The members of Excalibur stare at the magical hologram of the grinning visage of Necrom, who has just uttered his ultimatum to Rachel. Her choice is simple: relinquish the Phoenix to him or watch her friends die as he compresses the multiverse of all alternative Earths into a singularity.
Nightcrawler touches Rachel’s shoulder, warning her not to let Necrom goad her. He cannot access the Phoenix, while she keeps it in a dormant state. She knows, Rachel replies hesitatingly, but she can’t let them die…
Enough talk! Kylun announces and jumps at the hologram in the fire, swords drawn. If he has to die, he will die fighting! He hits the appearance with his magical blades and they disrupt the projection, actually causing Necrom pain.
Rachel announces that it’s her fault Necrom acquired the potential to control the Phoenix force and now she’s going to have to fight him for it. Nightcrawler disagrees. If Necrom really were powerful enough to warp reality, why has he not made a direct attack? He thinks the villain is bluffing.
Then what’s causing the sudden increase in cross-time images around them? Brian reminds him as he critically stares at an Iron Fist-like Captain fighting ninjas. More cross-time mirages pass, as Kurt insists that Necrom is toying with them. They should take the fight to him! Can Rachel get a fix on him? Rachel apologizes. Something is disrupting her telepathy. Feron gets in her face: if she were truly worthy to host the Phoenix, she would see as he does. Kitty orders him to back off and tell them what he sees.
Feron tells them that Necrom stands on the cliff top overlooking this very lighthouse. What else does he know? Kurt demands. Is it the multiverse converging that has caused Brian to grow so large? He neither knows nor cares, comes the rude reply. He is sworn to destroy the evil one who defiled the Phoenix. He will face him on his own, he announces and flies off over a bunch of robots.
Kylun announces he will protect the boy and follows, seemingly getting into an explosion. Cerise calms Kurt that the mirages have no physical effects on them. The exploding robots are followed by a motorway full of exotic cars. The interfaces are intensifying, Kitty observes, growing more complete.
Cerise announces that Kylun and Feron are safe. They appeared to vanish because they left the area of localized stability created by the fourth-dimensional pulse she’s been monitoring. It’s more focused now. She can confirm Widget is not responsible, Rachel is generating the temporal field. Rachel protests. She’s a telepath. Even with the Phoenix force she cannot manipulate time. That’s not true, Kitty reminds her. While Rachel was in the future she exchanged Kitty’s consciousness with an older version of hers. And somehow she’s moved herself back through time. Of course… she remembers now.
They tried to change their present by altering the past. Mutantkind was doomed. Project Nimrod had perfected a more efficient Sentinel. The X-Men and all the others were dead. It was down to Rachel and Kate – the adult Kitty of her future. They bluffed their way inside into the top secret cyber-robotics complex. They reached the project nerve center before their cover was blown.
Kate tells Rachel that, once the door seals, she is to telekinetically scramble their locks. Their foes will have to blast their way inside. Then what? Rachel asks. The lab is shielded against Kate’s phasing power. They are trapped. She is anyway, Kate replies. She knew that from the start. This is where they part company. Rachel protests she won’t leave Kate. Who said she had a choice? Kate asks and says the codephrase Dark Phoenix.
Something clicks inside Rachel. She feels a surge of power, vast, primal, yet strangely familiar. Then she wakes up in the present, with her memory scrambled.
Rachel assumes Kate must have programmed her with a post-hypnotic command, but why the phrase “Dark Phoenix?” She can’t remember… it’s all so vague!
Kitty tells her to take it easy. She’s beginning to remember. Keeping the Phoenix force dormant has allowed her memory to heal. Maybe it’s restoring some time manipulation power too.
They cannot worry about that now, Kurt decides. They must proceed on the assumption that even if Necrom is not the cause of their situation, he knows enough to take advantage of it. And they must stay together. They cannot risk further confusion. Cerise suggests she can transport the whole group to the surface in a sphere of solid light and proceeds to do so. Kurt tells her to just blast her way to the cellar above. Big Brian would never make it through the doorway.
Meanwhile, outside the Excalibur mushroom/lighthouse, Kylun orders Feron to slow down. He must be wary of Necrom’s power. Even now, the sky is corrupted as the multiverse convergence spreads. Feron orders him to let him go. He isn’t afraid. Because he doesn’t know what Necrom is capable of! Kylun snarls. He enslaved his world, drained the lifeforce from the people… and slew his lover, Sat’neen, comes Necrom’s voice from a cliff towering above them. Is he ready to join his witch queen in death?
