It’s war! The Shi’ar Empire is back doing what it does best, conquering and killing! The X-Men, Star Jammers, and the ousted Lilandra must fight their way through legions of the mighty Shi’ar in the hope to free the imprisoned Charles Xavier!
Vulcan, Chancellor Araki and D’Ken are in an operations room, looking at huge monitors that show feeds of both Charles Xavier and Darwin in custody. Araki apologizes to D’Ken for having to inform him that Charles mated with his little sister, Lilandra. D’Ken asks what they know of the other man. Araki replies that they don’t know a lot, apart from the fact that he appears to be an Earth mutant and the guards say he put up quite a fight. He resisted all damage, so they had to physically restrain him until they could get a collar on him. On screen, Darwin continues to resists, despite the collar and his other shackles seemingly rendering him helpless. This is in stark contrast to the unconscious Charles Xavier.
Vulcan informs him that his name is Darwin, and that they trained together. When D’Ken asks if he was a friend to him, Vulcan replies impassively that he guesses he was. D’Ken grins and decides to leave Darwin’s fate in Vulcan’s hands. He can kill him or make him his slave. He can even turn him to their side if he wishes. Charles Xavier, on the other hand, can be used to make Lilandra come running back.
(the asteroid archipelago, asteroid H-12)
Warpath and Korvus have made their way to an asteroid belt. There, they fight more Shi’ar soldiers named Rovers, with Korvus using the Blade of the Phoenix to take out one who has Warpath in his sights. James asks Korvus if he’s ready to take out the signal tower. “Surely you don’t doubt my abilities, Warpath?” enquires Korvus. James replies that he doubts everything he does, but they don’t have time for his problems. They need to get going.
Inside the signal tower compound, more Shi’ar soldiers await the two men, but they leap into the fray regardless, each confident of their own ability. As they wade through their opponents, James adds that it’s not like he doesn’t respect his skills. When a man beats him, he takes note of it, because it doesn’t happen very often. “So it’s about Rachel, then?” replies Korvus, “I care deeply for her.” James reminds him that they only met a week ago, but Korvus says that for him, it may as well have been a hundred years. He uses his blade like a propeller to deflect incoming fire, as James smashes his way through some large doors. James asks what he’s talking about. This is why he hates telepathy and all that mind-screwy stuff, because Korvus thinks they have some soul connection? In the real world, he hardly knows her. Korvus loses himself briefly in thought.
(flashback, last night on the Starjammer)
Marvel Girl and Korvus are sharing a quiet intimate moment. Rachel knows that a relationship between them is insane, but yet she somehow finds Korvus’ presence irresistible. They kiss as he cradles her head in his large hands. Rachel looks up at him, unable to tear herself away, telling herself as much as him that they need to stop this.
Korvus and Warpath maintain their steady progress forward. Korvus strikes a solder guarding the entrance to a room filled with computers. The two men head inside: the local resistance now at an end. James asks if they made it in time. Korvus replies that they have. The Shi’ar managed to send a distress signal, but he just countermanded it. No other signals will be getting off this rock. Korvus somehow sheathes his long blade over his head, acknowledging that, once their people hit the facility, it’ll only be a matter of time until warbirds arrive. James says they’ll be long gone by then. He radios Shadowlarks’ one and two that they are clear for entry, and they’ll be right behind them.
Not far away, two small crafts containing a team of X-Men and Starjammers pass the asteroid. Shadowlark One is piloted by Corsair, with Havok, Polaris and Lilandra on board. The second craft is piloted by Ch’od, with Raza, Marvel Girl and Nightcrawler accompanying them. Corsair radios the other craft and informs them that the Shi’ar’s defenses are strong, so they hit them fast. They may be expecting trouble, but they aren’t expecting them. “No one ever is, my friend,” replies Ch’od enthusiastically.
The two ships target the one true home on the entire asteroid that is guarded by a regiment of highly trained Shi’ar soldiers. It’s really more of a fortress than a home. As the defensive guns fire at their assailants, the Shadowlarks swoop in low and lay down a blanket of firepower to take the big guns out. Meanwhile, Korvus and Warpath grab a couple of small crafts that resemble space-faring snowmobiles. Korvus tries to familiarize himself with the new controls, and James asks him to do it faster. It’s started. Korvus asks how he knows this. James replies that, with his enhanced senses, even on this crazy space rock, he can feel the ground trembling miles away. He leaps in the second craft and the two men roar off.
