While still struggling with the Phoenix, a mysterious force is plaguing Scott Summers and it's a force that's frighteningly similar. In addition, a powerful warrior becomes involved and the Xmen fa...
Chapter 6: Dark Phoenix
The X-men could only watch with horror as the woman they knew and loved hovered before them in a halo of fire. Gone was the aura of Jean Grey and in its place was a raging, impassioned entity of raw power. The ceremonial dress she had been covered in was burned to ashes and now she bore a green and black body suit with the symbol of a golden bird on her chest.
Her eyes glowed in a steady, fiery gaze as she hovered above the center area. Everybody in the dark cloaks was bowing before the divine figure and none seemed more pleased than the Inner Circle.
"At long last, the Phoenix has finally awakened!" said Selene, the Black Queen of the Hellfire Club and the mystic who made this ceremony possible.
"Yes! And it's all ours," grinned Shaw as he then turned to the indifferent Emma Frost, "You know what to do White Queen. Just remember what's at stake here."
"Don't worry, Shaw. I haven't forgotten," said Emma, casting the Black King a hated scorn as she played her part.
Closing her eyes and focusing her psychic abilities, Emma Frost began a psychic attack on the Phoenix. It was a dangerous act, but telepathy was the only way to keep this force at bay while the final stage of the ritual was performed. It took a significant level of skill, endurance, and guts, but it's not like she had a choice.
And while this was going on, Professor Charles Xavier watched with undue horror. He knew what Emma was doing. He knew what the whole Inner Circle was doing. Ten years of painstaking study was coming to ahead and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
"Emma! No! Don't do it!" yelled Xavier.
"Sorry Professor. Like you, I don't have a choice."
"Jean!" said Scott, still trying to process what he was seeing, "Professor, what the hell is going on?! I know you know! Spill it!"
Scott's tone was wrought with anger. He couldn't believe that Xavier would keep secrets from him. But from the looks of it, he knew more than they ever could have imagined. And it wasn't something he was very proud of.
"They're...They're going to channel the power of the Phoenix," he said, watching the M'krann crystal glow brightly, "With that crystal, they can use her to wield power on a cosmic scale. And Jean will be nothing more than a medium...A source of fuel for their endless power."
"Oh we've gotta stop dis!" said Remy, trying all his old thieving skills to break out of the restraints.
"Uh comrade, I don't think there's any stopping it now," said Piotr, shaking his head in disbelief.
Powerless to do anything about this, all the X-men could do was watch. Scott kept struggling, but it wasn't doing him any good. These people had his wife and they were going to use her for their own sick means. He couldn't allow this, but there wasn't much he could do.
"Jean...Please," he begged her.
"No! No more Jean! Only Phoenix!"
There was a hint of struggle in her tone. To Scott it meant that there was still a piece of Jean Grey inside her, but even if this was true the psychic assault by Emma Frost was working to hold her back.
"Frost! Keep her stable!" yelled Selene as she remained focused on the crystal, "I can't finish this if she's still fighting with herself!"
"I'm trying!" grunted Emma, going beyond her usual limits to hold back the endless power of the Phoenix.
The mighty being continued to struggle, its vast power aching to be released. But the Inner Circle wasn't about to let her off that easily. Selene was still in control and as long as she had the crystal in her power, she was confident that this power would be theirs for the taking.
"Come! Let us perform the final ritual!" she exclaimed as she placed her hands on the glowing relic, "The power is as good as ours! Once this thing is inside, then we'll have the power to eliminate all those who stand in our way!"
"Then let us not waste a second more," said Shaw as he and the rest of the Inner Circle followed suit.
The chanting resumed and the Phoenix was showing signs of instability. Its flames were being drawn into the crystal, almost as if it was sucking them in like a vacuum. Emma kept her mind focused on the Phoenix, keeping it from using its avatar's full potential to resist. But she was showing signs of serious mental fatigue. Xavier could see it.
