The glorious Phoenix Entity soars through space in fiery fashion. If there was a sound, there would be the tempest rush of beating wings. If there was heat, there would be the blustering incandescence of a furnace. But in the aching, silent cold out beyond the shoulder of Saturn, there is nothing except Phoenix. If there is some urge that drives it back to Earth’s solar system once in every passing age, then it is beyond the grasp of mankind to fathom. Migration? Compulsion? Habit? Homing instinct? All that matters is one of the most powerful forces in nature has returned. As the Phoenix Force soars onwards, the Rock watches it pass by. The Rock is tiny, no larger than a man’s clenched fist, a nugget of coral and nickel and arcane technology. It is indistinguishable from the asteroid debris around it, but it is none the less the most sophisticated piece of technology in this solar system. It watches the Phoenix, observes and records and then d-jumps to the universe that spawned it.
The Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, Massachusetts, where a recently arrived Blackbird signals a surprise visit by some of the Xavier School’s most illustrious graduates. Ororo “Storm” Munroe, Dr Hank McCoy a.k.a. the Beast, Wolverine a.k.a. Logan, Rogue and Bishop gather with the headmaster of this school, Sean “Banshee” Cassidy and the young mutant Jubilee. ‘Okay, Cassidy - ya hollered, we came. So what’s the deal here?’ Wolverine asks. ‘Oh, so you like, need an excuse to visit with us these days, Wolvie?’ Jubilee asks. Storm assures Jubilee that Logan meant no disrespect to Generation X. ‘Did you, Wolvie?’ Storm asks. ‘Natch’ Logan replies, before Storm remarks that when Banshee summoned the X-Men here, there was a degree of urgency in his voice. ‘Or did you invite us here to admire… plants?’ Bishop asks, holding his gun ready, as he looks around the terrarium. The Beast explains that this terrarium is a horizontal Uffizi. ‘Have you no soul… or was it dipped in weedkiller long ago?’ the Beast asks. They are mutants, adventurers, Children of the Atom - and X-Men all.
‘Enough, Beast!’ Storm declares, before turning to Banshee and remarking ‘What, to coin a phrase, is your problem?’ Banshee announces that it is Gateway, that he has been acting oddly. ‘Y-huh! Like there’s some way of telling!’ Jubilee mutters. Banshee informs the X-Men that Gateway has been locking himself in here for days at a time, and for the last week they have not been able to get inside. Banshee continues, revealing that he found the door unlocked this morning, and he saw what Gateway had been up to in here, so he declared the room off-limits to the rest of Generation X until all of those concerned arrived. The Beast quotes his friend, “All of those concerned?” he asks, adding that he doesn’t like the sound of that. ‘What has our little playmate been doing exactly?’ Hank enquires. ‘It’s best to see for yourselves’ Banshee suggests.
The mutant heroes make their way through the terrarium, Wolverine slashes back some of the trees with his deadly claws and remarks that he doesn’t remember the ground cover being this thick last time he was in here. ‘You been planting early for spring, Cassidy?’ Logan asks, before informing everyone that there is a clearing up ahead. As everyone makes their way to the clearing, they all go wide-eyed in shock. ‘This what ya were talking about?’ Logan asks. ‘Gracious!’ Rogue exclaims. ‘What is it?’ Jubilee asks. ‘That, little lady, may not be an easy question to answer!’ the Beast exclaims. Banshee informs everyone that Gateway has added more since he last saw it - ‘But I think you can see why I called you!’ he tells everyone. What the heroes see is Gateway sitting in the center of a large Phoenix sketched into the dirt. Within the Phoenix’s wings are several plants, and around the outside of the Phoenix’s wingspan, several people are drawn - everyone present in the terrarium as well as some recognizable that are no longer on this Earth like Juggernaut, Reaper and Siena Blaze, and several unfamiliar figures.
