In a world that hates and fears them, Professor Charles Xavier and his X-men use their extraordinary powers for good. Over the years they have faced many grave threats from many malicious enemies. Now they find themselves confronted by a threat like no other and lying at the heart of it is their friend and fellow X-man, Jean Grey.
After volatile encounters with Magneto and Proteus left her psychic powers unstable, Jean developed a series of migraines that turned into bizarre surges. When it got to be too much, the X-men enlisted help from a man named Jason Wyngarde. But he only made it worse by handing her over to the Inner Circle. There, she was used in a ceremony that summoned the Phoenix Force, an entity of great power that claims to have been connected to her for much of her life. Upon overtaking her body, the Phoenix used her to feed an insatiable hunger for new sensations.
In a desperate act to reach their friend, Charles Xavier used Cerebro and the M’krann Crystal they obtained from the Inner Circle to contact her. The results left Cerebro in ruin, but he managed to draw Jean and the Phoenix back from the recesses of deep space. Now she is coming home and the X-men are on their way to confront her. But the question remains. How will they be able to fight their beloved friend and teammate?
Aboard X-jet – Over New Jersey
There was a surreal mood aboard the X-jet as the team prepared for what was sure to be a difficult, heart-wrenching mission. It didn’t take much to rouse everyone from their rest. The explosion in Cerebro was more than sufficient. As soon as they heard from Scott that Xavier made contact with Jean, they gathered in the hanger. They were still in their uniforms from earlier and despite being far from full strength, they got on the jet and took off.
It was a short but tense flight. Hank and Ororo watched over the wounded Professor while Scott and Logan flew the jet in the cockpit. Despite his condition, he insisted on coming for this. As long as there was still a breath in his body, he would continue to fight for Jean. His dedication was admirable even if it worried the others. Bobby, Warren, Rogue, Kitty, Remy, and Kurt hadn’t been given the full story so they weren’t sure what to expect. They just knew the Professor had a plan and it involved the M’krann crystal, which they had loaded with them.
“So Jean’s coming home,” mused Warren as he gazed out the window, “Wish I could say she’s in for a pleasant homecoming, but that’s not possible even with cosmic power.”
“Tell me about it. If she shows up and her father is home, then we’re in even more trouble if that’s even possible,” said Bobby, who knew part of Jean’s story as well.
“That, we’re hoping to avoid,” said Hank, “I gave John Grey a call. I didn’t give him too many details. I just told him that he needed to go somewhere far away for the next few hours. He also made a few calls to the neighbors. They’ve all been evacuated. They think there was a chemical spill and had to leave until it is cleaned up.”
“That’s probably the nicest thing he’s ever done,” said Bobby cynically, “If he’s smart and sober he’ll hop on the next plane to Fiji.”
“Is it really that bad?” asked Kitty.
“Trust me, Kitty, it’s bad,” said Warren, “Jean coming home is sure to bring back some bad memories. If we’re lucky, they won’t drive the Phoenix into a homicidal rage.”
His tone was grim. Kitty, Kurt, Rogue, and Remy were among those who didn’t know much about Jean’s background. They knew she came from some unpleasant circumstances, but they didn’t know the full story. If it was as bad as they described, then the Phoenix may be in for just as much a shock as them.
“Guess I’ll have to take your word for it,” said Kitty, “Jean never talks much about her hometown. She talks even less about her family.”
“I’m sure she has her reasons,” said Kurt, having some empathy for parent issues, “Our encounter vith her cousin certainly doesn’t paint a rosy picture.”
“Believe it or not, Madelyne didn’t give Jean a half as many reasons to be upset as her father,” said Warren.
“Reasons aside, daddy issues ain’t gonna make this any easier,” added Rogue.
“When do they ever?” quipped Remy, “But how much worse can it get? If that scene at Hellfire Manor be any indication, there got to be limits.”
“Oh I assure you, Remy. It can get worse…much worse,” said the Professor, who was lying restlessly on a medical table near the back of the jet.
The team was surprised to hear the Professor’s voice. He was still injured and dazed after what happened with Cerebro. Hank bandaged some of his injuries and give him some pain killers, but he definitely looked as though he needed to be back at the infirmary.
“Please Charles, conserve your strength,” coaxed Ororo.
“I’m fine, Ororo.”
“No, Charles, you most assuredly aren’t!” said Hank in a more serious tone, “For all I know you could have internal injuries that need to be treated in a hospital.”
“I’ll worry about my injuries later. Now that I know what we’re dealing with, I need to be here. I need to tell you what I experienced.”
“And vhat did you experience, Professor?” asked Kurt curiously.
“Besides several million dollars worth of damage to advanced electronics,” assed Warren.
“Ah sure hope it was worth risking your neck like this!” said Rogue, sharing some of Hank’s criticism.
“Oh it most certainly was,” he replied strongly.
All the attention was on the Professor now. He continued to ignore Ororo’s urges for him to rest, rising up so that he was in an upright position. This way he could best address his students. The Inner Circle gave them an inaccurate picture. The truth was much more ominous.
“What I saw revealed the true grandeur of the Phoenix Force,” he told his students, “Contrary to what Selene told us, the Phoenix is not uniquely tied to her or Jean. She is merely the latest in a long line of psychic beings that this entity has taken over.”
“You mean this thing has possessed other people?” said Kitty.
“Somehow Ah think someone would have noticed if this happened before,” said Rogue.
“I never said it happened on Earth, Rogue,” the Professor went on, “The Phoenix is not restricted to taking humans. It is able to consume any being with psychic potential.”
“Wait…so we’re dealing with aliens again?” said Warren anxiously.
“We may have…if the Phoenix hadn’t destroyed every race it ever came across,” said the Professor ominously.
The Professor paused for a moment, letting the gravity of this notion sink in. It did not bode well for Jean or the whole planet for that matter. The Phoenix was more than capable of destroying entire races. What made it all the more disturbing was the process that fueled this madness.
“It...kills entire races? Why the hell would it do that?!” exclaimed Bobby.
“Since when do folk with god-like powers need reasons?” made Remy.
“It has less to do with reason and more to do with how the Phoenix works,” Xavier went on, “When I used the M’krann Crystal to reach Jean, I got a glimpse into it’s history. I learned that the Phoenix goes in a cycle, seeking beings of a certain psychic potential. When she finds one, she reaches out to them. Sometimes the being embraces it. Sometimes they resist. Either way, it all ends the same. The Phoenix takes over their mind and body.”
“But vhat vould a being of such power have to gain by doing so?” asked Kurt.
“That’s the truly terrifying part,” said the Professor ominously, “The Phoenix doesn’t just seek these hosts. It needs them to feed this ravenous hunger for mortal sensations. Somehow it has become addicted to the sensations mortals experience when they wield it’s power.”
“Just what we need, a cosmic level drug addict,” muttered Rogue, “And you guys say cigarettes are dangerous.”
“But as we’ve learned with Proteus, when frail beings become immersed in god-like power they become corrupted. Kevin MacTaggart was just a boy, but when wielded such power he went on a murderous rampage. Now Jean is consumed by a power that has the potential to obliterate entire planets.”
“But…Jean wouldn’t do that!” exclaimed Bobby.
“Yeah, she’s stronger than that! She would never let it go that far!” said Warren.
“Jean is strong, but she is still human. This vast power has already begun to corrupt her. As she gives in, the Phoenix will feed off her sensations until her mind and body are quite literally burned out. Once she fades, the Phoenix fades as well and is reborn with the same ravenous hunger. I can’t say how long this horrible cycle has been going on or how many innocent lives have been lost, but it’s safe to say that number is incomprehensible.”
The stakes were unimaginably high. This was beyond fighting for peace between humans and mutants. This was beyond stopping a war that could consume the world. This was about saving everything and everybody from being snuffed out by a cosmic power. It was hard to contemplate. It was even harder to accept that they would have to fight Jean to get through this. As much as they all wanted to save her, there was no getting around the power they were up against. The Phoenix was a force that was practically god-like. Confronting it was going to be demanding on a level beyond anything for which they had trained.
“So there really ain’t any middle ground with this. If we lose, everybody loses,” said Remy.
“Yes, I would certainly say that is the case,” said Hank grimly.
“Does zhat mean there’s no room to save Jean?” said Kurt anxiously.
“There’s always room, Kurt,” said Xavier strongly, “But even if there is a way to stop it, there may not be a way to do so and save Jean in the process.”
“So we’re just going to sacrifice her?!” exclaimed Bobby.
“It’s her or everybody, Bobby! And Ah do mean everybody!” retorted Rogue.
“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try!”
“We will,” said Xavier strongly, “Phoenix or no Phoenix I will not let Jean go without a fight.”
His tone was determined, but still racked with uncertainty. This did not bode well for their chances, but the X-men were accustomed to long odds.
“He’s right, Bobby. And as overwhelming it may be, we do have a plan,” said Ororo, giving the Professor a brief rest”
“Hope it involves more than just praying,” muttered Rogue.
“Hank and I have been in touch with Forge and Moria on Muir Island,” Ororo explained, “They’ve agreed to lend their assistance. Forge is already on his way and will meet us at Jean’s house shortly.”
“They’re bringing the device Forge created to help Kevin,” said Hank, “He’s made some adjustments and says it may be able to contain the Phoenix’s powers.”
“You’re talking about the same gizmo that turned Kevin into Proteus. How is that not going to make this worse?” said Kitty dryly.
“Forge says he’s worked the kinks out…most of them anyways,” said Hank.
“You’re not giving us much confidence, Herr McCoy,” said Kurt.
“Believe me, if we had a better means we would use it. As it stands now, this device is our best bet at stopping the Phoenix.”