Feron fires a mystic blast at him. Is that his best, spawn of Feron? Necrom laughs as he easily holds the blast off and responds with a far more powerful one of his own which Feron can barely deflect.
Meanwhile, a helicopter closes in on the lighthouse, carrying Micromax, Commander Dai Thomas and psychic Aemilia Witherspoon, who warns them that the end of the world may have begun.
Micromax orders the pilot to hold the position and jumps down on Necrom. While he falls, he increases his size and density until he achieves the mass and velocity of a small meteor. The force of the impact drives Necrom into the ground.
Inside the tower, the others heard the noise and felt a tremor, wondering what’s going on. Kitty tries to check the situation out and tries to phase outside but can’t.
Outside, Micromax wakes up after passing out briefly. Triumphantly, he tells himself he did what the Mediators couldn’t – he killed Necrom! No fool, Necrom hisses as he rises again, now furious. He merely caused him pain!
Before Necrom can torture him, Cerise drags Micromax back. Kylun wants to attack but Necrom flies off, announcing that the convergence enters its final phase. He must confront the Phoenix host.
Inside, Kitty is puzzled. She can phase through everything within the lighthouse, but not through the exterior wall. Captain Britain suggests it has something to do with the unique state of the lighthouse. Captain UK told him it exists on every plane of reality simultaneously.
Rachel decides they are wasting time. They should have followed Cerise. Kurt tells her to be patient. They know too little to be able to ignore any clue. Meggan shapeshifts to her true form and explains it’s coming out of the wall. She explains she shifted to see the lights better. The old Neuri called it the Alshra, the spirit plane. She can see lifeforce. Lots of it. It’s all flowing into Brian. The energy matrix that powers all the Captains, he realizes. The convergence must be concentrating the power. And he’s soaking it up. That’s why he’s grown so large.
Meggan adds there is something else, but it’s hard to explain. Kurt asks if Rachel can mindlink them, so he can see through Meggan’s eyes. Rachel apologizes. The static is getting worse.
Alistaire suggests she could bypass the static if Kitty phased them together. He means so that Kurt, Rachel and Meggan’s nervous systems make contact. She can’t phase three people into each other, Kitty protests. Well, it was just an idea, he admits disappointed. And well worth a try, Kurt announces. This reality warp is violating the usual laws of physics. Perhaps they can too.
Kitty phases inside Rachel, enabling Rachel to mindlink with her. It works as they phase into Kurt, then Meggan. This is easy, Kitty realizes. Although they are not so much phased, as merged.
Kurt – or the merged personality – announces that he can see it now: this is why Excalibur was formed. They each possess a unique ability that under the right circumstances combine to form an entity which is greater than the sum of the individuals. Kitty, a phaser, to merge them physically while Rachel links their minds: Kurt a teleporter with an instinctive ability to navigate the complex layers of reality and Meggan who can manipulate her form, the energy it contains… and the energy Brian contains. He is the powerhouse.
But why? he asks To do what? The merged being phases into Captain Britain. To halt the convergence, comes the reply. He’ll understand when they merge. And he does. The energy matrix is the cause. It’s collapsing, the merged being announces to Alistaire, and as it shrinks, it is drawing all the plan of reality together.
Brian… err guys, Alistaire replies, this is all too neat. It can’t be coincidence. Excalibur replies he is right, they know they are being manipulated but the convergence is spreading with geometric precision. They can stop it if they act immediately.
What about Necrom? Alistaire asks. Kylun runs in, shouting that Necrom has entered the lighthouse through the observation dome. He belongs to Kylun!
Excalibur continues that Rachel’s ability to generate a fourth-dimensional pulse will allow them to adjust their temporal frequency and rise through the multiverse. They wish Alistaire goodbye and are gone.
Cerise, Micromax and Feron enter. Cerise asks about Excalibur. He doesn’t really know, Alistaire admits. This is all way over his head.
Without understanding the how and why – like a musician composing a tune by feeling and instinct, Excalibur redirect power absorbed from the matrix back into the energy lattices, stimulating the contracting filaments to a new growth on every plane. And, although all the alternate Earths in the multiverse exist in the same physical space separated only by tiny variations of their vibrational frequency, Excalibur moves so rapidly from one plane to the next, they appear to be passing through a tube that switches from their Earth – Earth 616 – to the fabled realm of Otherworld.
In Otherworld, in Roma’s Starlight Citadel Merlyn has returned five years after his own funeral to reveal that his death was merely a ploy in a cosmic game. Agitated, his daughter Roma demands to know why he deceived her. Could he not trust her?