But fatigue or not, there was no stopping them now. The Inner Circle was going to wield cosmic power and there was nothing they could do about it.
"Well it was nice knowing you guys," said Jubilee with hope quickly slipping away.
"No! Don't say that!" yelled Scott in response, "We've got to do something! We can't let them get away with this!"
"I agree wit ya there, Cyke. But in case you've forgotten, we're a little tied up here!" reminded Rogue.
"Yeah, so what more can we..." began Bobby, but he was quickly cut off by a familiar sound.
"Bout time someone crashed this lousy party!" yelled a raging Wolverine as he stormed through the chamber doors with three guards flying out ahead of him.
"Logan!" yelled Storm as she saw him make an entrance worthy of his persona.
"Hang in there guys! I'm coming!"
The abrupt intrusion threw off the chanting and many of the cloaked members were forced to scramble. It certainly didn't escape the attention of the Inner Circle, but they could not stop the ritual.
"You fools! Get him!" yelled Shaw.
Selene stepped up the pace, but Logan was not about to let her finish. Seeing Jean hovering in the middle of the room surrounded by fire was not a good sign and whatever was going on here definitely required a team effort.
"SHOOT HIM DAMN IT! SHOOT HIM!" yelled the guards who had been keeping a watchful eye on the bound team.
But before they could take aim, Scott and Remy sprang into action, lunging their bodies at two of the guards and throwing off their aim just long enough for Logan to get to them. Others attempted to restrain them, but Storm and Rogue kicked them away, giving Logan all the time he needed to slice through the restraints and rip the collars off.
"We have to hurry!" urged Scott as he threw of the collar and scrambled towards the center of the chamber, "We can't let them finish!"
"Cyclops, wait!" yelled Xavier.
But it was too late. Nothing would stop him from saving his wife. Even if he wasn't sure what was going on, he was going to stop these pricks before they got what they wanted. And if that meant flying in the face of a cosmic entity, then so be it.
"Hurry Selene!" yelled Shaw.
"Almost...There!" she grunted as the fires around the crystal intensified, "So...Close!"
"Not close enough!" yelled Scott as he leapt in front of the altar, removed his glasses, and fired a single shot to end it all.
That one shot hit exactly where the Inner Circle didn't want it to land...The M'krann crystal. The ritual hadn't been completed. The Phoenix's power hadn't been contained. And once that blast struck the crystal, the fires of the Phoenix were no longer being sucked in and restrained by its power.
"NO!!!" yelled Selene as the shot caused the Inner Circle to scramble.
The impact on the crystal caused a mini explosion that sent a shockwave throughout the chamber. It hit everybody, but it didn't affect the Phoenix. If anything, it reveled in this sudden burst of energy. Now its power was no longer being diverted and it could focus all its energy from within.
In addition, the burst had knocked out Emma Frost, who had been keeping the Phoenix in check. Now it had no barriers to keep it from reaching its full potential. And once the Phoenix began consolidating its power, there was no stopping it.
"You fool!" spat Selene in a venomous tone, "Do you have any idea what you've done?!"
"No, but I figure it's probably better that someone like you NOT get that kind of power!" quipped Scott as aimed his optic blasts at the people who had captured and used his wife.
"You worthless little shit! You've destroyed us all!" she yelled in a rage, "You've let an unstable, uncontrolled, unlimited power run free! Without the ritual, the Phoenix will destroy billions!"
"That's NOT going to happen!" said Scott vehemently.
Then suddenly, all the fires that had been collecting around Jean were becoming more intense and chaotic. Only this time, Jean seemed to be controlling them. It was all coming at her so fast, the sudden rush of power that was no longer being controlled by the Inner Circle. Now, the chaos of raw cosmic power was mixing with the fragile nature of a mortal being.
And as the fires engulfed the young woman in a bright glow, the outcome was inevitable.