‘Images of all of us… and other figures, carefully inscribed in the sand in the traditional Aboriginal manner…’ the Beast announces, while Wolverine looks at the large sketching and asks the Beast if that could be the Phoenix. ‘Gateway! Talk to us!’ Banshee calls out. ‘Hmmm’ Gateway utters, opening his eyes. ‘No! Don’t teleport away! Please!’ Banshee exclaims. At Gateway’s bidding, the air shimmers, pulsing to the rhythm of the spinning bullroarer, then, the fabric of space and time cracks open, and the gathered X-Men abruptly realize…it is not Gateway who is going on a journey! ‘Hmmff’ Gateway mutters, as the X-Men, Banshee and Jubilee vanish.
At that very moment, at Project Pegasus in Upstate New York, specifically, in a chamber dedicated to the constant supervision of this continuum:
Four members of the resident super hero team, heroes from another world, the Squadron Supreme, examine a monitor. ‘There! Another one! Another dimensional breach, just like before! This one’s fragmentary…multiple contacts crossing from our dimension into the newly recognized universe’ someone announces. Another of the heroes remarks that this is getting out of hand - ever since that new dimension appeared, there has been a plague of inter-versal anomalies. ‘How are Squadron Supreme supposed to police a mess like this, Whizzer?’ Power Princess asks, pointing at the monitors. Whizzer replies that he doesn’t know. ‘I tried to warn you. We’ve never seen multiversal infractions on this scale before, there’s no telling what the consequences will be’ Whizzer adds, to which Hyperion asks if optimism would be inappropriate. ‘Hyperion! All of you! Look! Another breach!’ Doctor Spectrum exclaims, pointing out that the object is smaller this time - much less than human mass. Power Princess remarks that they have seen a great number of those crossing here and then back again, almost with a pattern, or purpose. ‘Could they be remote devices, or probes? And if so…who’s doing the probing?’ Hyperion asks.
A dimension away, the Rock comes home. It drops from the starburst of the D-Jump gate through a clear, balmy sky… and into a notorious stretch of sea off the coast of Bermuda. The sea swallows it, and as the Rock sinks, the seabed itself opens up to receive it. The Rock is now inside, scudding down the arterial routes that will take it to the mind of the great ship that lies down here, lost in the coral and the silt. The size of a city, meshed by impact and fused by heat into the buckled crust of the seafloor, eons ago, the ship waits. Bio-mech servitors tend its pitted surface, darting like bright reef fish around its fronded, pearl-gilt bulk. Over the centuries, since it landed here, repairs have become necessary to soothe the great ship’s broken, twisted body. The bio-mechs were forced to forage for spares. Ships, planes, cetaceans, crustaceans, and the odd lost human soul, all gathered, disassembled, and grafted into the whole. So the ship prospered and the triangle legend grew.
The Rock slips into the inner vaults, passing through semi-permeable membranes that shut the seawater out of these oxygenated chambers where machines respire in the humid air. The place is lit by bio-luminescence and warmed by the geothermal energy of the liquid basalt below. Here lurks the gestalt mind of the ship. Calipers extend, needles slide into living rock and bone. The Rock is stripped of the information it gathered. The information is good. It is what the ship wanted to hear. For the ship has not been awake long, spikes of backwash energy roused it just a short time ago. When it realized how long it had slumbered, it yearend to continue with its task. But a vital part of itself was missing. Desperate diagnostic searches located the missing section, embedded in the heart of the nearby star. Only a massive power source could serve to re-unite the divorced parts. The ship sent out hundreds of probes to scour the curve of inner-dimensional space for candidate power-sources. And the Rock, this Rock, one of those hundreds, has found one. The seas churn and convulse as the ship rises, breaking the surface like a gnarled, new-born continent. The ship has found its power-source. Reunion can proceed.
