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 11: The White Hot Room
"SCOTT! RACHEL!" yelled Logan as ran towards the glowing gateway.
"Logan, STOP!" yelled Ororo, holding him back with all her might.
"No! Let me go! We've got to save them! We can't let Cyke and Rachel..."
"She's right Logan," said Professor Xavier, stopping the raging Wolverine cold in his tracks, "The portal is too unstable. If any more of us go in, there's a good chance we'll never get out."
"But Professor!" exclaimed Kitty, "We can't just leave them!"
"I know Kitty," he said in a solemn tone, "But I'm afraid there's nothing more we can do."
A solemn silence fell over the team. This was supposed to be the end. Jean had said goodbye to everybody, making it clear that wherever she was going, she wasn't coming back. Everybody had accepted it. Nobody argued against it. Everybody, that is, except a little girl who didn't want to see her mommy leave.
Rachel Summers, a girl with courage well beyond her years, wouldn't allow her mommy to just disappear in some white void for all eternity. She loved her mommy too much to see her go. And because of that, she chased her into the unknown, followed quickly by her father, who refused to lose his family like this.
"Do...Do you think they're okay, Charles?" asked Hank, all his knowledge about the physical and metaphysical world going out the window.
"Honestly Hank...I don't know," said the Professor, shaking his head in disbelief, "I really don't know."
It was not a very uplifting. Three very good friends were now trapped in a mysterious nexus and there was nothing they could do about it. Never before had they been so powerless. And as painful as it was, there didn't was nothing more that could be done.
Some of the couples like Kurt and Amanda, Kitty and Piotr, and even Bobby and Jubilee stayed close, sharing a comforting embrace as they prayed for their friends. Others, however, refused to take this standing down.
"We HAVE to go after them, Professor!" said Rogue in a determined tone, "We can't just leave them!"
"Rogue the gateway..." began Hank, but he was quickly cut off.
"To hell wit de gateway!" shot Remy, "We have to do something!"
"The Cajun's right!" said Logan in a determined tone, "Cyke, Rachel, and Jeannie need us and we can't just..."
Then suddenly, something happened within the gate. And in a miniature explosion, something began to brew within the mysterious portal...Something that went beyond their understanding.
"Oh my..." gasped Emma, shielding her eyes from the blinding flash, "Charles, something is..."
"I know, Emma. I sense it too," said Xavier in a grim tone, "Something must be straining the White Hot Room."
"Is it Jean?" asked Ororo anxiously.
A heavy silence fell over the two telepaths as they watched the gate. While they couldn't make out exactly what it was they were sensing, they knew enough to know that this was big...Very big.
"I'm not sure, Ororo. But something tells me that whatever is going on, Jean is at the center of it all. And the only thing we can do now is...Pray."
Inside the portal where all realities centered on a single nexus, two mortal souls were trapped in a realm where no mortal being had ever stepped foot before. They didn't know where they were going or where this was leading them, but as the little girl and the desperate man descended into the mysterious realm, only one presence stood out through the chaos...Jean.
This was the White Hot Room, a place where the fires of creation burned their brightest. This was a world where the power of the Phoenix was strongest. But power or no power, this was where Jean Grey had been taken to and if they had any hope of saving her, they would follow her to the one place where she can find her missing pieces.
"Daddy! Daddy!" cried Rachel as she fell faster into the blinding white light.
"It's okay Rachel! I'm coming! Daddy's right here!" yelled Scott, zeroing in on the echo of her voice.
It was like being in outer space, only instead of darkness everything was surrounded by light. It was so bright that it was almost blinding, but it was still possible to make out figures in the distance.
Yet despite the desperate father's efforts to reach his daughter, there was still another presence to contend with.
"You shouldn't have come here. You must leave at once!"
This booming voice echoed from all directions, but it didn't dissuade Scott and Rachel. They just kept falling through the void until they finally hit what felt like solid ground.
Rachel was the first to reach this stable footing. She was scared for both her mommy and her daddy. She didn't know what this big, scary place was, but her mommy was here and she didn't want to leave without her.
