Moira is carrying out tests on Jean Grey, in order to determine the extent of her Phoenix powers. She is not one to scare easily but, watching Jean becoming increasingly impatient, Moira MacTaggert is afraid.
Jean’s been at it for ages, and asks Moira how much longer she has to wait. Moira allows her to power down, and Jean steps out of the analyzing equipment. Moira asks how Jean feels. Isn’t she tired? Jean replies that using her power doesn’t tire her as quickly as it used to. If anything, it makes her feel good. “Good enough to use it again?” Moira enquires. Jean asks what she’s driving at. Moira’s been poking at her for a week and must have some answers. Moira says that she’s barely figuring out the questions.
Watching their conversation from the shadows is the withered body of Angus MacWhirter; a body now controlled by something else. As the two women head off for a brew, MacWhirter also departs. He hungers, but knows he must wait. Moira must not know.
Moira and Jean chat as they head to the kitchen. Moira informs her that there’s no comparison between Marvel Girl and Phoenix. Her powers have made a quantum leap. Jean knows Moira’s worried about whether she can handle it. She’s worried too. Sometimes, she tells Moira, she almost wishes she’d stayed dead on that shuttle. Once more, the images unfold in Jean’s mind.
Jean is piloting the Starcore through the worst solar storm in history. Aboard the shuttle are her fellow X-Men. Her body is consumed by the intense radiation, but her mind refuses to die. Driven by her love for Scott Summers, she achieves her full potential as a psi, becoming, briefly, an entity of pure thought, before finally becoming Phoenix. She emerges from the sea a new woman. Weeks later, her awesome abilities save the universe, but the feat seems to burn her out forever. She later fights Magneto but loses, as her power deserts her at a critical moment.
Worse than that, she is unable to save her fellow X-Men when Magneto’s underground Antarctic base collapses on top of them, burying them in molten lava. Only she and Hank McCoy survive, so she thinks. Grief stricken, Jean returns to the X-Men’s headquarters, only to watch, helpless, as Professor Xavier’s own grief builds an unbreachable wall between them. She needs his help, support and love, but he gives her nothing.
She leaves the mansion and flies to Greece, meeting a kindly preacher aboard the plane. Her life begins anew, but the terrible, tragic irony is that her grief is unnecessary. The X-Men didn’t die in Magneto’s fortress, as Jean and Hank escaped to the surface. They burrowed down until they reached a safe haven of sorts, before returning to the mansion. Though the X-Men are all affected by the supposed deaths of Jean and Hank, their lives eventually return to normal.
The X-Men work out in the Danger Room, running through a series of tests with the intention of improving their reflexes and honing their fighting skills. Cyclops sets Colossus a problem. He must get out from under a hydraulic ram before it crushes him. Its force doubles every fifteen seconds, so he must get a move on. Wolverine asks if he needs a hand, but he replies that this test is for him alone. Wolverine ignores him and, using his adamantium blades, he rips apart a hole in the steel wall to get to the machinery operating the ram. Cyclops, however, anticipates this move, and a jet of water smashes into Wolverine, throwing him across the room, much to Nightcrawler’s amusement.
Wolverine tells Kurt that his time will come and, right on cue, a panel in the wall that Kurt is clinging to opens up. He teleports immediately and tells Cyclops he can always teleport out of harms way. Cyclops says true enough, but supposing he can’t. Suddenly, a sonic beam zaps Nightcrawler and his concentration is taken up defending his ears, which doesn’t allow him to even think about teleporting.
Scott asks Banshee to turn off the program. He tells the team that they were really pathetic. They either overreact to the Danger Room, or they treat it like a joke. For their information, he adds, Wolverine and Nightcrawler are both dead and Logan didn’t help Colossus one bit. Wolverine is sick of these games and tells Cyke that he doesn’t jump through hoops for anybody. He handled himself fine on his own and he can do it again. Cyclops attempts to reason with him, but Wolverine storms off for a brew.
Storm and Cyclops make light of his departure, but Scott tells Ororo that they’re all such strong-willed individuals; he doubts they’ll ever be as strong a unit as the original team was. He’s not even sure that that’s even a desirable goal anymore. However, he knows they must persevere. They’ve been real lucky, but their luck can’t last forever.
A thousand miles above the Earth, a square mile of rock swings towards the sunrise, hidden from prying eyes by some of the most sophisticated electronics systems ever created. It is Asteroid M, the home of Magneto.
