The Erotic Phoenix Saga: Dark Passions
Chapter 8: Ashes of Fate
Sinister’s Lab – Near Power Core
“Storm! Hey Storm! Come on, Ro! Wake up!” barked an urgent and distressed Wolverine.
“Ungh! What…what happened?” groaned Storm as she emerged from a dazed state.
“A lot,” her friend and teammate replied, “and for once, I ain’t up to go over the dirty details.”
The former weather goddess shook her head as she emerged from her daze. Once her head stopped spinning, she quickly recounted what had happened. At that same moment, she realized she was completely naked. She also realized Wolverine was naked, but was already in the process of putting his pants back on.
It came rushing back to her in vivid detail. She and Wolverine were on a mission to shut down the facility’s power core. Then, they got side-tracked when they confronted Daken Akihiro, Wolverine’s long lost son that he didn’t even know about. A fight followed, ultimately ending with Daken stabbing himself in the neck.
After that, things took an unexpected turn. That was when her recollection become unexpectedly sensual.
“My Goddess,” Storm gasped under her breath.
She clearly remembered the strange scent of pheromones filling the chamber. She also remembered the powerful effect they had on her and Wolverine. The next thing she knew, they were tearing each other’s clothes off, kissing each other hungrily, and having sex like a couple of animals in heat. If the lingering heat in her pussy was any indication, she’d climaxed multiple times.
Even looking towards Wolverine, who was clearly averting his gaze, Storm recalled how good it felt. The sensation of his naked skin touching hers, his rigid cock penetrating her depths, was not something she could easily cast aside. It hadn’t been a dream or some act of elaborate mind control. It was just two people, acting on supercharged instincts. However, such an intimate act left quite a mark.
“Your clothes,” Wolverine said, still looking away, “I…gathered what I could. Some parts got ripped, but…well, if anyone asks, I’ll say ya got ambushed by a goblin.”
“I…appreciate that, Logan,” said Storm, her voice hiding some awkward undertones.
A tense silence fell over them. Storm opted to avert her gaze as she got dressed. Her uniform was tattered, but intact. Her bra had been ripped to shreds, but her pants, boots, and panties were still in one piece. The top part of her uniform did have some tears in it, which didn’t look at all like claw marks from a goblin. She could only hope that nobody asked for details.
It would be much harder to explain those details for Wolverine. The top part of his uniform was completely shredded. Only his pants, boots, and boxers survived their urgent disrobing. He also still reeked of her scent. Storm didn’t have enhanced senses, but even she could smell the distinct twinge of her sweat mixed with his.
They were still in the middle of a mission. Every mission was bound to face complications, but no amount of training could’ve prepared them for this. Storm, even as she fixed her disheveled hair, found it difficult to return to the poise of the X-Men’s field commander.
“We must get to the core,” Storm said, her voice taking on a more leader-like tone.
“We will,” said Wolverine plainly as he drew his claws, “as what happened in here…we ain’t ever got to talk about it again.”
“You’re right. We don’t have to,” said Storm, “but…”
Her words trailed off. Her voice faltered again. Wolverine turned back towards her, his usually tough demeanor faltering as well. It was as if he wanted her to say something. Storm attempted to complete her though.
However, ended up falling silent. If there was something else to make of what they’d done, she just could not find the words.
“But what, Ro?” Wolverine asked intently.
“Nothing. This…is neither the time nor the place,” Storm said, her demeanor hardening once more.
“Yeah…you’re probably right,” he said, his tone hardening as well.
The tension lifted, even as the memories and scents lingered. They shifted their focus back to the mission, which was not yet over. Before they left the room, Storm turned back towards the corner where Daken remained motionless on the floor. The bleeding had stopped, but his claws remained lodged in his head. It was a ghastly sight, but one they had no time to deal with.
“What about him?” Storm asked. “Can you tell if he’s alive?”
“If he’s my son and he can heal like I can…yeah, that ain’t gonna kill him,” Wolverine said, looking back towards Daken as well.
“Did he know that before he did it?”
“Probably,” said the former living weapon, “but as for the pheromones…that, I ain’t sure of.”
“We’ll have to figure that out later,” said Storm. “I promise we’ll come back for him. In the meantime…”
She placed her hand on his bare shoulder to guide him away. The brief sensation of her touch triggered another awkward moment, as well as other feelings that made it difficult to focus. She and Wolverine still managed to turn away, clench his fists, and focus on the task at hand.
“Right,” he said, “got a lot of tough questions we’ll have to answer. But first thing’s first!”
“Agreed! The power core should be close by,” said Storm as she led him out of the room and back into the corridor.
“It is. I can already smell the ozone! Let’s just hope we ain’t too far behind. Who knows what went down while we…”
A sudden tremor stopped Wolverine and Storm mid-stride. It rocked the entire facility. They both nearly lost their balance as they leaned on nearby walls for support, watching as lights flickered and equipment fell in nearby rooms. Something powerful just struck the facility from within. Knowing what they knew from Kate, that was a sign that they had lost too much time.
“Damn!” Wolverine cursed. “I really hope that ain’t what I think it is.”
“Assume the worst and move accordingly!” said Storm, already trying to forge ahead, “we’re not too late, but we’re going to cut it close. If this unfolds as Kate told us, then our future is about to be decide!”
‘Can’t…think straight. Can’t…control myself,’ mused a dazed Scott Summers.
‘Stop! Make it stop! Can’t…take much…more of this!’ Jean Grey-Summers kept thinking to herself, her body and mind on the brink of failing her.
Their world around them was collapsing.
Their perspective that they had fought so hard to embrace and expand was faltering.
Their minds, bodies, and desires had been completely hijacked by the Goblin Queen.
With every fiber of their being, they clung to what remained of themselves. Scott, having been bound and ravaged by the Goblin Queen, had lost all semblance of control. It was once his greatest fear, losing control over his powers and hurting the people he loved. This was many times worse. He’d lost control of everything, unable to move, think, or even desire anything of his own. The only control that remained was his grasp on life and that too was fading fast.
“Madelyne…damn you,” was the only words Scott could get out.
Jean’s grasp was weakening as well. Even after the Goblin Queen left, the legion of Summers Studs kept gangbanging. They kept hissing and howling with perverse glee, groping her naked body and ravaging her in every conceivable way. They showed no signs of fatigue. Their dicks stayed fully erect. They had been specifically created to ravage her and they rejoiced in fulfilling that purpose, even as her expression became vacant and her body went limp.
Her lack of strength didn’t stop them. Multiple creatures had fucked every one of Jean’s holes multiple times, filling her with their disgusting cum. Her mouth, pussy, and asshole dripped with various sexual fluids and her body was drenched with sweat. Even as she was being triple penetrated again – one Summers Stud under, another on top taking her ass, and one in front humping her face – she clung to what little sense of will she had left.
‘Damn you, Madelyne! Damn you!’ was all Jean could think as she gagged on another erect cock.
Locked in their respective chambers, their powers and connection to the Phoenix Force nullified, Scott and Jean were completely powerless. The effects of the drugs were too strong. Their only hope was to hold out, knowing that their many friends and connections would come for them. It was starting to feel like they were too late.
Then, as Scott and Jean’s resolve nearly gave way, a telepathic presence appeared before them. Within their minds, a powerful voice managed to cut through the vast shielding of the Null Chamber and reach them.
‘Scott! Jean! It’s me, Emma!’ the voice said. ‘Please tell me you can hear this.’
‘Emma?’ Scott replied.
‘Is that…really you?’ Jean said with renewed hope.
‘Good! I made it through,’ the blonde telepath said. ‘This psychic shielding is strong…far stronger than anything I’ve faced before. I’ve managed to adjust the settings of the telepathic amplifiers here, but…’
Her voice and presence shifted, like static coming in alongside a weak signal. Scott and Jean, determined not to lose it, fought to stay connected. Jean clenched her fists, even as the Summers Studs kept penetrating her from all ends. Scott steadied his breathing, fighting back against the Goblin Queen’s perverse influence over his mind and body. It helped keep Emma’s mind connected to theirs.
‘Aagh! My head feels like it’s on fire!’ Emma groaned. ‘Don’t worry. I can handle this. If I use what’s left of this thing’s energy, I can channel one last psychic attack…one that could break you from the Goblin Queen’s hold.’
‘But…the drugs,’ Jean said.
‘And her magic,’ added Scott, the extent of the Goblin Queen’s control not lost on them.
‘I know. Believe me, I know. That’s why I’m warning you. This is going to hurt. I’m basically going to cut your brain off from your body for a moment…which should nullify the effects of the drugs. Then, I’m going to jolt you awake again…so much so it should send your minds and bodies into overdrive. That includes your powers…and possibly the Phoenix.’
It sounded extremely dangerous. It was the kind of desperate measure that Charles Xavier never would’ve attempted, especially on his two former students. However, Emma Frost had already shown a willingness to cross lines that others wouldn’t. She might have been the only one capable of carrying out such a feat.
It might have also been the only way. They had to stop the Goblin Queen. The stakes were even higher than before because now, they had to make her pay for what she did to them.
‘Emma…do it!’ said Jean intently.
‘We…trust you,’ Scott added.
Their response strengthened the connection. Emma’s psychic presence even smiled somewhat. They were now every bit as motivated as her to defeat the Goblin Queen. The first step was regaining control after that woman went to such great lengths to take it from them.
‘Very well,’ Emma said. ‘Brace yourselves! Just think about how great it’ll feel when you take down that goblin-loving bitch!’
It was a tempting thought. Within their respective chambers, Scott and Jean closed their eyes and prepared for Emma’s attack. Her telepathic presence disappeared. They could already sense her channeling her telepathy, focusing immense amounts of psychic energy into their minds.
It was so intense. It was like trying to ignite a match that was trapped inside a glacier. Emma Frost overloaded the amplifiers one last time, focusing her efforts into this singular task. All the technology and magic that the Goblin Queen had put into these chambers presented powerful barriers. Like a single bullet to a sheet of glass, she hit it with all her might.
In an instant, the defenses shattered.
In that fateful moment, Emma entered the minds of Scott and Jean-Grey Summers.
From there, she delivered a telepathic shock to the system that even a cosmic force would feel.
“AGGGGHHHHH!” they both exclaimed.
For them, it was like being hit with a bolt of lightning. Scott, still bound in his bed, went completely rigid. Every muscle in his body tensed hard, almost to the point of cramping. Then, everything relaxed and he passed out completely.