"Mommy? Mommy where are you?" she said as she took short, weary steps along the strange path of light.
Suddenly, in the distance, two huge structures formed before the little girl's eyes. Letting out an amazed and horrified gasp, she froze as she saw two large towers looming ominously overhead. And in between them, a large fiery light shined brilliantly in a fiery halo.
"You foolish little girl..."
"Mommy!" cried Rachel as she ran up to the base of the towers.
"Stop! You should not be here! Get away from this place!"
"Not without my, Mommy!" shot the little girl, "Leave her alone! She never did anything to you! She never hurt anybody! LET MY MOMMY GO!"
Her words were full of anger and determination. Even the Phoenix was impressed by this little girl's spunk. But she was still just a mortal.
From high above, the flame between the two towers came to life and the fiery figure of the Phoenix formed. And from there, she descended to meet the pestilent little girl that had followed her. She still bore her White Phoenix outfit, wielding the appearance of the beautiful Jean Grey who now possessed so much power.
"Jean Grey's family is a tenacious bunch. But even she knows that all is lost now. This is the end."
"NO!" yelled Rachel with tears in her eyes, "Please...Don't take my mommy away from me! Please! I love my mommy! I don't want to..."
"It is not your choice little girl! There is no more of the mortal that once was and the void that was once so empty is now complete!"
"I don't care!" said Rachel, her young mind not understanding, "You're a monster! You're hurting my mommy! You're making my daddy sad! You're hurting my Aunties and Uncles! My mommy doesn't belong to you! You can't take her!"
For all her power, the Phoenix was taken aback. There was so much passion within her...Passion reminiscent of Jean Grey herself. She actually had the guts to follow her into this realm, not caring at all about her own well being. All she wanted was her mommy and like it or not, her words stung.
"No! I am not a monster. I have brought no harm to your mother. She and I are one!"
"You ARE hurting her!" screamed Rachel, "You're hurting her a lot! You're making her cry! And that's what makes you a monster!"
It was flying in the face of all the clarity she had attained the moment she became White Phoenix. Was all that love and joy from Jean Grey just another piece to the inexplicable puzzle that was mortality? It didn't make any sense. She had felt so complete. Her destiny was at hand. So what was going on? Why did she still bear this confusion?
"Rachel...I...No! This is not possible! This is...This is..."
But the little girl wouldn't give up.
"GET OUT OF MY MOMMY! GET OUT OF HER! STOP HURTING HER!"
The Phoenix let out an angry cry of frustration. At long last, she had returned to the White Hot Room. This was the point of her origin, the place she was meant to reside for all eternity. So why was she still not complete?
"All this time...All this pain. And I...I STILL CAN'T FIND MY PIECES! WHY?! WHAT IS MISSING?! WHAT?!"
The erratic flames of the White Phoenix surged from her being, causing Rachel to fall back as the instability of the cosmic entity intensified. She tried to crawl away, but she just couldn't leave her mommy.
"I'm not complete...Not whole. I MUST...FIND...MY PIECIES!"
"Ahhhhhhhhhhh!" screamed Rachel as she covered her eyes from the oncoming flames.
Just then, the little girl found herself suddenly picked up off the ground and shielded in a protective embrace. Looking up at her savior, Rachel let out a frantic cry as she clung to her only vessel of protection.
"Daddy!" she cried, feeling safe in his strong arms.
"It's okay baby girl...Daddy's here now," said Scott short of breath as he fell to his knees, sheltering his little girl from harm.
"Daddy! The monster still has mommy!" she cried.
"I know, baby...I know," he said in a strained voice.
Upon seeing Scott and Rachel together, more confusion arose within the Phoenix. Her eyes were still glowing bright yellow and her surrounding white flames were pulsating erratically under her intense anguish.
"Scott...Rachel...Why...Why is this happening? Why am I still not complete?"
Hearing this voice tore another hole in Scott's heart. Half of it sounded like the monstrous Phoenix and the other half sounded like the woman he loved. It was hard hearing it so consumed by rage. But Phoenix or no Phoenix, this was still the woman he loved. And if this was how it was going to end, so be it.