Washington, where another significant reunion is about to take place - between the plummeting wazoos of the X-Men and terra-firma. The portal opens and the X-Men who can’t fly fall towards the ground. ‘Ladies an’ gents - assume crash positions! We’re going down… real hard!’ Wolverine calls out. Rogue helps Wolverine and Jubilee to the ground, while the Beast appears to land on his own, and Storm assists Bishop, while Banshee sets down soon after. Storm asks if everyone is down safe, while Wolverine remarks that they are in Washington, smack next to the Monument. ‘Cute. If Gateway wanted us in DC, it would’ve been kinder on the glutes to let us fly the Blackbird!’ Jubilee declares. Wolverine frowns and points out that it may be Washington, but it isn’t their Washington. ‘Place smells wrong. Smells like that Night-Man bozo I met’ he adds. Storm wonders if they could be back on that other Earth - the one where Cain Marko and Siena Blaze were exiled to. The Beast points out that the pieces fit, and if so, they should be prepared for the downscaling of their powers in this universe.
Bishop alerts everyone to the fact that there are people all around them - film crews, too, but that no one seemed to have noticed their arrival. ‘They are all intent on…that!’ he declares as he points to the blemish on the face of the sun above them. It is a vast and ancient device, the severed Siamese twin of the Burmudan relic. Power builds, ribbons of raw energy lash out across space from each device, reaching towards each other…and meet. Space tears and time rips. From the lawns of an alien Washington, the displaced X-Men look up through a window into another universe - the one they just left! ‘Lord have mercy’ Rogue gasps. ‘Bogus’ Jubilee exclaims. ‘Oh my stars and garters’ the Beast declares as they all stare up in awe.
And, back in the X-Men’s true reality, at Project Pegasus, ‘Emergency stations! The holomap’s fritzed! Lost peripherals! Lost everything!’ Power Princess calls out. Hyperion asks what is happening, while the Whizzer explains that something has just punched a hole the size of Newark through the inter-versal boundary!
It is the Phoenix. It has no space or time to maneuver as the tear shreds reality open in front of the Phoenix, who flies straight through - out of one marvelous universe…and into another. Reborn, the Phoenix soars down from the sun and billions throughout the Ultraverse watch it on their televisions. Few are aware of the ramifications, however.
‘Every time I see it… and thank the Lord that’s been seldom…it never fails to take my breath away. Just look at it… so glorious. Like the Phoenix of myth. Born out of the fire’ the Beast remarks. ‘And here we are, fresh outta the frying pan. Least now we know why Gateway sent us here’ Wolverine points out.
California, where Mantra looks up: ‘The bird! The bird from my vision!’ she thinks to herself.
And in New York, Amber Hunt of the Exiles stands before a monitor: ‘Oh my God! It’s here!’ she realizes.
The Night Man is in San Francisco, atop a building, he wonders why and what it means.
Bermuda, the gestalt of the great ship allows itself a moment of satisfaction. The energy source has been located and acquired. Now all that remains, is to extract that bountiful power. The impeller ribbons flake and die. In their place, the extraction beam engages, striking the mighty Phoenix Entity, impaling it, the Phoenix writhes as its life is sucked out. It has never known pain of this magnitude. The Phoenix screams, and in Washington, everything that is glass shatters.
At close range, the X-Men see this spectacular event occur. ‘By the goddess! Its agony is tangible…’ Storm begins, announcing that she is revolted, for whatever is doing this is wilfully torturing the Phoenix. Rogue asks if she is imagining things, or whether the Phoenix’s fire is going out. ‘The colors are fading…like it’s dying’ she exclaims. Truly, the Phoenix is battling for its life against the excruciating sear of light that is stripping its power away. But this is a battle of wills, too. The great ship is piggybacking a scanning beam on its ravening extractor stream, probing and recording the sentience of the Phoenix Entity for future reference. Abstracted images flutter out of the Phoenix’s frenzied self, fractured imprints of the past made from unalloyed emotion. Images of Jean Grey. Images of Cyclops and Professor Charles Xavier, and of Lilandra and Gladiator. As the images fall away, the Phoenix realizes that a clear route of input has been opening into its attacker’s mind. Desperate, the Phoenix fights back with the last of her strength, searing a tide of scalding rage back down the beam towards the Burmuda device.
