With the X-Men and their friends still grieving over the many casualties they suffered over the last few days, Xavier is conferring telepathically with several of his X-Men – namely Storm, Cyclops, Sage (and Iceman) and Kitty Pryde – over their next step. He informs them that he intends to travel to the Shi’ar throneworld, Chandilar, to try to effect some peaceful resolution to this conflict.
At the Xavier Institute, Scott Summers protests vehemently. Lilandra turned this school into a boneyard. They are way past talking.
If he truly believes that, Xavier replies, that he has failed Scott as a teacher. He reminds Scott that Warskrulls were responsible for those attacks. They have no direct evidence linking them to Lilandra.
From the XSE HQ in Washington, Sage remarks that this is, of course, how any respectable clandestine operation would be arranged, to ensure that those truly responsible remain blameless. Storm agrees. Whoever is behind all this, they have made it plain that they want the X-Men dead. A diplomatic resolution is no longer an option.
All the more reason to make absolutely sure they strike the proper target, Xavier replies. Suppose the intent there is to provoke them to retaliate against Lilandra? To discredit the X-Men? To endanger Earth itself? Can they risk that?
From her Campaign HQ in Chicago Kitty Pryde agrees with Xavier. Scott reminds Xavier that he will be traveling to another galaxy. If anything should go wrong… He and Magneto can take care of themselves, Xavier tries to calm his former students. Magneto agrees with a smirk that their reputation alone should inspire a measure of caution amongst their enemies.
On that basis alone, he’d be inclined to shoot first, but that’s just him, Iceman remarks with a grin. Xavier smiles at his student’s reply, before pointing out that they won’t be entirely without assets. The Starjammer is en route to Chandilar, which puts Phoenix by their side. In addition, Gambit, Cable and Marvel Girl have been transported there as well, with Gambit masquerading as Sinister. He reminds Scott that Lilandra was their friend and he was her consort once. For those reasons and more, he has to try things this way. By the same token, if he is wrong and the worst happens… They’ll be ready. Scott promises…
In the XSE HQ, Bobby Drake creates ice sculptures of Sinister and Gambit. He still has a hard time believing that Gambit is Sinister’s clone. It explains much about their actions over the years, Sage remarks.
Totally sucks about Rogue, Iceman muses. They’ve had casualties before, Sage points out. Doesn’t make it easier, he sighs. Especially with kids involved. What was Gambit thinking leaving them like that? Sage touches his shoulder only to pull back her hand, displaying severe frostbite. She points out that Gambit was trying to ensure they at least have a future. Do they? Iceman wonders. Do any of them? They are X-Men. A situation like this is always a trap. Sage agrees. What concerns her is that she can’t see beyond.
Robert asks mockingly if she is admitting that she is only human while healing her frostbite. Even she can’t know everything, she agrees. And even if she had all the data, would she really truly know everything? Bobby asks. Somewhere in there, she will come to the place where she will have to trust her instincts and make a leap of faith. Who is he and what has he done to Bobby Drake, she asks half astonished, half mockingly. What’s she talking about, he retorts. Iceman’s always been totally transparent. With surprising depths, it seems, she admits. See, he points out satisfied. She doesn’t quite know everything.
Meanwhile, back at the Institute, the teleporter Hub has returned with Mystique and the kidnapped children. Cyclops hugs his kids but then sees Gambit and Rogue’s kids, Olivier and Bekka, looking forlorn. He addresses them, telling them he knows how hard this is. How part of them wants to be brave. But mostly, they want to scream and rage and beat up on God himself. He has stood where they stand. He has lost what they have lost. If they ever need a hand to hold or anything…
Mystique interrupts him, telling him to bring their father back to them safe. That’s all. Until then, she is their grandmother. She’ll care for them as Anna would.
In Chicago, the polls have just opened to the tightest municipal election in memory. At Kitty Pryde’s HQ, her campaigning staff is hard at work, while Kitty herself is telepathically contacted by Charles Xavier once more. He asks how it’s going and she explains that the number are changing with every sample. It all comes down to whether or not folks will trust their future to a mutant. He has faith, Xavier tells her. She’d rather have his vote, she replies with a grin.
Does she really believe people are so afraid, he wonders. She tells him to ask again after the ballots are counted. The thing is, she continues, she and he pretty much bookend the reason people are spooked. He reads people’s minds, she walks through walls. Between the two of them, nothing is secret.
Is he sure he knows what he is doing, she asks, changing the subject. Is he sure this will work? She should ask him again after the votes are counted. Kitty can’t laugh at his feeble jokes. On the astral plane, they both look at an image of Lilandra. He explains it is a calculated risk. Lilandra only knows him as the teacher, the healer. She has no idea what came before. Neither, he hopes, does their true enemy. That should give them an edge. He hopes that as a target he is proving irresistible.
The scenery changes to show the X-Men currently involved in this mess. He is quite capable of dealing with any reasonable threat. And the unreasonable? Kitty demands. That’s where Scott comes in, he replies. Is he prepared to sacrifice the X-Men, Kitty asks. He shows her the universe. This is at stake, he explains. Would she act differently in his place? No, she admits. Good, she may yet amount to something, he jokes. Now he is channeling Emma? she complains. She had her hand in shaping Kitty, Charles unexpectedly replies, as did Logan, Ororo and he. They have their parts to play in this final adventure. She has hers in what is to follow.
They return to the campaign HQ and Kitty’s body. It’s not fair, she complains. It’s life, he replies simply. They share a final hug as he tells her there is nobody better to carry on his legacy and fulfill his dream. With tears in her eyes, she tells him she takes back what she said years ago. She never thought he was a jerk. And she, while she may have been born to be an X-Man, is destined for so much more, he believes.
