On Chandilar, X-Men and Superguardians alike stare in disbelief and shock – and in Marvel Girl’s case in grief – as Cassandra Nova who seconds before forced Rachel to lethally injure Jean Grey and Cyclops now stands reborn as Phoenix.
On Earth, at the Xavier Institute, in response to the events on Chandilar, the already injured Wolverine is flatlining and Beast and his wife, Cecilia Reyes, are desperately trying to save his life.
In Chicago, Kitty Pryde isn’t faring much better and her campaign staff helplessly wonders if she was attacked.
Back on Chandilar, Gladiator gives the order for the Superguardians to attack, bravely leading the charge herself. Moments later, Cassandra tosses Gladiator’s severed head past Storm and then proceeds to kill the rest of the Guardians, while gloating whether they truly believe they can fare better against her than their predecessors. Haven’t they learned from history?
Suddenly, a small light circle appears on her forehead and a laser beam burrows a hole in her head, courtesy of Dazzler, who quips that they took notes. Iceman and Storm follow up with attacks of their own, as does a bloodthirsty Aliyah Bishop, who blasts the frozen body of Cassandra apart with her ray gun.
That wasn’t very nice, announces Cassanda, as she brutally counterattacks her foes and takes them out one after the other.
Bishop charges into action, shooting the energy form of Magneto, who weakly thanks him. Bishop deduced correctly that Cassandra was using Magneto’s lifeforce to sustain herself. He follows this up by striking her with a leech blade to drain her energies into him. She commends him on making the right move. Unfortunately, considering how powerful she is now, she didn’t need Magneto and has more power than Bishop can absorb. She should let him go pop, she muses, but she wants to play.
On the other hand, his daughter deserves no such consideration. She gestures and raises Aliyah telekinetically. Then, Casandra forces the girl and the Brood embryo within her apart to kill the creature due to is betrayal of Xavi. Looking around at her falling foes, Cassanda furiously screams at the sky whether this is all there is.
There’s me, announces a calm Madelyne Pryor, standing over the bodies of Cyclops and Jean. Not anymore, comes the reply, as Cassandra unleashes an energy blast at her. Bored now, time to go, she adds, while looking at the sun.
On the Starjammer in orbit above Chandilar, alarm klaxons go off and Sage shouts out in horror, as she witnesses the Shi’ar sun going supernova.
Back on Chandilar, Madelyne still stands tall and unhurt. Angrily, Cassandra unleashes energy at her, shouting out that she is the Phoenix while Madelyne shouldn’t even be a ghost. Maddie informs her that she had it wrong from the start. She is the essence of Jean that loved Scott with all her heart. That’s why it never worked afterwards between Scott and Jean. Maddy is the part that was willing to die for Scott; the part that made them whole.
Firing more energy at Madelyne, Cassandra shouts that she is no match for her. Maddie snarls back that she doesn’t have to be. She’s an X-Man and they don’t fight alone.
That moment, Psylocke attacks Cassandrar Nova from behind, stabbing her with her psychic katana through Cassandra’s brain.
Maddie, in the meantime, kneels down to touch both Jean and Scott. Jean’s tattoos appear on her back, as she announces that she and Jean were never meant to be apart. But they were both too scared, too stubborn, to be the one to yield. We only thought of what we had to lose, she continues as she fades away, while Scott and Jean healed begin to stir. … never what could be gained, Jean finishes Madelyne’s sentence. Everything that went wrong about them came from that fear, she tells Scott. Until now. She simply tells him that she loves him and he loves her. That’s all she needs to know.
The exploded sun has almost reached the Starjammer. And Sage realizes that the flare will reach Chandilar in a little over eight minutes. Phoebe tells her that something is happening on the surface. The others won’t leave. Sage worries that, if they try to ride this out, she can’t guarantee the shields will hold.
On Chandilar, Psylocke is still holding down Cassandra. Wolverine and Kitty’s psychic essences are there as well, with the men being bare-chested and the women wearing Phoenix-shirts like Jean’s. Scott tells Bishop to take the others and get clear. This is more important than their lives; it’s an opportunity that may never come again. Nightcrawler announces that they are all in this together.
That’s what Cassandra never understood. Not simply the concept of sacrifice, but that of fellowship, continues Xavier, who is standing next to Magneto. In that way, this family can transcend even one so powerful as her. Cassandra cries out in denial shouting that this isn’t fair: she killed them both! Wolverine asks her if she hasn’t figured things out yet. They are moving to a place beyond the mortal perceptions of life and death.
Xavier tries to reach out to her and she slaps his hand away, shouting that she hates him. Bolstered by Magneto, Charles admits that he gave her good reason. His shame at what he’d done made him afraid his whole life that this terrible truth would be found out. And that fear gave her power over him. That hasn’t changed, she snarls. Until now, remarks Phoenix, who is still busy healing Cable. She tells Psylocke to step away from Cassandra. Betsy’s part is done.