Forty square miles of open sea boils and erupts. The great ship reels back, blinded, its beam severerd. Wounded, the Phoenix falls. The only thing it knows is that to survive, to mend, to heal - it must find a host! The more powerful, the better. The great ship watches this, and finds itself empathically bonded to the flailing energy being, as if the scanning link has become permanently fused. Ever rational and expedient, it decides to use the Phoenix to locate its pilot program before draining it entirely. Bishop informs the others that the emergency services have arrived and suggests that they endeavor to find the Phoenix, but Storm interrupts him, announcing that their first duty is to the wounded. ‘Triage procedure, please X-Men…’ she begins, when suddenly, a voice calls out ‘Uh-uh! The only thing you’ll be doing… is time!’
An extremely muscular hero in red, blue and gold drops down from above, ‘Cause now you’re dealing with PRIME!’ he declares. ‘This is not a good development. Trust me’ Bishop mutters. Prime tells the X-Men that he doesn’t know who they are, points out that they seem to be pretty familiar with that bird creature. ‘And I bet you also know a wizened little munchkin I ran into recently’. Jubilee quotes “wizened little munchkin” and tells the others that he must mean Gateway, ‘Right, a mess like this doesn’t deserve two wizened little munchkins’ Wolverine replies. ‘So you do know him. Guess that makes you guilty as charged, so Prime’s taking you in’ Prime declares as he stands in front of Wolverine, towering over the X-Man. ‘Whatever. What say you lend a hand with the injured. Or do you just dress like a super hero?’ Wolverine asks, popping his claws. Prime responds by smashing his fist into Wolverine’s face, sending Wolverine careening backwards. ‘That was fun. Who’s next?’ Prime grins. ‘Sugah… that would be me!’ Rogue exclaims as she flies forward and punches Prime in his face.
Rex Mundi is the eternal uber-ultra, king of the world. He is immortal, inscrutable and already old when the Lascaux paintings were still wet. He is linked to the great ship and its sun-embedded twin in more ways that he can comprehend. He sees the Phoenix fall and feels a twist of anxiety in his gut. As with the incident with the Entity and Amber Hunt, he cannot permit it to continue. He will summon his agents and dispatch them to locate and destroy this intruder. On strange monitors in his chamber, his agents appear as he summons them: ‘Death Dance. Book. Gun Nut. Meathook. Gate. To me at once’.
Elsewhere again, the being called the Alternate observes, too and decides that the burning bird must be hers. She will send out the Solution - Outrage, Tech, Shadowmage and Dropkick. Sitting on a large dog-like robot, she looks at a monitor, depicting the Phoenix as it plummets to Earth. She wonders if there was one other? A handsome man with long blond hair. She decides this is puzzling, and scratches the nape of NME - the robot-dog’s - neck. ‘There will be answers’ she thinks to herself.
The Phoenix falls, searching, its mind selects and rejects candidate after candidate in its search for a suitable host. Freez. The Strangers. Solitaire. Sludge. Perhaps even Necromantra. But no! There is an even better choice!
‘Why won’t he drop?’ Bishop shouts as he continues to fire his weapon at Prime. ‘He’s a tough one to crack, all right! I’m giving him the full monty with Masonic scream!’ Banshee replies as he unleashes his powerful sonic projection against Prime. Storm hovers overhead and tells Bishop, Banshee and Jubilee to pour their power on, that they need to keep him contained until they can talk some sense into him. ‘Talk? Ah’ll beat some sense into him! He won’t listen ta reason! He’s like a kid! All he wants to do is fight!’ Rogue exclaims as she flies towards Prime once more, fist ready - but he puts his hand out and grabs Rogue’s fist, tossing her upwards he declares that he is no child, and is more than willing to prove it. ‘To a looker like you’ he adds as Rogue slams into Storm and Banshee.