"Forget it boy. It has already begun," said Shaw in a low, embittered tone.
As the rest of the X-men gathered around their leader, they too were drawn to the spectacle. And as the fires cleared, a new form took shape...A form more terrifying than before.
"YES! At last...My full power! I can feel it! New sensations...New instincts! Now I am not just Phoenix! I AM DARK PHOENIX!"
"Holy shit," said Remy as he and the others watched in horror.
"No...It's finally happened," gasped the Professor.
Now, the costume she had been wearing before was different. Instead of a green on black appearance, this one was dark red. It gave her a much more sinister undertone, as if there was a true malevolence to her being. And whatever control she could have had before had gone completely out the window now.
"We have to get out of here!" yelled Selene as she and Shaw made a break for it.
"Yes, I believe this would be our cue!" said Shaw in agreement.
"What?! You cowards!" yelled one of the Inner Circle members, Harry Leland, "What are you doing?!"
"Whatever we have to," said Selene with an insidious grin.
"No! Stop them!" ordered Donald Pierce.
But before the Inner Circle could regroup, they all fell under the penetrating gaze of Dark Phoenix. And the second she saw them, the dormant rage from within rose to the surface.
"You all shall PAY!"
"Everybody get down!" yelled the Professor.
Instinctively, the whole team hit the floor as a blinding flash shot through the room. And soon afterwards, the smell of charred flesh filled the area as members of the Hellfire Club were all burnt to a crisp in the span of a second.
"No...NO!" yelled Leland every last hellfire follower dissolved into ashes under the power of cosmic flames.
From the Inner Circle to the cloaked members that had surrounded the outer walls, nobody could escape the wrath of the Phoenix. Neither Shaw nor Selene were seen amongst this smoldering heap of death, but it was hard to tell through the pained screams of those who were frantically trying to get away.
"YES! Burn! Burn away into nothingness! Feel the wrath of the cosmos!"
"Mien Gott!" gasped Kurt, "She...She's killing them all!"
"Jean! Jean you have to stop this!" yelled Scott, still staying low as every other unlucky soul in the room was burned to a crisp.
"Jean? There is no more of this Jean! There is only Dark Phoenix! Risen from the ashes! Born in the fires of creation!"
"NO! You're still in there Jean! I know you are! It's me! It's Scott! Please! Don't do this! You're killing people! You're taking lives! You've got to stop and take control!"
As the agonizing screams of the Inner Circle and the Hellfire Club ceased, the burning flames stopped and all that remained was smoldering ashes. There was so much death and agony, and yet she was happy. This act had given her a rush of euphoria. It was a new sensation...One that an ambivalent entity had never experienced before.
And Phoenix liked it. It liked it a lot.
"Death...Despair...Destruction...All mortal feelings. I can feel it...The consciousness of that which is finite and fragile. And I...I crave more!"
"No! You will not take Jean away from us!" yelled Xavier, not wanting to see any more of this death.
Suddenly, the Phoenix felt a burst of psychic energy from the most powerful psychic on the planet. The Professor did not hold back and all bets were off. He had dreaded this day for ten years and it had manifested in a way worse than his greatest nightmares.
He knew the kind of power he was up against. He knew he didn't stand a chance. But that didn't even cross his mind. All he could think about was saving the woman that was nothing short of a daughter to him.
'Jean! It's me, Charles! You must take control! Don't let Phoenix take you over! You're stronger than this! I know you are! Think of your friends! Think of your family! Think of Scott! Think of Rachel!'
Whatever Xavier was doing, it was having an effect on the Phoenix. She was actually grunting in frustration as the telepathic surge inundated the mortal mind of its vessel. This was not a feeling it was used to and as a result, a weak voice managed to sound through all the layers of chaos and confusion.
"Jean!" exclaimed Scott as he tried to get closer, "Come on baby! You can do it! I know you can! Fight it!"