Jean’s reaction was similar. Even with an erect dick being shoved in her mouth while two more pumped into her pussy and asshole, her body tensed and arched severely. It was so pronounced that even the Summers Studs noticed through their perverse daze. The three creatures fucking her pulled out briefly, her naked body going completely limp as she now laid on the floor, dripping with sweat and cum.
“Jean?” they all started saying as they hovered around her, their cocks still erect.
In each chamber, there was a heavy silence. Scott and Jean were completely stiff. They weren’t breathing, showing little other signs of activity. They looked as close to dead as any two bodies could be.
Then, Emma Frost hit them with one more psychic jolt before, sending the amplifiers past the point of no return. As a telepath, she could do no more. It ultimately proved to be enough. Scott and Jean’s eyes shot open.
This time, however, their eyes glowed with the cosmic flame of the Phoenix Force.
“Now…we rise!” they both exclaimed.
Their voices echoed with the power that the Goblin Queen did so much to temper. That power quickly spread, surrounding their naked bodies in a halo of fire and filling them with the energy of the Phoenix. In the process, the drugs and magic that Madelyne had used on them burned away. The sweat, scratches, and sexual fluids that stained their flesh burned away as well. That allowed them to finally reassert control.
“Jean?!” several Summers Studs exclaimed as they stumbled back from the sight.
“That…and so much more!” Jean yelled in a more menacing town.
Flushed with this power, Jean unleashed an intense burst of cosmic flame and telekinetic energy. The flame burned the perverse flesh off every Summers Stud that had been gangbanging her. They didn’t even get a chance to cry out in pain. The second their flesh burned away, the telekinetic force reduced their bones to dust.
The outburst didn’t stop there. As Jean rose off the floor, surrounded by the Phoenix-shaped flame, more waves shot out. They ripped through the chamber with incredible force, so much so that it caused the ceilings and the walls to buckle significantly. Every piece of debris started swirling around her, the emerging chaos blowing away the scent of perverse decadence that the Goblin Queen created. Within that chaos, the impact of her actions inspired something darker within her and the Phoenix.
“What I felt…what that woman did…cannot stand!” Jean said, her eyes glowing brighter as her rage intensified.
Scott experienced a similar darkness. As soon as the halo of the Phoenix Force surrounded him, he unleashed a similar burst of energy. A powerful mix of his optic blasts and cosmic force ripped through the bed, the restraints, and everything else in the chamber that was lighter than a boulder. As he ascended above the bed, hovering within the flame, everything was reduced to shreds and shards.
His glowing eyes shifted color, becoming dark red. His expression shifted as well, an anger and an outrage consuming the perspective that he and Jean had gained since embracing the Phoenix Force. As the feeling burned within him, the cosmic flames burned away what remained of the drug inside him. He was in control now. With the null chambers now heavily damaged, he could connect his mind with Jean, as well.
“Jean…I can feel you again,” he told her.
“And I can feel you too, Scott,” Jean replied.
“I can also feel how upset you are.”
“Trust me, my love. I’m more pissed off than I can put into words or thoughts!”
“Then, we’re on the same page. We know what must be done…and who we must do it to.”
Their psychic link was re-established.
Their minds, bodies, and desires were theirs to control once more.
Their primary goal was clear to them.
As this cosmic rage consumed them, the fires of the Phoenix Force swirled around their naked bodies. Taking various particles and debris from the swirling air around them, they formed new clothing.
In a dazzling display of matter manipulation, Scott and Jean formed the same attire they’d worn the day they first embraced the Phoenix Force. It included the full skin-tight body suit with gold gloves, a waist sash, and matching boots. However, unlike that first iteration of their attire, this one was colored dark red instead of green. It perfectly reflected the dark feelings they felt burning within them after the Goblin Queen did so much to taint their bodies and souls.
“So wrong!” Jean fumed.
“So angry!” Scott said with equal outrage.
“Life, love, and connection…not this time! Not for this woman!” they both said.
The outrage had overwhelmed them and the darkness took hold. Together, they burst out of their respective chambers, doing plenty of damage to the facility in the process, and met up on route to their destination. Their minds connected and their desires aligned, they set their sights on a single target. For the Goblin Queen, there would be no understanding, perspective, or mercy.
“We are fire! We are life and death incarnate!” they exclaimed together. “We are Dark Phoenix!”
Madelyne’s Chamber – Now
“Hurry up! Hurry up, goddamn it!” the Goblin Queen yelled at Dr. Miles Warren. “I’m still awash in pregnancy hormones. And I’m inclined to take them out on you!”
“It’s done, my queen!” the disfigured man said anxiously as he stepped away from the biotech synthesizer, “but I must advise you…”
“Shut up!” she barked. “I don’t have time for advice. Too many fates are on the line.”
The impatient Goblin Queen snatched away the container of the Legacy Virus. She didn’t bother waiting for the containment unit to cool down. The advanced synthesizer had already been overloaded. Even with the aid of Celestial technology, the system had been strained beyond its limits, modifying the virus to the Goblin Queen’s specifications.
Multiple monitor screens had shorted out. Several components on the synthesizer sparked and caught fire, rendering any additional changes impossible. That was not a chief concern anymore. There was no time left for more changes. Holding up the container, the Goblin Queen understood that this was her last remaining chance to complete her purpose.
“One dose…one purpose…one specimen,” Madelyne said as she gazed at the container, “perfect control in the name of a desired outcome.”
As she held the container of the virus in one hand, she looked at the infant she had cradled in her other arm. He was getting fussy again, shifting and crying in her grasp. One of his eyes kept flashing yellow, a clear sign of his mutant potential. All the stress was getting to him too.
“It’ll be fine, Nathan. I promise,” Madelyne said to him. “This is for your purpose, as much as mine.”
Another tremor rocked the facility, causing the synthesizer to fall over and collapse completely. More monitors and equipment fell throughout the chamber. Madelyne, however, remained undaunted. She still worked quickly, retrieving a large syringe from a pile of debris. She used her teeth to open it. She then waited for a pause in the tremors to load it with the Legacy Virus.
Just as the syringe was filled, a deafening burst shot out the other end of the room. A powerful force blew the entire metal wall out as though it were made of foil. It sent shockwaves throughout the chamber and the facility, demonstrating immense power and an ability to focus that power.
While the Goblin Queen barely flinched, guarding her baby and the syringe, Dr. Warren fell back in horror. Through the swirling debris, he watched as Scott and Jean Grey-Summers entered the chamber amidst a halo of cosmic flame. Their eyes glowed dark red, matching the color scheme of their dark red attire. They also looked incredibly upset.
“Oh God,” Dr. Warren, “this is not a fight I can take part in.”
“Then, go!” scoffed the Goblin Queen. “You’re officially useless to me now, Jackal.”
Her words were cold and callous, but none-the-less welcome. Free from any further role in this conflict, Dr. Warren scurried away through the adjacent doorway, never once looking back.
“Must get back to the lab! I must make sure my specimen is still intact!” he exclaimed.
Scott and Jean barely noticed the disfigured man running away like a coward. They were too enraged and too focused on the woman standing before them.
As they approached her in their Phoenix-empowered state, they quickly noticed that Madelyne Pyror lacked the domineering poise she wielded earlier. She was in a more vulnerable state. Her clothes and hair were disheveled. Her demeanor was clearly weaker. She definitely looked like a woman who had undergone some recent bodily rigor. The presence of the infant in her arm revealed the nature of that rigor.
“Madelyne Pryor!” Jean said angrily as she and Scott hovered in the center of the room. “What in the name of cosmic harmony have you done?!”
“You used me…manipulated me…tormented the woman I love!” Scott exclaimed. “And now, you bring a child…my child into this madness!”
“Madness?” the Goblin Queen scoffed. “What you call madness, I call fate!”
The devious redhead didn’t wait for the two enraged figures to attack. With the loaded syringe in hand, she pressed the needle into the arm of her newborn child. She didn’t inject the virus just yet, but she made sure she could on the slightest whim. Even a cosmic force couldn’t stop it at that point.
Her actions horrified Scott and Jean. Scott reacted especially strongly to seeing her stick a needle into the arm of an infant. He didn’t need cosmic awareness or telepathic probing to know that child was his. He hadn’t forgotten what the Goblin Queen told him just before she ravaged him.
“No! What did you do?” Scott demanded.
“Nothing yet,” Madelyne said intently, “but if you so much as ruffle my hair, I’ll inject this into our son…our beautiful, perfect son.”
“You’ll do nothing of the sort!” yelled Jean. “That child…”
“Is of our flesh too, Jean,” the other redhead pointed out. “Remember, I am your clone. My flesh came from you. And this child came from my womb. He is our shared link…our tether to something far greater than any of us. What you do to me, you do to him too…as well as yourselves.”
In their enraged, empowered state, Scott and Jean remained frozen in place. They still fumed with outrage at the egregious actions of this woman. They desired nothing more than to burn the woman’s body and soul until there was nothing left. However, they could not overlook the child she held so closely.
That child started crying louder. Aguish mixed with outrage as Scott and Jean looked at this child. Even from afar, they could see it. He was their son. This child, despite being conceived in a perverse act of manipulation, was a product of their flesh. The idea of bringing any harm to him was unthinkable. The Goblin Queen, however, looked very willing to inject him with something.
“I take it we’re on the same page, now,” Madelyne said. “You resent me. I expected that. You escaped your torment…I expected that, too. Although, I hoped you’d be dead by now.”
“Your hopes and expectations are abhorrent,” scolded Jean.
“That’s a matter of perspective…a point something I know you’re fond of,” she quipped.
“No perspective can possibly justify what you’ve done, Madelyne!”
“Spoken like someone who wasn’t cloned from another! Like someone whose destiny and desires weren’t hard-wired into her! That’s a perspective you cannot understand…not even with the Phoenix Force.”
“And yet you talk like someone who’s hiding behind excuses, as well as a child,” Scott said harshly.
“I need no excuses,” the Goblin Queen retorted. “I’ve always had one need…one desire. I cannot control that. I can only strive to control everything around it.”
The devious redhead held her child closer, his face inches from hers. He continued fussing, his cries filling the chamber. It kept Scott and Jean from unleashing the full fury of Dark Phoenix on this woman.
Scott’s gaze narrowed on the infant. The memories of what Madelyne did to conceive him were still fresh in his mind. The torment she inflicted, both on him and on Jean, still sickened and enraged him to no end. No perspective or insight could’ve prepared him for what they faced. Even in a vulnerable state, the Goblin Queen retained some measure of control.