‘Fastball Special, Canuck?’ the Beast calls out as he throws Wolverine. ‘With the team tumbling’ like ten pins? Thought you’d never ask, McCoy!’ Logan calls back as he is thrown towards Prime, slashing Prime’s body with his claws, a green substance oozes out. ‘Oh. Gross. That’s not… like… human, right? Even slightly?’ Jubilee calls out. ‘No one thrashes me…and lives!’ Prime exclaims as he moves towards the X-Men, but when he realizes they are looking at something, he asks ‘What’re you all looking at?’ ‘Behind you, Sugah…’ Rogue replies. ‘Oh sure. Like I’m gonna fall for that…one…’Prime replies, as he glances backwards, but, looking up, he sees the Phoenix Force several feet above him. He screams as the Phoenix consumes him.
‘The Phoenix!’ Storm gasps. It’s got the big jerk! Ah we gonna let it just chew him up?’ rogue asks. Banshee replies that it is not that simple, as you can’t fight the Phoenix without fighting its host. ‘When Jean Grey was Phoenix…God help us… we had to…had to…’ Banshee’s voice trails off, as Wolverine points out that this isn’t Jean this time, it’s just a steroid-packed punk who tried to bag them. ‘I say the lunk’s expendable!’ Wolverine adds, claws at the ready. From the smoke and flames, Prime appears. The symbol on the chest of his costume has changed to that of the Phoenix symbol. His cape flows behind him in a flaming display. ‘Frankly, I don’t care what you think. I am…Prime…Phoenix… both… more…you should run from me. You should run away very fast. For I have never known a body so strong. So perfect’ the Phoenix Force calls out through Prime. He adds that this world tried to trap him, exploit him, slay him. Rape him. ‘For that…I will turn it into a cinder’ he announces.
Meanwhile, at Headless Cross, Arkansas, an otherwise uneventful day the one-man Ultraforce support staff member known only as Cromwell. Leaning back in his chair, with his legs up on the console before him, he is reading a newspaper, cigar hanging out of his mouth, when his phone rings. ‘What now?’ he mutters. ‘Yeah? Whaddya ya -’ he begins as he answers the phone. ‘Uh-huh’ he mutters, and then again. ‘Whooo!’ he exclaims, before pressing a button on the console, sounding an alarm. In another part of the complex, Dane Whitman a.k.a. the Black Knight is with his Ultraforce teammates Ghoul, Topaz and Prototype, near their transport vehicle. Cromwell radios Ultraforce and tells them to shake their tail feathers, as this one is a doozy!
Back in Washington, ‘Technically, of course, we’re as good as dead…I’d hazard the only edge we have is the fact that the Phoenix likes us and everything else from our universe, operates at reduced power in this reality’ the Beast remarks as Prime raises his arms overhead, the Phoenix power effect surrounding him. ‘So it’s gonna kill us, just not as comprehensively as it might’ve done?’ Wolverine snarls. ‘Comforting, McCoy…real comforting’ Logan add as he and the Beast dodge a blast of cosmic energy thrown towards them. Banshee, Storm and Rogue take to the air, with Banshee remarking that today is fast becoming an abject lesson in futility. ‘Impossible odds are the X-Men’s meat and drink, Sean -’ Storm begins, to which Rogue declares ‘Well, consider me dieting, ‘R! We’re doing less than noth-’ she starts to say, before Prime fires a blast skyward, knocking the three about.
From far away, the great mother ship watches the handful of humans as they batter themselves against the Phoenix-possessed Prime. Through the fused link with the bird of fire, it feels the power that courses through the Prime chassis, the scorching, lambent flames that sear away the life of all bu the most indomitable. The power is delicious. The great ship decides it is time to take control, and Prime screams, tears fall down his face, he collapses. ‘Get…out…of my…head…’ he pleads. ‘What is this now?’ Bishop asks as the X-Men gather around the collapses Prime. ‘does it really matter? Now’s our chance!’ the Beast exclaims as the heroes dog-pile on him. ‘Yeah, Bish! Geez, you must get bit by a lotta gift horses…’ Jubilee jokes.
