War rages across the entire Shi’Ar Empire! Emperor D’Ken is back and his new right hand man, Vulcan, plans on doing some truly terrible things to Charles Xavier! But the X-Men and Starjammers are en route to save him. This could turn into a suicide mission quicker than you can say M’Kraan!
(aboard the Starjammer)
Major-General Ka’ardum makes a televised appeal to the armies of the Shi’ar Empire to join him and Lilandra in fighting the newly crowned emperor, D’Ken, and his allies. Watching the coverage are Chancellor Araki and D’Ken. They haven’t found a way to shut down the signal as yet, and Araki doesn’t feel there is any need now. The message has been spreading through the fleets for three days like a virus. Nearly a third have left their ranks to join Lilandra and Ka’ardum’s forces.
(the M’Kraan Crystal)
D’Ken thinks it hardly matters. They still outnumber their forces by two to one, and they have the Imperial Guard. Besides, he adds, they’ve chosen the battleground and it’s one that his little sister and her fools cannot hope to resist. Araki prays the emperor is right. D’Ken replies that he always is. He asks to be taken down as they have a royal wedding to perform.
After finishing his latest message, Major-General Ka’ardum is concerned that Lilandra has put him in charge of the resistance forces, yet she wants them to walk into a trap? He won’t have their lives thrown away like that. Lilandra doesn’t feel that they have a choice. Ka’ardum asks if she’d risk it all just to save the Earther consort. She replies that it’s not only that. Corsair says she is right. Lilandra may be thinking with her heart, but she’s right. “If D’Ken isn’t just using the M’Kraan Crystal as a backdrop for his celebrations…” Kurt asks if this is a risk they can afford to take. A power like that can wipe away existence in the hands of a madman. Ka’ardum still thinks that this is a fool’s errand, but Lilandra places a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “Lately, uncle, they all are.”
Back near the crystal, D’Ken asks Gladiator if he’s done what he was asked. Gladiator informs him that he spoke to the crystal’s guardian, Jahf, and he agreed to a temporary accord for the day, as long as they stick to their terms. D’Ken says he has no desire to touch the inside of that cursed world ever again, so he need not worry. Only one man will face those horrors this day. When Vulcan asks D’Ken if it will kill him, D’Ken replies that he doesn’t want to find out what the M’Kraan Crystal will do to any who enter it. However, he should know that his wedded bliss will be accompanied by the screams of Charles Xavier long into the night. He asks Vulcan where his witness is. Vulcan thinks that Darwin is saying his farewells to his old teacher, or trying to find a way to save him. Vulcan knows he won’t. It’s going to be a great day.
(Xavier’s prison cell)
Darwin has been placed with Xavier in his cell. Charles is asleep when Darwin wakes him. Darwin is shackled to prevent him from using his power of adapting to his environments. Charles asks where they are. Darwin informs him that they are at the M’Kraan Crystal. When Charles asks what fool brought them there, Darwin replies that they don’t have much time. He needs the professor to help him. Charles says that he’s in no shape to do that, but asks what he needs anyway. Darwin tells him that the Shi’ar intend to kill him after the wedding. They’re making a big show of it. He has to figure out a way to save himself. Charles weakly asks not to be saved, and not to let Lilandra die for him.
Two guards enter the cell and one picks up Charles roughly by his handcuffs. Darwin is helpless to intervene. The guard informs Charles that it’s time for the ceremony, and for Charles to prepare for his final agonies. He drags Charles across the floor as the other guard hits Darwin hard across the face and places his foot on Darwin’s head. He places a sword beneath his chin and tells Darwin that, if Lord Vulcan hadn’t ordered them to treat him as his friend, then he’d face his blade right now. He grabs Darwin’s arm and helps him to his feet, ordering him to get to the wedding before he changes his mind.
(the X-Men’s Shi’ar craft)
Lilandra watches footage of the wedding alongside Warpath and Hepzibah, who is now seated at the smaller ship’s controls. Warpath can’t believe what he’s seeing. It’s like they’re Charles and Lady Di or something. Hepzibah thinks Lady Death is more fitting. She thinks Corsair must be in agony, watching his son marry Deathbird and joining the Shi’ar Royal Family. Lilandra sees Charles on his knees on the television and thinks that they’re too late. Nightcrawler assures her that they’ll save him and her throne, but she must have faith. Warpath informs everyone that the Starjammer is preparing to jump, and Hepzibah says it’s time they did the same. She asks Kurt to keep faith but to ready himself for steel and blasting. “God protect us all,” prays Kurt.