“Believe me. I share some of your frustration,” the Goblin Queen said after the baby settled somewhat.
“I don’t believe that for a second!” Jean scoffed.
“Like that would matter,” the other redhead said. “It would’ve been much easier if you both perished. It would’ve been easier still if simply birthing this child was sufficient. That’s why I endured nine months of hardship in Limbo’s temporal pits…nine months of discomfort for me while less than an hour passes for you.”
“That just tells me you’re a bitch AND you’re impatient!”
“I left nothing to chance. I made sure I did my motherly duty. I would’ve preferred simply drawing my last breath the moment little Nathan drew his first.”
“Nathan…” Scott repeated distantly, still fixated on the child.
“But that didn’t happen!” Madelyne said, her voice becoming more restless and unstable. “I’m still here. My purpose…my fate…my desires…all still unsatisfied. I was created to birth the ultimate mutant. Either I failed or there’s something else I must do…an act that only my broken, incomplete soul can complete.”
Her hand that clutched the syringe shook. There was a distinct glint in her eyes. It was not the look of someone whose soul had ever been good, pure, or even fully human. Madelyne Pyror carried herself as a shell of a person, defined only by the innate desires within her.
This was not someone Scott and Jean could connect to, as they had with others. The Goblin Queen and her twisted perspective was just too deviant. She was an aberration, but one they indirectly created. The burden fell on them to resolve it.
“Whatever depraved act you’re contemplating, I promise you this,” said Scott firmly, “we’ll stop you!”
“Harm a child in the process and we’ll make it hurt even more!” Jean threatened.
Madelyne stared down the two empowered figures. She remained undaunted, even as the Phoenix-shaped fire around them intensified. The full might of Dark Phoenix, a cosmic power of creation and destruction, was aimed right at her. She had no hope of matching it. Even she wasn’t crazy enough to think otherwise.
Then, in an act that surprised even the Phoenix Force, Madelyne Pryor started laughing. As she laughed, baby Nathan in her arms started crying again.
“Ha! You really think you can stop me? Or that you can threaten me with pain?” she laughed.
“Let the baby go and we’ll try to show mercy,” said Scott.
Madelyne just laughed even louder. A twinge of madness even entered her voice. She sounded less like a depraved woman and more like a demon in human form. In that maddened state, she turned towards her crying son.
“Oh Scott,” she said through her laugher, “this child’s fate was sealed before you even arrived.”
In an act that crossed the last line for Scott and Jean Grey-Summers, the Goblin Queen injected the infant Nathan with the legacy virus. Even the Phoenix Force could not hide its revulsion.
“NOOO!” Scott and Jean yelled out.
“It’s too late!” the Goblin Queen said, still laughing. “Our fate, our desires, and our future…you’re all too late!”
“We’re not too late. We’re cutting it close, but we’re not too late!” said an anxious and breathless Kate Pryde.
She kept repeating that mantra after entering the facility alongside Nightcrawler, Dr. Strange, and Spider-Man. They’d left Kwannon and Colossus outside. They were tasked with keeping the Goblin Queen’s forces from re-entering the facility while also keeping an eye on Carnage and Magik. Having brought the reprogrammed Sentinels to the battle, they had the advantage. Combined with the forces of SHIELD, the Avengers, and the Fantastic Four, they were taking down Madelyne’s monstrous forces faster than they could be replaced.
However, Kate knew that still wasn’t enough. Even if every demon, goblin, symbiote, and Hand ninja fell, the Goblin Queen could still succeed in dooming them all. It came down to one critical point in time. Friends, family, and even future children had lamented on that moment, knowing its importance in how it ultimately led to their decimated world. Nothing could change unless that moment changed.
“How close are ve, Kate?” asked Nightcrawler anxiously.
“And are these tremors a good or bad sign?” wondered Spider-Man. “If they’re good, that would be a first.”
“They’re not good,” Kate affirmed.
“Not good at all,” said Dr. Strange, the Eye of Agamotto flashing more erratically.
“Damn. I knew I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up this soon!”
Spider-Man’s dashed hopes coincided with a fresh round of violent tremors. It forced them to stop in their tracks, having to lean on nearby walls.
It was like being in a building in which an angry Hulk had been trapped in the basement. The whole pyramid-like structure shook and swayed, entire parts of the facility collapsing in the process. Kate already knew what caused it while the others dreaded the implications. Still not daunted, she kept looking forward while staying close to Nightcrawler. He still had in his possession the key to ending this.
“Zhe M’Krann Shard,” Nightcrawler said as he clung to the small, thermos-like container, “it’s getting hotter and glowing brighter. Is zhat a good thing?”
“You really wanna jinx us again?” asked Spider-Man, just as the tremors stopped.
“Actually…it is,” said Kate.
That left Spider-Man surprised, but confused.
“Um…am I just seeing things backwards, today?” the wall-crawler wondered.
“Do yourself a favor, Spider-Man,” said Dr. Strange, who sensed it as well. “Do not make jokes in the face of destiny. It has a very poor sense of humor.”
While Spider-Man fell awkwardly silent, Kate turned her attention to the container. Inside, she saw the M’Krann Shard vibrating and pulsating erratically. She’d seen it before, albeit in memories of events that had yet to transpire. In those memories, they hadn’t discovered the shard’s importance or its meaning. It didn’t make a difference then, but it could make all the difference now.
“It sensed what just happened,” Kate surmised, “the disruption…the perversion of the same perspective they’d embraced.”
“Whatever it is, I do not know if zhe container can hold it much longer,” said Nightcrawler nervously.
“It won’t have to,” she told him. “Here! Let me take it. I’ll try to phase some of the energy through the barriers. That should keep it intact.”
Her friend was reluctant to hand the unstable device over, especially as parts of it began to crack. However, there was no time to argue. He gave it to Kate, who quickly used her phasing powers to help some of the energy flow out. It stopped the shaking, but the fiery halo around the shard only intensified.
“In my memories, we didn’t detect this until after all was said and done…after Scott and Jean made a fateful choice,” Kate mused. “It might have been right at the time, but the consequences it caused…I can’t let it happen again!”
She clung firmly to the container. Her teenage body wasn’t as strong as Kate remembered, but it had to suffice. Looking ahead at the path before them, she realized they were falling behind.
Scott and Jean had clearly awoken. The damage done by the Goblin Queen had imparted a darkness on them that grew stronger with each passing second. As if to reminder her that critical junction in time was near, several row of lights along the corridor went out. Others flickered erratically before a loud alarm went off.
“Warning! Primary power core compromised,” echoed a robotic voice. “Activating emergency backup power. Warning! All defense systems compromised. Structural integrity compromised. Initiating Celestial recalibration-BZZT!”
The voice cut was abruptly cut off, a clear indication that more systems were failing. Kate assumed that was Storm and Wolverine doing their part. They were a bit behind schedule, but it still made a difference. Now, the Goblin Queen couldn’t lock them out or throw more Celestial tech at them.
The alarm continued blaring and the corridors remained only partially lit. More tremors followed as more parts of the facility failed. Knowing that path before them wouldn’t get much clearer, Kate adjusted their tactics.
“You two,” Kate said, pointing towards Dr. Strange and Spider-Man, “head towards the west end. Meet up with Wolverine and Storm. Now that the power core is down, you should be able to shut down the rest of the Goblin Queen’s operations.”
“Do we need to know specifics? Do we even want to know?” Spider-Man asked.
“You’ll figure it out. Trust me.”
The wall-crawler was not inclined to trust the orders of someone he saw as a teenage girl. However, Dr. Strange had already made his choice. Before Spider-Man could question her reasoning, he grabbed Spider-Man’s wrist, levitated into the air, and flew with him in the direction she’d ordered.
“You heard the lady, Spider-Man,” Dr. Strange told him. “We have our fate ahead of us. Leave them to theirs.”
“Right. No pressure,” Spider-Man said nervously.
Shortly after they disappeared from view, more tremors hit the area. Multiple lights shorted out and several heavy doorways snapped shut. Kate clung to the container harder while Nightcrawler helped support her.
He shared Spider-Man’s nervousness, but he showed no intention of backing down. Like Dr. Strange had said, their fate was literally ahead of them.
“Vhat about us, Katzchen? Vhat is our fate?” the German mutant asked her.
“For that, you’ll have to trust me even more,” she told him.
“Zhat shard vas exactly vhere you said it would be. Trust is not an issue…nor is my faith in you.”
“For the record, that same faith cost you your life in my time,” she pointed out.
“And I’ll gladly give it again if it means averting zhat time.”
She offered him a weak smile. He smiled back, his grip on her shoulders intensifying. Kate took a deep breath, knowing what and who they were about to face. She’d been preparing a lifetime for it.
“That’s good to know, Kurt. I’ll make sure it’s not necessary,” said Kate.
“I’ll do my part as best I can,” Nightcrawler said.
“And that’s going to involve teleporting us the rest of the way,” she told him, “which I know you don’t like doing without knowing where you’ll appear. The Professor already showed you my memories. I can fill in the rest of the details as best I can.”
“Zhen vhat are ve waiting for? Let’s do it!” he said without hesitation.
With the same bravery that Kate so fondly remembered, Nightcrawler closed his eyes and concentrated in preparation for their next move. Kate prepared herself, as well. The past, present, and future hung in the balance. Their final confrontation with the Goblin Queen awaited them.
Years From Now – The Ruins of the Xavier Institute
‘Rachel Ann Summers!’ yelled a booming telepathic voice. ‘I know what you’re trying to do. It won’t work. I’m here to make sure of it.’
Rachel knew that voice well. She knew that telepathic presence even better. She dreaded it almost as much as the Goblin Queen.
It belonged to Nathanial Pryor Summers, better known throughout the wasteland as Cable. He was the son of Madelyne Pryor, the Apocalypse Queen. He was also the Horseman of Destiny, the only Horseman that she even needed. He inherited his mutant abilities from Scott and Jean Grey-Summers, just like her. Unlike her, though, his powers had been amplified, corrupted, and perverted by Madelyne. It showed in every thought he projected, especially to her.
He might have been her biological brother, but his soul was the polar opposite of the one hers. She had the life, love, and connection her parents had instilled. Cable had nothing of the sort.
“Nathan…I honestly hoped we’d never see each other again,” Rachel lamented.
She’d already made a difficult decision. Looking around her, seeing more time fissures form throughout the chamber, she knew she couldn’t put it off for much longer. She had to make her move soon. She had to make it at the right moment. That moment just couldn’t come soon enough.