As he puts a chess piece representing Roma on the chessboard, her father replies that trust was not the issue. It was essential that Necrom should believe he was dead. Who is Necrom? she asks. The sorcerer supreme of his race, Merlyn replies. He was Necrom’s student, so too was the original Feron, the forbear of that hybrid upstart who now bears his name.
It was Necrom who revealed to them the energy created by exchange of exotic particles at every dimensional interface, the doorways between worlds. And when a series of interfaces across the multiverse were aligned, the localized energy fields merged to create an energy matrix of awesome powers. But the alignments were too brief and infrequent to be harnessed. Still, Necrom coveted the power and he was not to be denied.
So it was they travelled to Earth 616 – the prime Earth - to the location of an imminent alignment. The interface was marked with a tower, erected to an elder god by a race that was ancient when Atlantis was young.
Feron played a crucial role in Necrom’s scheme. Decades of meditation and pious asceticism had allowed him to communicate with a celestial elemental, now know as the Phoenix. At the moment of alignment, Feron called down the Phoenix avatar to project the essence of the tower through the multiverse so that it existed in every plane of reality simultaneously like a cosmic lynchpin treaded through the multiverse.
But Necrom had deceived them. The creation of an energy matrix was merely the first phase in a gambit to compress the alternate realities into a singularity. The energy released by this destructive insanity would have empowered Necrom with the power of a god, had he not made one fatal miscalculation. Feron – sustained by the Phoenix – resisted Necrom’s mighty will. As they fought, Merlyn leapt into the seething cauldron of the energy matrix and was swept across the multiverse as he struggled to tame its fury.
Necrom could have easily killed gentle Feron, but instead tore out the portion of the Phoenix force that bonded his student to the avatar, ensuring both would endure great suffering. In agonized confusion, the Phoenix fled to the stars. Necrom bound the stolen Phoenix force with a portion of his own life essence and left it to incubate in a corpse. The creation of the Anti-Phoenix was Necrom’s first play in this current gambit. Then, he vanished into the multiverse.
Feron spent the rest of his life, awaiting the rise of the Anti-Phoenix, hoping to atone for the pain he had caused the Phoenix. His final act was to place his power in the Earth to be claimed by his heir.
In the meantime, Merlyn had mastered the energy matrix and established Otherworld. But always Necrom eluded him, so he created the Captain Britain Corps to patrol the Multiverse and began a counter gambit.
Was all this deception really necessary, Roma asks critically. Could he not have repaired the energy matrix? To do so would have exposed him to an attack from Necrom, Merlyn replies. He had to guard himself. Necrom is a powerful opponent. So he hid, Roma states accusingly. Feigning death while others defended his empire. Should he concern himself with the fat of a few mortals? he asks with a thin-lipped smirk. He is Merlyn. And now the game is nearly done. The threat that Necrom posrd is almost neutralized. He has proved his supremacy!
On Earth 616, where the Excalibur lighthouse stands amid a shifting landscape of alien mirage, Kylun is startled by another crosstime phantom. A moment later, a familiar voice calls him, his beloved Sat’neen. It can’t be! he exclaims. She died!
She gently corrects him that she was only sorely wounded. Her mystic prowess restored her vigor. Is she not the witchqueen of Ee’rath? She walks toward him, assuring him she understands his hesitation, but she is real. She can touch him. She hugs him. He assures her he loves her more than life itself, not seeing that she transforms back to her corpse self, not seeing the greedy hand behind his back, reaching for him. And, he continues, he will not permit her mortal remains to be possessed by this diseased vermin. With this, he strikes Necrom with his blade, actually causing him pain.
Kylun mocks that Necrom cannot be as powerful as he claims to be or wouldn’t need to resort to such a desperate ploy. He has strength enough to kill him, the villain hisses. Necrom threatens that he will soon possess the Phoenix. Its human host must release the power if the convergence is to be halted. But it has stopped, Kylun corrects him. The crosstime phantoms are no more. This cannot be! Necrom swears, the Phoenix is still dormant! His senses reach out and he realizes that it has risen though the multiverse and he must follow. Kylun shouts after him that Necrom must fight him and is ignored. Kylun is left, cradling the remains of his beloved.
Excalibur have finished and have arrived in the last tower, apparently their job is done, even if it all seems a bit anti-climactic. All this muscle and they didn’t get to hit anyone.
Kitty orders them to split up as the circumstances that allowed them to merge are fading fast. So they split and leave the tower. As they see Roma’s starlight citadel in the sky, they realize they are in Otherworld.