Free again, Cassandra threatens that Phoenix’s arrogance will cost her dear. She tries to attack but finds she can’t, as Jean calmly informs her that she is on her ground now. Cassandra even provided an exploding star to replenish Phoenix’s strength.
Strange patterns corresponding to Phoenix’s tattoos appear on the ground and Jean asks the others – Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Storm, Xavier, Magneto, Cassandra, Cyclops, Rachel, Cable and Kitty – to assume their proper places in the Tree of Life, so that they may transcend this plane of existence.
Xavier hesitates. He apologizes to Jean, but he can’t do this. She – referring to Cassandra – is evil. Cassandra, on the other hand, won’t do this. Charles tried to kill her. He is the true evil! Both admit that they are afraid. Jean replies that this is the nature of new things. They’re scary. And there’s nothing they can do to stop them from their first breath to their last to beyond. But is that all they are? For all the power, the limitless potential they possess, are they both so limited?
Without her, Phoenix’s celestial tapestry is incomplete, Cassandra points out sullenly. Without them, she is left behind, Jean retorts. Turning to both of them, she remarks that neither of them is alone anymore. Their flaws make them human. Being human allows them to overcome them. Reaching out to both, she tells them to let the strength of the others sustain them, as they are sustained by the faith of those they love more than life. As the sun comes closer, they agree to try. Cassandra and Xavier clasp hands as identical tattoos appear on their backs.
As everybody takes their place, Xavier muses that he brought them together in search of a dream, never realizing that it was tainted from its inception. The fear and hatred he perceived in the world was but a reflection of what was in his own heart and soul. His first encounter with a mutant, his twin sister, led to a response of fear, hatred and violence. He was their teacher, if his world view was built on a foundation of fear and hatred, how could their be otherwise? And if they who possess such miraculous gifts choose to hide themselves from the world, is it any surprise that the world took their cue from them?
With the Tree of Life complete (its shape echoing the shape of Phoenix’s tattoo), Charles wonders how different things could have been if they had shown to humanity the wondrous promise of their genome. He decides that it is past time to lay that fear and guilt and shame to rest. The X-Men were his candle in the darkness. He never imagined that all he had to do to let the light in was to open his eyes. And that light is so beautiful.
20 Years later:
In the White House, a brunette teenager calls her two younger siblings, Doug and Sara, to hurry up or they’ll be late for practice.
Meredith Pryde then hurries inside the Oval Office to meet her mother, Katherine Pryde, President of the United States, who is just finishing up her interview with Manoli Wetherell. They are soon joined by the two younger siblings.
Meredith jokes about the official event later and that the dragon lady is outside, “Dragon Lady” referring to Alice Tremaine, now Speaker of the House of Representatives. Surprisingly, Alice asks if she can attend the ceremony. Kitty bluntly points out that Alice has hated her since the day they met. Alice explains that she hated a mutant. She was wrong. She offers her hand and Kitty takes it, inviting her to come.
Later aboard Airforce One, Kitty remarks that, that night in Chicago, Alice never called to concede. Alice explains that, when she heard Kitty had collapsed, she actually hoped she’d die. But Kitty proved to be a surprisingly good mayor, a halfway decent governor and, given a little luck, she might actually make a truly great… parent.
What changed her mind? Kitty asks. Alice refers to a quote by Robert Kennedy Kitty she is fond of. Knowing her, for the better part of her lifetime, she came to see that the things they had in common matter were a whole lot more than the prejudices that drive them apart. Manoli interrupts, reminding Kitty that she never finished her story. Sure she did, Kitty replies, clinking glasses with Alice. In the way that counts, Manoli just saw it happen.
Later, Kitty holds her speech in front of the Xavier Institute. Guests are, among many others, the surviving X-Men and their children.
Kitty explains that they have gathered on the centennial of Charles Xavier’s birth, which is also the twentieth anniversary of his passing. She says “passing” rather than “death” because, while he was a man, he was also the embodiment of a dream. And that dream brought them together. The X-Men were the embodiment of that dream and they few are what remains.
They expected to always be X-Men. It was how they defined themselves. They thought that it was the sum and substance of their lives, when in fact it was no more than a stage along the road. But they had to grow. Above all, Xavier was a teacher. With a final prima lesson for both sides. For humanity truly to evolve they had to lose their safety net. The X-Men had to end.
And, since then, they have come far. They have jobs, they raise families, a mutant sits in the Oval Office. They make themselves special, not by the flashy powers they were born with, but with how they choose to raise their kids and contribute to the community. They were outcasts then, who swore to protect a world that seemed to fear and hate them and often tried to bring them to an end. They met the enemy and it was indeed them.
And with that realization the conflict that divided humanity also came to its end. That is Xavier’s legacy, the fulfillment of his dream The struggle isn’t finished, it will likely never be – but for the sakes of their children they have made a start.