"Jean...Please...I know you're still there," he said desperately, "Please don't leave us."
"But...Jean is no more! She and I are one!"
"No...No you're not," said Scott, speaking from his heart as he stood strong with his little girl in his arms, "Jean Grey is a part of me. She's a part of our little girl. You can never be one with her...Not when there are pieces of her residing in the hearts of those she loves."
"But...But we MUST be one! This is the way it's supposed to be! She is my mortal manifestation!"
"That doesn't make you one with her," said Scott strongly, "What you're doing isn't destiny or fate...It's just greed. You can't handle mortal feelings, yet you need them as a guide for all that power you wield. You said it yourself, you couldn't bear the emptiness. And now that you're full again, you can't bear the completion either."
Such words hurt the Phoenix in a way no ritual, spell, or experience ever could. For so long now, it had been trying to find its place in the cosmos. It fulfilled a centuries old prophecy to manifest in her mortal embodiment. Yet here she was on the brink of chaos. Was this not fate? Was this not how it was supposed to be?
If there was something more, then what was it? What did Jean Grey have that it couldn't seem to ascertain?
"I...I must find peace! I can't do that without Jean Grey!"
"That may be so," said Scott in a solemn tone, "But you can't escape the heart she has under all that fire. You can't escape her mortal soul. She is, and always will be, Jean Grey. And no matter how powerful you are, you will NEVER have her."
That only enraged the Phoenix even further, but Scott Summers was not scared. Both he and Rachel were beyond that at this point. This was it for them. This was the end. They were a family and they would stand together to the bitter end.
"I still love her," said Scott softly, his words thick with emotion, "She's my soul mate...My wife...My lover...My best friend. She's the one who gave birth to my baby. We're a family. We need each other. And if she truly is gone...Then I don't want to live in a world where I have to wake up alone every day and explain to my little girl why her mommy is gone. You can do what you want with us, Phoenix...But you can NEVER take Jean away from her family!"
These words...Love, friend, wife, mother, and family...Struck the powerful being in a way that caused the white fires to burn brighter. It was happening again. The chaos, turmoil, and confusion was consuming her. And despite all the forces working against them, a single voice sounded through the chaos.
"Scott..." said the voice of a woman so desperate for the love of her family.
"Mommy!" said Rachel, tears now streaming down her face, "Please..."
This act was outright impossible. She and Jean were one. There was no way she could escape their fate. Yet here she was, reaching out to her family. And as a result, the Phoenix felt a rage like no other.
"NO! IT'S NOT POSSIBLE"
"Face it, Phoenix...You can't be one with her," said Scott in a determined tone, "You can never truly be one. That is not your fate."
Suddenly, the Phoenix let out an angry howl as she locked her sights on the man and the little girl. They were causing her too much confusion. They were tearing her apart from her rightful vessel. She would NOT let this stand. She was the Phoenix. She was destruction and creation incarnate. Her fate could not rest in the hands of two insignificant souls.
"YOU! I WON'T LET YOU CORRUPT ME ANY MORE! I WILL FIND WHAT'S MISSING! I WILL BE WHOLE! EVEN IF I HAVE TO DESTROY YOU, I WON'T BE DENIED!"
Facing an enraged cosmic entity, Scott Summers clung to his little girl. He knew this was it. This was the end. Either they would get Jean back or parish together as a family. And remarkably, in the face of such overwhelming odds, he just stood there with his daughter in his arms and smiled.
"Do what you have to. You know I won't stop you."
Little Rachel Summers tucked herself in her daddy's strong arms and held on, praying for her mommy. Scott, despite all the agony he was in, clung to his baby, waiting for the inevitable.
Raising her hand to the foolish mortals, the Phoenix prepared to blow them away with a mere thought. She could destroy planets and consume stars in a heartbeat so destroying two insignificant mortals shouldn't have been a problem.
"I'll kill you! I'll kill you! You must...Be...Destroyed!"
Yet try as she might, the Phoenix couldn't deliver the final blow. Her hand trembled, unable to do anything to see this through.