Looking down at the frail body of Kate Pryde, still unmoving as her mind was projected into the past, Rachel shed another tear. She could sense how close her friend was to that pivotal moment. She could also sense just how much she’d changed already.
The growing severity of the time fissures indicated that the very fabric of reality was coming undone. If Franklin Richards, her genius late husband, were still alive, he’d be in awe of such a spectacle. He might have also held her one last time, knowing it could be the end of all things as they knew it. She could’ve used his love and his warmth at that moment because a far darker presence arrived at that moment.
In a loud burst, courtesy of Cable’s overpowered and oversized gun, the entrance to the chamber was blown away. Through the gaping hole, an imposing figure emerged through the smoke. He was only half flesh. The other half consisted of the ominous metallic flesh that once made up the Legacy Virus. One side was the man, born from the same flesh as her parents. The other was a disease and an abomination, born from Madelyne Pyror.
“Hello, sister,” Cable greeted with his grizzled, half-human voice. “Your time is up.”
“Speak for yourself, Nathan,” said Rachel, trying to stay focused on Kate.
“Only my mother can call me that. Everyone else calls me Cable. Those who don’t…are usually dead by now.”
“Then, it’s a good thing that won’t matter in a few minutes.”
“Ha! As though you’ll survive that long.”
Upon saying those words, another figure emerged behind him. It was even larger and much more menacing. It was the very source of the darkness, chaos, and perversion that had consumed this world and this timeline. Madelyne Pyror, the one who slayed En Sabbah Nur to become the Apocalypse Queen, had arrived.
Every time Rachel saw her, she became stronger. She still wore the same cape and rags that she wore when she used to seduce others to her agenda. However, her flesh had since changed, becoming bluish in hue with hints of techno-organic enhancements. Like her predecessor, her body had been significantly upgraded, allowing her greater control over every cell of flesh. It made her many times more powerful and much more dangerous.
She was already at a point where none could stop her. Neither the Phoenix Force nor the combined might of Earth’s mightiest heroes proved strong enough. She and Kate were all that remained. As Rachel locked eyes with the powerful woman, the Phoenix halo around her body flared up. It knew as well as her how much suffering and discord that this woman had caused.
“Change the past to alter the future,” said the Apocalypse Queen coldly. “Desperate, but bold…as well as pathetic.”
“It’s already…working!” said Rachel, straining herself even more.
“I’ve noticed,” she said. “You couldn’t stop my reign. You couldn’t temper the chaos. So instead, you choose this…oblivion.”
“She can’t win. So she’s making sure we lose,” added Cable. “Just give the word, Mother. I’ll end her with one shot!”
Cable pointed his gun at her. Rachel locked eyes with her brother. His techno-organic side became agitated, spreading into what remained of his flesh. When that happened, it often meant his actions aligned perfectly with the Apocalypse Queen’s desires. There was a time when Rachel tried to save him from such a grim fate. That time had long since passed.
As she stared down the barrel of his gun, another large time fissure opened up right in front of Cable. It was so severe and grew so quickly that it engulfed his gun, rendering it non-existent in an instant. Cable managed to avoid getting sucked in, but he remained undeterred, as did the Apocalypse Queen.
“Damn! That was my favorite gun,” Cable groaned.
“It’s okay, son. I’ll get you another,” the Apocalypse Queen ensured, “but first, we must take control of this new chaos!”
Rachel closed her eyes, bracing herself for what was about to unfold. Cable stepped aside, allowing the Apocalypse Queen to approach the center of the chamber. With every step she took, she grew in size. By the time she reached them, she was the size of a Sentinel. Her eyes glowed with energy and her perverse grin widened. As she clenched her fist, her flesh morphed into large hammer-shaped ends.
The Apocalypse Queen prepared to crush them both. Neither Rachel nor the Phoenix Force made an effort to block it. They just remained focused on keeping Kate’s mind in the past. Time itself seemed to slow as her massive fists approached.
Then, just as her attack was inches from crushing them, another time fissure formed between them. However, this one was very different from the others. As soon as the Apocalypse Queen touched it, her arms became transparent, like a ghost. She ended up passing right through Rachel and Kate.
Her reaction, as well as Cable’s, was one of shock and confusion.
“That…shouldn’t happen,” she said distantly.
“You’re right. It shouldn’t,” said Rachel, already grinning.
“Mother? What’s happening?” said Cable, aghast at what he just saw.
As he tried to make sense of this, he looked down at his hands. His limbs began fading too, becoming translucent before his eyes. At the same time, the techno-organic part of his body started receding. It caused him great discomfort. He started shifting and contorting where he stood, his eyes glowing as he grasped his head.
“What? It’s impossible!” he exclaimed. “Mother…Rachel…”
Those were his final words before he faded into nothingness. Another time fissure formed where he stood, the oblivion they’d scoffed at earlier spreading. Seeing Cable disappear like that triggered a powerful reaction in the Apocalypse Queen. Her shock turned to horror and her horror soon turned to outrage.
It too late, though. Even as she tried to lash out at Rachel, more of her body faded into a ghost-like nothingness. She kept trying to crush her. She might as well have been trying to crush empty space.
Rachel’s grin widened even more. It assured her that her decision would’ve made her parents proud.
“What have you done?!” the Apocalypse Queen demanded.
“I’ve done nothing, Madelyne. Not yet,” Rachel said smugly.
“You…you cannot undo your parents mistake! You can’t stop what is inevitable! Not without a price!”
“For once, we finally agree on something. But my parents already paid their price. This time, someone else will shoulder that burden.”
Several more time fissures formed around her and Kate. At that point, the entire chamber had been consumed. The last trace of their world was fading. It already consumed the Apocalypse Queen, her angry cries fading fast into the emptiness. It was just about to consume Kate. That was when Rachel made her move.
She let go of Kate, summoned the full power of the Phoenix, and entered the nearest time fissure.
‘I’m coming, Mom and Dad,’ Rachel said as she entered the temporal unknown. ‘Please…do what you do best. Follow your hearts. Make the right choice…for me…for our family…for the future.’
Madelyne’s Chamber – Present Time
She had really done it. The Goblin Queen crossed a line that even the Phoenix Force couldn’t comprehend. She’d just injected her infant child, Nathan, with the Legacy Virus. His pained cries now filled the chamber. To Scott and Jean Grey-Summers, they were also the cries of their biological child.
There could be no understanding. In the rage of Dark Phoenix, there could only be wrath.
“MADELYNE!” Scott and Jean exclaimed, their voices thick with cosmic power.
As the child cried and the virus spread, they surrounded the Goblin Queen with a cyclone of flame. Like fiery tendrils, they closed on her rapidly, encasing her in a grip of cosmic force the likes of which a Celestial could not break. She made no effort to evade it. She simply clung to the weeping infant, her body hovering in mid air as the area around her trembled.
“There it is. You feel it, don’t you?” she said with a perverse grin. “That’s the price you must pay…the burden you must bear.”
“SHUT UP!” they yelled as they closed in on her.
“Could this have been my purpose all along?” the Goblin Queen wondered. “You defied fate, embracing great power…celebrating life, love, and connections of all kinds. Such joy and fulfillment…it had to come at a price. I was already part of it. But this…this just makes it final.”
Her ramblings made little sense. Neither Scott nor Jean cared to make sense of them. This woman had done too much to deserve their wrath. There was no other perspective to consider. All the preparations they’d done no longer mattered. The connections they made, the answers they sought, and the effort they made to understand the implications of having embraced the Phoenix force as they did had ultimately failed them.
Now, as Scott and Jean held Madelyne Pryor in their grip, there was only one clear recourse. The baby was still crying. The structure around them was crumbling. This was their stand against a woman who had committed such heinous acts.
“For what you’ve done, you’ll pay a far greater price!” Scott and Jean said as they tightened their grip. “As for our child…”
“Ours indeed,” she laughed. “You actually think you can change his destiny?”
“We’ll change his molecular structure if we must! But yours…we intend to leave nothing left! Nothing in this realm or any other!”
Scott and Jean raised their hand together. More cosmic flame shot out from their bodies, surrounding Madelyne’s body even more. Still hovering in mid-air, they drew her closer. Were she not clinging to a crying baby, they would’ve been much harsher.
They still made it plenty uncomfortable. However, even as they caused her pain and threatened to unleash their wrath, she didn’t stop grinning. She was practically daring them to burn her body to a cinder with the Phoenix Force. Scott and Jean had no intention of showing any mercy.
“This ends now, Madelyne!”
“Heh! Says you,” she taunted.
The devious woman kept grinning as she braced herself. Scott and Jean clenched their first in preparation for their final assault. They were prepared to bring down the whole facility around them, just to ensure the Goblin Queen stayed buried.
Then, in a sudden puff of smoke, followed by the scent of brimstone, two familiar figures appeared in the chamber just behind them. In that same moment, a desperate voice rang out.
In that moment, just as Scott and Jean were prepared to impart their wrath, they turned to see the source of the voice, Kitty Pryde. She’d arrived alongside Nightcrawler, who was obviously winded from so much teleporting.
“Kitty? Kurt?” Jean said, her Dark Phoenix undertone faltering.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Scott asked with similar shock.
“Please…you have to listen!” Kate urged as she ran towards them.
“Kate, vait!” yelled an exhausted Nightcrawler.
He even tried to hold Kitty back, but it was no use. The young girl who’d only recently joined the X-Men ran straight towards the chaotic scene. The swirling cosmic flames, the presence of the Goblin Queen, and the sounds of a crying infant didn’t deter her. She phased through any debris and flares, still clutching a container that was already heavily cracked. In her eyes was a sense of both desperation and urgency.
“Don’t do it!” she shouted. “Destroy her body…it won’t work! She, Nathan, and even you two…it’s all broken! You have to fix what doesn’t work before-AHHHH!”
The young girl stopped mid-stride, freezing as though she’d been hit by lightning. Her face contorted awkwardly and her eyes rolled into the back of her head before falling limply to the floor. She even dropped the damaged container in the process, which rolled slowly towards Scott and Jean.
“Kate, no!” Nightcrawler cried out.
“What happened?” gasped Scott before turning back to the Goblin Queen. “What did you do to her, Madelyne?!”
“Believe me. I’m just as confused as you are,” the devious redhead stated, having finally stopped grinning.
Scott remained close to the Goblin Queen, keeping her bound by cosmic flames. Jean, concerned and confused, moved closer to the young girl. She was still conscious and still moving. She groaned and clutched her head as she tried to get up. When she looked around at her surroundings, she looked more surprised than any of them.
