Once upon a time, there was Jean Grey. A mutant, a telepath, a hero. A brave young woman who leaped into the fires of creation to save her friends. Jean was consumed. In her place, rising from the waters, came Phoenix. And the Phoenix was beauty and passion and fury. A burning majestic flame… soon to be snuffed out!
Xavier in his astral form and Nightcrawler have found a young woman seemingly controlling the Knights of Hykon’s battles. At the moment, all of the Knights (except for the banished Sky Song) are collectively attacking Phoenix. Xavier orders her to stop this at once. This must be a violation of the rules of combat. The Knights of Hykon are at war – they can’t join forces in this way. He demands this attack be halted.
The young woman smiles and gestures and the Knights find that their weapons disappear. The attack momentarily halted, Jean falls to the ground, barely awake.
Addressing the girl as “Lifecode,” the Knights protest this is unacceptable. They demand their weapons back. The woman replies to them: Truce is peace. Peace is torture. They are stripped of arms for five cycles.
The two groups of Knights fly into different directions. Wonderful, Sleeping Mist pouts. No combat, no honor, no fun, let’s go break something… She saw a statue with a torch on her way here.
In the citadel, Kurt asks the professor how he knew... That this conflict it a sham? Xavier finishes his sentence. Simple. One thing separates a war from a war game… a referee. And as for this one, he points at Sky Song. Angrily calling him a bald ape, she shouts her name is Sky Song. She’s been placed in a penalty box, Xavier explains.
He tells Kurt he has to return. The sword brought him here when he teleported. It will return him to Earth in the same manner. He won’t leave him here, Kurt protests. Xavier asks him to trust him and Moira. She’ll know what to do. Reluctantly, Nightcrawler teleports away.
Now, then, Xavier addresses the young woman who has returned her attention to the Knights, is she ready to talk?
The Blackbird lands in Boston and they find Jean lying on the ground. Frightened, Cyclops runs to her and cradles her. No! she suddenly screams. Her eyes glow, the Phoenix manifests itself and Cyclops is pushed away. They laughed! she rages. They burned her and beat her and they just laughed! Nobody does that to her! Nobody! Where are they? she shouts. She’s gonna rip those smiles off their faces! They’ll be screaming when she’s done with them!
Cyclops shakes her, shouting that is enough. She calms and powers down and he wonders what is happening to her. If she wants payback, they’ll fight as a team and fight smart, he orders and she agrees, coming off the power trip.
Banshee informs them Moira is on the line. Nighcrawler has just popped back to the mansion with quite a story.
Back at the mansion, Moira explains they had a chance to analyze the sword. Peter Corbeau (who is online) has been interpreting the data. Its quantum matrices are all inside out. It didn’t originate in this universe. The sword’s generating a displacement field that keeps it outside their reality by about half a nanometer which means that it can’t be damaged by anything they throw at it. The Knights’ armor must be protected the same way. The Knights feel no pain, Corbeau adds. They are indestructible and that, believe it or not, Moira adds, is their first piece of good news.
Back at the strange citadel, Xavier tells the young lady (though he is aware she is neither a lady nor young) that he is getting tired of the silent treatment. She’ll have to start talking sooner or later. Her mental shields are impressive, but he’s seen better.
Sky Song shouts at him to stop bothering the Lifecode. She doesn’t care about him. Lifecode? he asks her. She gives them honor and purpose, the young Knight shouts. They fight for her. For victory. Victory is truth! the young woman suddenly says. Truth is history.
The Lifecode’s story:
The Empire of Hykon was bountiful and glorious. It spread across the void, safeguarded by its righteous champions. Hykon’s knights were many in number: the finest heroes, the braves souls.
And then came the day the last villain was slain. The Knights cheered, for they had never seen beyond the next sunset and could not imagine what was to come. No challenges, no victories, no meaning. Peace was torture. The heroes grew restless. The Moon and the Shadow were the first to feud. The feuding turned to duels which turned to battles which turned to war. And the war was an angry child with a savage appetite, devouring all it saw. It grew beyond imagination, beyond reason, death upon death upon death. Planets and stars became weapons. Time and space screamed. And when the scream finally died, not a single grain of sand was left. All life, all matter turned to chaos, only six Knights and the citadel were saved.
But how did she survive? Xavier asks her. She didn’t, she replies with a sad smile.
Back at the X-Mansion, Cyclops announces they are running out of time. That plasmic rainstorm is going to rip this planet apart in a few hours. They need to take the fight to the Knights.
Nightcrawler hopes he does not mean teleporting everyone to their citadel. The trip was painful enough alone. If he tries to bring company with him, they are all dead.
Moira suggests she can extend the Sword’s d-field to envelop his body. It won’t hurt any more than a solo jump. Is she sure of that? Verra sure, she assures him. How sure is “verra sure?” Well, 75 % sure, she offers.