“Hell, we might have better odds if we stick to praying!” quipped Rogue.
“You do remember that Proteus ended up using this machine to kill himself, don’t you?” reminded Warren, “What’s to stop the Phoenix from doing the same?”
“That’s where we come in,” said Xavier strongly, “It’s not enough to just confront the Phoenix. We need to have Jean confront it with us. Like it or not, she is the key stopping this. We need to stand by her every step of the way.”
“You make it sound as though we’re fully up to this,” said Kitty distantly.
“Zhat’s assuming we have a choice, Kitty,” said Kurt.
Nobody truly felt ready for this, but nobody contemplated walking away from it either. X-men didn’t leave other X-men behind. Jean was one of them. They were going to help her even if this hastily assembled plan they laid out didn’t sound too promising.
“What about the M’krann crystal thing? Where does that come into play?” asked Warren.
“That is something else we’ve worked out with Forge,” said Hank, “Since his device needs power and the crystal is the only source capable of affecting the Phoenix, I’ve salvaged some equipment from Cerebro with which to channel it.”
“We may end up having to use it in other ways as well,” said the Professor, “We’re going to need every resource we can spare at this point.”
“The way that thing keeps glowing, it better do more than attract bugs,” said Rogue.
“As it stands, our connection to Jean is still our best weapon. We must use it fully if we’re to end this without ending everything we hold dear.”
Plenty of insecurities surrounding this mission lingered, but there was no turning back. They were going to confront this power. Either they would triumph or literally everything would be destroyed. For the rest of the trip, the whole team was going to have to struggle to wrap that notion around their minds.
While the X-men mentally prepared themselves, Professor Xavier fell short of breath again. The pain killers were wearing off. Hank and Ororo helped keep him upright, but it was clear just how hard he was pushing himself.
“Hang in there, Charles,” said Ororo, “Remember, we’re doing this together. You don’t have to bear the full burden.”
“I’m trying not to, Ororo. But after what I saw in the Phoenix it’s just…overwhelming,” he said, still short of breath.
“Try to maintain perspective, old friend. Overwhelming it may be, this is still Jean,” said Hank, “If nothing else, we must continue to have faith in her.”
“I do have faith in her, Hank. It’s our mortal limitations against an immortal force that has me most concerned.
The Professor was growing increasingly anxious. Hank gave him some more pain killers while Ororo helped him lay back down. He knew he wouldn’t be able to rest long. They were almost at their destination and the Phoenix was drawing closer with each passing second.
Up in the cockpit, Scott and Logan their mentor’s urgency. They overheard much of the conversation in the back. They had equally strong feelings about this plan. Needless to say, they had doubts to go along with their frustrations.
“Chuck’s plan stinks,” grunted Logan, “I think that overload with Cerebro short circuited a few brain cells.”
“Normally I would defend the Professor’s plans, but this time even I can’t justify this,” said Scott flatly, “I can’t believe we’re actually going to attack her using that god-forsaken machine we used on Kevin!”
“That hunk of junk killed him,” added Logan.
“You think I don’t know that? Our options are limited, Logan! By all accounts, this isn’t going to end well. Especially not for Jean!”
“So why are we whining about it and not doing anything?”
“If I knew a way we wouldn’t be having this conversation now, would we?” said the X-leader, gripping the controls in frustration, “This is all we have to work with. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s a backup plan. I still believe I can reach Jean. If she can regain control…”
His words trailed off, but his tone revealed so many doubts. He was clinging to the faintest of hope. It only made him more frustrated.
“There’s gotta be something more we can do,” grunted Logan.
“Believe me, I’ve been trying to think of something since we passed over Newark,” said Scott, trying to stay calm.
“Well we better think harder. We’re already heading into her least favorite part of memory lane. If this Phoenix crap doesn’t push her over the edge, being in this god-awful place sure as hell will!”
“You don’t know the half of it, Logan,” said Scott as he saw Jean’s old neighborhood in the distance.
“So what the hell are we gonna do if this shit doesn’t work and Jeannie goes nuclear? Have you allowed yourself to even contemplate that, bub?” asked Logan in a harsh tone.
“It doesn’t matter either way. As long as I’m still breathing, I’ll be there for her. That’s what you do for someone you love. You stand by them even during the worst of times.”
Scott swallowed so many burning emotions as he took the jet down and prepared to land. Logan looked back into the passenger area, signaling that were nearing their destination. If this fateful place evoked the kind of memories they suspected, then they wee all in for a difficult homecoming.
St. Claremont Mental Hospital – Seven Years Ago
‘Need my pills! Need my pills! The elves are attacking again!’
‘Daddy went to Satan. Told Mommy the angels killed her. Now I have to kill them.’
‘The CIA put a chip in my head! The aliens used my eyes as cameras! Now the monsters are hiding outside! They’re coming to get me!’
In the dark halls of the troubled patients wing, these were the thoughts echoing from the minds of the mentally ill. These thoughts, as twisted as they may be, were contained within the minds of these disturbed patients. But for Jean Grey, these deranged thoughts seeped into her already vulnerable mind.
“I can’t take it anymore! Make it stop! Make the voices stop!” she cried out as she sat curled up on her bed clutching her head.
“Shut up in there!” yelled one of the wards, “Don’t make me gag you again!”
The distraught young girl continued to cry and tremble, closing her eyes and trying desperately to shut these voices out. As if she wasn’t struggling enough before her father threw her in this horrible place, her sanity was being pushed to the limit. With every passing day, her resolve dwindled. These doctors couldn’t help her. Her father couldn’t help her. Nobody could help her.
Lying back on her bed, she closed her eyes and tried to shut it all out. Tears kept streaming down her face as she kept clutching her head. The voices kept getting louder and louder. She didn’t have the strength to fight them off. As the pressure kept building, she found herself yelling out with her thoughts in desperation.
‘So weak…so tired…I’m not strong enough! I...I need help! SOMEBODY HELP ME!’
For a moment, it appeared her desperate cry would go unanswered just like every other. But to her astonishment, someone or something responded.
“Who’s there?!” gasped Jean, shooting up in her bed in confusion.
‘Shh, don’t be afraid Jean. I’ve heard your cries. I’m here to answer them. I can give you the help you need.’
Scared and confused, the young girl looked around her confined cell. This voice was powerful, booming inside her head in a ways that overshadowed every other voice she had been hearing. It was intimidating, yet comforting. It was as if this voice had with it the strength she lacked.
“Who…who are you? Where are you?” she asked nervously.
‘Who I am is not important. Where I am…well, that’s a bit more complicated. I am far, far away. But I can still reach you. I can still give to you the power you need to overcome your sorrow. Everything that has ever caused you pain…everything that has ever made you weak…I can make it all go away.’
It all sounded too good to be true. Jean continued clutching her head. Then something even stranger happened. Before her very eyes, she saw a small bird-shaped figure made of fire. It appeared to her as a ghost and hovered just a few inches in front of her face, offering a strange yet comforting warmth. Had she finally lost it? Had her sanity completely abandoned her? Nothing seemed right anymore.
However, something about this presence seemed right. She found herself reaching out and taking the small flame in the palm of her hand. From there, a new connection was forged.
“This…this is a dream. This has to be a dream,” cried Jean, whimpering on the bed.
‘I assure you it’s very real. I may not be there now, but having heard your cries I will seek you out. You need me and I need you.’
“How…how can you help me?”
‘Do not concern yourself with such matters. For now, leave me within the back of your mind and I shall guide you. You won’t even realize I’m there. It will all make sense in due time. I am on my way. And I arrive, it will all make sense for the both of us.’
Grey Family Home - Present Time
“This…this doesn’t make sense.”
From the far reaches of deep space, the Phoenix soared through space and time to find herself back to this small planet known as Earth. Guided by the mysterious call, she followed the whims of Jean Grey to this seemingly obscure location. Neither she nor Jean was fighting for dominance anymore. They weren’t unleashing the full range of power that a cosmic entity was capable of wielding. They were more or less sharing in these many conflicting feelings. The hunger was still there, but it was different now. That same hunger was driving her towards actions of a different kind. What those actions were was still not clear, but they sensed the answers were close.
Now standing in the driveway, she carefully took in the structure before her. This seemingly innocuous domicile triggered within her and Jean so many emotions.
The festering confusion drove Jean and the Phoenix forward. Something very important lay inside this house. She sensed it was the source of this mysterious call. Whatever it was, she needed to confront it if she was to get the answers she wanted.
Moving cautiously, the powerful figure approached the front door. With barely a thought, she used her vast psionic power to blow open the door and rip it to shreds. Once inside, she stopped to take in her surroundings. She now stood in front of a flight of stairs. To her left was the living room. To her right was the dining room. As she looked to her right she had a powerful vision of an event years ago in the life of Jean Grey.
“No Daddy, I don’t want you to drink!”
“Jean, sweetie, Daddy needs that bottle! Now hand it over!”
“No! I don’t like it when you drink! Please stop!”
Before her eyes she saw a vision of a growing young girl standing before her father as he sat with a bottle of hard liquor at the dining room table. He was already drunk and Jean was using her powers to keep the bottle away from him. He kept reaching for it, but the mysterious force in her mind was pulling it away.
“That’s enough, Jean! Don’t make me call the hospital again!”
“Don’t do it, Daddy! You’re drunk! I just want to…”
“STOP IT THIS INSTANT!”
A twinge of anger filled both Jean and the Phoenix as this vision played out. They triggered in her a different kind of sensation that the Phoenix was not used to. With glowing eyes, she turned away and looked towards her left into the living room. Yet this only triggered another vision.
