Someone once told Rachel Summers that, at the moment of death, we relive the memory of our entire life. Rachel dismissed this myth as romantic fancy. She was wrong.
She recalls, as a newborn, her happy parents smiling down on her, grateful she had her mother’s eyes. Her mother, Marvel Girl, and the X-Men returning to her after a mission. Her mother’s burial. Professor Xavier’s death. Ahab promising to protect her, then torturing and brainwashing her. Hunting mutants as a Hound in the service of Ahab. Rebelling and injuring Ahab. Kate Pryde’s sorrowful eyes as she sends Rachel back through time with the code phrase “Dark Phoenix.”
Another life with the X-Men. Meeting her baby brother Nathan for the first time. Almost being brainwashed by Selene. Wolverine injuring her mortally rather than letting Rachel murder Selene. Spiral tricking her, capturing her and presenting her to Mojo. The Warwolves hunting her. A new happy life with Excalibur. Ahab finding her again. Battling Necrom, whom she allowed to drain her lifeforce to force him into overload.
Memory runs full circle to a final sensation of searing pain. Then nothingness. A moment of eternity passes in timeless limbo. Whatever lies beyond death’s dark veil, Rachel must wait to know. Fate has granted her a second chance.
She wakes to find herself floating in space, wondering why she isn’t dead. What happened to Necrom? “Necrorm is dead,” the voice of the Phoenix tells her.
Rachel doesn’t believe the Phoenix has an independent intelligence. It’s a force of nature! It admits it has hidden its true nature from Rachel and that it is in her. When Rachel demands it show itself, Phoenix does so, taking on Jean Grey’s form. A manifestation, Phoenix explains, this image is no truer than the flaming bird of legend inspired by the original Feron’s vision. Its true nature is without form, touching all that lives with neither feeling nor awareness. And if the universe is to be free of the cancer it has become, it must be so again!
Meanwhile back on Earth:
The Warpie team known as the Cherubim ordered Captain Britain and Meggan to accompany them to Cloud Nine. Snoop explains to Peter what happened:
Of course Cap declined and struck one of them – Quill. Fern moved onto Meggan, tying her up with her tentacles. Meggan didn’t struggle, just stared at Cap, sort of mesmerized. Quill and AC/DC both moved on Cap. As the twins tried to zap him, Cap levitated so he wasn’t grounded and bumped their heads together.
At that point, Giggles moved in, hitting Cap with strobe light. Meggan swelled up fast, making Fern struggle and head-bumped her to get free. She sped to Cap’s rescue but instead he saw his greatest fear, the Fury, and hit her as hard as he could. The illusion was only lifted when Meggan fell to the ground unconscious. A moment later, he spotted Lump. Having encountered the Cherubim in the past, he knew of his illusion powers.
He leapt at him but then fell, as though his power wasn’t working any more. Quill quickly struck him hard and put him out of his misery.
Snoop concludes his report to Peter, who asks if there is any evidence that the failure of Captain Britain’s power was brought about by genetic destabilization. Snoop explains that, during his surveillance, he recorded one earlier bout of power depletion. He also witnessed a few emotional eruptions between the targets. Mr Jordan has a video of edited highlights for spectral analysis.
Peter turns to Jordan, who explains the analysis is inconclusive and the samples their pathologists took from Captain Britain are an enigma. He could be non-terrestrial, for all they know. Nicholas is their resident genius. He might see something he’s missing. Peter declines. Nicholas is brilliant but naïve in matters of security and far too trusting of Excalibur’s good intentions.
Nearby, in one of Cloud Nine’s numerous research facilities, Nicholas tests Nightcrawler’s endurance. He is watched by Cerise, Kitty and dozens of adoring Warpie kids. The kids have to go to bed and Nicholas remarks that they love Kurt. His presence has really lifted their spirits. Kurt wishes he could do more. Nicholas agrees. He regrets the need to treat the three of them as criminals but Peter lives by the letter of the law. Hopefully their status as illegal aliens will be quickly resolved.