“Uh…what’s happening?” Kitty asked.
“Kate? Are you okay?” Nightcrawler asked.
“Who’s Kate?” she said, still groaning. “And what is this? Is it some new Danger Room session? Because I so did not study for this.”
Her voice had that distinctly youthful overtone again. It sounded like a normal teenage girl, rather than an old woman hardened by battle. Kate had warned the X-Men earlier about this. If at any point her link to the future was severed, she’d revert back to her teenage self. She also noted that if that happened, something big had disrupted both the future and the past.
“Mien Gott…were ve too late? Did ve fail?” Nightcrawler wondered.
“Fail what? The session?” said Kitty, still very confused.
While the mood remained tense, Jean remained fixated on what she’d said moments ago. She was also drawn to the container she’d been carrying the moment she appeared. It had since rolled to the area just beneath her feet. It was already starting to fall apart, but Jean recognized the energy radiating within.
In a curious daze, Jean used her telekinesis to levitate the container. As she brought it to eye-level, she deconstructed it with relative ease, revealing the contents within. It was a crystal-like shard, surrounded by a halo of fiery energy. As it hovered in front of her within her telekinetic grasp, the radiating energy intensified. Its fiery energy took on the appearance of a wounded creature, flailing about amidst the chaos.
“Broken,” Jean said distantly. “It won’t work. It can’t work. To fix it, we must…”
At that moment, a realization hit her. Jean gasped in a mix of anguish and sorrow, as though she’d just remembered something incredibly important. She covered her mouth to contain her dismay. Tears quickly formed in her glowing eyes. The swirling flames around her and Scott continue, but they took on a very different meaning.
“I can’t believe it! How could we have forgotten?” she cried, her voice no longer bearing the tone of Dark Phoenix. “After everything we did…the life, love, and connections we shared…how could we be so willing to throw it all away?”
Her pained cries affected Scott profoundly. Hearing the woman he love in such anguish was enough to jar him from his Dark Phoenix state, as well. His glowing eyes softened, but he still kept Madelyne bound. As he consoled his wife, the Goblin Queen grew more agitated.
“What the hell are you two whining about? Are you gonna burn me to a crisp or what?” she spat.
“Wait…you want that?” asked a still confused Kitty Pryde. “Is this lady crazy or something?”
“You have no idea, Katzchen. And take it from your future self. You don’t vant to know,” Nightcrawler said as he aided his teammate.
“My future self?” she said, sounding even more confused. “Um…okay.”
A strange silence fell over the chamber. All eyes were on Scott and Jean, once more. Jean remained fixated on the hovering shard, tears still flowing down her eyes. She sensed Scott’s presence, but didn’t turn away from the shard. She just reached for his hand and squeezed it, as if to cling harder to something else to keep them from the brink.
“What is it, Jean?” Scott asked her intently. “And what the hell are we looking at?”
“A reminder,” Jean said through hard sobs, “a painful reminder that we never should’ve needed…not again.”
“Again?” he questioned.
“Look closer, Scott. This shard…it’s a piece of the M’Krann Crystal. I’d know that energy anywhere. And you know it too because…”
“The Phoenix knows,” he said before she finished, already making the connections.
“Yes,” she affirmed. “And this piece…this shard that was left behind…probably on the same day when we first embraced this power…it’s telling us something. The mere fact we’re looking at it now is telling us something important.”
Scott looked closer as Jean sank deeper into her conflicted state. The glowing shard continued vibrating and radiating in their presence. They affected it and it affected the Phoenix. Just being close to it caused the cosmic force to shudder, as though it was yelling something it didn’t want to hear.
Eventually, he made the connection too. His eyes widened as he recalled that fateful day on the space shuttle when he and Jean encountered the Phoenix Force. This time, however, those memories included another important detail. When he sensed it too, he reacted just as strongly.
“My God,” he gasped. “I see it now. What we gained that day…what we built from it…and we almost lost it.
“Again!” Jean added.
“I know. That makes it even worse!”
As they took in the harsh realization together, they each placed one hand around the shard. In doing so, the fiery energy around the object stabilized. The more the realization sank in, the more the chaos subsided.
Together, they guided the shard closer. They then cast a look towards Kitty and Nightcrawler, who were still anxious and confused.
“Thank you,” Jean said graciously. “We know what to do now.”
“Um…okay. I’m still confused, but I’m a little less freaked out,” said Kitty with a half-grin.
“Wunderbare!” said Nightcrawler, sounding very relieved. “Vhat do you need from us?”
“Nothing. You’ve done enough,” said Scott. “Just go meet up with the others. Tell them we’ll fix this. It’ll all be over soon.”
“Zhey’ll be glad to hear that.”
“They’ll be in good company,” said Jean.
Nightcrawler nodded with a grin before taking Kitty’s hand in his. She continued smiling awkwardly, but stopped short of asking more questions. They disappeared in a puff of smoke and brimstone, leaving her and Scott alone to deal with Madelyne.
The bound redhead was the only one not relieved by this unexpected turn. Even baby Nathan had settled down. It left her both confused and agitated.
“Whatever you’re thinking about doing…stop thinking. Do it already!” the Goblin Queen spat. “Haven’t you learned by now? It’s not wise to deny my desires.”
“That’s just it, Madelyne. We have learned,” said Jean as she and Scott hovered over her. “Hard lessons tend to come from big mistakes. We almost made one the day we encountered the Phoenix Force. And we were about to make another one with you.”
“You’re still making it, as we speak!” she said, her voice becoming more unhinged.
“You pushed us to that point,” Scott told her. “You tortured, manipulated, and controlled us…undermining every perspective we gained to that point. We thought we had prepared ourselves. But this shard is proof there was a flaw…one that’s linked to you, as well as us.”
They steadily guided the shard towards the Goblin Queen. As it got closer, its energy flared up again. Fiery flares shot out, as though her very presence triggered serious disruptions. Madelyne scowled at the shard. She also felt its flames burn her flesh, despite it having no effects on anyone else. It hurt her skin, but she felt the heat below her skin, as well.
“Errr! Get that thing away from me!” Madelyne demanded. “It burns! And not in a way I like!”
“That’s because the M’Krann Crystal is tied to the Phoenix,” Jean told her, “but you already knew that. That’s how you lured us here. But I doubt you understood it.”
“To be fair, we didn’t fully understand it, either,” said Scott. “It’s not just a source of power or a gateway to the White Hot Room. It’s a byproduct of the Phoenix Force’s primordial purpose…a perfect manifestation of creation and destruction.”
“And when it’s broken, it means something went wrong in fulfilling that purpose…something that requires resolution rather than destruction.”
“The latter adds to the chaos, but the former brings balance. As someone who appreciates both chaos and purpose, I suspect you understand better than most.”
The Goblin Queen finally fell silent. Even in her bound state, she began to see the same connections. The shard continued hovering near her, causing burns in her flesh. They still hurt, but she barely reacted to the discomfort. She began focusing more on her child, as well as the implications of what they said.
“So, you fucked it up the second you got it. That’s on you…not me,” the Goblin Queen said.
“You’re half-right. It is on us, but we did not disrupt the crystal…not directly,” Jean continued.
“It was a byproduct of our actions,” said Scott, “a consequence of the choice we made together…not unlike yourself.”
“And now here you are…seeking to destroy that consequence,” Madelyne said bitterly.
“That was our first inclination. It might have been the easiest possible recourse. But all it would’ve done is embolden the chaos…laying the seeds for more consequences.”
“And they’d catch up to us, too,” said Jean. “Maybe not today or tomorrow. But years from now, it would’ve found us, our friends, and ever our children. That is the nature of power, perspective, and fate. A misguided choice will always incur greater consequences. The right choice…the necessary choice…only that will bring harmony.”
A new calm came over Scott and Jean.
A similar calm settled over the Phoenix Force.
As the shard hovered between them and the Goblin Queen, their attire shifted once more. The dark red color scheme that seemed so menacing shifted to a bright, unblemished white. It marked the distinct appearance of the White Phoenix of the Crown, a manifestation of the Phoenix Force they had encountered before.
That encounter helped inspire them to build new lives around life, love, and connection. Along the way, their actions triggered unexpected reactions. Madelyne Pryor was just one of them. She’d even acknowledged that. Now, she was starting to grasp the recourse.
“Make no mistake, Madelyne,” Jean continued. “You hurt us…used us…manipulated us for your own selfish ends.”
“You expect me to apologize? Or that I beg for forgiveness?” Madelyne scoffed.
“If we didn’t see through your deviance and depravity, we might be tempted. But we know the truth. The shard senses it too. Your purpose…these desires that drive you to such decadent acts…they’re symptoms of a broken soul.”
“But one that isn’t broken beyond repair,” Scott added.
That insight hit the Goblin Queen harder than any attack. As she stared down the M’Krann Crystal shard, she felt it even more.
The way it burned through her flesh affirmed what she already knew about herself. That flesh was just a shell. It existed before her soul had been put in place by her creators. The nature of that soul had been apparent from the moment she awoke. From the beginning, it was so innately wrong and perverse. It informed so many actions and desires, including her most depraved. The idea it could ever be fixed was unthinkable.
Suddenly, it didn’t seem so implausible.
“We don’t expect you to apologize, Madelyne,” Scott continued. “You exist because of what we did.”
“Then, don’t bother apologizing to me, either,” said Madelyne restlessly. “I didn’t ask to be created…by you or by Sinister.”
“None of us have a say in our creation. Few ever have a say in our destruction.”
“And now you’re denying me that too?” the devious redhead said.
“Only because we know it won’t end this,” Jean told her. “You can’t destroy something without creating something else. It’s a fundamental aspect to the Phoenix Force…balancing destruction and creation.”
“But it’s not the only one,” Scott added. “To strike that balance, it must fix what doesn’t work…what became broken. Jean and I had to confront that before. It helped us avert a worse fate. Now, here we…facing the same issue.”
“Again needing the benefit of foresight and hindsight,” said Jean with a touch of humor. “It’s a trend we’d like avoid moving forward.”
“And we can start right now.”
Scott moved in closer and placed his hand around the M’Krann Shard. That stopped the burning on Madelyne’s flesh. He and Jean kept her restrained with the Phoenix, but they loosened their grip somewhat. That allowed her a bit more room to cradle Nathan, who’d remained quiet.