It was inescapable even for her. Power or no power, Jean Grey would not allow this. Like it or not, she was still a part of her and even if she had to fight the very forces of the universe, she was going to save her family.
"Nnn...NO!" yelled a determined Jean Grey, "I must...Save...My family!"
"It...It's not possible! It can't be! We are one! We are united! I need Jean Grey to find my missing pieces!"
"And I need...My family! And I won't...Let you...Take them!"
The fires grew more intense, causing Scott to take a step back as the chaos escalated. Rachel quivered at the scary noises, but her daddy was there to sooth her as they awaited the fate of the woman who meant so much to them.
"Mommy's fighting it," he told her softly, "It'll be okay, sweety. I swear...It'll be okay."
Not knowing whether or not his words were true, Scott hugged his little girl and sent out words of love through the dormant link. He wasn't sure if Jean could hear them, but he sent them anyways...If for anything, to let her know that her family was there for her.
'Come on Jean...You can do it. Fight it! I love you. Rachel loves you. We all love you. And we need you. You're family needs you. Please...Come back to us!'
Never before had the Phoenix been so torn. Never before had it faced such overwhelming power. Inside a place so thick with the energy of life along with the support of her family, Jean Grey could tap into the very power that Phoenix had tried to wield on her own. And now that they were so closely linked, the playing field was level and she could fight the power from within.
"No...NO! Phoenix...Jean Grey...ERRAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"
"JEAN!" yelled Scott as he was knocked back by the overwhelming force of the pulsating energy.
"SCOTT!" came the determined voice from within.
Scott could do nothing more than protect his daughter. He made sure he took the blunt end of the impact as the fires from the Phoenix put him in a world of hurt. And as he heard her crying sobs, his felt more tears form in his eyes.
"It's...Not...Possible! I...Am...Phoenix! Creator...Destructor...Power!"
"And I...I am Jean Grey! Friend...Wife...Mother...Passion!"
"My...My pieces! No...I can't...Can't...AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!'
Suddenly, the fiery light surrounding the cosmic entity was sucked in as if it were a black hole. The blinding fury of the White Hot Room was centering on the Phoenix. All the light and fire from the towers was being consumed and it felt as though the whole world around them was collecting within the Phoenix.
All that could be heard now were the passionate cries of a raging entity and a determined woman. From deep within, they struggled, all while absorbing all the light and power around them. And through the purity of the White Hot Room, it was beginning to take its toll on the both of them.
Whatever was happening, it caused a fundamental change in the nexus. All the power and energy was being drawn in. The towers seemed to focus it and the battle between the mortal and immortal forces were taking it in. It was getting darker and darker as more power was drawn. And all Scott and Rachel could do is hope.
"Daddy..." said the scared little girl.
"It's almost over sweetheart. It's almost over," said Scott, watching as everything around him faded into darkness.
It was as if they were standing in a black void. The only sources of light were the towers and the glowing figure before them. It was so bright that it was impossible to stare at. Yet regardless of what they couldn't see, they could still hear the determined cries of Jean Grey and the Phoenix.
"Together and separate..."
"Mortal and immortal..."
"Phoenix...Jean Grey...Must be...COMPLETE!"
Finally, as all the power from the White Hot Room centered on the chaotic figure. A blinding explosion erupted from within and the fires and flames of the Phoenix scattered throughout the nexus, once again filling it with the light of creation.
"AHHHHHHHHHHH!" screamed Rachel.
"Jean..." said Scott in a desperate tone.
Finally, when the blast faded and the nexus stabilized, the two mortal souls so deeply tied to Jean Grey turned to look at the now desolate base before the two towers. And what they saw both shocked and horrified them.
"Mommy!" yelled Rachel as she leapt out of her daddy's arms.
Scott, feeling too tired to hold her back, followed. And upon reaching the base, they were met with the sight of an unmoving body completely devoid of life. It was Jean Grey, only now she bore no emblems of the Phoenix. Around her, small pieces of white fire that resembled fireflies surrounded them. For all the power the Phoenix had bore, it just couldn't hold itself together under the strain. And the price it paid was most dear.