Before her eyes, another scene played out. The man she recognized as Jonathan Grey was sitting in what was then a destroyed living room. There were holes on the walls, broken windows, and a TV that was in a million pieces. He was in tears, holding another bottle of hard liquor. Sitting next to him was a man in a suit offering a hallow comfort.
“Just look at what she did, Dr. Lee! She’s completely out of control!”
“It’s not your fault, John. Her mother’s recent passing has put a great deal of strain on her. These growing telepathic incidents aren’t helping either.”
“I know they’re not! But I just can’t deal with her anymore! My wife is dead! My little Sara is dead! Jean’s all I have left and I can’t control her! What am I supposed to do?!”
“You have options, John. That’s why I’m here. Now I’m not saying that committing her to my ward is a sound solution, but it is something to consider. Jean is a disturbed young girl. She needs treatment.”
The look on John Grey’s face was sad and distant. He seemed to know he was doing the wrong thing. His only response was to sit there and take another heavy gulp of hard liquor. At this point, the vision took another turn. From across the room, she saw the same timid redhead from before looking in on the conversation. She had tears in her eyes as if she knew what this meant for her. Alone and in a deep despair, she ran off to her room.
More powerful sensations consumed her. Jean Grey was bombarded with feelings of sorrow and regret. It was becoming clear now. That little girl was her. These experiences were memories of her life. It was the same life the Phoenix was pulling her away from in her madness. These were not pleasant experiences. These were sad, distressing moments that triggered in her an emptiness that could only be felt by someone still very much tied to her humanity.
To the Phoenix, it was a darker part of mortal experience. It was not the kind of experiences that fueled her hunger. They were experiences that caused her pain. It was a sensation that was completely foreign to her. She could sense the pain of mortal beings as they drew their last breath. She could sense the pain of the cosmos when something was destroyed. But this was a different kind of pain, one that struck her in ways that a cosmic force couldn’t comprehend.
“This…this isn’t right. These sensations…they’re not right.”
“No…they are right,” said Jean distantly, “I remember now. These feelings…they’re a part of me. I must know more.”
“More…yes, the hunger still beckons. But still…so confused.”
“Your hunger will have to wait! I cannot stop. I won’t!”
Even though it was causing her pain, Jean pressed forward. She followed the vision of the little girl as she fled up the stairs. With each step she took, more of these sensations filled her. Once up the stairs, they followed the visions towards a room at the end of the hall. This was the room in which Jean Grey had a powerful connection. Standing before the closed door, the Phoenix hesitated briefly before entering. But the burning need to know drove them forward.
A casual burst of power shattered the door, turning it into a shower of splinters. This revealed to her a room that looked as though no soul had set foot inside for a long time. There was just an unmade bed, a dresser, and a few boxes in the corner. It may have looked empty now, but in the visions she saw a room that was messy and disorganized. When the little girl ran into this room, she lost control. Everything that could be moved was levitated into the air and swirled about. It was chaotic, yet it seemed lost on the girl. She just kept sitting in the corner, hugging her knees as she cried out in anguish.
“Mommy’s dead! Daddy’s throwing me away! Nobody loves me anymore! I’m a monster! A MONSTER!”
Tears formed in the eyes of the cosmic being. The Phoenix had never felt tears before. This sorrow was a new experience. It was agonizing, tearing at her in ways she did not understand. In her tears, the bird-shaped flame surrounded her as took in these visions of the past and present. In her mind’s eye, she was looking at that scared little girl as she sat crying in the corner. This little girl was in so much pain. It was a pain that the Phoenix and Jean Grey shared. The feeling fed off from one another. The Phoenix made it worse for Jean and Jean made it worse for the Phoenix.
Eventually, the pain was too much. The cosmic being that could snuff out entire stars on a whim fell to her knees and sobbed. There was no use running from the truth. No amount of cosmic power could change it.
“I…I am a monster!” Jean cried out.
The glowing flames around her intensified. The area around her started to burn and the floor started to shake. She was prepared to tear this whole room apart. Then an unexpected voice interrupted her burning sorrows.
“No Jean…you’re not a monster.”
Her fiery form flared again as she turned around to face the source of the voice, but the fires quickly abated when she saw who it was. It was a presence very close and dear to Jean Grey.
“Scott? Is…is that you? Is this real?” said Jean through the Phoenix’s fury.
“It’s real Jean. I’m here.”
Standing in the doorway into Jean Grey’s old room, Scott Summers carefully approached the distraught figure. She was still glowing in a fiery aura, bearing the ominous clothing of the Phoenix in which the Inner Circle dressed her. Her glowing eyes indicated that the Phoenix was very active within her, but he braved its presence to confront his lover.
“I knew you would hear our call,” he said, “I knew you weren’t gone for good.”
“Your call…that was you?” she said in a daze, her tone sounding like a cross between her old self and the Phoenix.
“It was from the Professor, but it was sent on behalf of all of us. We know what the Phoenix is trying to do to you. We’re not going to let it happen!”
Her eyes flashed briefly, showing more of the struggle within.
“No…it is too late. There is no Jean.”
“That’s wrong and you know it!” said Scott strongly as he caressed her face, “Look at me, Jean. I can see it in your eyes! You’re still in there. The Phoenix hasn’t overtaken you completely. You’re the sweet, caring, outgoing woman with a beanie collection who has so many friends that care about her.”
She remained conflicted, her eyes flashing between the fiery glow of the Phoenix and the alluring green eyes of Jean Grey. Then a new presence entered the room. Again, it was a presence she recognized.
“He’s right, Jean,” said Charles Xavier as he wheeled into the room, followed closely by Logan, “You’re spirit is still strong. The Phoenix is trying desperately to use you…to turn you into nothing more than a mortal shell. You can’t let that happen!”
“It won’t on my watch,” said Logan as he and the Professor approached her, “Take it from me, Jeannie, you don’t want to be a meat puppet to anyone or anything. You gotta fight it!”
“And we can help!” urged Scott, “You’ve been there for us so many times. Let us be there for you.”
More tears formed in her eyes. Scott, despite the small flames burning around her, took her into his arms. Logan and the Professor moved in closer as well. These were some of the most important figures in her life. More visions bombarded the fiery figure. Only these visions were of happier feelings. They were of Charles Xavier, the father figure who taught her to embrace what she was. They were of Logan, a tormented soul like her who she shared such a close kinship with. They were of Scott, a man she considered her best friend and one who she loved unconditionally. All these feelings further mixed with the chaos within her and the Phoenix. It triggered in her more alien sensations. It also triggered more tears, further pushing the struggle between this powerful force and Jean Grey.
For a moment it looked like Jean was winning this struggle. Her tears of sorrow soon turned to tears of strength as she fought for control. She clung harder to the embrace of Scott Summers while Xavier and Logan tried to reach out to her, giving her the support she needed.
“That’s it, Jean! You’re doing it!” said the Professor strongly.
“Keep it up, Jeannie! You’re stronger than this overgrown parrot!”
Her expression contorted with anguish. It was hard to tell what was going on. Then she opened her eyes to reveal another fiery gaze.
“No! I’ve had enough of your help!”
Letting out a labored grunt, the Phoenix unleashed a telekinetic pulse that shot through the room and into the entire top floor. It blew out the windows, shattered the dresser, and sent Scott, Logan, and the Professor flying back against the wall.
“Augh!” grunted Logan, who tried to take the worst of the blow for the others.
“Jean!” exclaimed Scott, clutching his side.
“STOP CALLING ME THAT! THERE CAN BE NO MORE JEAN! THERE CAN ONLY BE PHOENIX!”
The tears were gone, leaving only seething anguish. These new feelings hadn’t tamed the Phoenix. They had only enraged her further. Now her whole body was glowing with ominous bird-shaped flames. It was setting fire to the room and destroying everything from the bed to the floor boards. The hunger was winning out again. It left Xavier and his two X-men in a very difficult position.
“I’ve had it with you’re meddling! You’re only getting in the way of me and my hunger! If you won’t accept the truth, then I will destroy you all!”
“No…you can’t! Not as long as Jean is still in there!” said Scott.
“She won’t be for much longer! I’ll make sure of it!”
Professor Charles Xavier’s expression fell at those words. He hoped it would not come to this, but the Phoenix was too strong.
“Then you leave me no choice,” he said distantly, “Just know that this breaks my heart.”
“Shut up and do it already, Chuck!” yelled Logan.
Taking a deep breath, Professor Xavier sent a telepathic message to his waiting X-men.
‘Do it, Hank. We’re out of options.’
The Phoenix stood ready to annihilate them. She raised her hand and prepared to disassemble them on the molecular level. Then she was hit with another unexpected feeling.
“AUGH! What the…what is this?!”
“Something I hoped I wouldn’t have to do,” replied Xavier solemnly.
It was as if someone just sent out a blaring message on a loudspeaker with the volume turned up all the way. A strange yellowish energy surrounded her. It appeared different than her Phoenix flames and it was an energy she clearly recognized. It was one of the few forces that could affect the Phoenix and it was beckoning her.
“The M’krann Crystal…it’s calling me!”
Unable to resist the call, the Phoenix took to the air and shot out through the wall with the force of a rocket. She did not have to travel far to find the source of the signal. Standing in the middle of the backyard was the mysterious M’krann Crystal and standing right next to it was the rest of the X-men. Hank, Bobby, Warren, Ororo, Rogue, Remy, Kurt, and Kitty were all looming close to it, as if it were a cover for them. The only one standing in front of it was Hank, who had a remote control in his hand that operated what appeared to be a couple of generators salvaged from the ruins of Cerebro that were hooked into the crystal.
“Looks like she took the bait,” said Bobby anxiously.
“Now we gotta reel her in,” said Remy, sharing in his friends anxiety.
“I hope Jean forgives us for this,” said Warren, saddened that it would come to this.
