Prof. X and his new team find themselves between a hunk of space junk and a hard-place, as they search the wreckage of Vulcan’s path of destruction for the secret that will help them get to the Shi’Ar throneworld in time. But Marvel Girl’s presence on the outskirts of Shi’Ar controlled space has not gone unnoticed, and a new enemy with deep ties to her is unleashed!
The Shi’ar homeworld is bustling with life. From high in his tower, vice-chancellor K’Tor welcomes a visitor in the form of Commander N’Ruto. The commander informs him that the Imperial Guard has been dispatched to confront the rogue warship. With luck, they’ll make contact in the next day. K’Tor enquires about their stargates. The commander replies that fifty-five have been completely destroyed, along with the support ships and the crews that maintain them. The vice-chancellor is angry. They’ve only just finished rebuilding after the Earther’s treachery.
N’Ruto reminds him that the empress proclaimed Xavier innocent in that matter, but K’Tor insists she was ashamed. He was her consort and he used his mind control to manipulate her into nearly destroying the realm. It was only through the ministry’s pressure that she dissolved their union and they were able to have Xavier banished. The commander asks if the empress knows of the attacks on the stargates. He is told that she knows only what the vice-chancellor’s superior decides she needs to know. At present her condition is fragile. She is being tended to. N’Ruto then announces that there is another matter he has just received word of… about the line of the Phoenix! This grabs the vice-chancellor’s full attention.
(the outer rim of the Shi’ar Empire)
Professor Xavier and his team of X-Men have come across a space station, and Marvel Girl uses her telepathy to determine whether the occupants are friendly or not. She senses only a skeleton crew, and their thoughts are tame. They should be able to ‘Jedi’ the crew into helping them. Charles gives the order to proceed, and dons a spacesuit to conceal his identity.
Once on the station, they find just two men working there, and they welcome the team aboard. Charles feels that whatever facilities they have will be of great use as their own ship is nearly out of fuel. One of them looks out of the window and comments that it’s been too long since he saw such a model of starcraft. He enquires as to where they acquired such a vessel. Charles says Rachel’s name in a questioning manner, and she ‘Jedi’s’ the workman, informing him telepathically that he doesn’t need to know about the ship, and that he just needs to refuel it. The workman returns to his computer and forgets he asked the question, adding that their ship is unmanned so it might take some time. Charles wonders if his crew could gather supplies while they wait. The workman pauses a moment, before offering the run of the station to them.
Havok and Polaris take one route through the ship whilst Darwin and Nightcrawler choose another. Lorna mentions to Alex that she’s just noticing now, because he uses Rachel to do it, but asks whether the professor has always just pushed his will onto people like that? Alex reckons that he has, when the need arose. He asks if she remembers when Jean became the Phoenix. Charles made an airport full of people forget they’d seen any of them.
Lorna says she misses Jean. And, she liked Scott better when she was around… a lot better. Alex agrees, but asks her not to forget that the Shi’ar are the people who killed Jean the first time around, and they’d do the same to the professor given half the chance. He doesn’t mind him pushing a few minds to get them on their way. Is that bad in the grand scheme of things? Lorna guesses not.
Elsewhere, Nightcrawler and Darwin have taken another route, and Kurt senses that something is troubling Darwin. The newcomer explains that he doesn’t like how the professor’s treating him. They’ve been in space almost a week, and he’s hardly let him out of his sight. Kurt agrees that he’s being overprotective, but Darwin is still new to the team. He guesses Kurt is right, and then asks why Charles is wearing a space suit. Kurt explains that he’s a wanted man in Shi’ar space. It’s a long story involving an evil twin, and Kurt would rather not go into it.
Meanwhile, Alex and Lorna arrive at a large door with a sword & sickle carved into the doorway. They don’t know what it means, but Alex guesses this is where the security gear was stored when they had a security detail… before this place because the ghost station at the edge of the universe. He places his hand on a glowing white screen and the large door slowly opens. Inside, they discover the dead bodies of several crewmembers who appear to have been killed. Alex gasps.