The infant’s body remained affected by the Legacy Virus. He was still in state of discomfort, but under the light of the Phoenix Force, he seemed remarkably calm. He even reached out towards the flames, as if to affirm the connection he had to all three of them.
Seeing this, Madelyne Pyror sighed and fumed. Even as she held her child, she still felt the burden of her purpose. She still felt the desires that drove her. If she were released, she wouldn’t stop pursuing them. No matter how many depraved acts it incurred, she was doomed to such a fate. Her broken soul and tainted flesh still drove her.
Escaping that fate was now within her grasp. For the first time in her brief existence, she looked towards Scott and Jean Grey-Summers with a longing that superseded her desire.
“Madelyne,” Jean said to her clone. “We can fix your broken soul. The pieces your creators used to put you together…we can use the Phoenix Force to rectify that.”
“I want to believe you can,” said Madelyne. “I just know it’ll comes at a cost.”
“Indeed, it will,” Jean affirmed. “Fixing your broken soul also means this flesh around it – flesh that came from me, no less – will be burned away too. Like a rotting shell around a core, it has to go. And I cannot guarantee that process is painless.”
“You think pain will scare me away?” the Goblin Queen quipped.
“It involves you ceding control to someone else…someone you’ve done so much to hurt. And I know how challenging that is for you.”
Jean made it seem so daunting. After everything Madelyne did to control everything and everyone, it was on many levels. This time, however, the prospect of losing control didn’t seem so insufferable.
Looking down at herself, her broken soul still gnawing at her flesh, the Goblin Queen lost any lingering fear of such surrender. Her only point of hesitation was the child in her arms, who she had already doomed to a unique fate, due to the Legacy Virus.
“So, my options are a lifetime of depraved, unescapable desires…or a complete mending of my broken soul,” Madelyne said with a humored chuckle. “That’s hardly a tough decision.”
“And yet, I can tell you have concerns,” Scott noted.
“Only one,” she affirmed, “my child…no, our child.”
“He will be unaffected,” Jean assured her. “I can promise you that.”
“Except, I still did this to him,” Madelyne said, running her finger over the spreading lesions of the Legacy Virus. “Even if you fix me, you can’t hope to fix him. Not with the same process.”
“We’ll find a way,” Jean said.
“That’s just it! There is no other way. The Legacy Virus inside him cannot be stopped. If I’m fixed, but he remains tainted…then have we really resolved anything?”
It was a difficult question. Scott and Jean had no answers at the moment. They sensed that Madelyne would not go along with this without some understanding that Nathan would be saved. It was her way of confronting the consequences of her actions before it was too late.
It left them at an impasse. There didn’t seem to be an answer. Then, the Phoenix Force became agitated again. The M’Krann Shard started pulsating with fiery energy again. Unlike before, it didn’t seem as chaotic or unstable. It looked more like a beacon, attempting to convey a message without words or sound.
Scott and Jean reached out to it again. When they touched it together, their eyes flashed and their expressions shifted. It started with shock, but soon turned to joy. They briefly exchanged looks, smiling at what they sensed.
“Jean…did you hear that too?” Scott asked.
“I did,” Jean said, still smiling.
“It’s not a perfect solution,” he pointed out.
“But it’s the right one. It’ll fix what can be fixed. That’s what we must do…what the Phoenix must do.”
They turned back to Madelyne Pryor, who remained fixated on her child. She saw the Legacy Virus spreading within him. He started getting fussy again, but she continued cradling him like any mother would. Even with all her depraved desires, certain feelings still took hold.
“I take it there’s an option, now,” the Goblin Queen said.
“There is,” Scott said.
“Does it involve me handing over our child? And trusting that you’ll do what’s best for him?” she asked.
“It would be easier to fight you for it. It would also put everything else at risk…inviting more burdens and obscuring more perspectives.”
“Quit trying to tempt me, Scott. You’re not very good at it,” she scoffed.
“Speak for yourself,” said Jean, “as though I can’t take it personally.”
“But even I’m not deranged enough to see the bigger picture,” the Goblin Queen said bitterly. “I know myself. I know my desires will not cease. This broken soul my creators gave me…this soul forged in Limbo and surrounded by cloned flesh…it’ll keep festering. And it’ll keep driving me to greater acts of perversion.”
“Is that the fate you want? For you and for our child?” Scott inquired.
“Wanting anything other than fulfilling my purpose is difficult for me to grasp. But I know it’s hardly preferable…especially for little Nathan. Surrounding him in such chaos will only hinder his potential. If he is to truly become what he is meant to be, then I must do what every mother does for her child…even if it conflicts with my desires.”
The unstable woman who had caused so much chaos finally settled. Even within the Phoenix Force’s grasp, a unique calm came over her. Her arms trembled and her expression tensed with discomfort, knowing that what she was about to do conflicted with the many feelings that drove her.
Those same feelings had left her feeling incomplete after she gave birth to Nathan. They also caused even more chaos, as indicated by the course of the battle raging outside the facility. Following those feelings weren’t going to satisfy her. This might not satisfy her, either. It would just end these chaotic desires.
With a sigh and a hint of frustration, she hugged her baby one more time before handing him over to Scott and Jean. Scott willingly took him in his arms. Little Nathan reacted immediately, letting out a light coo as his eye flashed in his father’s presence.
“Hello, Nathan,” Scott said to him as he caressed the parts infected by the Legacy Virus. “It’ll be okay. I know it seems rough now. But I promise. It’ll be okay.”
“Your father is a man of his word,” said Jean as she caressed his tiny face gently. “We’ll make this right. We’ll do what we must for you.”
The child cooed more, even as more parts of his body showed signs of the virus. He didn’t appear to be in too much discomfort. However, holding him in their arms, surrounded by the cosmic flames of the Phoenix Force, gave even greater weight to their emerging perspective. It also gave them even more incentive to never lose sight of it again.
Seeing it left the Goblin Queen more distressed. Ceding control and going against her desires caused a firestorm within her that could not be contained. She started resisting the Phoenix Force’s hold on her again. Small portals around her began opening up, cries of her goblin minions from Limbo echoing from one realm to another. It was the last gasp of an unstable woman with a broken soul.
“Hurry!” the Goblin Queen spat. “End this chaos! Do it before I do something even more depraved!”
“Doing the right thing for the right reasons can’t be rushed, Madelyne,” Jean pointed out as she turned away from Nathan.
“But that’s what makes it more satisfying in the end…for everyone,” said Scott.
Having set things right and made their promises, Scott and Jean narrowed their focus on the Goblin Queen. They saw her eyes flash yellow, the screeching of her goblin minions growing later. It was like everything wrong and perverse longed to escape. Attempting to destroy it would’ve spread it. To truly end it required a special touch, along with a special perspective.
Together, Scott and Jean raised their hands and pointed towards the bound woman. They guided the glowing M’Krann Shard towards her, its pulsating glow getting brighter the closer it got. The sound and smell of burning flesh filled the chamber, Madelyne’s exposed skin being charred away like a laser through tattered paper. As soon as it touched the center of her chest, she and the chaos within her let out one last cry.
“AAAGGHHHHHH!” she exclaimed.
It started with searing, burning pain. Her eyes bulged and her body shuddered as the shard entered her flesh like a slow-moving bullet, going straight for her heart.
Once it was beyond the skin, Madelyne’s expression changed. Instead of pain, her cries took on a new tone. It didn’t sound like pleasure or comfort. More than anything, it sounded like relief. It was unexpected and overdue, but it was distinct.
Bit by bit, Madelyne’s flesh burned away like tinder on a fire. It started in her chest, spreading quickly in all directions. Skin, blood, veins, and bone all disintegrated before their eyes. Her head and face were the last to go. Before it vanished, a look of satisfaction came over her.
“Finally,” Madelyne Pryor said with her last breath.
When her last shred of flesh disappeared, only one part remained. Right where her heart once resided, the M’Krann Shard still hovered. Around it were three glowing balls of light. Without cosmic awareness, they would’ve been invisible. To Scott and Jean Grey-Summers, it was a beautiful sight.
“Broken souls, forced together by greed and malice,” Jean said.
“And stolen from Limbo, no less,” Scott added. “It’s the only way to restore peace.”
“Peace, relative to perspective,” she added.
“And purified by the fires of creation.”
The two lovers waved their hands, guiding more of the Phoenix Force’s cosmic flames towards the shard. It reacted strongly, striking the balls of light where they resided. They flared briefly, as if the impurities within had been purged. Then, they separated, becoming three separate balls of light.
At that same moment, the goblin minions through the portal stopped screeching. They all fell silent, looking at the three balls of light in awe. Some even smiled. Without further guidance, the three souls shot away from the shard and into the portal to Limbo. Shortly after, the portals closed and the goblin minions retreated.
“We did it,” Jean said with relief and elation. “Madelyne is gone. Limbo is balanced. And we didn’t sacrifice what we worked so hard to gain.”
“It was…harder than expected,” Scott said, still holding Nathan protectively, “I just hope it’s enough. If the Phoenix is supposed to fix what doesn’t work, then how can we be sure we’ve fixed everything?”
Jean turned towards her husband and smiled. It was not an unreasonable question or concern. They hadn’t forgotten that a battle was raging around them. Ending Madelyne Pyror didn’t automatically end the chaos she created, just as them embracing the Phoenix Force didn’t fix everything for them. Now, they had ever incentive to finish what the fires of creation had started.
“Guess we’ll just have to be extra thorough,” said Jean as she guided the M’Krann Shard towards her. “The shard is still intact. That means there’s still work to be done!”
Dr. Miles Warren’s Lab – Earlier
“I have to get out of here!” said an anxious Miles Warren as he worked feverishly. “The Queen has no more use for me. There’s no way she’ll protect me or my creation!”
The tide had turned.
The Goblin Queen was no longer in control.
Jackal felt it in his gut. As soon as Scott and Jean Grey-Summers escaped, he knew it was only a matter of time. His role was complete. He gave the Goblin Queen what she wanted, but that effectively completed his role with her. He served no more purpose in her plans and he knew what happened to anyone who had no purpose with her.
Rather than didn’t wait to see how it played out, Jackal rushed back to his lab as quickly as his disfigured form could take him. He navigated plenty of tremors, flickering lights, and broken doorways along the way. The whole structure was unstable and bound to collapse at some point. He couldn’t be there when it did.