Kurt asks why Peter believes this genetic destabilization to be a form of enemy attack. Nicholas admits that, since they don’t know the cause, every possibility must be explored. And a large organized group of parahumans could be considered as a martial threat by any nation that has discovered their presence. Which is why Peter insists on maintaining maximum security. Their limited freedom was granted because of their willingness to assist Cloud Nine in finding a cure. Curing the parahumans is Peter’s primary concern.
Kitty pipes up, reminding Nicholas that, if his analysis is correct, Kurt is a victim of the disease too. Nicholas agrees but, as the symptoms are intermittent and this last batch of tests revealed nothing, he can say no more.
Kitty apologizes for being impatient and tired. Nicholas agrees she’s been working very hard and should rest. Kitty was wondering if she could run an exercise program in the holographic chamber. Nicholas sees no reason why not. But she has to stay with Static at all time, her designated guard, who will prevent her from using her phasing power to man an escape attempt.
Kitty asks Static what he knows about the holographic chamber, he meeps in reply. That much, huh? He’s really a wizard, Kitty agrees. She explains it exploits more than mere holograms. They are just illusions. But when synchronized with this chamber’s malleable surface and automatons, they can create the ultimate interactive roleplaying games. Meep? Static asks. He really has the IQ of a ripe courgette, doesn’t he? Kitty remarks. Meep meep, he agrees.
She puts a disc into the computer to custom an existing program to her personal specification. She calls it “the invasion of the juvenile Martian pirate Frogg.” She should warn him, it starts with a heckuva—BANG! The boom and flare distract Static, allowing Kitty to duck behind a holographic rock, while the program generates a hologram of her which Static now guards as hologram Kitty fights the Martian pirate.
Looking at her double critically, Kitty notices that her costume seems so old. She used to change costumes every other week, when she first started out. She has to give a new look some serious thought. She finds that Static’s power to neutralize her mutant ability is focused on fake Kitty, allowing her to phase. She phases downwards and plans to sneak around and find out what is really going on at Cloud Nine.
Meanwhile at Braddock Manor, Feron finds himself helpless before the challenge of preparing a microwave meal. He told Kitty he cannot cook, he grumbles to Lockheed. The brothers always prepared his meals. She promised to leave “convenience foods”. But this is not convenient nor is it food! Huffing, Lockheed holds up a list of chores of which Feron has barely done half. He knows! Feron states annoyed. His mistress remembered to leave a list of chores for him, but she forgot to leave food!
Rachel! they suddenly hear. They turn around to see the robot-like being Widget has become surrounded by coloured light phasing in. Rachel… it shouts, it – me-at ---de. R—member remember! Trust me, please – Agh! it screams again, then phases out.
That was Widget? Feron asks. Yup, Lockheed agrees. A ghost? Maybe, Lockheed states. Is he scared? Naah! Feron agrees that neither is he but there is so much work to be done outside the house. Lockheed agrees and they leave.
At Cloud Nine, Captain Britain awakes on a chair with scientists trying to draw his blood. They tell him they are doctors and order him to remain still. He has sustained a number of injuries. Of course, he shoves them aside and gets up. Peter tells him the medics are trying to help; he must control his violent temper. It has been responsible for enough tragedy today. They show him a tank in which an unconscious Meggan floats. What have they done to her? Cap demands. Not them, him, Peter corrects. He struck Meggan. Peter’s medical staff is the very best, but he’s afraid Meggan’s condition is extremely serious. She is close to death.
Brian berates himself. They are doing all they can, Peter assures him. Angrily, Brian turns around and points an accusing finger at Peter. He had the Cherubim attack him and Meggan, they tricked Cap into hitting her. Not true, Peter corrects him. The Cherubim were under orders not to fight. Captain Britain struck the first blow. He abhors violence but, if the Captain insists on indulging his passion for mindless brawling, these gentlemen, he refers to several strong Warpies that have joined them, will accommodate him. He would advise against testing their mettle. His powers are currently in decline. He doesn’t stand a chance.
