Scott Summers gazes out to the horizon with his naked brown eyes, unencumbered by ruby-quartz lenses. His countenance is one of both wonder… and sadness. He takes a moment to look down at his visor, which he holds in his right hand. Behind him, Jean finishes dressing, pulling on her Phoenix costume’s yellow glove. As he places the visor back over his eyes, Jean reaches around his waist, hugging herself closely against his back. Coldly, he tells her she can let go now.
Immediately, Jean realizes his meaning, and remarks that she forgot she was holding him in. Forgot…, Cyclops repeats. When she asks if it is very different without them, Scott replies that there’s the blue. He sees blue, but it’s tinged… Everything’s tinged with red. But now… Well, he knows she really is a redhead… And a natural redhead too, Jean adds. That as well, he confirms.
Looking out over the horizon, over the desert landscape, the two stand on a rock formation, high above the desert floor. Watching the sunset, Jean asks Scott if she made him sad. He replies that she didn’t. He doesn’t mind the way he sees things. He just… he always has to think about it. About keeping the force from breaking free, from disintegrating these glasses and just blasting. He wonders if it got out of control… would it still only come from his eyes?
It won’t get the better of him, Jean reassures him. Taking Jean’s cheek in his hand, Scott leans in close. He tells her he just wants her to understand about power that has to be controlled. Realizing his double-meaning, Jean smiles. Oh, sweetie, are you really comparing… Scott, love, she continues, you’re just a man.
I’m Phoenix, “Jean” replies. Knowing full well that this is actually an illusion created by Emma, Scott replies quickly and directly. “You have to be @#$%ing kidding.”
Appearing in every way to be Jean in her yellow and green Phoenix costume – or more accurately, the original Phoenix entity’s original costume – Emma’s now-red hair dances with flames. Oh, Scott, the faux Jean smirks, don’t you want a little taste… As she reaches out to him, Scott blocks her hand, with a cold demeanor.
Undeterred, Emma leans back, clasping her hands behind her back and raising her shoulders in a seductive manner. She doesn’t mind, you know, she tells him. She knows that he thinks about her. How good she could be. How bad she could be. To punctuate this, the yellow and green Phoenix costume transitions into the yellow and red costume of the Dark Phoenix.
Turning his back, Scott tells Emma that he doesn’t like games. No, she agrees. He’s Scott Summers. He likes homework and vegetables. But he does play games with her. When Jean was alive, he loved their games. Turning to face her at this, Scott counters that he never touched her while… Is that how he makes it work, she asks. Because their trysts were psychic, they don’t count? His conscience is clear? No, it’s not, he replies.
“Well. Truth. Let’s play at that, shall we,” Emma replies with Jean’s lips, as she places Jean’s arms around Scott’s neck. Truth. This doesn’t work for him at all? To have Jean… a Jean who’ll do absolutely anything he wants? He couldn’t control her. She was out of his league, is she wrong? He held her and wished, wished he could be everything she… Leaning in for the kiss, Emma finishes her sentence with her own lips. “…you wished you could be…”
Locked in the kiss, the image of Jean is gone, replaced with her own, true form. Scott, however, no longer wears his own image, but that of Logan’s. Almost sensing something amiss, Scott opens his eyes and sees himself and Emma in a nearby mirror – seeing that the image of Logan kissing Emma is reflected. Shocked and angered, Scott breaks the kiss and backs away, looking down at the body of Logan which he is wearing. You sick bitch, he tells her.
Oh, stop hiding, Scott, Emma tells him. You know you thought of being him… the one everyone remembers. The poster child for mutant cool. The love of her life. Incensed at Emma’s actions and words, Scott strikes with Wolverine’s claws, impaling her through her chest and out her back. Emma lands safely on their bed, unhurt, at least physically. Glancing back at Scott with cold eyes, Emma calls him a poor puppy and asks if he doesn’t remember. He doesn’t have any claws. Looking down at his body, Scott sees that his old form has returned.