The Phoenix flew in towards Jean Grey’s friends with rage in her glowing eyes. She was prepared to strike them with the fury of cosmic fire
“Get away from my crystal or I’ll tear your whole planet asunder!”
To show she was serious, she unleashed a powerful psionic wave right towards them. Bobby and Ororo quickly countered with Bobby forming and ice shell to absorb it and Ororo creating a wind shear to deflect it. They were careful not to allow Hank’s equipment to take too much damage, but when the force of the blast hit both barriers were shattered and the wary X-men stumbled back.
“Augh! I believe that was a warning shot!” groaned Ororo.
“Ugh…I’ve officially been warned,” said Bobby, taking a fair amount of ice shrapnel.
“Better not let her get a real shot off!” said Rogue as she and Remy came to her friends’ aid, “Beast, let ‘er rip!”
“On it, Rogue!” said Hank, not phased by the blast as he worked the controls, “For the record, I take no satisfaction in doing this.”
The Phoenix loomed over them ominously, her body glowing brightly as she prepared to unleash another blast. Before she could unleash her wrath, however, Hank pushed a large red button on his controller. This caused the generators he had hooked into the M’krann crystal to go full power. As soon as the energy started flowing, the crystal erupted in another bright pulse that caused the Phoenix to freeze in mid-air.
“Ungh! The crystal! Cannot…shut it…out!”
“It’s working,” said Hank nervously, “You’re up, Forge!”
From behind the fence of the adjacent yard, Forge emerged to face the menacing Phoenix. In his hands was the elaborate device he once used on Kevin MacTaggart. Having made some adjustments on the quick plane-trip from Muir Island, he calibrated it to work against the power of the Phoenix.
“Hopefully third time’s the charm with this thing,” said the mutant inventor.
With the others watching nervously, he took aim and fired at the cosmic force. In a blinding burst, a concentrated beam of bluish energy shot out from the tip of the device. It was much more intense than the beam used to take down Proteus, indicating much higher power levels to match those of the Phoenix. As soon as it struck the fiery figure, the light consumed her and she let out a cry of agony.
“Oh God…Jean,” gasped Kitty, having to turn away.
“Zhis is vhere ve start praying for her,” said Kurt distantly.
The team held their breath as they watched the energy from the device inundate their friend. Her pained cries were difficult to listen to. It was hard to tell if they belonged to Jean, the Phoenix, or both of them. But as difficult as it was to watch, it appeared to be working. The fiery halo around the Phoenix dimmed. Her cosmic rage was actually weakening. Eventually she tumbled to the ground and fell to her knees. Scott, Logan, and the Professor emerged from the back porch as she was being subdued.
“It…it’s working!” said the Professor, “I can sense the Phoenix weakening!”
“What about Jean?” asked Scott anxiously, “Is she…”
“I don’t know, Scott. But we can’t let up!”
“That may be pushing it, Professor!” Forge called out as he struggled to hang onto his device, “I don’t know how much longer I can keep pushing this thing!”
“Shut up and do it, Forge! Kick that gizmo into overdrive and end this already!” grunted Logan, who was also having a hard time watching Jeannie suffer like this.
Forge’s machine was reaching it’s limits and so was the Phoenix. It looked as though she was almost completely subdued. The fires around her body had almost gone out. Only her eyes were still glowing at this point. She continued groaning in agony, looking up at the X-men as they carefully watched her ailing state.
It was pain unlike anything the Phoenix had faced before. Never in her long history had a bunch of mortals managed to affect her like this. It filled her with so many conflicting sensations. As she hugged her shoulders anxiously, her gaze drifted towards the M’krann crystal. It was still pulsing brightly, calling out to her and overwhelming her. Her gaze then shifted towards the friends of Jean Grey. The feelings and emotions they evoked only added to her agony.
Then her gaze fell upon Scott Summers. From this agony, Jean Grey emerged. As the Phoenix struggled with all these new feelings, she was able to fight through the cosmic flames. She started reaching out to him even as the blue beam fully engulfed her.
“Jean…come back to us!” urged Scott.
“Scott…it hurts…so much!” she cried through the pain.
“You can do it, Jean! Fight through it!” he said strongly.
“I can’t…too strong!”
“You can break free from this thing! I know you can!”
“No Scott…I can’t!” she gasped, “This thing…it’s becoming…a part of me! I can’t…escape it!”
“Yes you can! It’s weakened! Now’s your chance!”
“It won’t stop! It’ll never stop!” she cried out, “I can’t keep doing this! I’m sorry, Scott! I’m sorry everybody! But I can’t…”
But that was all Jean Grey could get out. The Phoenix had enough of this. These were mortals and she was a cosmic force. They were not going to deny her.
Suddenly, the fiery bird-like shape of the Phoenix emerged again, erupting from her body in a brilliant blast of fiery energy. In a new show of strength, she shot up from her wounded state and unleashed a surge of psionic energy that literally bent the blue beam from Forge’s device and redirected it right back into it
“No! The device is-AUGH!”
As soon as the beam hit the device again, it not only caused it to explode it knocked the mutant inventor out cold. He was sent flying, crashing back-first into a nearby tool shed and falling to the ground in an unconscious heap.
“Forge!” exclaimed Ororo.
“Ooh that can’t be good,” said Remy.
“Looks like we’ll need a new Plan B!” lamented Rogue.
“I think we’ll need a Plan Z at this point!” said Kitty.
The X-men scrambled to get out of the way, but there was no escaping the wrath of the Phoenix this time. Now re-energized and extremely pissed, she took to the air and unleashed a new round of fiery bursts.
“I’ve had it with you mortals! You will not deny me my hunger any longer!”
“No Jean! Don’t…” began Professor Xavier.
He was quickly cut off. Neither the Phoenix nor Jean would listen anymore. She was intent on making them all pay for her anguish. Using her limitless psionic powers, she rose up higher and unleashed a series of fiery bursts. These bursts quickly consumed every one of the X-men, engulfing Scott, Hank, Bobby, Rogue, Logan, Ororo, Remy, Kitty, and Kurt in a fiery glow and levitating them into the air where they were inundated with burning pain.
“AUUUGGHHHHHHH!” they all exclaimed.
“Jeannie!” roared Logan, his pain tolerance allowing him to fight through, “Jeannie, don’t let her do this!”
“She’s not listening, mortal! Now you will all BURN!”
It was like being thrown into a furnace and a vice at the same time. The Phoenix held every one of them in an unbreakable telekinetic hold, squeezing and stretching them in ways that strained their mortal bodies. Around them the cosmic flames swirled, looming closer to them and threatening to burn them into ashes. There was no escaping her now. The Phoenix along with Jean Grey was going to finish them off.
“You are all friends and loved ones of Jean Grey! Her compassion for you may be strong, but they are no match for the Phoenix Force! You’ll be turned to dust along with the rest of this feeble planet! It’s over mortals! You had your chance!”
But before she could finish the deed, another menacing voice interrupted her seemingly inevitable triumph.
“So did you, Phoenix. Now I’ll have mine!”
Barely distracted from her rage, the Phoenix turned just in time to be struck by a powerful purplish beam of energy.
The cosmic figure fell back to the ground, dropping the X-men from her psionic grip in the process. Still burning with in a halo of cosmic flames, she rose up to see the source of the blast.
“I dare, Phoenix,” said a cold voice, “Since the X-men were so kind as to lure you back, I feel we should tend to some unfinished business between us!”
Both Jean Grey and the Phoenix recognized that voice as belonging to Selene, the woman who brought them together. She was appeared out of nowhere, as if an illusion were being lifted, right next to the M’krann Crystal. Next to him was Jason Wynegarde, who was apparently the source of the illusion that allowed them to stay hidden. From the looks of it, they had been watching this scene play out with perverse satisfaction. Selene had one hand on the M’krann crystal and the other pointed at the Phoenix. Her body was engulfed in a powerful purplish halo, indicating that she was drawing energy from the mysterious relic.
“Glad to see you remember,” grinned Selene sadistically, “You denied me my birthright. I’m here to get it back!”
“Foolish mortal! You dare seek to usurp the power of the Phoenix?”
“I’m not usurping anything! I’m taking it back! You may have the power of the cosmos, but I have generations of arcane wisdom and a crystal with unlimited mystical energy!”
“You are a fool, mortal! You are wielding power that you do not understand!”
“I don’t need to understand it! I just need it to do this!”
Selene showed just how daring she was, clutching her fists and drawing more power from the M’krann Crystal. Then in another powerful gesture, she unleashed a beam of mystic energy right towards the hovering Phoenix. This time she was ready for it, but it struck with unexpected force. Even the mighty Phoenix could not overcome it.
“Ungh! M’krann…you have betrayed me?!”
“And that was just a warm-up shot!” grinned Selene, “Allow me to show you the full power of my heritage!”
The Black Queen placed both hands on the M’krann Cyrstal and chanted a series of phrases. As she did, the crystal changed color from a fiery orange to a dark purple. This glow quickly consumed Selene, filling her with a power that looked imposing even to the Phoenix. With her eyes glowing, she took to the air and attacked the cosmic entity.
“I WILL NOT BE DENIED MY DESTINY!” she exclaimed.
The two women clashed, Selene’s mystic aura colliding with the fiery figure of the Phoenix. When they met, it triggered a burst of mystical sparks that sent a shockwave throughout the neighborhood. It blew out windows, knocked over lawn furniture, and destroyed gates and fences. But this was just the beginning.