Cap tries to get his still bloated form through the doorway and suggests asking Roma why he still hasn’t returned to normal size. Perhaps the crisis isn’t over yet, Kurt suggests. Of course it isn’t, Rachel reminds them they haven’t beaten Necrom yet.
Cue for the villain to arrive. He warns them he will still be triumphant. More bluff, Kitty calls out. No, he will have the Phoenix, he assures them. He orders Rachel to fight him or watch as he drains the life force from her friends.
Rachel accepts. She always knew it would come to this. Kurt tries to hold her back, but telekinetically she stops him from using a nerve pinch on her. She thanks him for caring enough to try. There must be another way, he pleads. She tells them Necrom is desperate. He’s hurt. Dying. He has nothing to lose. And he’s an energy vampire. He needs only make physical contact to kill. He’s bound to get at least one of them… she couldn’t live with that.
But she might destroy her memory forever, Kitty points out. Their future is more important than her past, Rachel assures her. She is Phoenix! she shouts as she accesses the Phoenix force. She’s accepted the power and now it’s time to prove she is worthy of it! With a single thought, Rachel is transformed as the cosmic avatar she hosts erupts from its psychic confines.
In the same searing instant, she bids her friends a telepathic farewell, so they share the moment of glorious elation that is engulfed by a sick emptiness as the surging celestial force shatters their teammate’s memory into a mist of splintered reminiscence.
Still, Rachel ignores her loss. Her mind is focused on the present… on the battle she must fight. She telekinetically blasts Necrom, who calls her an overconfident fool. He slams her to the ground. Using Phoenix energy himself, he tells her the moment she drew on the Phoenix she allowed him to draw on its potential and, although he possesses only a fraction of its essence, he knows how to utilizes this.
Utilize this! Captain Britain tells him as he slams him away. Necrom gets ready to kill the members of Excalibur, giving Rachel the strength to rejoin the battle. She has no desire to see friends die again. Her blast actually hurts Necrom. He lashes out in rage.
Rachel realizes that he’s completely out of control, intoxicated with power. Even though he’s firing wildly, he’ll eventually hit the others. She grabs him with her Phoenix wings and flies the two of them away through a stargate leading to a long dead area of the universe. She silently wonders how she created the gate and was it her or the Phoenix? Either way, it’s giving her an advantage.
She slams the completely disoriented Necrom down and slams thousand tons of fossilized city on him. Confident of her victory, Rachel swoops down through the airless void. There is no sound or movement, yet some other sense alerts her to danger. And, although she halts her descent, scant seconds before the planet’s surface is vaporized, she cannot avoid the irresistible jet of magma that Necrom directs at her.
She flies away, sensing something broken inside her. She can taste blood. She realizes she underestimated her foe. As she flies though the cosmos, he follows. She decides to let him believe she’s running to hide among these asteroids. She telekinetically redirects their momentum and lets them hit him. Is that her best effort? he mocks. She wields the Phoenix like a clumsy tool!
A moment later, Rachel is horrified to see him throwing moons at her. Suddenly, she feels herself growing heavier and pulled as the gas planet’s gravity increases. She breaks free, realizing Necrom ignited the planet and turned it into a sun, just to incinerate her.
Necrom follows, announcing she cannot keep running. Has he not shown her she cannot stand against his superior skill? She’s a quick learner, Rachel retorts and tells him to eat solar flare as she steers the sun’s energy against him. Enraged by her mocking he devastates the entire solar system.
She cannot channel that level of power, Rachel realizes. And she doesn’t think Necrom can either. Or he would make a direct attack, instead of striking at her through their surroundings. He’s still manipulating her.
She flies directly him and physically hits him. Necrom mocks that her primitive instincts betray her. Like a beast sensing defeat, she resorts to futile physical attack and in doing so has delivered the Phoenix to him. All he needs do is drain her life force and the Phoenix essence that is bound to it will follow.
And he begins to drain her. But actually that’s what Rachel counted on. He realizes something goes wrong as the power becomes too much. The Phoenix isn’t power itself, but it has the ability to tap into the elemental forces of the universe and they are near infinite. Rachel knew Necrom wanted it all, so she willed the Phoenix to give it to him. And Necrom explodes into a cloud of discorporated atoms that are blown into infinity as the Phoenix reunited with its stolen essence flares in majestic celebration.
When the dazzling brilliance fades, a new harmony spreads through the tortured ether and nothing remains to mark the battle except the debris of a shattered solar system and a frail human form. For long instants, it hangs lifelessly in the cold dark vacuum. Then, with a searing flash it vanishes… to reappear on Otherworld.