Colossus suggests they give Moira more time. Cyclops cuts him off. They hit them now! They hit them hard! And they make sure the Knights never do this again!
Jean whispers to Storm she has never seen Scott like this. He’s raging inside. Ororo whispers back, telling her what Corbeau told them. The Knights accidentally triggered the solar storm that transformed Jean into Phoenix. She thinks Scott is taking the news badly. What about her? Jean admits she has literally no idea.
Later, they all touch the sword. Cyclops tells them it isn’t the first time the X-Men have leapt into the dark. However this goes, he’s proud to stand with them all. If he starts humming the Stars and Stripes, he’s walking back to Quebec! Wolverine threatens. Let’s roll…
Lilandra enters, dressed in her battle armor. Xavier is her beloved. Whatever his fate, she will share it! Cyclops agrees and Moira and Kurt begin the teleportation effect.
In the citadel, Xavier asks the referee what she is. She replies she is the Lifecode, the repository of her people’s history, science and culture. She is Hykon. She was tasked with the knights’ well-being. She created the contest. A new honor field was found, one where they could satisfy their needs. They have battled for millennia, with no consequence.
No consequence? Xavier repeats, enraged. How dare she? He’s looked into her mind. Her precious knights have slaughtered entire worlds in their pathetic conflict! Countless innocents have perished for nothing! But today… here and now… it ends! he vows.
His X-Men appear behind him, just as Hykon calls her Knights and the battle begins. Cyclops orders Storm to separate the Knights so they’ll have room to move. Storm creates a hurricane which gathers up the Knights.
Cyclops notes that Moira was right. The Knights’ displacement fields only work in a foreign universe. Back here they are vulnerable. He has a feeling they’ve relied on that advantage for too long.
Burning Moon angrily shouts how dare those apes attack them here, while Cloud Runner is chastened by feeling pain again. Phoenix attacks Sleeping Mist, who hits her back, telling her she is nothing but a plaything. Angrily Jean kicks her in the face, before following up with another blow. That was a White Crane kick, she remarks, beefed up with a little telekinesis. She downloaded the skills of two martial artists tonight, so this plaything is playing hard. She smashes her through a wall for emphasis.
Nightcrawler, sticking to the shadows, follows Bone Dancer who surprises him and kicks him in the face.
Wolverine is battling and making fun of Drowning Shadow, telling him he can think of a better name for him. Colossus comes smashing down on him. Sitting Duck, Wolverine finishes.
Storm finds that she cannot generate any lighting and rain and Sky Song moves like wildfire. However, she manages to use her winds to smash the girl into the wall. She shouts a warning to Banshee as Burning Moon attacks him.
Suddenly, the sword is smashed out of Burning Moon’s hand as Xavier, clad in his mental armor, announces that Banshee’s the last X-Men he’ll harm. He found out the hard way that Burning Moon could touch his psionic body. He is pleased to see that’s a two way street.
Elsewhere, surrounded by trophies, Bone Dancer warns Nightcrawler not to break Burning Moon’s toys; he is so fond of them. He keeps telling the others to put their swords aside once in a while. A true warrior can fight barehanded, but do they listen?
Kicking him in the face, Kurt exclaims they are not warriors. The men and women in this room who died trying to save their world, they were warriors. The Knights are vicious children. It’s time they were punished!
Cloud Runner tells Cyclops they are really quite annoying. Unleashing his optic blast, Cyclops orders him to shut his mouth. They are not playing their stupid games. This is for real! Indeed, Cloud Runner is hurt. Cyclops presses his advantage shouting if they know what they did to her. Jean was gentle, warm… she cared. And they took that away! They changed her! They destroyed the woman he loved! Jean hears all of this.
Lilandra, in the meantime, faces Hykon, the Lifecode, announcing she is here to avenge the blood of her people. She is the memory of the Hykon Empire, the Lifecode replies. Within her is the knowledge of a million generations. To end her existence would wound history. History will not miss them, Lilandra replies simply. No empire is eternal. All things move toward their end. That is the truth. Then that is victory, the Lifecode replies and calmly awaits Lilandra’s blow.
With her destruction, the fight suddenly goes out of the Knights. Like frightened children, they are now without purpose. Lilandra demands they die. Wolverine agrees. But Xavier refuses. The Knights are no longer a threat. They can’t leave the citadel without Hykon. He can’t imagine a more fitting punishment. Their armor will sustain them. They can spend the rest of their lives on this barren rock in peace.
But how are they to travel home? Colossus asks. Jean explains Moira has that covered. Phoenix can give the sword enough juice for one last jump. Ignoring the Knights and their pleas for help, the X-Men teleport home to a world that has been restored.
Xavier returns to his body and, moments later, embraces Lilandra. Banshee is happy to be back in the arms of Moira. All of the X-Men are celebrating.
Except for Cyclops and Phoenix., who are standing outside in the dark, not talking. Jean gives him a sad look and flies away. Cyclops looks after her without a word.