Jean Grey comes to, finding herself somewhere she wasn’t before. Under her hand is stone. Damp and gritty and real. Under her feet is sand, solid enough. Once she stops trembling, she’ll be able to stand just fine. She smells water and hears waves crashing against a nearby shore. She decides this isn’t any dream or illusion. She’s really here. But not where she was a second ago.
She decides not to use any psi-scans yet. For all she knows, she is on some Elder Things home planet. She looks down and instead sees a sunny beach with lots of people sunbathing. Maybe whoever zapped her here thinks she needs a vacation.
She walks among the people, using her powers to nudge them into believing she is dressed in appropriate beachwear instead of her uniform. Feeling lost, she does a quick mental sweep. Amidst all the banal thoughts, one stands out, wondering if Jean and someone else are sisters, as they look so alike.
She follows a sense of familiarity and, on an isolated stretch of beach, she finds another redhead engrossed in a book, another version of herself, who is the Phoenix.
Jean is shocked, so far having only seen this other version of herself through the idolizing memories of others. But she knows her. Not in the way she knows herself but in the recurring nightmares that haunt her sleep. Jean Grey - the heart and soul of the X-Men. Who became the host of the all-powerful Phoenix, embodiment of life and destruction. The only person capable of falling so far and taking so much with her. Jean Grey, who died years ago, leaving the Phoenix free to hunt her younger self.
She figures the Phoenix has led her into a trap but the raptor disappears. Adult Jean hasn’t noticed her. While young Jean thinks about her adult counterpart’s fate, she is weirded out when she sees her conversing with a handsome man in diving gear, who asks her about her book. Jean shows him it’s about mutations. He tries to start a conversation about the university she goes to. Jean quickly makes it clear she isn’t interested in company. He leaves, though not insulted.
Adult Jean stops smiling, then orders young Jean to show herself. She can sense her. Jean complies and her adult counterpart is surprised to face her younger self, who claims to be from the future no less. Phoenix sharply asks why she is here. Who sent her? Her young counterpart admits she doesn’t know. Maybe she is here to ask her something. She thinks she is supposed to ask her about the Phoenix.
Marvel Girl silently figures that must be the reason. In the present, the firebird is coming after her and now she is in the past with Phoenix herself. She won’t waste the chance to get some intel. She doesn’t waste any time and asks about the Phoenix. Its capabilities, its limits, what does the power feel like? Where does it come from? Space, she guesses, but somewhere specific? Does it have any—
Adult Jean tells her to stop. They shouldn’t talk about this here. Suddenly, she changes the subject and announces she’s starving. As she telekinetically packs her bag, she suggests they visit this terrific café she knows. Young Jean follows, thinking to herself that she is one of the most powerful beings in creation but she seems almost giddy to see a familiar face. With a thought, Phoenix alters her bikini into summer dress, reminding her younger self what power level she is dealing with here. She is so nonchalant about this. Jean figures she must seem insignificant to the Phoenix.
Isn’t this place the best? grown Jean asks. She’s been coming here every evening for the past week. Young Jean senses how she is trying to read her mind, but keeps her defenses up. Adult Jean takes her hand and admits she’s been feeling so lonely since Scott and the others were—
Young Jean recalls that at this time the other X-Men are believed to be dead. Adult Jean continues that, when it happened, she wasn’t sure if she could go on. They drove her nuts. But what is she going to do now they are gone? She gets up and holds her hand out to her younger counterpart. She wants to show her something. She changes both their outfits to club wear with a thought and takes young Jean to a nightclub.
They dance and young Jean figures she is trying to distract herself from her pain. That’s what she would do. Everything she heard about the great Jean Grey centered on how poised she was… how together… how epic. That’s what convinced her they were nothing alike. At this moment, though, she sees that she’s worried and scared and heartbroken. And she can’t rearrange what she’s feeling as easily as she does her outfit. She sees herself in her adult counterpart and that terrifies her.
She asks adult Jean again about the Phoenix, causing the other woman to ask whether she is actively avoiding having a good time. Why does she want to know so much about the Phoenix? Young Jean doesn’t answer that the Phoenix is coming for her. Because she needs to fight it if she doesn’t want to be consumed by it the way adult Jean was. Because the guy from the beach is following her. Because he’s smarmy enough as it is but if Phoenix could see through his disguise she’d know he was really the degenerate illusionist Mastermind and he’s going to mess her up so bad.
Adult Jean decides, if she wants to know about the Phoenix so bad, she’ll show her. She flares up and takes her into space.