Upon arriving at his lab, he was relieved to see that his greatest creation was still intact. It might have been the only thing still intact within his lab. In a small bio-tank no larger than cooler, a distinct mass was growing. It resembled a developing fetus in the early stages of gestation. He made sure it was protected in a special field, powered and cooled by an independent source. While the Goblin Queen had made many demands of him, he still found the time to work on his ultimate goal.
“Gwen…my love,” Jackal said as he cradled the small bio-tank, “and my first perfect clone. We’re getting out of here, now! Soon, we’ll be together!”
As Jackal powered down the containment field, he heard a distinct grown from across the lab. He looked over to see a larger bio-tank that was still partially powered. It was the tank containing the Venom symbiote and its host, Eddie Brock. Under the Goblin Queen’s orders, they kept him locked in that container to use as a source for their symbiote clones.
His role in her plans had left him weak, emaciated, and in pain. He was still conscious, though. He was also fighting his containment, another clear sign that the Goblin Queen was losing.
“Let…me…out,” Venom hissed.
“Sorry, Venom. It’s too late for you,” said Jackal coldly as he picked up the container. “While I appreciate your contributions to my research, I must be going. You’ve served your purpose too. If you’re smart, you’ll die before the queen…”
Before he could finish, a loud bang shot out from across the lab. The entrance, which had been damaged by the tremors, burst open and Spider-Man entered with Dr. Strange following close by. Almost immediately, the wall-crawler recognized him.
“Whoa! Jackal?!” he exclaimed.
“Spider-Man!” he gasped in horror.
“You stuck around long enough so I could drop by to kick your ass? I’m touched.”
Spider-Man immediately went for him, having not forgotten what he did to him and Mary Jane with his symbiote experiments. Dr. Strange did little to stop him, using his magic to secure the lab from further collapse. Not being in a position to fight, Jackal attempted to escape through the secondary exit that the Goblin Queen used.
However, in his rush to escape Spider-Man’s wrath, he tripped over his own two feet and dropped the miniature bio-tank containing his creation. For him, time slowed as it fell to the floor and shattered on impact. The sight of his life’s work falling apart before his eyes filled him with horror and despair.
“My love! NOOO!” he cried out.
“Ha! Hope that wasn’t your lunch, Jackal!” yelled Spider-Man.
The wall-crawler wasted no time in webbing him to the floor. The disfigured man didn’t bother resisting. He just looked at the mess before him in stunned silence. Shards of glass and puddles of biomaterials spread everywhere. He could barely even see the developing fetus. It didn’t ultimately matter. He already knew the truth.
“Gone…my life work is gone,” Jackal cried. “My clones…my beautiful clones…doomed once more.”
“Don’t know why, but I’m guessing that’s a good thing,” said Spider-Man as he added more webs to keep him secure.
The disfigured man didn’t even fight his defeat. He just kept looking at what remained of his creation, his spirit broken and his resolve no more.
“I’m sorry, Gwen,” Jackal said under his breath. “This was my best chance…and I blew it.”
As Jackal whimpered, Spider-Man turned his attention towards the tank containing Venom. He was cautious at first, having not forgotten how tenacious Venom was during their first encounter. However, his spider sense did not warn him of any danger. His emaciated from put him at ease.
“Whoa,” said the wall-crawler. “Is this where you’ve been all this time, Brock? I honestly feel sorry for you.”
“Spider-Man…help me,” Venom said from within the chamber.
Both it and Eddie passed out within the tank. Spider-Man rushed over to open it. He was still cautious, not sure if it was a trick. It appeared Venom was seriously weak, along with Eddie Brock. That ensured it would be easy to send him back to Rykers Island, but he clearly wasn’t the same menacing creature he remembered.
“After facing Carnage, I’m actually feeling generous,” said Spider-Man. “But I’m still webbing you, just to be sure.”
Venom didn’t protest. He remained still while Spider-Man bound him with his webs. In his weakened state, he could not escape. For someone who had caused him and his loved ones so much distress, it was genuinely merciful.
While Spider-Man made sure that Jackal and Venom were restrained, Dr. Strange met up with him. He was still hovering in a meditative state, using the Eye of Agamotto and various spells to keep the structure intact. He appeared stressed from so much exertion, but his demeanor steadily shifted. Instead of dread, a renewed hope emerged. That feeling was reflected in the glowing Eye of Agamotto.
“Remarkable!” the Sorcerer Supreme said. “The disruption to realms and their various connections…it’s harmonizing once more.”
“That’s a good thing. Right, Doc?” Spider-Man asked.
“More than good, Spider-Man. Better than I thought possible!” he said.
That was encouraging and a little jarring. Not much had gone right since this conflict began. Something going that well seemed downright miraculous. For once, Spider-Man didn’t make a joke. He wasn’t about to jinx it.
As Dr. Strange continued his mystical feats, several familiar figures appeared before them in a puff of smoke. It was Nightcrawler and Kitty Pyrde, looking much less restless than before. They also brought two additional figures with them, Wolverine and Storm.
“Look who ve found in zhe ruins of the main power core,” said Nightcrawler.
“Which, by the way, guarantees will bring this place down,” said Kitty anxiously.
“You almost sound nervous, Kate,” said Spider-Man.
“Kate? Why’d you call me Kate?”
Spider-Man looked at her strangely. Then, he looked towards Nightcrawler, Storm, and Wolverine. They just shook their heads.
“Long story, mien friend. No time to tell it,” said Nightcrawler.
“No need to. I’ve had enough headaches for one day,” said Spider-Man.
The wall-crawler didn’t probe further. He just picked up Jackal from the floor while Dr. Strange levitated Venom. Storm and Wolverine offered to help. In doing so, Spider-Man noticed something unusual about their disheveled demeanor. He’d had enough awkward encounters with college to see the signs.
“Uh…something happen to you two?” Spider-Man asked them. “You both look like you…”
“Don’t finish that sentence, bub,” Wolverine said harshly, stopping him before he went any further.
“Why? I was just…”
Wolverine stopped him again, drawing his claws and pointing them Spider-Man’s way. That effectively silenced him. Storm had to gently pull his arm away to ease the situation.
“Easy, Wolverine,” Storm told him, evoking a light snarl from her teammate. “We’re fine, Spider-Man. But please…don’t ask more than you wish to know. Not today.”
“Um…okay,” Spider-Man said awkwardly.
He looked towards Kitty and Nightcrawler briefly. They both seemed to notice what he did, but kept their silence. They just shook their heads and gestured towards him, as if to further dissuade him. Spider-Man got the message and focused on the task at hand.
The facility was still unstable. It was sure to collapse any minute. They couldn’t be there when it happened.
“Come!” said Dr. Strange, gesturing towards the entrance they’d come through earlier. “We must get out of here.”
“What about the rest of the team? Or Scott and Jean?” Kitty asked.
“I wouldn’t worry about them. They have it under control,” the Sorcerer Supreme assured her.
“It ain’t just them. There’s someone else we gotta to back for…someone Storm and I encountered earlier,” Wolverine said anxiously.
“I wouldn’t worry about that, either,” Dr. Strange said with a half-grin as they began moving. “According to the emerging course of fate, they have that under control too.”
Psychic Amplification Chamber – Present Time
“Emma! Emma, wake up!” yelled Captain Marvel urgently. “This is not the time to sleep off a psychic hangover!”
Carol Danvers shook the semi-conscious telepath again. Emma had been unresponsive since she woke up with a pounding headache. It was the worst headache Carol had endured since she quit drinking. It came courtesy of the psychic attack that had been unleashed by the Stepford Cuckoos. She still might have been the lucky one because Emma had really strained herself fighting back. She had blood dripping from her nose as she tried to stay conscious.
“Ungh…my girls,” Emma groaned.
That was the third time she’d said that. Carol kept looking over towards the ruins of the device. In it, the five teenage girls were still trapped in place, bound by whatever perverse machinations the Goblin Queen had created. They didn’t appear conscious. Carol couldn’t even tell if they were breathing. She saw no signs of life in any of them. While she was inclined to save them, the facility was coming down around them.
The frequent tremors turned into a steady rumble. Even the emergency lights began flickering, walls and ceiling cracking under the strain. If Storm and Wolverine took out the power core, then no amount of Celestial technology could keep this facility in place.
“I’m sorry, Frost. But you did all you could for them,” Captain Marvel said as she picked her up in her arms. “Now come on! We have to get out of here!”
“No…wait,” Emma said weakly.
She was about to fly them out, despite the former White Queen’s protest. Then, they both heard a voice in their minds.
‘It’ll be okay,’ said the telepathic voice of Scott Summers. ‘There’s still time to fix this…in more ways than one.’
Moments after receiving that message, a fiery figure entered the chamber, creating a large hole in the ceiling. Heavy panels and debris were easily pushed aside, as though they were dust, while Scott Summers descended into the chamber.
His body was surrounded by the fiery halo of the Phoenix Force. He also wore the distinct attire of the Phoenix, demonstrating uncanny control of his abilities and perspective. It was a powerful display and one that helped jar Emma Frost from her daze.
“Scott?” Emma said weakly.
“I’m here, Emma. And don’t worry. We’re not leaving without your girls,” Scott told her. “They too were byproducts of this chaos. To end that chaos, we must confront it…not run from it.”
In another display of his power, Scott waved his hand towards the amplifiers that contained the five teenage girls. With minimal effort, he dismantled the elaborate contraption with the Phoenix Force. Even advanced Celestial technology was easy to take apart with the fires of creation.
In doing so, he finally freed the five girls from their confines. They were in great distress, but still alive. Scott also surrounded them in the protective fires of the Phoenix Force. The influence of the Goblin Queen was still there, but within the healing flames, it finally started to fade.
“So warm,” they all said in a dazed state, “I feel it…we all feel it. Scott Summers…thank you.”
The five girls smiled at him. It was the first time they’d ever smiled at someone. It was the first time they had a reason to. Scott smiled back, guiding them towards him so Emma could see. Such a sight made the former White Queen smile as well. It even brought a tear of joy to her eyes.
“Face it…rather than run,” Emma said distantly. “Yes. I like that. That’s something…I intend to do as well.”
For some, life was a constant cycle of choices and consequences. Jean Grey-Summers had been caught up in those cycles all too often throughout her life. How she reacted to her mutant powers, how she handled herself with the X-Men, and how she navigated her love for Scott had profound impacts on her and her loved ones. The choices she made with the Phoenix Force were even more impactful, more so than she previously realized.
She and Scott had learned many hard lessons about wielding such power and making choices along the way. Chief among those lessons were how had far fewer choices than most. They often got caught up in the chaos caused by decisions and machinations of others. It left them with a twisted sense of identity, often putting them at odds with those whose choices impacted them.