Nicholas Gleason, known to the rest of his class as Wolf Cub, sits alone in the television room of the Xavier Institute, watching a late night program. Suddenly, his quiet viewing is ended as a naked Kitty involuntarily phases from her room above. She lands with a scream on the floor behind Nicholas’ couch, immediately shouting, “Oh my God!” Grabbing the blanket which had been lying across the back of the couch, Kitty uses it to cover herself and then runs up the steps, back to her room, much to the amazement of Nicholas and Pixie, whom she passes on the steps while yelling once again, “Oh my God!”
Running back to her room, Kitty is greeted by a half-naked Piotr, who asks her if she is all right. Swearing once again, she excitedly tells Piotr that she phased! Ignoring that, Piotr asks her again if she is all right. Are you? she asks, looking up into his eyes. It was strange, he admits. She can’t believe she phased just then! That’s never… It was totally his fault. Closing the door, Piotr remarks that he likes to think so, yes. Tee hee, Kitty replies from behind the door.
In their own room, Emma sits on hers and Scott’s bed, while Scott sits on the bed’s edge. It’s a simple question, Scott, she tells him. Jean was his favorite. He sensed her potential, even then. And he’s always been partial to psychics. He’d never admit it, but he thinks they’re a bit… above. Hank is a genius, and terribly good with people. Warren looked like a god. Why? Moving her lips to Scott’s ear, she tells him the answer. “Because you had nothing else.”
Rising to his feet, followed by Emma, Scott tells her that this isn’t about them anymore. And she has no idea… Interrupting him, Emma tells Scott that, if he hears one thing in this room that isn’t a little bit true, he should walk right out. Terse-lipped, Scott asks her what is she is trying to achieve? To pull him apart? It’s been done. Often and with ease, she rejoins. In actual answer, she tells Scott that she’s trying to find him. And she’s shared his bed long enough to have that right.
Continuing, she tells him that he’s never trusted her, bunkmates or no. After they followed Danger to Genosha, it got just a little bit worse. But the Professor… he really let him down. And he’s close to the core, isn’t he? The one whose judgment he could always trust. The one who chose him. Taking this in, Scott sits down at his desk.
Scott sits on a footstool, with Professor Charles Xavier sitting before him in his wheelchair. He tells Scott that he’s a very special person. He doesn’t know it yet, but he is.
You’ve seen leaders, Scott, Emma tells him. They make themselves known. They can’t help it. The one time he had to defend his title, he lost it. To Storm. Potentially the most powerful team on Earth and Xavier gave him the top position… out of pity. Because he thought he’d wash out if he didn’t get a little boost.
Kneeling down before the sitting Scott, Emma takes him by the chin. “And you did well, my darling!” she tells him. He led the team – he even got the girl! But he knew. How Xavier felt. How the world saw him… It’s so hard to hold onto something you know you don’t deserve. The X-Men never cohered, never won the world’s approbation. And Jean, God, she wouldn’t stop dying on him. He had no control. Control. First to last, that’s the thing. “Are you ready to go to the bug room?” she asks him.
In orbit, the SWORD space station, the Peak, hums with activity, as shuttles and other craft scurry about. Within the station, movements of a more strategic nature take place. “And how sure are we about this?” Special Agent Brand asks. Well, it’s precog stuff, Agent Deems replies. So there’s always… How sure, Brand interrupts. Zero dissent, she is told.
Turning to the third at their table, the alien Sydren, she asks him if he’s catching any of this. Leaning over the same documents as Brand and Deems, Sydren corrects her that he doesn’t read the future, but he’s sniffed the precogs and he ssssmells certainty. And terror. Yeah, Brand replies. That’s going around.
Continuing, she asks why now. Why do they all see it now? They’ve gotta figure it’s temporal, Deems opines. That it’s imminent. And if their guys have picked it up, Brand continues, the Breakworld… They closed down communication sixteen hours ago, Deems interrupts.
For decades, they get a little psychic tickle that a mutant, an X-Man, is going to destroy their world. They can’t narrow it down, so they send that thud, Ord, to neutralize the mutants in toto. He’s failed, and he was their version of subtle. Now that they have a name and a date… this is gonna be big ugly.
Okay, Brand says resolvedly. Who’s the lucky winner? He was wondering when she as going to ask, Agent Deems tells her. Holding out the folder so that she can see the photo therein, Deems tells Agent Brand to meet the destroyer of worlds.