Cap accuses Peter of being behind his failing powers. No, a common enemy, Peter replies. He doesn’t know who, but hopes to find out with his help. Why does he need him? Cap asks. He has enough muscle here. The RCX obviously succeeded in building its Warpie army.
Out of necessity, Peter agrees. Once the greatest threat to mankind was nuclear arms; now it is para-humans. The RCX agents have witnessed a significant increase in their population - he points to several screens showing recent British superheroes. Cap himself encountered this Dark Angel. But there are many more: Killpower, Motormouth, the Knights of Pendragon. How can their nation be secure while these forces are free to ignore the law? They must be accountable for their actions. To him? Cap asks. To the government, Peter corrects him. What has any of this to do with the loss of his powers? Brian asks. Peter explains they call it genetic destabilization. Sixty-four percent of their parahuman population has fallen victim to it. Meggan is also afflicted. That’s why his blow was so devastating to her.
Cap states Peter mentioned a common enemy. Peter explains that this new generation of parahumans is eliminating any potential opposition without warning or provocation. They are faced with a particularly ruthless foe, that is why he sent the Cherubim to alert Captain Britain to this menace and ask for his assistance. Missing Peter’s smirk, Brian asks what he should do.
Hiding in the airshaft, Kitty is horrified to see Brian has fallen for Peter’s story. She wonders what Peter’s goal is. He could have killed Excalibur easily, what does he want from them? Everything Peter says is plausible but she’s sure he’s hiding something.
Suddenly, something zaps her from behind. It’s not supposed to hurt, the Warpie apologizes as she fall down. Luke said the fazer gun would put her to sleep. Still apologizing to the unconscious girl, Ferret carries Kitty to Luke who assures Ferret the fazer gun merely stunned her. He’ll look after her. He tells Ferret to have some fun in the video arcade. Shadowcat will be among friends here. In several life-size tubes, unconscious Meggan, MicroMax, Kylun and Alistaire are already stored…
Meanwhile, Kurt worries. Kitty should have returned by now. Cyclops said that waiting while teammates take risks is the burden of leadership. He must learn to bear it. A moment later, a smiling Kitty enters, followed by Static. How was her workout? Kurt asks. Kitty whispers that it worked. She manages to lose Static and scouted around. She hates to admit it, but their suspicions were wrong. The RCX is working for the benefit of mankind in general and parahumans in particular. Everything Peter told them is true. She accessed his personal file. The guy’s a saint! Decorated war hero, renowned patriot. Champion of the common man and bastion of justice. Definitely a good guy.
Peter eavesdrops on their conversation via a screen. With a smirk, he agrees he couldn’t have said it better…
Meanwhile, in deep space, the Phoenix asks Rachel if she can forgive the pain it caused. “Of course!” Kate Pryde asked the Phoenix to give Rachel a new life in this reality, and it did. But she can never be as she was, Phoenix warns her. Its essence is bonded to Rachel’s spirit. When it departs this plane of existence, the burden of power will be Rachel’s.
Rachel asks why it can’t retain the consciousness it evolved when it returns to its natural state. Phoenix tries to explain; it cannot at the same time be immortal and experience the fleeting of human life. Moreover, its presence here is sustained with lifeforce stolen from that which she celebrates. It warns Rachel to learn of its folly: do not be seduced by the infinite potential of life unborn! Take only of its strength and accept limitation. It announces Rachel is reborn from the ashes of defeat as the one true Phoenix. The past is gone forever, cherish her future. Farewell, Phoenix.
In a burst of energy, it disappears and Rachel is alone. She wonders how to get back to Earth, then finds Earth is in front of her. Phoenix brought her here. She marvels how alive and clear-minded she feels, truly free of Ahab’s and Mojo’s psychic programming and the false memories the Phoenix gave her to hide her past. Her memory and mind are her own. For the first time in her life, she knows who she truly is! The Phoenix effect flares around her, changing her costume to the red and gold of Dark Phoenix…