New York City, the Lower East side, Alex Autumn and his daughter, Rose, watch the events as they unfold via the live feed for a TV-watching world. Alex sits on the sofa, he says something, but Rose doesn’t really hear him as she lies on the floor in front of the television. Unbidden, nausea has just welled in the pit of her stomach and a nugget of pain like a rusty razor is tearing through the center of her head. ‘Ahn…aahhh…’ she utters, the Phoenix symbol flaring in her eyes, she convulses. ‘Rose! Rose!’ Alex calls out to his daughter as he rushes over to her. ‘Dear Lord! What’s the matter? What is it?’ Alex asks, picking Rose up in his arms. ‘I don’t know…I don’t know’ Rose replies, looking at the television.
Washington: Ultraforce’s craft arrives near the Monument. Ghoul tells his teammates that it looks to him like Cromwell got his wires crossed, as Prime is not wrecking the city, far from it, he is on the business end of an Olympic-class kicking. Suddenly, the Black Knight looks shocked, ‘Oh my Lord! The X-Men? Here!?’ he gasps. As the craft lands, Topaz, Ghoul and Prototype rush across the ground, ‘Who did Black Knight mean? What are ex-men?’ Topaz asks. ‘Who cares, Topaz? Whoever they are, when they throw down on Prime…they throw down on Ultraforce!’ Prototype exclaims as he fires a blast of energy at the mutants, knocking them back from Prime. ‘Well, darn! And just when things were looking manageable!’ Wolverine, his costume ripped, exclaims, asking if they have entered some kind of tournament or something?
The Black Knight rushes forward, ‘That’s enough, Ultraforce! Back off! Back off right now!’ he calls out as the two teams prepare to face each other. ’Black Knight? Is it really you?’ Storm asks, shocked. ’In the flesh, Storm… and I could ask you the same question’ Dane replies, adding that he won’t, for now, as he needs to know why they are here scrapping with his colleague, Prime - and fast. Storm informs Dane that his colleague has been possessed by the Phoenix Force. ’Ohh… fantastic. Prime’s one of the most powerful super humans on this world. Containing him is not going to be a walk in the park’ the Black Knight announces. ‘Indeed’ Storm agrees, adding that it gets worse, as the Phoenix Force is borderline insane, and for no apparent reason.
Pain has made it so - the pain of the great ship’s stabbing probes and the sledgehammer attempts to gain control of it. Its mind in tatters, the Phoenix resists, and beneath the waters of Bermuda, techno-organic systems start to crash - and Prime rises to his feet. The rigors of possession have drained the soulless Prime chassis, the Phoenix instinct urges him to slake his thirst with life energy. Those of the preoccupied humans around him will do, and all of the heroes drop to their knees as Prime and the Phoenix Force draw the energies from them. But the great ship, healing its ruptured systems with writhing conductive gristle, hauls on its neural leash once more - and Prime’s rage turns to pain and he keels over. ‘Again he falls - the advantage is ours…’ Bishop calls out. The Black Knight agrees, ‘Go, go, GO!’ he shouts, as all of the heroes pour on an attack.
The Black Knight draws his energy saber, while Topaz welds her energy lance. Wolverine’s claws slash across Prime’s chest, drawing more of the green substance from him. The Beast and Ghoul attack physically, but Prime grabs them. Storm fires a blast of lightning, while Bishop readies his gun, Jubilee throws some of her firework-like blasts at him, Rogue swoops down for a punch and Banshee unleashes his sonic scream. ‘ARGH! Get off me! Get off me you pathetic nothings!’ Prime shouts, before he roars ‘GET OFF!’ and with the Phoenix effect, knocks everyone away from him. But the heroes don’t let up - Topaz, the Black Knight, Storm and Wolverine attack again, drawing more of the green substance from him, ‘That’s enough! Pull back!’ Dane calls out as Prime collapses to the ground. ‘…stop hurting me…’ he utters, the flames of the Phoenix but a mere flicker around him. Then, suddenly, in spectacular display, ‘…let me go!’ Prime - or the Phoenix - exclaims, as Prime gets to his knees, the Phoenix rises from him, and leaves his body.
