their skin. She explains why she called them to the archaeological dig. It was mapping the foundations of a prehistoric village with ground penetrating radar when they discovered this. She points to a screen. It’s a cuboid chamber 200 meters beneath them with no connecting passage to the surface or any subterranean caverns. But it looks like someone or something is moving around down there.
Kitty tried to phase down to thee chamber, but she can’t see to navigate through solid matter. She got lost, she admits sheepishly. Alistaire Stuart tried to get hold of some heavy machinery to dig down but he ran into a bureaucratic brick wall. Alistaire explains that a local councillor wants to use the excavation as a rubbish dump. So, he accused them of trying to get their survey permit extended by pretending to discover a haunted crypt.
Kurt teleports in and remarks that politicians expect others to be as dishonest as themselves (he listened to their conversation via Rachel’s mindlink).
He decides there is no point in further discussion. The solution to the mystery lies within the crypt. Kitty and Rachel can phase down to reconnoitre. While Captain Britain, Meggan and Cerise begin to dig a tunnel to the chamber.
Kitty phases herself and Rachel through the ground. Telepathically, she asks Rachel why she didn’t simply dig them a tunnel and why isn’t she in costume. She can’t get that thing on without using the Phoenix force comes the explanation. No zipper. Kitty tells her to be serious. She is, Rachel assures her. She’s willed the Phoenix force to be dormant. She discovered that using it is what prevented her fragmented memory from healing.
Has it worked, Kitty asks. Almost, Rachel explains, it’s like having a word on the tip of your tongue… close but out of reach. Unless a serious threat arises, she relies on her actual telekinesis/ telepathy. Speaking of which… they’ve arrived, but she can’t sense anything.
Kitty suddenly drops to the ground. Rachel bends down to look at her. Instead of Kitty, she sees the middle-aged Kate Pryde. She’s dead, another voice tells her. It’s adult Franklin Richards or “Snapper” as Rachel calls him.
Rachel finds that, like Franklin and Kate, she is dressed in a prison uniform, hiding in ruins from the Sentinels. It’s the future, her past. How did she get back?
She never left, Franklin explains. The time travel attempt didn’t work. The effort killed Kate. No! Rachel shouts. She went back in time, met the X-Men, her parents, Excalibur…
Easy, Franklin tells her, and takes her by the shoulders. She had some freaky hallucinations when she psi-linked with Kate. Almost crying, Rachel insists it happened. No, he tells her, she fed off Kate’s memory and imagined it all. But it was all so real…
And this isn’t? Franklin points to the air where Storm is destroying a Sentinel. Her friends need her. This cant be happening again! she cries as she sees the Sentinels killing Storm and Colossus. Franklin orders her to pull herself together. She must release the Phoenix force and help them. Her friends are dying!
But, Rachel suddenly recalls, she didn’t have the Phoenix Force in this time. She took it on in the past.
Suddenly, the scenery shifts. Rachel is wearing the uniform of a Hellfire Club maid, the body she is holding is no longer that of Kate Pryde but of Selene. And behind her stands Wolverine, who urges her to kill the other woman. He reminds her that the vampire witch has been playing with Rachel’s mind, amusing herself until she needs Rachel’s life essence. She deserves to die. Turn on the Phoenix power and burn the witch!
No! Rachel refuses. Last time he stopped her from killing Selene and he was right. She knows that now. The more power you possess, the more you need limits, that’s what he said.
He unsheathes his claws under her chin. Sometimes you gotta kill… your life could depend on it. She doesn’t think so, Rachel stubbornly insists. If he was going to kill her, he would have done so by now. This whole charade was intended to trick her into reactivating the Phoenix Force. But why? Who is he?
“Wolverine” begins to change, turning into a glowing male shape. He is the rightful host of the Phoenix, he tells her.
Rachel wasn’t prepared for this. She though she might be facing D’spayre… These mindgames felt like his handiwork but it’s true. She can sense the essence of the Phoenix force in the entity. Or is it another trick?
The being asks her to forgive him. When he sensed the Phoenix was trapped within her, he assumed she had evil intent. He smiles at her. He understands now: her mind was too fragile to contain the majesty of the Phoenix. He asks her to relinquish it to him, and her memory will be instantly restored.
Rachel recalls Brian saying that Roma had engineered everything that happened to Excalibur, including her encounter with D’spayre to prepare them for a major confrontation. Could this be it?
Yes, it could, comes the reply. He reads her mind. Laughing, he tells her she is nothing without the Phoenix. Nothing but a helpless pawn while within her is the power to be a player! Again he tells her to relinquish the Phoenix. Rachel refuses. He begins to smirk evilly, telling her she will. Events are unfolding that will force her to call on the Phoenix and when she does, he will tear it from her puny mind!
Meanwhile, two hundred meters above the cuboid chamber, a tube of coherent light – generated by Cerise - evacuates tons of rubble from a rapidly forming tunnel dug by Captain Britain and Meggan. Nightcrawler anxiously asks them how much longer, frustrated he cannot help and concerned for Rachel and Kitty. He wonders whether he was overconfident from his success in leading the Technet. He prays he will not have cause to regret his decision.