"Mommy! Mommy...No," cried the little girl with tears streaming down her face as she clutched her mother's lifeless body.
It was the most heart wrenching sight Scott Summers had ever seen. She wasn't moving or breathing. For all her efforts, it was too much for her in the end. Jean had fought her hardest to save them and cared little about her own life in the process.
He couldn't believe it. He didn't want to believe it. The woman he loved was gone.
"Jean...Oh God no. Please no," he cried as he fell to the ground and cradled his wife's body in his arms, "Jean. Oh Jean. Why?"
For all his strength as a leader, a father, and a husband, Scott Summers couldn't take it. He broke down crying.
Little Rachel cried harder as she clung to her mommy's hand, not wanting to let her go. She didn't want to lose her mommy. She loved her so much. She and daddy needed her. She just couldn't be gone.
"Mommy...Please...Wake up...Wake up," she sobbed.
It was a dark moment for a family that had overcome so much together. From lost souls to soul mates, it was over. After years of hardship, they had found each other. They formed such a strong bond both as a family and something so much more. But in the end, fate had torn them apart. Or so it seemed.
While the torn family was crying out in anguish, the fragmented flames of the Phoenix began to come to life. The ashes of the holy bird soon collected, gathering between the two towers, drawn together by the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
Only this time, the fires were white with purity. And as they reformed, the consciousness from deep within awakened...This time to the feeling of clarity and balance.
And after untold eons of confusion and frustration, the Phoenix was finally whole.
"At last...I AM COMPLETE!"
With jubilant cries that echoed throughout the nexus, the Phoenix took its true form. Its appearance was part fiery bird and part mortal woman. She still bore the fiery aura of the Phoenix, but now bore the figure of Jean's White Phoenix form. And as she descended from the towers, her eyes fell upon the scene of anguish that had fallen upon the family that had helped her so much.
"So much love...So much passion. Jean Grey truly is a lucky mortal."
Still sobbing for the lifeless body of Jean Grey, Scott and Rachel Summers looked up at the divine entity. At this point, they could care less though. The Phoenix got what it wanted and they lost the woman that mattered most to them.
"Are you happy now, Phoenix?" said Scott bitterly, "You got what you wanted, but you had to take her away from us! You killed my wife! You killed the woman I love!"
"You're anguish is undeserved, Scott Summers. Jean is lucky to have someone like you who loves her so."
"Lucky or not, you took her away from me! You took her away from her family!" cried Scott angrily, "I need her! Our baby needs her! And you killed her!"
Scott's words were thick with pain and sorrow. Even though this was a being that could shape the universe to her will, this pain was just too much. The woman he loved was dead. And at this point, he could care less about angering a holy entity.
Yet despite this, the Phoenix remained calm. She descended upon the broken family, smiling with the love and compassion she had learned from Jean Grey. She had come to understand the dynamics of mortal beings thanks to her living embodiment and she finally had a profound new clarity. And for that, she was eternally grateful.
"Jean Grey is an amazing woman. After all the confusion I've endured, she has helped me find what was missing. Now I understand that you were right, Scott. We were never really one to begin with. I only believed that we were one so strongly that...I just made it so. I kept looking for my missing pieces, yet they were right here with me all the long. And now that I'm whole, I can truly be at peace."
Such words offered little comfort to the torn family. Even if the universe was safe again it came at a very high price.
"But...But my mommy," cried Rachel, tears still streaming down her face as she held her mommy's hand.
"Don't cry little one. Your mother's soul still burns brightly. She and I are a part of each other. Always have been...Always will be. And now that I am at peace, we can exist together on our own terms. The mortal and immortal...Forever separate, yet forever one. I am the Phoenix. And Jean Grey is my medium. And for everything she has given me, I am eternally in her debt. We are both truly blessed. And for that, I bestow upon her the life she so deeply treasures...Renewing the link between her and her family that shall now shine brightly now and forever."
Then, through an act of divine power, the Phoenix let out a small flame from her being. And as it descended into the lifeless body of Jean Grey, the Phoenix endowed it with her eternal gratitude. And while they may never be one, they would be forever linked. And the Phoenix could think of no better mortal to call her avatar.