Like it or not, Jean’s choices indirectly led to the creation of Madelyne Pyror. Her and Scott’s subsequent actions affected many others. They couldn’t afford to avoid those impacts or the people that felt. That was why she made sure that Daken Akihiro, Wolverine’s long-lost son, was not buried in the ruins of this facility.
‘Daken Akihiro…I can still sense your mind,’ Jean said telepathically as she neared his crumbling quarters. ‘I can also sense the anger, hatred, and tension boiling within you. Some of it was your doing. Much of it – too much – was due to the actions and agendas of others.’
Jean followed his faint psychic signature through collapsing corridors and failing power systems, eventually arriving at what remained of his quarters. She arrived to find his bloodied, unmoving body still slumped against the wall. His claws were still lodged in his neck, a brutal act of his own doings. She’d read Storm and Wolverine’s mind to uncover what happened. The sight of some of their tattered clothes on the floor revealed how chaotic it got.
That unique brand of chaos was a direct result of Daken’s choices. Like others, he’d been manipulated by the Goblin Queen. Based on what she could surmise from his faint psyche, she wasn’t the first. His brutal act on himself was meant to be his last attempt to reassert some semblance of control.
“You poor, broken man,” Jean said as she approached his unmoving form. “You’ve been used by others all your life. Like your father before you, other tried to control and channel the anger and rage within. In another life, that would’ve led you down a dark path…one that would lead to inevitable conflicts with misguided motivations. But is that a life you truly seek?”
Surrounded in the protected flames of the Phoenix Force, Jean hovered over his body. She used her telekinetic powers to shield him from collapsing debris. By now, he would’ve been buried. However, because of the healing he inherited from his father, he would not perish. He would likely emerge from the rubble, even more broken and damaged.
Whatever his previous failings might have been, Daken did not deserve that. He was a victim of Madelyne’s manipulations and Madelyne was a result of her own choices. As a result, it was Jean’s responsibility to rectify this.
“I believe there’s a man in you that’s worth saving,” Jean said as she caressed his bloodied face. “I also believe there’s a life you wish to pursue…one of your own choosing. Leaving you here would only make you a victim of circumstances…circumstances that you did not choose. Since I am responsible for those circumstances in part, I am ultimately responsible for changing them.”
Closing her eyes, Jean channeled her powers and guided the cosmic flames of the Phoenix Force. She began by removing Daken’s claws from his head. She was careful and gentle, lightly grasping his wrists to pull them out. His healing factor quickly took over. However, healing his body wasn’t enough.
“Rather than fall into another cycle of bitterness and anger, I’m taking a chance on you, Daken Akirio,” Jean said to him. “What you do with it is up to you.”
More flames from the Phoenix force shot out from her, surrounding Daken’s body. As the wall behind him collapsed, she carefully levitated so she could hold him in her arms. The same cosmic flames that fixed the chaos caused by the Goblin Queen helped burn away the influence within him.
As his body healed, Jean used her telepathy to ensured his mind healed just as much. By the time he gasped for air, his eyes shooting open with shock as life returned to him, the process was complete. Daken was alive, awake, and free. And the first thing he saw was Jean’s caring smile amidst her fiery Phoenix form.
“Hnn…you,” Daken said, his voice raspy and strained. “What…why…would you come for me?”
“Because you deserve more than this, Daken,” Jean told him. “Today, I have a chance to fix what has gone so very wrong. What happened to you is just one of many.”
Daken remained dazed, but he still looked up at her in awe. The idea that anyone would go to such lengths for him without seeking to use him seemed so extraordinary. However, that just added to his awe.
Jean continued smiling as she held him within her protective grasp. The rest of the facility was imploding. She could hear the supports shattering from all directions. She still remained clam, sending a psychic message to Scott to ensure they were on the same page. The end of this conflict was within sight. With the same power that inspired them to seek life, love, and connection, they ascended through the crumbling structure.
Whatever burdens they had incurred from their choice to embrace the Phoenix Force would remained buried in this facility.
‘It ends today! For me, for Scott, and for all the other connections we’ve made…the chaos ends. And something wonderful begins!’
It all ended so quickly. At a certain scale, every battle had to end that way. Either everything blew up spectacularly in everyone’s face or the whole conflict just ended in a whimper. SHIELD, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and the many others who joined the X-Men in this battle had seen plenty of spectacular blow-ups to conclude a struggle. Seeing this one end so abruptly and unceremoniously was almost jarring.
“Their retreating!” Iron Man reported as he flew over the charred landscape. “And the ones who aren’t are just…turning to dust.”
“I see it too, Iron Man,” said Captain America from the ground below. “They’ve all lost their desire to fight.”
“That’s a good thing, right?” said Iceman as he flew by on an ice slide.
“Kid, I’ve learned never to ask that question,” said Hawkeye, who’d been fighting alongside Black Widow. “You’re just gonna jinx it.”
“I suspect that is no longer a concern,” the Russian super spy pointed out.
Even without anyone answering Iceman’s question, the stunning scene played out. Everyone in the SHILED Hellicarriers, the SHIELD transports, and the large Sentinel army watched it unfold before their eyes.
The Hand Ninjas disappeared into dust, leaving only their weapons and attire.
The symbiote creatures that had attacked so ferociously let out a pained cry before falling apart, their alien flesh crumbling like dried leaves.
The winged demons and goblins just stopped shrieking altogether. Then, as though having awakened from a vivid dream, they retreated into the portals they came from. Before long, many of the portals closed.
While others felt relief, Reed Richards and Nick Fury looked on with more curiosity. They’d been in enough high stakes battles to understand that things don’t end without a reason.
“Richards, you seeing what we’re seeing up here?” General Fury asked from the bridge of the Hellicarrier.
“Seeing, sensing, and crunching the numbers as we speak,” Reed replied from the front seat of the Fantasticar.
“Tell me you’re confirming what our scanners are telling us. Tell me we aren’t about to get a second wave led by Fing Fang Foom.”
“All incoming points to a large-scale stabilization of the inter-realm flux,” he replied. “Before, nothing was making scientific sense…temporally, spatially, and logically. Now, the more orderly flow of trans-dimensional energy and quantumly entangled variable…”
“Reed!” said the Invisible Woman, already laughing and shaking her head. “Please just tell the nice general that we won.”
“Sorry, darling,” said Reed. “But yes. It appears that whatever was fueling this colorful chaos had ceased. Like removing a magnet from a compass, everything is properly reorienting itself.”
“There! Now, was that so damn hard?” said Fury, who was definitely shaking his head as well.
After Reed Richards confirmed it, a wave or relief settled washed over everyone who had been part of this. SHIELD, the X-Men, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and everyone who’d answered the call from Scott and Jean let themselves enjoy the moment.
A round of cheers erupted from the decks of the Hellicarrier, as well as the transports that had encircled the structure. From the Fantasticar to the Quinjet, heave tension gave way to jubilant celebrations. The sight of the pyramid-shaped facility collapsing only added to the spectacle. Even the Sentinels that had entered the battle went offline, landing around the perimeter of the site before shutting down completely.
“So, I guess this means we’re not trashing the Sentinels for good measure?” Angel joked as he met up with Colossus and Kwannon.
“Save it for the Danger Room, my friend,” said Colossus, smiling as he held his sleeping sister in his arms. “I think we’ve had enough destruction for one day.”
“Speak for yourself, luv,” said Elizabeth “Psylocke” Braddock as she caught up with them. “I don’t think I took down nearly as much Hand ninjas as I needed to.”
“You and me both, Elizabeth,” Kwannon said, still watching over Carnage. “We’ll have to find other ways to manage.”
“Well, if you ladies enjoy fighting ninjas, then you might like hanging out with us at X-Corp! We’ve got a Danger Room and spa that I paid for personally,” said Angel as he landed between the two women.
“I’ll pretend I’m impressed by that, Mr. Worthington,” said Psylocke curtly, “if it means I get a free spa day.”
“Works for me,” he said with a shrug.
The mood spread. Everyone was either embracing each other or just catching their breath. Colossus shared in the relief, but he remained concerned about his sister. Some of those concerns faded as he saw the demonic features on her body fade. That reorientation that Reed Richards mentioned must have affected her too.
Illyana was still not the same sweet little girl he remembered. She’d actually aged several years into the body of a teenager. However, she was still the sister he thought he’d lost forever. Reuniting with her and saving her from such a cruel fate was nothing short of remarkable.
“You’re safe now, Snowflake,” Colossus said to her while caressing her face. “I thought I lost you. We have much to make up for. I don’t doubt you have been deeply hurt by all this. But whatever happens now…wherever you go from here…I’ll be there for you. I promise.”
She stirred briefly in his arms. She must have heard his loving words. Colossus smiled at her and held her closer before rejoining his friends.
Aboard the X-jet, the celebration was more personal. Beast, Havok, and Polaris were already smiling and hugging each other. As representatives of X-Corp, this might have been their biggest achievement to date. What could’ve been the start of a darker, more chaotic future had turned into a new beginning.
“It’s over,” said a relieved and jubilant Beast. “I just confirmed it with Professor Xavier. All is well on his end. Senator Kelly even offered to assist even further.”
“A mutant-hating politician is helping us now?” Polaris laughed. “This really is a better future!”
“Let’s hope it stays on track this time,” said Havok. “What about Scott and Jean? My brother’s definitely gonna want to hear this!”
Beast didn’t end up having to answer. Outside amidst the calmed landscape of Whiltshire, a familiar bird-shaped flame shot out from the top of the facility. It was the Phoenix Force, stable and intact once more. It quickly soared up into the sky, illuminating the night like a second sun.
Inside the heart of the flame were Scott and Jean, holding hands and smiling towards all those who came to their aid. Right below them were Spider-Man, Captain Marvel, Wolverine, Storm, Kitty Pryde, Nightcrawler, and Emma Frost. Several additional figures were with them in Daken and the Stepford Cuckoos. They were all surrounded in the Phoenix Force’s protective flames. Once the last of the structure collapsed, they all settled calmly on the surface.
After everyone was secure, Scott and Jean Grey-Summers let out a shared elation. All around them the fires Phoenix Force burned brighter than ever. The fiery passion that fueled it and the hosts within had never been stronger. Together, they shared one last proclamation.
“We are fire! We are life incarnate! We are Phoenix! And today…through life, love, and connection…we forge a new perspective.”
Up next: Truth and Clarity