"He's right Jeannie!" yelled Logan, "Fight this thing! Don't fight us!"
"Ya got it sugah! This thing has ya possessed! Don't let it take ya!" urged Rogue.
Everybody was encouraging her, hoping to lend whatever support they could to the friend they knew was still inside. The Professor's psychic assault also provided a boost, causing the Phoenix to actually struggle with her other half.
Yet in doing so, they enraged her even more.
"NO! STOP! WEAK MORTALS! THERE IS NO MORE JEAN!"
Xavier was suddenly shoved out of Jean's mind after undue strain. And the Phoenix was far from done. These beings had attacked her on a level she didn't like to be attacked on...Her avatar. This creature was her mortal vessel and NOTHING was going to take it away. She would be sure of this.
"Professor!" yelled Amanda as she and Kurt caught him from slumping over.
"Now feel this!"
Then, the whole team was hit by an intense wave of telekinetic force. Phoenix made it look easy, as if it were a mere thought. Hovering above them, the look on her face was nothing like the Jean they knew and loved. Instead, there was nothing but raw, unabated chaos. And in this chaos, there was no mortal conscious...No moral anchor. Nothing was holding her back.
"You all will pay for your pestilence! Watch as I disassemble you molecule by molecule with a mere thought!"
"Jean...No..." said an aching Scott.
But before the Phoenix could begin its assault, a voice rang out from the chamber door entrance that Logan had burst through earlier. And through this voice, the Phoenix was hit in a way no psychic attack could ever parallel.
"MOMMY! DADDY!" cried little Rachel Summers as she bravely ran into the chamber, ignoring the charred bones and piles of burnt flesh.
"Rachel!" yelled Scott as his parental instincts overturned his physical pain in a heartbeat, allowing him to scramble to his feet.
As soon as the Phoenix turned to face this little girl, it was struck hard by the feeling such a sight gave her. This image of a little girl with tears in her eyes running for her parents just hit her in a way it never could have anticipated. And from the cries of her little girl, Jean Grey-Summers once again started to fight the power that had manifested within her.
Looking up at her mommy, Rachel found herself freezing at the frightening sight before her. She had never seen anything like it before...Her mommy all covered in fire. She could see the pain and turmoil in her eyes...Something was hurting her. A monster was hurting her mommy.
"Don't hurt my mommy! Please don't hurt her!" she cried, tears streaming down her young and innocent face.
Jean fought harder, but the Phoenix fought back. The sight of a crying little girl was just too much for the mother inside her to fight. She couldn't allow this thing to take away her family. She would rather die.
Soon, more flames to erupt from the chaotic aura that was Dark Phoenix. They littered the area, causing the whole team to scramble and take cover.
But instead of taking cover, Scott Summers frantically ran over to his daughter. He didn't think about his own well being for one second. All he could think about was protecting his little girl. And despite being grazed by several bursts of flame, he made it to his daughter and scooped her up in his arms.
"Daddy! The monster has mommy!" she cried as she clung to her daddy's embrace.
"I know, baby. I know," said Scott as he hugged his little girl tightly in his arms, "But mommy's fighting it. I know she is."
"But it's hurting her! It's hurting mommy!"
Hearing these anguished cries tore a hole in Scott's heart. He could endure a lot of things like plane crashes, sentinels, and mutant tyrants, but hearing his little girl cry was just too much for him. And knowing that he was powerless to do anything didn't help as he just kept hugging his little girl, willing to protect her from anything...Even a cosmic entity that had manifested in the woman he loved.
"It's going to be okay, baby," he told her, "I promise you. It's going to be okay."
The fires kept on flaring up everywhere as Jean Grey-Summers continued to do battle with herself in a fight to regain control. She was a mere mortal and the Phoenix had power on a cosmic level. Yet she kept on fighting it, not wanting this thing to hurt her family.
