The foundations of the mighty Shi’Ar are shaken! Vulcan is here! His first test, the Imperial Guard! It’s Vulcan vs. Gladiator. The victor will decide the fate of an entire galaxy!
(a moon, somewhere near the heart of the Shi’ar Empire)
Vulcan is intent on exacting his revenge upon the Shi’ar Empire. He has spent weeks studying their history and culture: weeks formulating the perfect plan. This plan begins with the defeat of the Imperial Guard. Things aren’t going according to plan.
Vulcan takes out Smasher with a blast to the back, which sends him sprawling in a pool of his own blood. Several other members of the Imperial Guard surround him, and Gladiator receives a similar blast, as he orders his team to maintain a full pressure attack. Titan is already lying on the floor with his chest wound smoking. Vulcan evades an attack by Starbolt, and instead turns his energy discharge upon Impulse, who dies instantly. Nightside screams as she witnesses her friend’s death. Plutonia phases through Vulcan’s chest which causes him pain, and he drops to his knees at Gladiator’s feet. “That’s the last of my soldiers you slay,” he warns. “Surrender now and you may yet live.”
Vulcan is nothing if not stubborn, and he grins as he raises himself from the ground. He asks Gladiator to surrender instead, and promises not to kill all his men if he does. Gladiator is rocked by another assault, and he orders Cosmo and Neutron to forget Titan and get the ‘star-killing bastard.’
Chancellor K’Tor is in communications with the captain of the Shi’ar ship that Vulcan appropriated. The captain’s outfit shows signs of a struggle, and he is piloting one of his ship’s escape shuttles. He congratulates himself on ensuring that by the time Vulcan meets the Imperial Guard, he will be unprepared. He doesn’t truly understand what he’s up against. The captain adds that he saw that in Vulcan’s face as Gladiator tore his ship apart and cast Vulcan to a nearby half-dead moon.
The chancellor replies that he may indeed suit their purposes. He adds that an Earther that powerful and obsessed with the great D’Ken… he knows exactly which cell to place him in. The captain replies that it was his hope that the true empire may rise once more. K’Tor replies that it is his hope, too, and he has sent teams to retrieve the captain and any survivors among his crew. K’Tor’s computer then asks him what his next command is. K’Tor asks for a direct communication with Gladiator, and to transmit the following to his implant on Code Hector priority.
Back on the moon, Cosmo and Neutron delight in giving Vulcan a severe kicking. As he stamps on Vulcan, Neutron asks if he can feel his power leaving. Neutron then smashes Vulcan in the face leaving him bleeding on the ground. Vulcan then looks back at his assailants and tells them that they have no idea who he is. They can take as much as they want; it doesn’t have to be inside for him to control it. He then raises his hand and both Guardsmen reel in agony as their bodies begin to burn. Vulcan stands and walks away, leaving them smoldering.
Mentor is the next to take control, noting that Vulcan’s mind is his weakness. He calls for Oracle and Nightside to do their thing, and, a moment later, Vulcan finds himself surrounded by darkness. “Welcome to your nightmare, Earther…” a voice whispers. Vulcan is slightly confused, but asks if they think that darkness is going to help. The voice tells him that they know who he is. They see all. He is lonely and frightened; a child torn from his mother’s womb too soon. Vulcan warns them to shut up but the voice continues to say that he never knew the warmth of her touch - always scared… so alone. He warns them to stop this right now, before turning to see Hobgoblin approach him in the darkness, looking like Vulcan.
He tells Vulcan that the void knows this because the void is him, and they know that he is truly just a child. Vulcan snarls and thanks Hobgoblin. They almost had him there for a second, but then he remembered what it feels like to have someone else in his head. He blasts Hobgoblin in the chest, hoping that he is still linked with her, or close by at least. He then emits a burst of energy that knocks out Nightside, Oracle and Hobgoblin, and the darkness fades.
