Rachel Grey is at a party in Annandale-on-Hudson with her relatives. They are enjoying the friendly atmosphere and catching up with the gossip, when the Shi’ar Death Commandos attack. The swiftness of their assault catches everyone by surprise. John Grey is the first to fall, but many more follow in his footsteps. Rachel emits a telepathic scream, which is heard by several X-Men at the Institute. Nightcrawler grabs the nearest two people to him, Shadowcat and Psylocke, and teleports the fifty miles to the house. The commandos proceed to massacre Rachel’s family, and the four X-Men provide what resistance they can. After a brief but intense battle lasting only twenty-four seconds, Rachel is the last X-Man conscious. She is slammed into the ground by the Commandos’ leader, Black Cloak, who pours something from a small vial onto her back. It burns into her flesh, forming the symbol of the Phoenix. From this moment on, Rachel will be traceable forever.
(Annandale-on-Hudson, New York)
A party is in full swing at the home of John and Elaine Grey. They don’t know it yet, but things are about to become really scary. Nine Shi’ar warriors are monitoring the guests, and they take stock of the surroundings and defensive capability of those inside. They find this to be negligible. Unable to locate their primary target, Rachel Grey, they opt for their secondary target, John Grey. He is eliminated with one blast from Warshot.
Rachel is a combat-trained telepath. She should have seen this attack coming. The commandos are there on the orders of the Majestrix Shi’ar to erase the Grey genome. They intend to kill everyone inside.
It takes three seconds for a spear thrown by Black Cloak to crash through the window and go straight through the portly Fred Harriman, an in-law of Rachel’s on her grampa’s side. He was a philosopher-braniac for a conservative ‘beltway’ think tank. Now he has a gaping hole in his chest. Rachel, blood splattered and shocked, only now realizes what’s going down.
By the fourth second, some of the commandos are entering the house. Bekka Wallis, Rachel’s cousin and a teacher from Chicago, was just showing off her fiancé. They’d just bought a house together and were planning on having kids. She is enveloped in a swarm of tiny creatures called Colony that eat away at her flesh.
Rachel screams, and her telepathic distress call is heard at the Xavier Institute by Cyclops and Emma Frost. It’s also heard by Nightcrawler, Shadowcat and Psylocke. In the next three seconds, Sega is ordered by Black Cloak to secure the Grey’s home. Nobody comes in or out.
Phyllis Dennefer was Rachel’s gramma’s sister. When they were Rachel’s age, they snuck into the Plaza Hotel to see the Beatles. Gramma got a kiss from John Lennon. Aunt Phyllis lived around the corner from the Dakota. She was home the night John Lennon was murdered and heard the gunshots.
Her husband, Roy, had done two tours in Vietnam and taught at West Point. He’d also led troops in Desert Storm and was scheduled for deployment back to Iraq. They are outside the Grey’s home, waiting to go in, unaware of the danger inside. At the Xavier Institute, Nightcrawler realizes the urgency of the situation. He teleports, grabbing Kitty and then Psylocke, despite her wearing only a dressing gown.
After eight seconds, Warshot murders the Dennefers. Rachel’s Uncle Roger, a jazz cornet player, is killed when the sole female warrior, Hypernova, throws her energy daggers at him. The glowing white weapons fry his torso. Nightcrawler, Shadowcat and Psylocke appear on the Grey’s roof just in time to see the Dennefer’s fall, and just before the defensive shield is made operational. Kitty says they need more guys.
Only nine seconds has passed. Psylocke asks Kitty if she has a plan. “We save...” she replies, as she witnesses Kurt’s teleportation attempt fail. Sega’s forcefield has been switched on and it does its job in keeping anyone from leaving.
After seeing John Grey evaporated right in front of her, Rachel may be shocked, but her shock turns to anger. Now it’s her turn.
During the next three seconds, Psylocke appears next to Warshot with her psychic knife at the ready. Inside the house, Devo encases young Julian in a bubble and uses some form of gas to eat him instantaneously. Kitty sneaks up behind him with a baseball bat.
Fourteen seconds, and Rachel is entering the house. Psylocke is noticed and attacked by Warshot, who shoots at her. Fortunately, Nightcrawler manages to ‘port her away from danger just in the nick of time. Kitty slams the baseball bat into Devo’s back and he falls.
A second later, and Rachel is using her telekinesis to disperse Colony who has devoured Terry Maguire. He had eyes that sparkled and a smile to die for when he looked at Rachel only minutes earlier. They had only five minutes together, but for a telepath that can feel like a lifetime. He was going to call her tomorrow and invite her to the movies. He wanted to kiss her but now, after trying to save his kid brother, he lies dead beside him.
Nightcrawler appears with Psylocke right above Warshot, and Betsy wastes no time in plunging her psychic knife into their attacker’s face. For Kitty, her resistance came too late for Julian, and the pressure’s beginning to show.
Rachel sees her Uncle Liam, Pastor Liam, who has met the same fate as Terry Maguire. He loved Keats, Dylan Thomas and James Joyce. He had a voice like honey and his sermons were a celebration of language as well as faith. Nightcrawler and Psylocke teleport into the thick of the action. They can’t evacuate, so they have to win.
One of the commandos, Krait, who looks like a human-sized Eagle, tears through a vehicle outside and attacks Rachel’s cousins, Mary-Margaret and Kindra. They had talked with Rachel about boys, fashion, music and scandal and concluded that she was woeful about them all.
Rachel realizes that Kitty is in danger from Offset, a bug-like creature that catches Kitty by surprise. She asks Kurt to save Kitty, and also asks Psylocke to cover her gramma. Betsy replies that she has her, but she is enveloped by a hulking stone-featured creature named Shell. At least it keeps the creature away from Derry Campbell, another of Rachel’s cousins from Texas.
After nineteen seconds, Rachel Grey flies into the air to take out Krait with a telekinetic blast, but manages to slam them both against the forcefield in her fury. Psylocke, seemingly helpless, is confronted by Hypernova, who holds out her own energy dagger at Betsy’s face. Psylocke it seems isn’t as helpless as expected, and she generates her psychic knife from her left fist. She thrusts it through Hypernova as Shell crumbles around her. Offset takes Kitty and plunges something resembling an organic syringe into Kitty’s stomach. It has locked her solid and intends to feast on her body.
After twenty-one seconds, Nightcrawler is on the roof after saving Kitty from Offset. He tells her to remain on the roof where it’s safe. “Like hell!” she replies. At that moment, Rachel and Krait crash to the roof unconscious, knocking out Kurt and Kitty at the same time. Psylocke stands over her downed opponent, but is slammed unconscious by Black Cloak. Rachel manages to pull herself to her feet. She apologizes, even though there’s nothing to apologize for. Black Cloak recognizes her as being the primary target. The mist-form of Sega informs him that she’s untraceable, but Black Cloak replies that she won’t be for long.
Rachel lets loose a burst of her telekinetic power at Black Cloak, but the warrior remains unfazed by her attack. He shoves her to the ground with his spear and pops open a small vial he’s carrying. One drop of a strange yellowish green liquid is all it takes. It drops on Rachel’s back, and begins to burn a strange symbol into her flesh: a simple image of a phoenix. Black Cloak then knocks Rachel unconscious. “She will never hide again.”