But the more she fought, the weaker she grew. Fighting this thing was like fighting a part of herself. It wasn't a battle she could win and she damn well knew it. She just kept trying and trying to rid herself of this entity that had taken over her mind, body, and soul...But in the end, there was no fighting a creature like the Phoenix.
"Mommy..." sobbed Rachel as she and her daddy watched on with horror as Jean struggled to regain control.
The Phoenix was overloading itself as it struggled to fight off these strange burst of strength from her avatar. Jean was also feeling this stress as they both fought in a mesh of mind, spirit, and strength. But the more they fought, the more it weakened the both of them. It was truly a no-win situation. This was its mortal vessel. How could it fight against something like that? And this was a cosmic entity. How could it ever be overcome?
Were they truly one? Or were they separate? It was a fight that caused support beams to buckle and stone walls to shatter like glass. Nothing was clear anymore. Everything was in chaos. And there was nothing that Jean or Dark Phoenix could do about it.
"Come on, Jean...Come on!" urged Scott, reaching out to her through their link in every way he could.
However, there was only so much that she could take. And as her eyes fell upon the image of Scott holding Rachel in his arms, looking back up at her with those eyes that were so thick with emotion and love, it all finally reached a breaking point.
Suddenly, she clutched her head in pain as the fires became more erratic, once again forcing everybody to stumble back. The cries of the Phoenix were becoming more pained and severe. It was making her unstable to the point of total meltdown. Xavier was the only one who could truly sense this, for he had endured nightmares about this moment for ten years and now it looked as though it was really going to happen.
"X-men, move out! She's going to..."
But before he could finish, the Phoenix did something that was completely unexpected...It left.
Then, the figure of the young woman erupted into flame and she shot out through the top of the dome like a bullet out of a gun. Everybody was forced to take cover from the falling debris, but when the dust cleared...Jean Grey-Summers, the loving friend they had all known and cared for, was gone.
"Mommy!" cried Rachel as she looked up at the night sky through the gaping hole in the ceiling, "Come back, mommy! Come back! Please...Come back!"
Rachel's desperate please went unanswered as she fell into a pit of pained cries. Upon hearing them, even Scott couldn't hold it in any longer. He broke down, falling to his knees and clutching his little girl, still trying to reach out to the woman he loved through their link, but feeling only nothingness.
"She's...She's gone," he managed to choke out, unable to speak anything more.
It was a sight that tore at the very souls of all those who saw it. And for the rest of the X-men, they weren't even sure how to confront their distraught friend and his daughter. They had just watched some creature from the depths of space take control of the woman they loved and disappear with her into the depths of space. Scott had already lost enough in his life with his family, but having to deal with this...Losing his wife to a creature he couldn't even begin to understand...It just hurt him on a level unlike no other.
"Professor..." said Ororo as she helped him up, "Are you alright? What's going on? What happened to Jean?"
Everybody was now looking towards Xavier for answers, yet as he looked back at the still distraught family that had so deeply trusted him, he held his head low with shame.
"I...I don't know. I honestly don't know."
Such words didn't garner much hope for the dazed and distraught team, but some weren't that quick to give up just like that.
"Well we'll find out! We have to for Jeannie's sake!" said a still determined Logan.
"Uh, news flash Wolverine! We don't even know what the hell we're dealing with here!" exclaimed Bobby, "Hell, even the Hellfire Club didn't know and look what happened to them!"
"Oh, so you're saying we should just let that...That thing take our friend and do nothing about it?!" shot Amanda in response.
"No, I'm just saying that..."
"Quiet!" yelled Logan, causing them both to clam up, "You're right, we don't know a whole lot about what we're dealing with. But I think we know someone who does."
Curiously, they all turned to see who Logan was referring to and their eyes all fell on a still unconscious Emma Frost, who had been lucky enough to escape the wrath of the Phoenix by being knocked far away enough and behind one of the stone pillars where her diamond body form seemed to do the rest.
"You serious, homme?" said Remy, casting Logan a curious glance.