Selene tackled the hovering figure and latched onto her with her arms, holding her in a powerful grapple. Together they ascended over 200 feet into the air, their glowing forms illuminating the once peaceful night sky. Selene relentlessly attacked with her newfound power, trying to overpower this cosmic force. The Phoenix countered every step of the way, using her vast psionic potential to deflect and absorb her mystic assault. She was still being pushed back, unable to overpower this mortal that was being fueled by the M’krann Crystal. Now locked in a bitter clash, Selene and the Phoenix battled in an epic struggle of a cosmic being against a mortal wielding limitless mystical power.
“You cannot overcome the very fires of creation!”
“Watch me!” spat Selene in defiance.
As the battle above unfolded, the dazed X-men took in the scene from blow. Scott was the first to rise, still in a great deal of discomfort from the Phoenix’s onslaught. Logan rose soon after him, his healing factor having to work overtime.
“Ugh…the hell just happened?” groaned Logan.
“Selene…that’s what happened,” said Scott as he watched the Phoenix take a major blow from Selene’s magic.
“That crazy woman in the thong? What the hell is she thinking?! Didn’t she screw up enough cosmic shit the first time?!”
“Apparently not,” said the X-leader, “I don’t think she even cares at this point.”
It was not looking good. Selene already showed she did not understand the power of the Phoenix, yet she was willing to keep fighting for what she believed was hers no matter how much damage it threatened to cause.
While Scott and Logan watched on, the others rose up as well. Ororo and Hank were the first and soon followed by Rogue. Dazed, they instinctively turned to help Remy, Bobby, Warren, Kitty, and Kurt. They had all been blown clear across the yard and were sore on an entirely new level. But when they looked up to see the battle raging above them, their soreness became the least of their worries.
“Ooh boy…is Remy dead yet?” groaned Remy as Rogue helped him up.
“No, but we’re cuttin’ it really close here!” said Rogue.
“Ugh…way too close,” groaned Kitty, “To think that Selene may have actually saved our butts!”
“I wish I could be grateful, but she may be making our situation worse,” said Hank as he gazed up at the scene above.
“Assuming that’s even possible,” groaned Bobby.
“When dealing with cosmic forces, we have to completely rethink our notion of what is possible,” dreaded Hank.
Selene was throwing everything she had at the Phoenix. She managed to break her grapple and assault the fiery figure with a barrage of mystic blasts. The Phoenix countered by deflecting them with a powerful telekinetic shell. She then returned fire with some cosmic flares, forcing Selene on the defensive. The Black Queen stood strong, braving the flames and stepping up her blasts. The Phoenix may have had the edge in power, but she didn’t have the edge in determination.
“Mien Gott…vhat is she thinking?” said Kurt, amazed at how a woman could wield magic that could match the Phoenix, “She really believes she can take on zhe Phoenix?”
“She’s a crazy woman with an even crazier dress sense,” said Warren, “I’m guessing she’ll keep fighting the Phoenix until it’s so pissed off it just destroyed the universe!”
“Then we need to find a way to stop her!” said Ororo intently.
“Are you sure, Stormy?” groaned a still woozy Remy, “Maybe this crazy femme can help us. If she weakens the Phoenix, that can only be a good thing, non?”
“No Remy! If Selene keeps fighting her, she’s only fuel her hunger!” said Hank.
“So it’s either stop Selene and be destroyed by the Phoenix or not stop her and be destroyed anyways?” questioned Bobby, “In what universe is that fair?”
“We’ll argue the merits of fairness later!” said Ororo, “For now, we must buy time for ourselves and Jean!”
Even though the team was still sore, they didn’t have the luxury of giving in. Selene wasn’t just fighting the Phoenix. She was fighting their friend. While the others struggled to their feet, Ororo gathered storm clouds over head and directed them towards Selene. However, the Black Queen saw this coming.
“No! This is my struggle!” she grunted as she deflected another flare from the Phoenix, “Wynegarde! Take care of those peasants!”
Just as Bobby, Warren, Hank, Kitty, Rogue, Kurt, and Remy gathered behind Ororo, they were struck with yet another punishing blow. This time it came in the form of a psychic blast directed solely at their minds. In an instant, every one of their senses were overwhelmed.
“Ahhhhhhh my head!” Ororo cried out as her storm clouds dissipated.
“Augh! As if my body vasn’t sore enough!” groaned Kurt.
“Hnn...how much more of these can we take today?!” grunted Kitty.
Standing next to the M’krann Crystal, Jason Wynegarde directed his psychic talents towards the already struggling X-men. Their minds were already softened by the Phoenix, making them easy targets.
“I apologize for the discomfort. Normall,y I do not use my powers in such barbaric ways,” he said in tone too polite for someone attacking their minds, “But I cannot allow you to stop this. The battle within the Phoenix must play out accordingly.”
“Errrrrrrrr you’re crazy, Wynegarde!” exclaimed Warren, “You really think Selene will reward you for helping her?!”
“Reward? Ha! I don’t care for rewards!” he scoffed, “This is the most glorious display of psionic power in all of history! I do regret that your friend must suffer, but if that’s the price of such majesty so be it!”
The X-men tried to fight off his mental manipulation, but his control over their senses was too strong. It was like being spun around at high speeds and left so dizzy they could barely stand. When they tried to get up and fight him they could barely tell where he was. This strange old man seemed content to let the world burn in cosmic flames.
“Wynegarde…you’re mad!” grunted Hank.
“No…just curious,” he grinned, “You should be grateful! We have a front row seat to the greatest psychic event in the universe!”
“Give meh a sec! Ah’ll show you gratitude!” grunted Rogue as she tried to lash out at him.
Wynegarde tightened his psychic grip on the X-men, keeping Rogue at bay and pushing them to the brink of unconsciousness. Then a presence he completely negated came up behind him.
“Bub…you need a heavy dose of reality!” grunted a very perturbed Logan.
Wynegarde shot around just in time to see Logan approaching with Charles Xavier leaning on him to stay upright. Before he could redirect his psychic illusions, he was struck by a psychic blast from the world’s most powerful telepath.
‘You’ll witness nothing, Wynegarde!’
“AUGH!” Wynegarde cried out.
Clutching his head in agony, the old man’s body fell to the ground unconscious. He may have had a keen understanding of all things psychic, but his shields could not match up against a very upset Charles Xavier. As soon as Wynegarde was taken out, the assault on the X-men’s senses ceased. Ororo, Hank, Bobby, Warren, Kitty, Kurt, Rogue, and Remy were all relieved, but still very much dazed. Taking blows from the Phoenix in addition to a mind blast from Wynegarde was a test of endurance and pain tolerance.
“Ooh boy, I feel like I just got off the world’s worst roller coaster,” groaned Bobby.
“Remind me to step on Wynegarde’s balls after this is over,” muttered Rogue.
“You’re assuming the Phoenix or Selene isn’t going to destroy us all,” commented Kitty.
“She won’t,” said a very tired Charles Xavier, “We’re…we’re going to stop her.”
Upon seeing the Professor’s poor state, the others negated their own pain and rushed to his aid. Hank and Ororo helped Logan keep him up, but they could hear his pained groans with each labored breath. He was pushing himself the most and was already well beyond his limits.
“Whoa there, Charles! I think you’re done in this struggle,” said Hank.
“No…I can’t be. Jean is still present,” said Xavier, “But her mind keeps getting weaker.”
“Then we’ll have to find another way to save her!” said Warren strongly.
“What about Selene?” wondered Kurt.
It was a daunting question. Looking up at the raging battle between Selene and the Phoenix, it seemed as though none of them had the strength to overcome this. Even if Jean was still present in that cosmic beast, how could she or any of them stop this chaos? As they pondered this, the team realized something else was amiss.
“Wait a moment, where’s Scott?” asked Ororo.
“What are you talkin’ about? He’s right behind…” but Logan cut himself off.
As soon as he looked behind him and saw that Scott Summers wasn’t there, he immediately knew something was up and it probably meant he was doing something crazy.
“Ah hell! Cyke?!” grunted Logan as he quickly followed his scent and ran after him.
“Scott…” gasped Xavier as he realized what was going on as well.
“Oh boy, this can’t be good,” said Bobby.
“What part of any of this here mess has been good?” grunted Remy.
“Dang it, what the hell is he thinking?!” exclaimed Rogue.
“He in love with Jean. I doubt he’s thinking at all!” said Warren.
Through unrivaled pain and exhaustion, the X-men stood together and went after their friend. While they were all worried for Jean, there was no telling what Scott was going to do. Given how much he loved Jean, it could be very brave or very foolish.
While the X-men regrouped, the fight between Selene and the Phoenix was reaching epic proportions. The Phoenix was throwing at this mortal woman the kind of power that would obliterate small asteroids and moons, but she had so much mystical energy flowing through her that she was able to take it and counter with blasts of her own. It was a battle the Phoenix had never faced before. No mortal had ever wielded the M’krann Crystal with such force. It was more strain on a being already flushed with confusion and rage.
“Pestilent mortal! The power of M’krann is not for you to wield!”
The Phoenix tried to burn her to a crisp, unleashing a concentrated beam of cosmic fire from her hand. But Selene kept raging on, shielding her body with her arms and deflecting the blast.
“Ha! I say I wield this power quite well!” she taunted, “If you’re such a smart cosmic being you would have chosen me as your avatar and not that weakling, Jean Grey!”
“That is not your fate!”
“Wrong again! My fate as Black Queen was laid out long ago! Whether you want to or not, you will help me realize it! Even if I have to rip you out of that mortal body with my bear hands!”
Selene channeled more energy from the M’krann Crystal and her body erupted in a wave of mystical pulses, inundating the Phoenix in a shower of purplish sparks. It forced the cosmic being on the defensive. Mortal or no mortal, the power of M’krann was immense. Even the Phoenix Force struggled to combat it.