On a hill nearby, the monks unbind Feron’s feet and put him down on the ground. As his bare feet touch, the ground there is a rumbling noise and the rain turns into a storm, an unnatural kind of storm as Alistaire remarks. Kylun points out that he senses Necrom’s hand in this. Kurt peers downward, Meggan and Cap are about to break through.
Suddenly, energy floods out as the Anti-Phoenix flies upward. Cap immediately looks for his friends. Rachel, holding Kitty who is awakening, tells him they are okay and asks them to follow that thing and stop it.
The Anti-Phoenix is stopped by Feron’s magic. Feron calls on the cosmic Phoenix, imploring its aid to extinguish its evil. The Anti-Phoenix interrupts him, telling him he isn’t in time. The Phoenix is bound to a puny human and Feron does not possess the power to hold him.
The flying members of Excalibur arrive, followed by the others. They will help him, Cap threatens. And who will help him? the Anti-Phoenix asks. At his command, rock giants come from the ground, one hitting Cap.
Cerise and Meggan defend themselves, with Meggan wondering who will help the boy (referring to Feron). Cap smashes the rock creature attacking Feron. But the bits reform and try to smother Feron. Cerise tries to blast the pieces apart to no avail, as they reform to attack her again. Kylun interferes with his enchanted sword, explaining a physical attack on earth and rock is futile, it is merely the medium used by the disembodied demonic force to gain physical effect. His enchanted swords of Zz’ria can dissipate its motivating force.
Even while he talks, with his swords he frees all his teammates and the rock creatures are lifeless rock once more. He’s obviously had experience at this sort of thing, Cap ventures. Occasionally, Kylun admits. Giving inanimate matter, the semblance of life was just one of the devilish feats the tyrant Necrom used to enslave his world.
Feron tells him his concern should be for this world. The Anti-Phoenix has escaped. Anti-Phoenix? Kurt asks. The thing from the crypt, Rachel explains. It tried to draw the Phoenix Force out of her. Her? Feron shouts. It cannot be! She is not worthy of the Phoenix!
Brother Francis chides him for his outburst. He asks the others to forgive him. He has the impetuosity of youth but his concern is only for good.
Okay, they are all on the same side, Kitty decides, maybe they can tell them what is going on. Brother Francis explains that Feron spent his whole life preparing for the day when he would host the Phoenix, waiting as all the generations of Ferons have waited for the rise of the Anti-Phoenix. They had not anticipated that the Phoenix would choose another host. The world may pay dearly for their assumption unless they can find and destroy the Anti-Phoenix before it joins with it creator. Or it may become unstoppable, Feron adds.
Brother Francis asks them to take Feron with them. His mystic abilities will benefit their cause. Rachel tells them to fly them to the lighthouse. Its tracking devices will be able to detect the Anti-Phoenix – it has the same energy signature as the Phoenix.
On the flight back, Kitty asks Kurt what happened to their Blackbird. Kurt replies it was stolen from its hangar at WHO’s Ruthymere base, so Brigadier Stuart lent them this plane. It’s one of the aircraft captured from the Vixen’s henchmen and actually superior to the Blackbird. Yeah, villains don’t suffer budget cuts, Kitty sighs.
In the back, the others commend Kylun for his fighting skills and wonder what his actual power is. Kylun is unwilling to tell as his power is insignificant. Meggan guesses he is superfast and agile or very strong. Or a healing factor, Kitty suggests.
Kylun finally admits he can precisely reproduce any sound. Kitty suggests he show them, like that huge “whak” when Brian hit the rock creature. Kylun proceeds to show them a series of sounds from the battle. The others are quiet for a moment. It’s no wonder he needs to carry swords, Brian comments wryly. With a smile, he adds that’s a joke. Kylun’s fighting skills are all the more impressive for their lack of mutant enhancement.
Kurt orders them to take landing positions. They are approaching the lighthouse. He exclaims Mein Gott! There is a crowd of creatures on the path but they are just standing here. Kurt tries out the plane’s hover parking capability and they find the creatures are just headless robots.
Widget bodies, Kurt realizes. Far more sophisticated than his first attempt. An anxious Lockheed flies towards them and they follow him inside. Cerise‘s sensors register bizarre temporal activity. Inside, they find the train gutted. Raw material for Widget, Kurt assumes. There seems to be a progression in the bodies, Cap observes. A progression to… that.
A seemingly inert form whose upper body seems mechanic and whose lower translucent body seems almost to be existing elsewhere. Widget? Kylun asks agitated wile Kurt holds him back. Cerise detects a fourth-dimensional pulse but it’s fluctuating wildly.
Kitty asks Rachel if she can sense anything, but Phoenix is in a trance, her mind miles away as she senses the ritual that takes place. Necrom summons the Anti-Phoenix and literally swallows its entire energy. The Anti-Phoenix, a desiccated husk, falls dead to the ground while Necrom, full of its power, grins in triumph.
They are too late! Rachel announces. The Anti-Phoenix has joined with Necrom. She can feel him in her mind. He is coming after her.