Ever since his battle with the X-Men beneath Antarctica, he’s been nursing his wounds, regaining his strength and refining his plans to become master of the world. As he views Memory Tape 017, a scene of his early encounter with the X-Men, the screen changes abruptly. Magda’s face appears and he figures the memory circuits have accidentally cross-connected. He’d almost forgotten how beautiful she was, and how deeply it hurt when she ran away from him. That was a long time ago and, after all, he was only human. The image fades as he clicks a button. He’s older now and soon the world will tremble before his power.
(Stornoway, Outer Hebrides)
Magneto isn’t the only one with plans afoot this morning. Off the coast of Scotland, in an upstairs room of the Red Lion Inn, Jason Wyngarde sits alone by the fire. The name is as false as the man himself. He is thinking about Jean Grey. He’s been very patient with her until now and the stakes he and his partners are playing for are too high to spoil with a careless move. Although she doesn’t know it, he has been by her side since she left the safety of Xavier’s mansion.
He first met her on her flight to Europe, in the guise of a roly-poly priest. Later, he tried to fill the emotional void within her as Nikos. Though Jean has only met him once, she will instinctively trust him. That trust will soon turn to love. He toys with a mental image of her and creates images of Jean. First, she is wearing what she wore the first day she met the X-Men. Then, she is in her original Marvel Girl costume, her green Marvel Girl costume, her Phoenix outfit and, finally, in her Black Queen Hellfire garb. He will mold her, until the Hellfire Club finally claims her for its own.
Jean is looking in the mirror, lost in thought, and it takes some effort from Lorna Dane to gain her attentions. Jean had spaced out in mid sentence and Lorna had been kinda worried. Jean lets her know she can take care of herself. “Famous last words,” replies Lorna. Jean tells her that she envies her and Alex. They’re building a life that has nothing to do with the X-Men or with having mutant powers. Lorna says she can do the same if she wants to. Jean decides to show off a little and replies that she can’t; not while she can do this. She twirls towards Lorna and, with every step, she rearranges the molecules of her clothes, telekinetically. It’s a deliberate attempt to lighten the mood and change the subject. This once, Lorna lets her get away with it.
Elsewhere, Moira MacTaggert is tired, having inadvertently worked all night. At least she knows now why Jean’s power seemed to vanish after a while. She has some sort of instinctive psychic circuit breaker, which must engage, cutting back her power back from its cosmic peak to something she can cope with. But, the power still exists in her.
She stands and walks around, stretching her tired legs. She and Charles suspected that she had this kind of potential, but they never dreamed she’d achieve it. If she ever taps into it, she thinks, Jean will become something akin to a God. Her thoughts turn to Charles. Moira hopes he is happy, but also wishes he was with her, because he’s needed, badly.
(the Shi’ar galaxy)
The newly-crowned Empress Lilandra is hosting the first state ball of her reign. Surrounded by dignitaries, she leaves Charles to mingle. They haven’t had much time together recently, as Lilandra’s realm spans an entire galaxy. Running it takes a lot of her time and energy.
Charles moves in his floating chair to the library and asks for the Omega File. He moves to a table within the huge room. Events moved so quickly back on Earth that he never had the chance to de-brief the X-Men after they saved Lilandra. She said this tape contains the whole story. He settles himself in his chair and begins to read how the X-Men fought to prevent the unleashing of a force known only as ‘the end of all that is.’ That force was a neutron galaxy.
Charles reads how the galaxy was held in check by a series of interlocking stasis fields. But, the fields were breaking down and the universe was facing its final hours. Miraculously, Phoenix flew into the heart of the energy matrix and, with the X-Men’s spiritual help, knitted the stasis fields back together again. All this Charles sees, and more. He rubs his forehead. He realizes Jean single-handedly saved everything. My God, he thinks, my God!
He hurriedly makes his way out of the library. He thinks that, for all Jean’s natural ability, he doubts even he could control such power. He must return to Earth at once, and prays that he isn’t too late.
Moira is contemplating trusting Jean with her worries. She’s an intelligent woman, and Moira figures that she’ll face the future, and the choices she’ll have to make better, if she knows the real score. As she walks, her foot crunches something on the ground, and she bends down to pick whatever it is up. It’s a gold tooth, but whose? She thinks it could be an intruder’s, but how did they manage to lose a tooth? Unless…
Moira realizes where she is. She is outside Mutant X’s cell. However, the cell door reads ‘sealed,’ and the sensors register him inside. Still, she figures she’d better make certain. She places her hand on a palm-reading security screen and the door slides open. Moira looks inside the cell, and she gasps with horror.