The two powerful being raged on, unleashing wave after wave of energy blasts towards one another. The Phoenix’s beams of cosmic flare struck head on with Selene’s purple mystical blasts, causing massive lightning-like discharges that ripped through the night sky. The two figures flew at high speeds around each other, trying to hit one another from every angle. When their blasts proved insufficient, they resorted to flat out brawling. Selene surged forth, avoiding more flares as she swooped in to deliver a punishing array of kicks and haymakers. The Phoenix, tapping the knowledge of Jean Grey’s combat training, countered with attacks of her own. She managed to lay Selene out with one punch, but the Black Queen was stunned only briefly and countered with an uppercut of her own. Eventually, they became locked in another grapple.
Down below, the stray blast waves and energy sparks decimated the street. Lamp posts were bent like toothpicks, cars were reduced to twisted metal, and various shards of houses and lawn apparel were blown up into the air. It was a good thing the houses had been evacuated, but if this battle continued the destruction would surely extend well beyond this lone street.
The chaos and mayhem were utterly lost on Selene and the Phoenix. More fighting and energy blasts were exchanged. Neither side appeared to be gaining an edge. They started showing signs of distress. The Phoenix was being stressed in ways that even a cosmic being couldn’t process.
“Errrrrrr hunger…sensation…pain! It’s building…too much!”
“Too much for you…just right for me!” grinned Selene as she formed a ball of mystical energy in her hands and heaved it towards the Phoenix.
This time, the Phoenix didn’t just deflect it. She literally caught the ball of energy in mid air and crushed it with her hand. As she did, another bright burst consumed the sky.
“You foolish mortal! You lure me here…you taunt my chosen avatar…and you dare to oppose me in my quest!”
“I’ll oppose whoever and whatever I must for my destiny!” seethed Selene.
“By doing so…you make my hunger worse! No longer must I feed on an infinitesimal speck of this vast universe! I must feed on the universe itself!”
Now it was Selene’s turn to be shocked. The Phoenix clenched her fists, causing more cosmic flames to surround her. Then with white hot eyes, she unleashed the mother of all flares upon the empowered Black Queen. To her, it was like being consumed by an entire star. She tried to guard herself, but this time it was too much.
“AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” she cried out in agony.
Through swirling energy blasts, Selene’s connection with the M’krann Crystal was painfully severed. Now without her great power, she fell limply to the ground below. It was a crushing blow to the Black Queen. A lesser human being would have been reduced to ashes. Her durable form barely protected her as she landed on top of a mid-sized car with a hard thud. She was barely conscious, but she could still see the Phoenix descending towards her.
The Phoenix Force was now so consumed by its own ower power that half the sky was lit up by her fiery bird-shaped aura. Now hovering just a few feet off the ground, all the debris and shards from their battle swirled to the whims of her power. It was chaos by every measure and Selene was at the mercy of it.
“You mortals have done quite enough! I’ve watched you taint my power! Now my hunger is greater than ever! I will…I must…consume!”
“You…you can’t,” gasped Selene weakly, “I must fulfill my…”
But the Phoenix wouldn’t hear it. With burning rage, she used her psionic powers to levitate the weakened Selene into the air. More debris and shrapnel swirled around her, showing just how much power resided within her being. And she was about to unleash it all on her.
“I will not be denied any longer! I’ve taken over Jean Grey! I’ve beaten those who dare stand in my way! Now nothing shall stop me! NOTHING!”
The Phoenix prepared to unleash the final blow, thus ending this part of the cycle and beginning the next. Her hunger was so vast. The universe might not be big enough to satiate it. But just as she was about to make Selene her appetizer, a desperate voice rang out.
The part of Jean Grey that was still left within the Phoenix recognized that voice as belonging to Scott Summers. As she turned around she saw the desperate young man running towards her, braving the swirling debris.
“Scott…” said the voice of Jean through all the chaos.
Scott Summers felt his already battered body get struck by stray bricks and car parts, but he kept on going and fought his way closer to Jean.
“It doesn’t have to be like this!” he yelled out, “We can find a way!”
“No mortal…it is too late!”
“Please Jean…I want to be there for you! I need you! I…I love you!”
Even in her enraged state, his presence evoked in her a strong reaction. That word “love” was especially powerful. Even as the Phoenix’s power continued to rage, Scott fought through the swirling debris to reach her. The power of his love struck both Jean and the cosmic entity.
Then it happened. Just as Scott was reaching out to take the fiery figure’s hand, he was struck. Only this time, it was by something much more severe.
“Ack!” was all he could say as a blinding pain seared through his abdomen.
Looking down, the X-leader saw a jagged metal spike formed from the drive-shaft of a car piercing through his torso. It literally went straight through him, puncturing vital organs and causing severe bleeding. Shock quickly took over. Shock soon turned to pain. When the Phoenix saw this, the suppressed spirit of Jean Grey rushed to the surface and was overcome with horror.
“No…” she gasped.
Within seconds, the swirling power that the Phoenix unleashed faded. She dropped the hovering body of Selene, who passed out immediately upon hitting the pavement. All the debris fell lifelessly to the ground. The overwhelming fiery aura that had surrounded her figure waned to barely a dim glow. Gazing desperately into the shrouded eyes of Scott Summers, the once powerful being was overwhelmed by the most terrible of mortal feelings.
“Scott…” she said, tears welling up in her fiery eyes.
“I…I’m sorry, Jean,” said Scott as blood spilled down his face, “I failed you.”
Everything around him became dark and cold. Blood filled his mouth and covered his already tattered uniform. Then with one last desperate gasp, the proud X-leader who fought so hard to save the woman he loves fell to the ground and drew his last breath
“Scott…what have I done?!”
The pained cries of Jean Grey rivaled those of the Phoenix. For once, the powerful entity’s dominance ceded to the overwhelming panic of a mortal woman with a broken heart. Forgetting completely about Selene and all the damage she caused, she rushed over to catch her mortally wounded lover and promptly removed the shard. But it was too late. Scott Summers was dead.
“No…wake up, Scott! Please...SCOOTTTTTTT!”
Her desperate cries echoed throughout the neighborhood. At about this time, the rest of the X-men had caught up with them. Logan and Hank were still carrying a wounded Professor Xavier. Rogue, Warren, and Ororo were flying overhead with Kurt, Kitty, Remy, and Bobby following below. Unfortunately, they arrived just in time to see their friend and leader lying lifelessly in a pool of his own blood.
“Oh no…please God no!” gasped Warren as he flew in closer.
“Scott…we’re too late!” cried Kitty.
“Damn…” was all Remy could say.
It was a ghastly sight. Their friend and leader was dead. They couldn’t save him. They couldn’t stop the Phoenix and Jean couldn’t stop herself. It hit them in a way few things could, but it hit the Phoenix in an especially powerful way.
“I killed him…I killed the man I love!” cried Jean as she cradled his body in her arms.
“Jeannie don’t…” began Logan as he prepared to reach out to her.
“No Logan...don’t,” said Ororo solemnly as she held him back.
The damage was too much. Jean Grey would not be consoled. She had endured a lot of hardship. She watched her sister die. She watched her mother wither. She had a father that completely fail her and committed her to a mental ward. But she could not endure this. As tears of anguish streamed down her face, the fiery halo of the Phoenix re-emerged. But it was different this time. The Phoenix didn’t attack or lash out. It appeared to be struggling as if it was just as hurt as Jean.
“AUUUGGGGGHHHH! This is…this is wrong! It all feels so wrong! This feeling…this emptiness! This isn’t the sensation I hunger for! This isn’t…”
Another burst of flame erupted from her body. This time it came from Jean Grey. Closing her eyes and letting more tears fall, she let out another cry. This time it was full of anger as well as sorrow.
“You…you hell spawn!” she exclaimed, “You did this! You turned me into a monster!”
“I…I needed to. You reached out to me. I’m only fulfilling…”
“Don’t give me that reaching out, bullshit! You just used me to feed your sick hunger!”
“This is how it must be! This is part of the cycle! I came to help you…to grant you the power to overcome that which you could not!”
“I don’t want it anymore! Not like this!” cried Jean.
“It cannot be undone! I am bonded to your mortal shell! These feelings…I need them! In exchange, I grant you the very essence of the cosmos! Absolute power…absolute freedom! In but a breath you can make this all go away! Just feed me my hunger and together we shall leave this all behind!”
It was an agonizing notion, leaving behind this horrible deed she just committed. Yet the Phoenix spoke the truth. Neither one of them could endure this horrible feeling of heartbreak. Absolute power was at her fingertips. In just one gasp, she could destroy everything around her and leave it all behind. But doing so would come at a price. She would lose what was left of her heart, her love, and her humanity. That was a price she was not willing to pay.
Bowing her head solemnly, she laid Scott’s lifeless body on the hard pavement. Now on her knees and in unspeakable torment, she looked up at her friends as they watched with fear and anticipation. They weren’t sure what decision she was going to make. But this was one fight the X-men wouldn’t have to deal with. This was hers and hers alone.
“No…I won’t!” she said strongly, “Because of you, the man I love is dead! Because of you, my humanity is being ripped away!”
“You do not have a choice! You have to embrace me! You must in order to escape this mortal torment! It’s is the only way we can feed!”
The Phoenix was trying to overtake her again. It had been starved for too long. It needed to feed. But Jean would not let it get that far. She owed as much to Scott.
“Feed on this!”
With her last grasp of strength as Jean Grey, she used her telekinesis to levitate the shard that had killed her lover. With sorrow and anger to guide her, she directed that same shard at herself. In an act that horrified both her friends and the Phoenix she forced the shard right through her abdomen, impaling herself just like Scott.
“JEANNIE NO!” exclaimed Logan, who had to be held back by Ororo and Rogue.