Before Jean Grey became one with the Phoenix, Charles Xavier had a celestial moment of his own when his telepathy established a bond with renegade Shi’ar princess, Lilandra Neramani. From that moment of first contact, it was love. With the X-Men’s aid, she became empress. Together, they saved the universe. For a time, he was her consort. Fate eventually drew him back to Earth and, after a time, the relationship floundered. They hadn’t even spoken in over ten years. And now she appears to be responsible for those terrible attacks allied with Sinister himself.
With the help of the slavers’ teleporter, Slipstream, Gambit, masqueraded as Sinister, accompanied by his “hounds,” Rachel and Cable, arrives on the Shi’ar throne world, Chandilar, where the Lord Chancellor is already expecting him.
Gambit’s intention is to blaze the trail for Xavier and find out if Lilandra is truly guilty. He asks the chancellor why he is greeted with armed forces. Isn’t he considered a friend? The chancellor grabs him by the throat and informs him that he has no friends. Only those who serve him. One such was Shaitan. Where is his champion? Slain, comes the curt reply. In battles, there are casualties. Rogue killed Shaitan. Sinister killed Rogue, with the very blade he is holding at the chancellor’s throat this moment. Does he think he will live to use it? the chancellor blusters. That risk appears shared “Sinister” smirks. The chancellor lets go.
Back in space, the Starjammer is approaching Shi’ar space. One of the passengers, Nightcrawler, is nervous at the prospect. This ship has never been entirely welcome in Shi’ar space. Is Carol - he is talking to the personality of Carol Danvers that has merged with the ship’s computer – sure this is safe? Carol explains that Aliyah swears by the clearance codes. They are based on her genome and cannot be faked. She is the daughter of Deathbird, the Aerie’s crown princess. Legally among the Shi’ar, only the monarch has the right to condemn her. Carol informs Kurt that the girl has great instincts, so they should follow Aliyah’s lead. Xavier needs back-up and Phoenix is the biggest gun in their arsenal.
In Aliyah’s bedroom, a shadow comes close to the slumbering girl. She awakes and opens her arms to the shadow. Behind her, the image of Deathbird appears, only to morph into a Brood.
(The Astral Plane)
Wolverine is lying in an idyllic landscape, when he is joined by a smiling Jean Grey. He draws her down and they kiss passionately. He informs her that he has missed her, even in his dreams. It’s been so long. Why did she come back? She cries tears of fire, as she replies that she has come to end the story. “Sez you” he smirks. “Sez the rules” she replies. He tells her to screw the rules. They are X-Men, they make their own.
A passionate embrace later… they talk about his still poor condition. He asks if he can send her to Charley’s side. She explains that this link is only sustained through his strength and passion. In power terms, she is still more ghost than not. She tells him she doesn’t want to lose him. Won’t happen, he assures her. That’s Jean’s dream, she muses. He reminds her that she is Jean. She is Phoenix, she replies simply.
As the Phoenix effect engulfs her body, she announces that she is the alpha and the omega. The spark that ignites creation and the final fire that consumes all to begin anew. So what? he asks unimpressed. You can’t have that passion of creation if one isn’t alive. If everybody carries within themselves the spark of divinity, then the divinity has to embrace the spark of humanity too. Jean is Phoenix. Phoenix is Jean. She hates it, Jean replies simply. Is she trying to ditch her mortality? he asks, Yes she replies, looking decidedly cosmic. He protests and insists that she is Jean. Always will be, always has to be. Being human is what gives her perspective, where she finds hope. And fear, Jean replies. Humanity comes with baggage. Passion is fierce. It isn’t always benevolent.
He tells her she has to remember where she came from to tell them all where to go. Otherwise, what’s the point? She powers down and asks what happens in the end when she is the only one left? She won’t be, he promises. He plans to live forever? she asks incredulously. For her, absolutely. He is totally mad, she announces. She is totally worth it, he replies. She promises to be back.
Logan awakes in the X-Men’s hospital and promises he’ll be there.
At the Xavier Institute, Charles Xavier addresses the assembled X-Men past and present to say good-bye. Addressing their current situation, he quotes John F. Kennedy. “Some see things that are and say ‘why’? I dream things that never were and say ‘why not?’” That’s why first and foremost Xavier’s has always been a school. While the X-Men must exist, the school is ever focused on reaching that summit. They fight because they must, but they should never forget why they fight. Eventually, he informs the others that he has received a Psi-flash from Rachel, Gambit’s team has arrived on Chandilar.
With Xavier’s telepathic link with Rachel providing the direction, Magneto and Polaris begin to create a wormhole. Polaris is to anchor the end on Earth.
Magneto jokes that it doesn’t seem right doing this without Wolverine. He can’t have all the fun, Xavier replies as he enters the wormhole. Joining him, Magneto wryly asks if this is part of Xavier’s plan, for they are expected by the Imperial Guard who look ready for battle. Perhaps they should have invited Wolverine after all, Xavier states. Any more bright ideas? Magneto asks. In Shi’ar, Xavier tells the guardians “Ariin’n sequra Mejah’lin.”
One of the Guardians, a new Gladiator, tells the Lord Chancellor that Xavier has invoked the safe conduct of emissaries. In honor, they must accede.
The Lord Chancellor replies that the X-Men are blood enemies of the Aerie. Xavier’s claim of honor is denied and his life forfeit. He orders the Guardians to kill them. Xavier and Magneto – the latter with a grim smile – get ready to fight, when Lilandra and her son enter and Lilandra gives the order to stand down.