The tiny flame entered Jean's body, guided by the heart of the Phoenix and the love of her family. And as it spread throughout her being, a golden halo formed around her and the woman known as Jean Grey came back to life like the Phoenix she was.
"Scott...Rachel...My family," she gasped weakly, her body so tired from everything she had endured.
"Mommy!" cried Rachel, her little face lighting up like a nova of joy.
"Jean...Oh Jean," said Scott, a smile forming on his face as he felt the warmth return to her body.
Through their minds, he could feel their link returning. It was so strong and solid, once again binding them as lovers and as family. Holding her in her arms with their baby by their side, Scott never wanted to let go. He had come so close to losing her, yet here she was lying in his arms. It proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were truly soul mates...Now and forever.
"Be strong, live happily, and never forget that which now links you so deeply. Jean Grey and I shall forever be a part of one another. And from this moment on, we are complete. And from the depths of my heart, I thank you and your family."
Looking back up at the divine figure, Scott and Rachel Summers smiled. This cosmic power had learned the true meaning of passion from this woman. And moreover, she learned the true power of family and love. And even with the universe in the palm of her hand, she would never forget the knowledge she had gained from these wonderful souls.
"Now go my friends...Return to your world and live your lives. Just remember that no matter where the future takes you...You shall always have my love and passion to guide you along. Farewell."
Back in the Hellfire mansion, the portal from the M'krann crystal was fading fast. It looked as though it was going to disappear at any minute, forever trapping Scott, Jean, and Rachel in the nexus.
And all Charles Xavier and his X-men could do was watch anxiously.
"Professor! Zhe portal! I zhink it's closing!" exclaimed Kurt.
"I know, Kurt," said the Professor with dread, "I can feel something holding it together, but I..."
"Wait! Look!" yelled Ororo.
Suddenly, a shadowy figure formed in the dying portal. And as soon as they saw who it was, a great cheer fell over them, for whatever had happened on the other side it had all worked out in the end.
"Oh ma God," gasped Rogue as she covered her mouth with shock and amazement.
"I...I can't believe it," said Piotr, shaking his head in disbelief.
"Scott...Rachel...Jeannie," said Logan as he ran up to them with Hank and Ororo following close behind.
With Jean's tired body in his arms and his little girl by his side, Scott and his family made their way through the portal and back to the world that they cherished. Soon afterwards, the portal collapsed and the M'krann crystal faded back into the nexus forever.
It was a bittersweet moment for all of them. Even in the face of overwhelming odds and unimaginable power, they had triumphed as a family.
"Scott...Is she okay?" asked Hank as he quickly checked her pulse and life signs.
"She's fine," said Scott, falling to his knees in a fit of exhaustion, "She's just tired."
"But what happened?" asked Amanda, not knowing whether or not it was truly over, "What about the Phoenix?"
Scott just looked down at the sight of his beautiful baby and sleeping wife and smiled.
"She gave it exactly what it had been looking for...Peace."
Such words brought a smile to the face of Professor Charles Xavier. After all this turmoil his beloved students had come out so strong. Scott and Jean were his first students and would always hold a special place in his heart. And now more than ever, he was so proud to see how much they had grown and how strong they had become.
"Amazing," said Emma, "For all the power she had and all the chaos she brought...In the end, all she wanted was peace."
"Indeed," said Xavier with a tear in his eye, "Entity or no entity, its needs were as basic as any mortal being. I think she learned that from Jean and because of her strength, I think we can rest easy knowing that the Phoenix has finally found what she has been looking for."
It was a moment of great joy. Jean Grey, the friend they loved so much, was alive. And nobody took more pleasure in this than her husband and baby as they remained by her side. As strong as the bond between her and the Phoenix was, in the end it was no match for the bond that linked them together as family.
"Come on, team," said Scott as he hugged his tired wife close, "Let's go home."
THE PHOENIX IS AT PEACE! SO LET'S CELEBRATE WITH A REVIEW!!!