‘Amen to that’ the Beast remarks, as Prime collapses, and explains that he couldn’t stop it couldn’t control it - that it just violated him, took him over and he was not strong enough to stop it. ‘Me…not strong enough…’ He gets to his feet as they watch the Phoenix Force soar across the sky, as Prime informs everyone that he saw into its mind - ‘It is everything…it’s life and death’ he reveals. Topaz and Prototype help him up and Prototype tells him to take it easy, while Prime adds that this is the beginning and the end - and that the Phoenix is crazy.
California, the bird of fire is moving, running, searching. Lauren Sherwood walks down the street, she can sense it - she feels compelled to follow. She remembers the little man from nowhere, and the strange ominous image of a golden bird he left behind. She takes off her glasses and wonders if it was a warning - warning her of this day and the visitation from the skies? Lauren switches to her Mantra form and takes flight - deciding that she will track this bird of fire down - and she has a good idea where it might be heading.
And in San Francisco, the Night Man cuts a door into the air itself with the blade Rhiannon gave him. He remembers Hellstorm warned him about this creature - the thing of flames and wings, part sunlight, part bird of prey - and he must hunt it down. As he peals through his portal, he has an instinctive feeling that he knows where to go to do just that.
But in New York, Rose Autumn isn’t going anywhere - doctor’s orders. She doesn’t really blame her dad for calling the doctor after her little episode, but she wishes he wouldn’t fuss, as she feels fine. She sits in her room and peers out the window, realizing, except, maybe, for the flame with wings that is smouldering in the center of her heart - it was somehow familiar. ‘Rose? Honey? You should be in bed’ Alex tells his daughter as he enters her room. Rose assures him that she is okay, and points out that the doctor couldn’t find anything wrong with her. ‘Humor me. I’m feeling old and unnecessarily parental’ Alex replies, but Rose tells him that she is fine, really. They are unaware that on the street below their apartment, a balding man in a blue uniform stares up, as Rose tells herself that she isn’t ill, she just feels changed inside, changed and caught up in a feeling of terrible foreboding - like it is the day before the end of the world. And the man below, called Captain Hawke, feels the same.
Ultraforce’s aircraft speeds through the air, with the X-Men onboard, too. Prototype announces that they are in lag pursuit of an energy wake that is spiking at levels he doesn’t want to think about - which means that unless there is more than one of those things around, he thinks they are on the Phoenix’s tail. ‘And when we find it?’ Ghoul enquires. ‘Then the fun starts’ Wolverine remarks. Storm and Banshee stand near Black Knight, while Wolverine and Jubilee sit together. Beast, Rogue and Bishop sit near each other, while Topaz stands off to the side on her own, and as Prototype pilots the craft, Ghoul stands near Prime, who announces that he will kill it - after what it did to him, he will tear it apart. ‘Enough, Prime’ the Black Knight calls out, before asking Storm to brief Ultraforce on what the Phoenix actually is. ‘As best I can, Dane…’ Ororo replies, announcing that the X-Men first encountered the Phoenix a few years ago, during a mission that left them falling towards Earth in a crippled space shuttle, and with the rest of the team secure in the radiation-shielded rear-section, Jean Grey attempted to pilot the ship, using her psychic powers to protect herself against the lethal radiation.