The Bug Room is filled with scarlet light and walls with slime dripping down. The ceiling is high above Emma and Scott, but is barely high enough for the several giant bugs, which sit vertically against the walls. They possess segmented bodies, antennas and large, red faceted eyes. Their lower legs prop then against he wall, while their upper legs rest against their lower torso in disuse.
As Scott looks around the room, Emma examines three in particular. She informs Scott that this is his little private hell, courtesy of Cassandra Nova. Hers is much more upscale – he should come find her sometime. In response to this, Scott replies that he’ll fail her… He can’t control it. Turning to her lover, Emma places her hand on his shoulder. Control what, dear? Emma asks. His power? It’s his great set-back, isn’t it? The source of all his extraordinary self-doubt. Every great leader revels in his power, however judiciously he uses it. But his… he fears it. He resents it.
Illustrating her point, Emma projects an image of Scott and Alex, as young boys falling to the ground with a parachute, which is consumed by flames above them. Continuing, Emma tells Scott that, ever since him and his pesky brother had that fall… he’s been unable to control it. Living in constant, rigid terror of harming someone with it. It’s hard to live with. But not as hard as the real truth. Motioning further down the corridor, Emma tells Scott that it’s the last stop.
The scene is different. No longer the Bug Room, it is a medical ward, with a lone bed set against a massive window. However, the window provides no view to the boy sitting in the bed, his arms wrapped around his knees in an almost fetal position, as his eyes are bandaged. Regarding the little boy, a much younger Scott Summers, Emma tells the current Scott that Jean never saw this. Xavier, Nova – they missed it because he made it disappear. Everything he is, and everything he isn’t, hinges on this moment.
As the boy they are watching continues to sit in unmoving silence, Emma tells Scott that the world is a terrifying place for some children. That lack of control, that fear of abandon… it was always in him. The only way to be sure he would always, always hold himself together… was impossible not to. Concluding her point, Emma asks Scott the question: “What is that boy doing, my love?”
Without hesitation or taking his eyes off his younger self, Scott answers. “Deciding.”
Her answer given, Emma leans into Scott’s cheek and kisses it, even as a single tear slides down from under his ruby-quartz glasses. “You can let go now,” she tells him.
As dawn breaks over the Xavier Institute, Logan enjoys a solitary breakfast of cold cereal in the kitchen. Suddenly, his quiet breakfast is interrupted by the arrival of Piotr and Kitty, who enter the kitchen. Logan is greeted with a simple “morning” from Kitty, though he doesn’t respond in kind. Instead, he takes a moment to regard her with a raised eyebrow, followed by an equal inquisitive examination of Piotr. Solving his silent mystery, Logan returns his attention to his bowl of cereal, remarking, “’Bout time.”
Trying her best to get past the awkwardness of the situation, Kitty quickly changes the subject and opens a cabinet, asking Piotr if he wants some coffee. The obviously embarrassed Piotr replies with a Russian “da” and then asks if they are the first up.
Elsewhere in the Institute, Hank McCoy is indeed awake, hunched over his computer terminal in examination and Hrrming to himself. Sensing someone else entering the lab, he calls out to her, thinking it is Emma. He tells her he’s glad she’d up; she might be interested in this… However, Hank quickly realizes his mistake, as he finally looks up to see the identity of the woman entering the lab. It is Cassandra Nova, with staring blue eyes and blood-red lips which are curled in an evil grin.
There’s so much you thought you could never face, Emma tells Scott. The decision not to try to control his power, to let it be his demon. Too shameful to remember, so he let it eat his life up instead. But he’s past it now, she tells him. And all he had to defeat, all he had to let go of… was himself.”
Sitting on the bed, Scott looks at the open door, through which Emma has now departed. However, his eyes are now vacant, as well as naked. In his left hand are his ruby-quartz glasses, no longer needed. Scott himself, however, is not able to enjoy this moment, as his expression is as vacant as his eyes. Barely able to prop himself up on one arm, Scott drools – his mental faculties no longer under his own control.
While Scott is left alone in his mentally weakened state, Emma’s words linger in the air. “You’re free, my love… You’re free.”