He finds Gladiator hovering before him, and asks if this is the best that they can do. Messing with his head just pisses him off. Gladiator flies towards him, informing him that he should have let Oracle and Hobgoblin defeat him. He assures Vulcan that mental anguish is far preferable to the pain he brings. Vulcan fires at him as he approaches but finds that his power is ineffective. He asks why he cannot touch Gladiator, and he replies that it’s because he believes himself to be untouchable. He lands a powerful punch on Vulcan’s left eye, which destroys it. Energy leaks from the gaping wound, and he bleeds heavily from it, asking what he’s done. Gladiator follows up with a crunching punch to the jaw, which drops Vulcan for good.
Gladiator stands over his fallen opponent. He gives an order for Vulcan to be bound and taken to the medical bay. Then, he can be taken to the brig for transport. Scintilla is surprised that Gladiator wants him alive after what he did to them. Several Guardsmen are scattered around the battle site with severe injuries. Gladiator replies that their orders are to have Vulcan taken into custody. Mentor asks Scintilla to bring power leeches and a neural shackle to neutralize Vulcan’s abilities. He then asks Gladiator if he took in all of Oracle’s mental scan. Gladiator replies that he did. Vulcan is the son of the outlaw, Corsair. He wants a report preparing for the vice-chancellor, informing him that the X-Men may not be far behind this one.
(later, on a prison moon orbiting the planet of Phygim)
Vulcan is carried to his cell by two prison guards. The prison is the highest security prison in all of Shi’ar space, and its deepest levels contain prisoners that only a handful of people at even the highest levels of the Shi’ar know exist. It’s in these dark cells that the days become a blur for Vulcan. His eye is replaced with a synthetic, and though there is no light, his fingertips constantly trace the scar around it. It’s a reminder of his failure, as is the device attached to him that dulls his senses, cutting him off from the source and leaving him trapped somewhere between dream and darkness.
As he sleeps, a younger version of himself appears and tells Vulcan that they were right about him. He’s just a widdle baby. Vulcan tells him to shut up, but he continues to tell him that they messed him up. He grew up too fast, and now he thinks he’s this big omega-level mutant, but he can’t even wipe his own butt. Vulcan repeats his warning for him to shut up, but the child adds that he’s figured out what today is. It’s Vulcan’s birthday, and he knows just how old he is, which was a lot more work than he’d think. The child adds up on his fingers. First, you subtract the years Vulcan was suspended in a hunk of asteroid. Then, you deduct the years the Shi’ar aged him, carry the decimal point, and he finally thinks he’s a fifteen-year-old, though probably more like thirteen in terms of maturity.
Vulcan remains lying down and tells the child that he’s not real. Can’t he leave him alone? The child asks if that’s what he really is; just some weak little kid who thought he was all grown up? He can’t believe that he’s him. Go away, Vulcan whispers. You go away, comes the childish response.
Vulcan doesn’t know if it’s days or weeks before his cell door opens and a soldier enters. He’s ceased to know the difference. He rouses, and tells the soldier to go away. He’s not real. The soldier grabs his arm and informs him that they haven’t much time. He clicks a remote control and the neural shackle opens. Vulcan sits up and holds his head, asking what’s going on. The soldier asks him to rest for a moment as removing the neural dampeners can be disorienting.
Vulcan asks why he would help him, as he’s a Shi’ar. The soldier replies that he serves the Secret Order, so that the true empire may rise once more. His orders were to aid him, and to tell him that there are those who know of the wrong done to him. He mentions Vulcan’s real name: Gabriel Summers. However, Vulcan asks him not to call him that.
The soldier informs him that they’re out of time. His path lies two levels down, and he hopes Vulcan has the power to get there. He fires on two prison guards who arrive, and orders Vulcan to leave whilst he holds them off. Before Vulcan can ask anything else, the soldier is killed, and Vulcan’s eye begins to glow. He aims his fingers at the guards and fries them where they stand. “Idiots,” he remarks as he grabs a cape from one of them.
Vulcan then continues in the direction that the soldier asked him to go and soon comes across two more armed guards. They suffer the same fate as their colleagues. In taking them out, his blast shatters the cell doors behind them, and he approaches them gingerly. Something inside the cell stirs, but carefully, like it isn’t sure what awaits. Vulcan orders whoever is inside to come out. He’s not there to hurt them. Deathbird exits the cell and says that, of course not… no one may harm her. Her sister the empress decreed that no hand would touch her, before she had her soldiers lock her away for all time, to ensure the safety of the throne.