Storm continues, revealing that they landed in the sea, believing that Jean had given her life to save them all - until she miraculously reappeared before them, apparently reborn as the celestial entity known as the Phoenix - but in truth, the Phoenix Force had placed Jean’s body, unharmed, in stasis on the seabed, and assumed her role. The Phoenix was so perfect a facsimile of Jean that even human frailties were reproduced - but this proved to be its undoing. However, at the time, they all simply thought Jean had been possessed by the Phoenix. Storm explains that the true scale of her power was only revealed later, when she single-handedly prevented the universe from being consumed by the neutron galaxy held within the lattice of the Shi’ar M’Kraan Crystal. But, that godlike power was driven by the human weakness Phoenix had replicated in herself, weakens that became dreadfully magnified, and she became Dark Phoenix, a primal creature of twisted power and desires, who laid whole worlds to waste. Then, mercifully, she was destroyed during Shi’ar trial by combat.
‘So…it can be destroyed?’ the Black Knight asks. ‘We presumed so. But it is pure energy, and that in itself can’t be obliterated’ Storm replies. The Beast adds that, like its mythological namesake, this being is fully capable of self-rebirth and resurrection - which makes it virtually immortal. The Beast points out that there is also a moral issue here, as the Phoenix is a unique, sentient life form. ‘Do we have the right to destroy it?’ he asks. ‘Say what?’ Ghoul exclaims. ‘While you’re enjoying the view from the moral high ground, comb-over, it’s my world that’s up against the wall with a blindfold on!’ he adds. Ghoul bets that the Beast wouldn’t be quite so pro-life if it was his backward that this Phoenix was about to smoke. Black Knight announces that he agrees with Ghoul on this - that they have no choice, as there are billions of lives at stake here, so if there are absolutely no other alternatives, they will have to kill the Phoenix - if they can.
‘Even if that means killing whoever it’s taken for its host at the time?’ Banshee enquires. ‘Even that’ the Black Knight replies. ‘You’ve changed, Whitman. You’re not the Avenger I knew. Back then, you placed a value on life’ Banshee declares. ‘You’re right. I’m not an Avenger anymore’ the Black Knight replies, adding that this world and her people have taken him in and made him welcome. ‘Draw a line in the sand and I know on which side I’m duty-bound to stand’ he adds, remarking that he will fight with Ultraforce and do everything and anything to protect this planet, even if it means going against his code. ‘If you X-Men want out then that’s f-’ Dane starts to add, before a piercing sound is heard, cutting him off. ‘Blaugh! Puh-lease!’ Jubilee exclaims as Wolverine’s claws are drawn down the edge of the craft, making the piercing noise. Casually, Wolverine declares that talk is cheap, and that there is one thing they may not have considered. ‘What if this birdie don’t want to die?’
New York City, the penthouse suite of the Marimont Towers, where Amber Hunt and Cain Marko a.k.a. the Unstoppable Juggernaut are “discussing” the next course of action for the outlaw group known as the Exiles on their balcony. ‘…you’re kidding me, Amber!’ Cain exclaims. Both are wearing civilian clothing, as Amber replies ‘Not at all, Cain’ and reveals that her vision was clear enough - the Phoenix is coming for her, and she is waiting for it. ‘You have no idea - I’ve heard what this thing can do! It’s from the other side, remember? You think you can take it on alone?’ Cain asks. Amber tells Cain that she knows she can’t fight it straight, but that if she lets it take her, she thinks she can control it from within. ‘You’re crazy!’ Cain exclaims. Amber reminds him that she was responsible for hundreds of deaths a while back, and tells him that, unchecked, the Phoenix will claim many more. A spark of energy charges from her fingertips as she remarks that this is her chance to put things right, even if it costs her own life.
‘There’s no way I’m gonna let you be so dumb, you hear me?’ Cain replies. ‘No way at a-’ he begins, before Amber tells him that she is sorry, and touches his neck with her energy-charged hands, which drops him to the floor. Amber states that there is no time to argue, and looking across the city, she sees the Phoenix Force rising.
In Ultraforce’s aircraft, Prototype announces that the Phoenix has stopped right over Manhattan, and that they are closing in fast. Suddenly, ‘Uh…you people better look at this…’ Prototype begins, adding that he thinks the Phoenix has found its new host - and indeed, over the city, hovering in the brilliance of the Phoenix Force, a woman glows with cosmic power….