The others run to Rachel, who, while physically undamaged, seems to be comatose. Kitty wonders why suddenly she is wearing the original green Phoenix costume instead of her own.
Suddenly, Roma appears, announcing that she has returned their friend to them, but she is afraid she has no knowledge of what ails her. The Phoenix guards her from Roma’s perceptions.
What the devil is going on? Cap demands. Necrom is dead, the power play is over, comes the reply. Another person begins to appear next to Roma. With just one casualty. A most excellent conclusion, Merlyn announces. He had anticipated that Necrom would kill at least two of Excalibur’s number. It surprised him that Rachel Summers should sacrifice so much in the name of friendship. Still, every gambit has its rogue element.
Roma looks down at his words, apparently ashamed, while Cap cries out angrily that he is alive. Most assuredly, Merlyn replies with a smirk. His death was a ploy. An immortal does not simply die of old age. He require a period of anonymity. His daughter was a more than adequate caretaker in his absence. Roma silently glares.
He continues how gently she nurtured the formation of their group, honing their crude powers with subtle persuasion such as the cross-time-caper. During that affair, they were all acclimatized to the ravages of unprotected cross-time transit, while Rachel was unconsciously exercising her temporal control. A clever ploy, capably executed, but not fully successful, which is why he required to do a small level of fine-tuning. So it was he who masqueraded as Myrd, Brian shouts accusingly.
Yes, Merlyn agrees, the possession incident was necessary to prepare their psyches for the recent merge. The event was pure fantasy played out in the subconscious mind of Alistaire Stuart.
He changes shape to the small old man Myrd. It amused him to play a role. He was Myrd and… he changes again… “wise old” Merlyn of legend… another change… and later on Otherworld an old chess player.
Enraged, Kurt calls him a smug swine. What gave him the right to use them? His power, Merlyn replies unphazed and the threat Necrom posed to his energy matrix.
While he speaks, Roma, Meggan and Captain Britain exchange meaningful looks. Necrom would have misused the power, had he gained control of it, Merlyn continues.
Meggan grips Brian’s hugely enlarged hand and begins to absorb the excess matrix energy that bloats his giant form. As Brian shrinks back to normal proportions, Meggan metabolizes the enormous power, then discharges it as a tightly focused beam of devastating force into a single square centimeter at the base of the tower wall. A minute crack appears. It expands rapidly, growing numerous branches that spread into a splintering web. And across every plane of reality the tower in all its diverse forms disintegrates.
Merlyn scowls. They have destroyed everything! Without the tower the alignment will pass. The energy matrix will fade. They knew that, Captain Britain explains. He implanted in them the knowledge needed to protect his primate power source. That same knowledge showed them how to destroy it.
With a curse, energy glinting around Merlyn’s outstretched arms, he gets ready to retaliate. But Roma steps between him and Excalibur and calmly orders “no”.
Merlyn’s energy disperses. Impatient, he turns around telling her she is right. Those fools are not worth the energy it would take to put them out of his misery. And energy will be scarce without the matrix. He disappears.
Kitty announces she doesn’t trust that sleazebag. Kurt agrees. They haven’t heard the last from him. Her father is her concern, Roma replies. Now they must return home. She gestures and they appear in front of Braddock Manor.
This isn’t home, Brian states instinctively. It is if the want a comfy bed for the night, come the voice of Alistaire Stuart who explains that their lighthouse went kabloeey. How did he get here? Kurt asks. They are all here, Alistaire explains, all who were at the lighthouse. They had a warning to get clear. Actually it was more like an irresistible impulse. So thy piled into the plane and came here. What form did this warning take? Kurt asks.
While Brian gently picks up Rachel, Meggan explains that Roma warned everyone in or near a tower on all the alternate earths. She didn’t want anyone hurt when Meggan blew up the tower. She means Roma made her destroy the tower? Kurt asks agitated. She is still manipulating them? No, she asked, Meggan replies. It was their choice, Brian agrees. Roma knew Merlyn had to be stopped so she gave them the means to stop him. That’s why he retained the matrix power he had absorbed.
Roma explained her plan to Meggan and he via telepathy, as Kurt argued with Merlyn. But she left the choice to them. How can he be so sure? Kurt asks Brian as he follows him. Roma had trusted her father, but he had lied to her, Brian replies. She regretted what she had done to them. He wishes he had his faith, Kurt sighs.
Brian believes they can trust Roma. She wanted them to have a fresh start as free agents. The manipulations are over. They’re nobody’s pawns now. And as he says that they cross the checkered ground of the patio looking very much like a chessboard…