At the battle scene, the X-Men and Starjammers exit their Shadowlarks and go hand-to-hand with the Shi’ar troops. As the teams battle the soldiers, Polaris and Lilandra make their way to a large entrance door. Corsair is rather surprised that she knows the way, but Lilandra informs him that it’s not her first time there. She had this facility built. Polaris tears the doors of their hinges with her power, whilst Marvel Girl clears a path free of soldiers, physically ripping them apart with her telekinesis.
Nightcrawler is rather shocked and he reminds her that there is no need to use lethal force. Rachel replies that there is a war and there is going to be dying. She’d rather it was the Shi’ar and not them. Kurt tells her that is not the Rachel he knows. Rachel replies that it is. It’s the one whose family was slaughtered and who had a death sentence put on her head by these people.
Raza Longknife, happily slashing his way through his opponents, asks Kurt not to worry about Rachel. She’s battle-hardened and needs to be. His fears lie with Lilandra and what they will face if they fail. Lilandra, meanwhile, is saved from an explosion by Corsair, and Havok tells his dad that they’ve got the attackers and will hold them off. Corsair asks Lilandra if she is hurt. She replies that it’s only her ego, and it could use a little bruising, she supposes. With a hint of sarcasm, Corsair asks if she could have positioned a few more troops there. Lilandra apologizes, but explains that she never imagined that, when she placed him there, she’d be the one trying to engineer his escape. She just wanted him gone and forgotten. As she turns a large wheel to open the door, Corsair asks if she needs any help inside. Lilandra replies that his part is played. This is hers.
Once inside the room, she sees a man standing at the window, watching the battle outside. He raises an eyebrow when he recognizes Lilandra, and asks if she’ll forgive him for not bowing. Lilandra tells Major-General Ka’ardum that it’s been too long.
(the Starjammers - yesterday)
Corsair and Lilandra are having a discussion about the Major-General. Lilandra informs Corsair of her plans to retrieve him, but Corsair isn’t happy about wasting fuel on fools’ errands. He reminds her who is in charge of the ship. Lilandra explains that she’s not commandeering his vessel, nor is it a foolish risk. Lilandra wants Major-General Ka’ardum back on her side, but Corsair asks if she’s forgotten that he nearly took her throne for himself. Has she forgotten why she had him banished?
Lilandra replies that she’s not forgotten, and neither has she forgotten that he once commanded the entire Shi’ar armada. D’Ken has the High Council on his side and has already been proclaimed emperor. If they have any hope of taking back her throne, they’re going to need a man like Ka’ardum. Corsair sits back and folds his arms. He doesn’t think he’ll join them. After years on his asteroid prison, they’ll be lucky if he doesn’t just try and kill her. Lilandra says that she’s not afraid of him. She’s afraid of what happens when her brother realizes that Ka’ardum is not dead… but in exile.
Ka’ardum remarks that he notices that Lilandra is aligning herself with the Starjammers and her pet Earthers again. They fight well enough, he admits, but they’d never have gotten near the rock if it were not for her. Even now she does dishonor to her bloodline. Lilandra admits that she gave them the codes to shut off the alarms and to countermand any distress signal, but there is no dishonor in them or her… just as this is not a prison. Ka’ardum replies that she may call it a palace or an estate, but they both know what it is. “You tried to lead a coup against me,” replies Lilandra. “You were my father’s closet friend… like an uncle to me. I loved you, and…” Ka’ardum tells her that he did not betray her. He only sought to return the imperium to its proper path.
Outside his window, Marvel Girl and Korvus make short work of the opposition that comes their way, as do the others. Lilandra asks Ka’ardum which path that is; the path of expansion like her father’s rule, or her brother’ path – that of destruction? Ka’ardum says she knows that answer to that. Her brother never had his love, but he allowed him to be a soldier, while she put aside her forces and tried to mix the royal blood that that of a lesser race. Lilandra bows her head and replies that his not accepting the peace she sought to bring to their people was one of her greatest heartbreaks. Using her love as his excuse… well, that was a lesson she supposed she needed to learn, and one that may have cost her everything.