Young Jean is astonished as they are moving faster than she thought possible. And she is breathing in space! She realizes how powerful Phoenix is and how helpless she is in the face of that power.
Where is she taking her? Jean demands. Phoenix decides on a world and, in minutes, they are there. She wonders whether that is an answer to her questions. Because if the Phoenix can cast aside the laws of physics with such ease, what chance does she stand?
Young Jean asks where they are. Where they need to be, Phoenix replies mysteriously, and Jean realizes she is getting off on the rush of omnipotence.
Not far away, some aliens are running for their lives. Jean wonders what they are running from. Something they can’t escape, Phoenix replies. Jean wonders is her adult self is talking about her and then she wonders whether it is Jean talking at all and not the Phoenix itself. She thinks it’s warning her not to push her luck.
The nature of the threat becomes clear a moment later. It is Terrax the Tamer in the name of the Worldeater Galactus. Phoenix levitates up to Terrax and orders him and his master to leave. The world is under her protection. Terrax boasts he is herald to the eater of worlds and his master doesn’t even pay her any attention.
And what does he think he is to her? Phoenix demands as she flares up with the Phoenix effect. She is Phoenix! She is life incarnate! Terrax begins to scream as her energy overwhelms him. And he is nothing! she concludes.
Marvel Girl realizes this isn’t about saving the world. It’s a show of force. She senses the inhabitants’ fear and wonders if they fear Galactus or Phoenix.
Terrax begs for mercy. She is life! Phoenix rants. And life is not known for its mercy! Marvel Girl shouts a warning but Galactus attacks with an energy blast. He announces the Phoenix is known to him and he reveres its power. But his respect is not an open door through which she can trespass against him.
Getting her bearings, Phoenix orders him to satisfy his hunger elsewhere. This world belongs to her. Angrily, he boasts he is Galactus. He takes what nourishment he wants from where he wants. He siphons the energy right out of Phoenix.
Marvel Girl realizes he could kill her and that would break time badly. She can’t let that happen. She is not Phoenix and hopes she never will be but she has one trick. She can amp up her TK by gathering ambient telepathic energy around her. From the inhabitants of this world, Terrax, Galactus, from the Phoenix Force itself. Using this energy, she strikes at Galactus from behind, causing him to lose his balance.
Galactus falls and Jean is shocked at what she just did. And even more shocked she hasn’t been vaporized yet. She thinks she made him mad, she fears. No, Phoenix corrects her. She saved the day.
Terrax announces they have impressed his master. For that reason alone, he spares this world. Should they stand in his way again, they will be obliterated by his might.
The two Jeans grin realizing he is saving face. Now does she understand? Phoenix asks. The Phoenix saves lives. Protects people. No, Jean replies. Phoenix asks what is wrong. Jean thinks to herself her adult self doesn’t realize the corrupting power she possesses. Today she is saving a planet. But soon the Phoenix will devour worlds.
Phoenix demands to know what Jean isn’t telling her. What happens in the future that scares her? Jean wonders what to do. Will she change the future if she tells her adult counterpart? Could this be her chance to defeat the Phoenix?
Please? Phoenix asks and Marvel Girl realizes right now she isn’t the Phoenix or even the high and mighty Jean Grey. She is her and she is scared. And confused, too. She wonders whether she should tell her then realizes she is being watched.
That moment, the Watcher Uatu reveals himself. He announces that it is his charge to watch pivotal moments. This such a one. He adds that Phoenix isn’t aware of his presence and their conversation. Is he here to help her? Jean asks. He can only tell her that her choice now impacts everything that comes after. For better or for worse, he is forbidden to reveal.
No pressure, Jean figures. If she says something now, she could stop one of the greatest tragedies in X-history. She could possibly save millions of lives. So she tells Phoenix she is being stalked by a psychopathic perv? Does she tell her he’s going to mess with her mind and make her hurt her friends? Tell her that his manipulations unlock something horrible deep inside her? Does she tell her how much pain and suffering she inflicts across the universe? If Jean tells her, maybe she can prevent her descent into darkness. Maybe she defeats the Phoenix and maybe Marvel Girl never has to face it. But there’s no telling what might be destroyed. She can’t take the risk.
She apologizes. She can’t. She looks up to the Watcher and asks if she made the right choice. He replies that, for so long she believed she had no control over her fate but by letting history play out without inference, she’s been in total control.
A moment later, Marvel disappears, returning to another time she doesn’t belong in and she didn’t even get to say goodbye.
Phoenix is left alone. She flies back home and the Phoenix announces that’s all right. They both know they will meet again...