Outside the building, Jean is taking a stroll and comes across Jamie Madrox and Alex Summers carrying out some chores. Jamie is freezing and comments that Jean is hardly wearing anything. Alex looks at Jean and thinks about how she’s showing off, using her telekinetic talent to manipulate her body’s metabolic levels to counteract the cold. She seems to be flaunting her powers more and more these days, and that’s not like Jean at all. As Jean carries on walking, she hears Alex’s thoughts all too clearly. That last one stuck out like a sore thumb. She knows he’s right, though. She is showing off a little, but why not? In public, she’ll conceal her abilities but, among friends, she’ll dress and act as she darn pleases.
Out of the blue, she senses Moira’s disturbed thought patterns and changes into her Phoenix costume in the blink of an eye. She flies through the Research Center, psi-scanning the entire lab as she does so. As far as she can tell, she and Moira are the only ones there. She rounds a corner, and enters a world gone decidedly mad.
Instead of flying freely, Jean finds herself in a large dress and in some kind of 18th century regency mansion. Her hair is up and she is carrying a fan. Desperately, she reaches out with her mind, but her psi powers only confirm what her senses have already told her. What she sees and feels is real. This is crazy, she thinks, and a thousand question flare in her mind. Before she has time to find any answers, she is back in her Phoenix costume, and back at Muir Island.
As soon as she regains her bearings, an attacker grabs her around the waist in mid-leap and takes her to the ground. She figures the hallucination must have been some kind of diversion. She turns to face the intruder and, at first, she is too stunned to react. Then, she screams. Jamie and Alex hear her cry, and head inside as quickly as they can.
It is a stormy evening in New York and an ungodly hour for anyone to go visiting. Hank McCoy has taken time out from his very busy schedule to check up on a mansion he’d thought deserted. He parks his Quinjet in the garden. All the alarms have been disconnected by an expert. As he enters through an open door, he is immediately attacked by Nightcrawler, who leaps at him. In the shadows, they roll about, each trying to gain an advantage over the other. Kurt wonders what he’s fighting; it feels like he’s wrestling a gorilla! The others are in the Danger Room and will never hear them through the soundproof walls. Suddenly, a lightning bolt lights up the room and Kurt sees the face of Hank staring back at him.
He teleports instinctively and reappears inside the Danger Room. Cyclops asks what on Earth is going on, and Kurt replies that he’s seen a ghost. He tells Scott that it was the Beast, but Scott doesn’t wish to take any chances. He asks Colossus and Storm to back him up and rushes towards the room where Kurt and Hank fought. He is surprised to see that it actually is Hank, and Hank is equally surprised to see Scott, who he believed dead.
He grabs Scott around the waist and picks him up, grinning from ear to ear. They hug each other, and Scott says it’s fantastic, but how did he escape? Hank replies that Jeannie got him out. “Jean! Alive? Jean?! ” Scott can barely get the words out fast enough. Hank replies that when Magneto’s roof fell in, she formed a telekinetic force bubble around them and shot them up to the surface. They thought Scott and the others were killed. “Boy, is she ever gonna be surprised,” he adds.
The next few minutes are somewhat hectic, as everyone compares notes. Hank explains why the mansion was locked up and where Professor Xavier and Jean have gone. Hank checks that Scott is okay after hearing all this, and he replies that he is, asking Sean if the Blackbird is ready to fly. Sean is only too happy to get them to Muir Island anytime. Hank wishes to join them. He wouldn’t miss this reunion for the world. He says he’ll return the Quinjet and let Jarvis know where he’s going. Scott gets on the phone to Moira to inform her that they’ll be coming.
Alex, now in his black and silver costume, orders Jamie to use his cloning powers to create a squad of dupes. With them, he can cover the entire lab. Lorna answers the phone and finds Scott on the other end. She is shocked to hear that he is alive. Scott tells her that it’s not only him; the rest of the X-Men are alive and well, too. He comments that her voice sounds strained and asks if anything’s the matter. Lorna isn’t sure. She tells Scott that Jean and Moira were in the lab. They heard a scream and then the security alarms went off.
As Lorna adds that Jamie Madrox and Alex are checking the lab right now, she doesn’t notice a shadowy figure passing the window. She asks Scott how soon he can be at Muir Island and he replies that it’ll take a couple of hours, using the Blackbird. As Lorna is saying that she’d feel better, even if this is a false alarm, she turns to see the stranger behind her. In New York, Scott turns pale. Banshee asks Scott what’s wrong, and he replies that it’s Lorna. He heard a scream, and then the line went dead.