“Jean…” gasped Kurt, his hand over his mouth in pure shock.
“Oh Jean…why?” said the weakened Charles Xavier.
Her glowing eyes bulged as her body contorted in agony. The flames of the Phoenix shot out as if the cosmic force itself had been impaled. Blood quickly formed around the wound and Jean quickly began choking on her own blood. Her eyes were full of sorrow as she looked at her friends.
“I’m sorry, everybody. I’m sorry, Scott,” she choked out, “I’ll always…love you.”
With those final words, Jean Grey took her last breath and went limp. Her body fell right alongside the bloodied form of Scott Summers. In a fitting twist of fate, their lives ended with them in one another’s embrace. It was the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate penance. Scott Summers was dead. Jean Grey was dead. Only the Phoenix remained.
While Charles Xavier and his remaining X-men looked on in horror, the ailing cosmic entity thrashed about around the now lifeless body like a fish that had been pulled out of the water. With no more sensations to feed on, the Phoenix Force was literally thrust out of Jean Grey’s body. The golden embers trickled out while the flames that had once surrounded her sputtered out. Soon there was nothing left of the cosmic entity but weakened bird-shaped flame lying helplessly in the middle of the street.
“UNGH! My…my avatar! None…none has ever rejected me! Oh the hunger! It still festers!”
While the Phoenix suffered, the X-men sadly gathered around the bodies of their dead teammates. They were still in too much shock to say anything. Logan hovered over the lifeless body of Jean, an overwhelming sadness dominating he feral expression. Rogue hovered over Scott, her hand over her mouth as she shook her head and disbelief. She ended up burying her face in Remy’s shoulder, who only hugged her back. The whole team was in tears.
“Scott…Jean…this can’t be happening!” said Bobby in disbelief.
“She really did it,” said Ororo distantly, “She chose to die rather than wield cosmic power.”
“It can’t…X-men aren’t supposed to die!” cried Kitty.
“It’s over,” said Hank distantly, “We failed them.”
It was heartbreaking. Two of their friends and teammates were dead. An overwhelming sorrow quickly consumed the team. But the Phoenix was not done yet.
The anguished team of mutants turned to the cosmic force, showing nothing but hatred for this being after what it just took from them.
“Please…as one last act of mercy. Kill me…I cannot stand this any longer!”
It was an odd request from a being of god-like power. In light of so much anguish, it wouldn’t make their pain go away. However, it would give them something to take it out on.
“You killed our friends!” said Warren in a rage.
“You used Jeannie!” added Logan as he rose up and drew his claws.
“She vas right…you are a monster!” said Kurt.
“If this is what you want…you got it!” said Bobby as he iced up to full power.
Abandoning all logic and constraint, the enraged X-men attacked the wounded Phoenix in full force. The Professor was left by the side of his dead students while Wolverine, Storm, Iceman, Angel, Beast, Rogue, Gambit, Nightcrawler, and Shadowcat unleashed their anguish on this cosmic entity. Charles Xavier was not in any state of mind to stop this. In his own daze of sorrow, he attacked as well with his mind.
“X-men…do what you have to do,” said the Professor.
Ignoring fatigue and pain, the X-men summoned a new strength with which to punish this vile creature. Storm, Gambit, and Iceman unloaded with full force against them. Storm took every cloud in the area and reigned down a barrage of lightning. Gambit took two full decks of cards out, charged them all, and fired every one of them at the beast. Iceman clenched his fists and fired as big an ice mean he could muster, further squelching the fires of the Phoenix and making it howl out in pain.
Wolverine, Beast, and Rogue took a more direct approach with the Phoenix. Rogue flew in full speed, her fists leading her as she rammed the fiery figure right in the gut. Beast came in behind her, snarling like an enraged ape as he landed on her back and relentlessly pounded his fists on bird-like form. Wolverine was in an equally blind rage as he went for the proverbial jugular of the creature. With both his claws drawn, he plunged them right into the head of the Phoenix and thrashed without mercy. If this thing wanted to die, he would be happy to abide him.
Nightcrawler, Angel, and Shadowcat joined in the battle right next to Wolverine. With no strength or firepower, they grabbed nearby shards of metal and debris and relentlessly pounded away on the creature. Shadowcat got in several shots on the Phoenix’s head while Nightcrawler teleported around the figure, slamming it wherever he could with what used to be part of a street lamp. Warren flew in from above and came down wielding a sharp metal fence post, relentlessly stabbing it into the creature’s body as he flew over at high speeds. With every blow, the Phoenix let out more howls of pain. Even though it had no flesh, its fiery form was still solid enough to beat on. Since its cosmic fires had dimmed so much they didn’t even burn them. Even if they did, it wouldn’t stop the X-men from making this monster pay.
With every blow, the Phoenix’s form faded. The hunger had weakened it and Jean’s sacrifice had hurt it to a point where its cosmic power accounted for nothing. Soon, it appeared as though it was on it’s last breath. The fires were almost gone. The embers of the bird-shaped flame were dimming. Fittingly enough, it was Charles Xavier who delivered the final blow.
“This is for my students!” he said, still very weakened.
Closing his eyes, he unleashed one last psychic blast. This along with several other blows from the X-men did the trick and the Phoenix let out a howl of defeat.
In one last fiery burst, the Phoenix Force was expunged. It’s flames dissipated. It’s bird-like shape faded. Now vanquished, it withered away into a pile of simmering red ashes. At this point, the X-men ended their assault. Exhaustion and sorrow quickly caught up to them. Bobby, Warren, Hank, Kitty, Rogue, Remy, Ororo, and Kurt let out tired gasps as they stopped and stood over the ashes. Logan was the only one who refused. He kept slashing at the ashes of the dead creature. Eventually, Ororo came in to pull him away.
“Damn this freakin’ bird! Damn it to Hell!” Logan roared as he panted angrily.
“That’s enough, Logan…it’s over,” she told him softly.
“No...it can’t be!” he said in a solemn rage, “Jeannie and Cyke…it can’t end like this!”
Under his lover’s touch, the feral mutant stopped. There was nothing left to do. The Phoenix was gone, but so were their friends. Gathering around the ashes of the Phoenix, the X-men were truly at a loss. Hank went over to help the Professor up who was still in a tired daze. For all his dedication and sacrifice, he couldn’t save his students.
“What do we do now, Professor?” asked Kitty, tears still streaming down her face.
“Ain’t much else we can can do, petite,” said Remy, lending a gesture to Rogue as she mourned the loss of a former lover.
“So what? We just tuck our tails between our legs, go home, and bury our friends?” said Warren, “That can’t be the only way!”
“But it is,” said Xavier, “What’s done is done. The cycle for the Phoenix has been broken. There really is nothing left. Unless…”
“Unless what, Charles?” said Ororo, still clinging to some strand of hope.
Before Xavier could answer, the smoldering ashes of the Phoenix came to life again. They started burning with a renewed fire. It was small at first, but it quickly grew and formed the distinct bird-shape that quickly evoked a fresh round of emotion.
“You gotta be freakin’ kidding me!” snarled Logan.
“Born again from it’s own ashes…ve should have seen it coming,” said Kurt, his knowledge of the arcane returning to him.
“So we have to fight this thing again?!” exclaimed Rogue.
“I’m game!” grunted Logan, “I’ll kill this thing as many times as I have to!”
Logan drew his claws and prepared to slash into it before it could reform, but the Professor quickly dissuaded him.
“No Logan! Stand down!” Xavier ordered.
“Are you crazy, Chuck?! If this thing is reforming we gotta kill it before…”
“It won’t, Logan. Not this time,” said Xavier, grasping his temples lightly, “Something is different…something is very different.”
The X-men looked at their mentor strangely, but heeded his words as they stepped back and watched the Phoenix Force reform from its ashes. Within moments the full fiery figure emerged in a dazzling burst of fire. As it stretched it’s wings, the Phoenix let out a joyful cry of euphoria.
“I am reborn!”
They maintained a defensive stance, but they didn’t get the same ominous threat they had before. Even Logan, who kept his claws drawn the whole time, was frozen at this sight. Now they could sense it as well. Something really was different.
“What’s going on, Charles?” asked Hank warily.
“I’m not sure, but I think we’re about to find out,” the Professor replied.
The X-men stood anxiously as the Phoenix hovered before them. This time there was no chaos or malice. It almost almost seemed serene, as if it was a totally different being. With it’s majestic form, it addressed them in a peaceful tone.
“Thank you, Charles Xavier. Thank you, X-men. After eons of endless destruction, the cycle is broken. No mortal before has ever rejected such great power. Through her love and sorrows, Jean Grey succeeded where so many had failed. And you, her friends, did what needed to be done to save this world and the very universe itself.”
“That’s all well and good, bub. But you still killed Cyke and Jeannie!” roared Logan, showing no comfort even in the presence of a reborn Phoenix, “If you hadn’t been so damned hungry in the first place…”
“Logan please!” urged Ororo, restraining him further with her embrace.
“You are correct. My freedom did come at a price. For this I feel truly remorseful. While merged with Jean Grey, I got a taste of a feeling that is so easily lost in the face of cosmic power. It is what you call humanity. This powerful feeling that Jean Grey and Scott Summers had in such abundance…it was so confusing. But I believe I understand it now. I believe this mysterious feeling is what I’ve longed for in my endless journey across the cosmos.”
“Absolute power finding humanity,” mused Charles Xavier, “So that’s what this is about.”
“But in being reborn, there is still so much I do not understand. This power I wield…it is no longer enough to simply use it. To know how without knowing why…that is another hunger I cannot bear.”
“If you’re going to fight us for answers, you should know we don’t go down easy!” said Warren, “Not after what you did!”