Ka’ardum asks if it is true that D’Ken has awakened after all these years. Lilandra tells him that the fact that he has heard this is another reason she needs him. Even in exile, his finger is on the pulse of the empire. She asks how many warbirds would answer his call, even now. A third of the armada? More? Ka’ardum seems astonished that she might think that he would join with her and her outlaws. To fight his own kind? Lilandra explains that she does, because he loves the empire as much as she, in his own way. She is offering him a chance to save it, and something else as well. He asks what that might be. She tells him that he turned against her, shaming himself and his family. Now, his empress is asking to become a soldier once again, and to restore his lost honor.
(a remote listening station)
Vice-Chancellor K’Tor is in contact with a communications officer on board the station. He asks what the man means, they aren’t responding. The man replies that they received a possible alert from asteroid H-12, then a second signal countermanding the alert moments later. All within procedural code but, with the occupant of the asteroid, they thought it best to be sure. “And all communication is cut off now?” asks K’Tor. The man replies yes, and that the visual feeds are down as well. K’Tor damns Lilandra. Why couldn’t she have been this aggressive when she needed to be? The officer asks what they should do. K’Tor replies that, if it were him, he’d enjoy his last few days of light duty and get ready for war.
(the Starjammer, hours later)
The crew of the ship is in party mood, with Hepzibah offering the guys an impromptu lap dance as they get quickly drunk. Elsewhere on the ship, Lorna asks Alex if he’s going to join the crew. His father is asking about him. Alex replies that he’ll probably be along, but he wants to study some of the charts while they have the chance. He doesn’t exactly see a reason to celebrate yet. Lorna smiles and says that they won the battle and Lilandra & the Major-General are already preparing their message to the fleet. It’s something, at least. Havok reminds her that both Charles and Darwin are still prisoners. And Vulcan is out there with them, working for the other side.
Lorna stands beside him and asks if studying star-charts is going to change any of that tonight. She doesn’t want him to get her wrong. She loves it when he gets all driven like this but, if anyone needs to blow off some steam, it’s him. Before he can offer a response, she practically leaps on him and kisses him passionately. Pinned against a console, Alex tries to tell Lorna that they can’t just start up again, not after…
Lorna replies that they’re in space, in the middle of a war; they have no idea if the professor is dead or alive, or if they’ll ever see Earth again. And, today they held off an entire regiment of Shi’ar soldiers. “Just shut up and kiss me.” The two embrace as if they’d never separated.
(the Council’s armada)
Vulcan walks through one of the large corridors with Darwin at his side. Darwin’s legs are free, but his arms are still in shackles; linked to his collar through a band of energy via a link on his stomach. He doesn’t want to listen to Vulcan’s views on the professor - instead insisting Charles is a good man. Vulcan replies that he left them. He made them forget they ever existed. Darwin replies that Vulcan kills people, and worse, he killed them for no reason. Vulcan replies that he had a reason. Darwin replies that he was there, inside his head. He knows why he did it. Revenge. And he didn’t even get that. Banshee, the innocent people on the plane and the man flying the Sentinel are just wasted lives, destroyed for his rage. Did any of it make him feel any better? Vulcan grins and says he feels fine. “Then you’re a monster,” remarks Darwin. Vulcan says he is what they made him.
Darwin asks if they made him lose his conscience, or did he just never have one? Vulcan turns to him and tells him he could have let them kill him, but he didn’t. He shouldn’t make him regret that decision. Darwin asks what he thought. Did he think he’d be happy to see him? Vulcan doesn’t know about happy, but he’s the closest thing to a friend that he has in the universe, so he was hoping he might be best man at his wedding. Darwin is aghast at the suggestion that Vulcan is to marry. “You heard me right,” adds Vulcan. “In three days I’m going to marry the emperor’s sister, and Professor Xavier’s public execution will be the highlight of the after-party.”
Darwin notices a giant advert with a picture of Charles, bleeding and unconscious. The headline reads, ‘Xavier to face imperial justice.’