"Hey, you got a better idea, Cajun?" said Logan as he and Remy went to retrieve the unconscious blonde.
There wasn't much to go on for any of them. Whatever Emma knew may end up only add to the mystery anyways. But they needed answers and they needed them now. Jean had a family and they weren't going to leave her behind.
While Logan, Remy, and Rogue combed the area for potential survivors, Ororo and Jubilee stuck with the Professor to help him back into his hover chair while Kurt, Bobby, and Amanda did their best to console their distraught friend.
Rachel was still crying for her mommy and Scott just kept holding her, the stain of tears still painfully apparent in his ever concealed eyes. And for his friends, it was probably better they not see his eyes in this instance, for it was just too painful.
"I'm sorry, mien friend," said Kurt, placing a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder.
Scott didn't seem to really respond to that. If anything, he completely ignored it. But that was not unusual for him and it certainly didn't stop his friends from helping him.
"We'll find her..." said Amanda, not knowing if it was even possible, but still having faith nonetheless.
"Yeah, if she's still out there we'll..." but Kitty didn't even get a chance to finish as Scott unexpectedly got up from his position.
Rachel was still in his arms, clinging to his firm grip like a life preserver. And with a lump still in his throat, his eyes drifted up towards the night sky where Jean had disappeared. He couldn't feel her, he couldn't sense her, and he couldn't even be sure whether or not there was anything left of the woman he loved.
But irregardless, he knew that there was only one thing that he could be completely certain of...One thing that would keep him going no matter how much it tore at his heart and soul.
"She's out there," he said, his words mixed with whatever hope he could muster, "Jean is still out there. I know she is. And I'm going to get her back."
While the X-men were picking up the pieces back in the chamber, finding no other bodies left alive in the heap of smoldering flesh, two figures managed to make their escape through a hidden series of trap doors and clandestine routes. With all the remains littered throughout the chamber and the confusion that ensued, it would have been very hard for them to realize that there were two important figures missing from the carnage...Selene and Shaw.
They were both fuming. After years of preparation, their ultimate triumph was stopped by some renegade freaks. They had been so close to absolute power, but at the last possible second, it had been snatched away from them and as a result, the entity that they had unleashed was in a state of uncontrolled chaos.
"Those rotten little freaks!" growled a very angry Selene as she and Shaw rode in a small, private train that ran from underneath the structure, "I swear to every dark force in existence, I'll make sure those mutant punks pay for what they did! When I get through with them, Hell will seem like an island paradise to them!"
"Calm yourself Selene," said Shaw, trying to remain civil despite the circumstances, "I agree, our luck has taken a rather unwelcome turn. We may have lost the Phoenix, but we still haven't lost our chance. We still have the M'krann crystal, do we not?"
"Indeed we do," said Selene as she held the still shining relic in a light cloth, "But I don't know what good it will do us. I have to get back to the secondary estate so I can work my spells. It should still be possible to tap the Phoenix, given the right conditions."
"Then that's what we'll plan for," said Shaw with a renewed grin of confidence, "The Phoenix already has plenty of reason to return to this planet. Her pathetic family is still here. And as soon as she gets close enough, we'll make our move. Plus, without the rest of the Inner Circle to worry about, that leaves more power for us."
This actually got Selene to smile, a rare event to anybody who knew her. While she wasn't one for happiness, emotion, or compassion she did have a knack for greed and when it came to power, the more she had, the happier she was.
Looking down at the crystal, the Black Queen grew all the more determined. Years of planning and preparation was not about to go to waste, not on her watch. Even if they had lost a good chunk of the club to that beast, such losses would be insignificant once they held the power of creation and destruction in the palms of their hands.
"You're right, Black King. We still have the upper hand. We can make this happen. And this time we'll make sure those little shits pay! Because once the power of the Phoenix is ours, there will be no stopping us! Hellfire will be invincible!"
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