(the M’Kraan Crystal)
D’Ken completes the wedding ceremony and joins Vulcan and Deathbird together in marriage. The couple kisses, as Darwin looks on helplessly. As they embrace, Araki asks D’Ken to look to the skies. His other sister is joining the party. D’Ken holds out his sword and calls his men to arms. “Prepare for battle!” he cries.
Vulcan is surprised that they have arrived so soon. He hasn’t yet made Xavier pay. As the first explosion hits home, splattering Shi’ar soldiers all over the place, soldiers shoot at the incoming ships and the Imperial Guard heads into action.
The first to arrive on the ground are Corsair, Ch’od, Korvus, Marvel Girl and some of the Starjammer’s crew. Gladiator orders his Guard to go into attack formation. Another group appears, with Warpath, Hepzibah and Raza Longknife among their number. Nightcrawler teleports as soon as they land. More and more resistance troops arrive and their crafts begin blasting, protected by force fields. The area surrounding the M’Kraan Crystal soon becomes a major battlefield, with gunfire coming from every direction. Amidst craft of all shapes and sizes exploding and firing at each other is a small group of X-Men and Starjammers determined to rescue Charles Xavier and Darwin.
Korvus slices through one craft as Marvel Girl uses her powers to fight the Shi’ar. She wants to keep the Shi’ar busy to buy Nightcrawler some time. Korvus assures her that they’re busy, and warns her to watch out for Gladiator. Polaris does exactly that. She flies towards Gladiator, using metal from the exploded ships to wrap tightly around the Guardsman. Havok asks her to give it all she’s got, as they can’t really hurt him.
Nightcrawler teleports to Charles Xavier’s side and Vulcan notices him as he blasts away. “Nooo!” he screams, as he senses his revenge escaping him. He quickly turns his attentions to Kurt, and unleashes a blast that hurls him clear of Xavier. He then walks over to Charles and picks him up, painfully, by his handcuffs. Darwin leaps at him and he tells Vulcan that he’s better than this, but Vulcan shoots beams from his eyes, knocking Darwin to the ground. “He gets what he deserves,” he replies as he flies to the crystal carrying Charles.
Lilandra sees him and screams, and Rachel has to use her telekinesis to prevent Lilandra from running to him. D’Ken orders the Imperial Guard to bring his little sister to him, and Gladiator breaks free of Lorna’s magnetic construct. He smashes his way through Korvus and punches Rachel in the face on his way to his former empress. He apologizes to her, but Lilandra asks for him to wait.
Meanwhile, Vulcan holds Charles up with two fingers under his chin. “This is what you get, old man,” he gloats. “Now I trap you in a rock.” Lilandra screams, as she is held by Gladiator, unable to prevent Vulcan from hurling Charles into the crystal. Corsair is horrified and asks what sort of monster they turned his boy into. Darwin rouses from being blasted and sees what has happened. He leaps into the crystal after Charles, despite what it might do to him.
Meanwhile, the X-Men and Starjammers continue the fight, with their powers and skills seemingly being enough to keep the Shi’ar soldiers at bay. Corsair wants Ch’od to clear a path to his son, but Warpath wants them to get to Lilandra. Charles and Darwin are lost. They can still save her.
D’Ken holds his sister by the throat and tells her that it’s been too long since he’s seen her face in agony. Lilandra insults him but he doesn’t care. He wonders whether to kill her now or let her witness his victory. From behind, Vulcan blasts D’Ken forcing him to drop her. “Actually, that would be my victory, you mother-killing bastard! You think I would be your brother?” he asks. “That I would serve beneath you?” He opens his palm and burns D’Ken’s face off, leaving a fleshless skull. “You think I could ever forget what you did to me?” he asks.
Everyone sees what has happened and the fighting ceases. Havok asks what the hell he just did. Deathbird swoops in towards Vulcan and can’t believe it. She trusted Vulcan. He tells her that he heard her wishes and respected them. She didn’t want to rule, and now that they’re married she won’t have to. He picks up D’Ken’s helmet and places it one his head, proclaiming himself, by right of blood and combat and by right of succession, Emperor Vulcan - ruler of the Shi’ar Imperium.