“Ah, but that is what is different this time X-men. Now that I am free, I must use this opportunity to learn more about this concept of humanity less I become corrupted again. And there is but one being I trust to teach me. But in order to do so, I am required to make a sacrifice of my own.”
In another dazzling display of cosmic power, the Phoenix redirected its fiery flames towards the lifeless bodies of Scott Summers and Jean Grey. Professor Xavier and the X-men watched anxiously as the fires surrounded their lifeless forms. Was this the beginning of another cosmic threat? Was this creature going to honor or desecrate their dead friends? They weren’t in a position to stop her so they were left to watch and see for themselvest.
As the fiery flames coalesced Scott and Jean, their bodies were engulfed in a bright fiery halo. Through this halo, their wounds miraculously healed. What was once cold and lifeless became warm and lively. Then in a miraculous moment, the two deathly figures let out a sharp gasp as life returned to them.
“Hnn…” groaned Jean softly.
“Ungh…Jean,” said Scott weakly.
Upon hearing this, Charles and his students were overcome with joy. Their two friends who they thought were lost to them had returned to life.
“Scott!” Rogue cried out.
“Jeannie!” gasped Logan.
As they eagerly surrounded their friends, the Phoenix fires continued to swirl. They eventually became concentrated on Jean Grey. Her body shifted as the flames entered her, filling her until the fiery form of the Phoenix was no bigger than an ember that could fit in the palm of her hand. When it was all over, Jean Grey’s started glowing again. Only this time, it was less chaotic if not peaceful.
“Jean? What’s happening?” said Hank anxiously.
“The Phoenix…” she said distantly, “We’re…together again.”
“Uh…isn’t that a bad thing?” said Kitty.
“No…not this time,” she said, “The power is there, but it’s so…peaceful. It feels…good.”
“I’ll take it then,” said Scott as he struggled up and made his way to his lover.
As Jean felt Scott’s arms slip around her, she smiled. Even though the others couldn’t tell, the Phoenix smiled as well. It’s majestic flames continued to burn, showing that it was still present. Sorrow was quickly turning to relief for the X-men. It was so amazing yet there was plenty of confusion.
“So…what just happened?” asked Bobby.
“Our friends be back, but what’s the price? There always be a price!” said Remy.
“I assure you, a high price has been paid. I have made the most difficult decision any sentient being can ever make. I surrendered a great deal of my cosmic power to merge with Jean Grey again and bring her and her love back to life. As of now, my fire is but an ember buried in her spirit.”
“Going from hopping the universe to barely a flicker? Zhat is quite a sacrifice,” said Kurt, almost admiring the Phoenix for such a decision.
“Such a sacrifice is an act of penance. I have caused so much destruction because of my hunger. Now I understand that if I am to avoid such a fate in an ever evolving universe, I must learn and adapt. Here with Jean Grey, I shall learn the ways of this humanity you teach. Think of me not as a consuming possession, but as an infant spirit being nurtured by another. In exchange, I offer Jean Grey and those she loves the blessings of the cosmos. As I am bonded to her, she is bonded to her friends…and to the one she loves.”
These powerful words earned a smile from Scott, who held Jean closer as the Phoenix gently burned between them. Together, they could feel this bond they spoke of. It was a connection like no other, born of love and sacrifice. They each shared in the warmth of this comforting embrace. Even for a cosmic being, it was a feeling above anything the cosmos could offer.
“Thank you, Phoenix,” said Jean Grey.
“No…thank you, Jean. You and your friends are truly special. The love you have for them and the love they have for you is nothing short of incredible.”
“That’s what you do for someone you love,” said Scott, holding Jean a little closer, “You make those kinds of sacrifices.”
“Indeed, Scott Summers. Like Jean, you were reborn of the same fires. As such, you and Jean share a most special connection. Just remember from here on out that the loving bond you have with your friends and the loving bond you have with each other…that is your greatest strength.”
With those profound words, the small Phoenix shaped flame faded back into Jean. But to show that it was still present, it formed a small tattoo-like display on her chest. As it and the fires faded, Jean Grey’s eyes stopped glowing and all was peaceful again.
“Wow…so now we got the Phoenix Force on our side,” grinned Warren.
“I know,” chuckled Bobby, “For once we come out with something other than broken bones or wounded spirits.”
“So does this mean it’s finally over?” said Rogue, “Because if some other cosmic firebird or some crazy woman in a thong comes popping out, Ah ain’t chasing it.”
“I don’t think it’s proper to say this is over, Rogue,” said Xavier distantly, who looked like he was on the verge of passing out, “The very nature of the Phoenix is built around new beginnings coming from what has ended. While this struggle may be over, I’m sure it will open the door to yet another beginning.”
“So long as it doesn’t involve fighting god-like fire birds, I’ll take it,” said Logan.
Professor Xavier and his team could finally let out a sigh of relief. Jean was alive and so was Scott. They had to overcome so much, even death itself. By clinging to their humanity and holding strong to principles they worse to uphold, they found hope at a time when it seemed so fleeting. If this was indeed a new beginning as Professor Xavier had described, it was one in which they would carry this hope along with a strength worthy of the cosmos.
Jason Wynegarde had never been much of a fighter. At his age, he had little to fight with beside his mind. When that failed him, he had no other choice but to run. But being a master of deception, he always had one last trick up his sleeve. Once again, his cunning served him well.
He didn’t stick around for the battle between Selene, the X-men, and the Phoenix. As soon as he recovered from Charles Xavier’s telepathic blast, he fled the scene. It was an unfortunate necessity. While he did not get to see everything he wanted, he did leave with a souvenir.
“Beautiful…” he said distantly as he ran his hands over the M’krann Crystal, “So much power...so much to study!”
The old psychic proudly grinned. He almost didn’t get this mysterious relic out of the neighborhood. He had to put up a pretty strong illusion to cover his tracks. Luckily, the X-men were too distracted to chase him. He managed to get it into a nearby van he sent to the neighborhood and drive off with it. He kept up his illusion just in case Selene decided to follow him. Thankfully, she disappeared as well. Since she hadn’t come to claim the crystal thus far, it was safe to assume she wasn’t coming back for it.
“Such a pity. Selene never understood it. The Inner Circle never understood it. The Phoenix never understood it,” he said distantly, “But where they failed, I shall succeed!”
From the moment he examined Jean Grey, he knew there were some very special forces at work. But her connection to the Phoenix was just the tip of the iceberg. There was so much potential for bigger and better things. Driven by a never-ending curiosity, Jason Waynegarde vowed to uncover the truth about the Phoenix and this crystal. Clutching the relic firmly, Wynegarde grinned as the relic pulsed ominously and filled him with its light and its power.
“This relic has many secrets. Selene was a fool. Now it is not Selene whose fate is tied to this relic. It is mine! We shall meet again, Phoenix. Soon, all your secrets will be uncovered! For there is only room in the psychic world for one true Mastermind!”
Xavier Institute – Later
It was almost sunrise by the time X-men returned to the mansion. Before they parted, they helped Forge gather his equipment and fly back to Muir Island aboard Moria’s jet. Professor Xavier also used his powers to make any curious minds that had seen the battle with the Phoenix believe it was a storm or a meteor shower. Hank also called John Grey and told him to relay the story. He continued to ask questions about Jean, but those answers would have to wait. For now, the team was too tired for any further conflict.
Everybody had their share of bumps and bruises. Only a few like Logan, Ororo, Kurt, Rogue, and Remy found the strength to make it up to their bedrooms. Kitty, Bobby, Warren, Scott, Jean, and Professor Xavier stayed in the infirmary to rest and recover. Hank stayed up a while to administer treatment, but for now their best medicine would be rest. The only one who stayed awake a bit longer was Professor Xavier.
“You should rest, Charles. We’ve all had a very long day,” said Hank as he administered some IV fluids, “Your mind may be strong, but there’s only so much a body like yours can take.”
“It was more than worth it, old friend,” smiled Xavier weakly, “Just look at what we were able to accomplish. We were able to overcome a power greater than anything we ever faced before.”
“I admit it did turn out for the better, even if there was plenty of anguish in between,” Hank conceded, “But that doesn’t mean it will always turn out that way.”
“I understand that, but beyond the struggle it proved something profound. The Phoenix Force is a being of great power. It in many ways epitomized the old adage of power being such a corrupting force. Yet even though it is far from human, it was able to come to an understanding of its power.”
“With some help from Scott and Jean of course,” Hank reminded.
“Indeed,” smiled Xavier, “Scott and Jean showed the Phoenix the ability to love without condition. That in essence is the truest mark of compassion. And if something like the Phoenix can learn such humanity, perhaps there is hope for mankind yet.”
It was an appropriately optimistic outlook. The implications were vast not just for Jean and the X-men, but for the world as a whole. As Charles Xavier settled into a peaceful sleep, he turned one last time towards Scott and Jean. They were already fast asleep, lying in one of the beds together. Scott was on his back and Jean was curled up next to him with her head on his chest. Their arms draped lovingly around one another, they looked so peaceful. So many forces tried to tear them apart. Even death itself threatened to destroy the love they worked so hard to build. Yet here they were, lying in each others arms.
The Professor couldn’t help but smile. While nobody else could see it, he sensed that in their minds Scott and Jean were already exercising their new bond. They were sharing a special dream together where they were making love in a beautiful cosmic mindscape surrounded by gentle flames, courtesy of the Phoenix.
Such love was part of what made his struggle so important. Like the Phoenix, a new beginning would emerge out of every end. Guided by such love and hope, the X-men were poised to enter this new beginning with a strength and determination befitting of the cosmos.
Next Issue: Kings and Tyrants
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