Darwin and Kurt are looking for food, and Kurt thinks they’re heading in the wrong direction. Darwin notices a small sign written in Shi’ar, and explains that it means Food Storage. “You can read Shi’ar?” asks Kurt, surprised. Darwin replies that he looked through a few of the ship’s logs until it made sense. Now, through listening to the workmen speaking with the professor he can speak it pretty well, too. He utters something in Shi’ar.
Amazed, replies Kurt, before asking what it means. Darwin’s smiling face suddenly changes into a frown and he replies, “Look out!” Kurt turns just in time to see an assailant emerge from the shadows and shoot at him. He teleports instantly, but the blast shatters the window behind him and Darwin is sucked out of the station and into the unforgiving coldness of space. Kurt is unable to grab him as he hangs on to a ladder.
The alarm sounds and the blast doors are activated. Outside the station, Darwin quickly begins to adapt to his new environment. He discovers that he has no need to breathe, and both his skin and internal structure increase in density. He realizes that he must warn the professor that this place isn’t what it seems. Whatever that thing was, it wasn’t Shi’ar, and he’s guessing that neither are the men he’s dealing with.
Inside the station, Rachel suddenly takes a turn for the worse. She holds her forehead and complains of a sudden nauseating headache. She was trying to mind-probe the lead worker because of the way he kept looking at their ship, and then her headache came on strong. She feels that something’s wrong. She looks up to see Darwin approaching the station. He lands on the outside of the glass, held there by suckers that have formed on his fingers. He looks like he’s trying to tell them something. “What the hell?” exclaims Warpath.
From Warpath’s blind spot, a Warskrull appears having shape shifted from his previous form of a workman. He is holding a double-edged blade. “Die, Earthmen,” he says, grinning nefariously from ear to ear. He lashes out at James, but he ducks and grabs Rachel, calling out to the professor that this is a trap. Another Warskrull carrying the weapon fired at Nightcrawler sees Kurt teleport above him and he asks what he is. He likes to know what he’s killing.
Kurt warns him that he’ll be killing no one else today if he has anything to do with it. He teleports them both outside the station and leaves the Warskrull there before returning to the station. He notices that the Warskrull’s armor has formed a protective sheath over his head, and he hopes his friend can also survive out there.
Rachel is having difficulty moving, and it’s up to Warpath to take on three Warskrulls, all of whom are superior in size. He figures one of them must have an implant that is giving out some kind of feedback to Rachel. He reminds her that she’s not just a telepath. Another Warskrull grabs Charles by his helmet but, before he can do any damage, Havok arrives with Polaris and he blasts the alien. With his back smoldering, the Warskrull turns to his assailant and says he was hoping for a fight. Havok brings it on, pummeling him with his plasma blasts, but the Warskrull simply grins at him and thanks Alex for charging up his forcefield.
Warpath is being overawed by sheer numbers, despite his prodigious strength. Charles informs Lorna that one of the Skrulls must have an implant, which hurts Rachel, so she uses her powers to reach out and destroy whatever it is. The Warskrulls fall away from James in agony, and Lorna points to one that is still conscious. James gladly delivers a kick to finish him off. There is just one Warskrull remaining, and Alex is keeping him at bay. Charles helps Rachel up, and she isn’t happy about having her head messed with. She assaults the Warskrull, using her telekinesis on a molecular level to take him out. She leaves him alive, despite the fact that he wouldn’t have spared any of them.
Elsewhere, Darwin appears to have somehow found a way back inside the station. He descends a ladder that leads from what appears to be an access point. Kurt thinks he truly is a wonder. He himself survived a few seconds out there, but Darwin managed to adapt to his environment. He nonchalantly tells Kurt that it’s no big deal. He asks if Kurt can teleport through the door next to them, pointing out that, while he was outside, he was a few Shi’ar locked inside. Maybe they know what’s going on? Kurt asks if the space beyond the door is clear. It is, so he teleports inside.
Soon, the X-Men are getting the full story from two surviving Shi’ar crewmen. They inform the professor about Vulcan’s destruction of their ship. They managed to escape in a shuttle, and they found the Warskrulls floating in space in the guise of their own people. They rescued them, and then it was too late. They told of being refugees from their system, having to evacuate due to a force moving through space, destroying all. They wanted a real ship, so they killed the workers at the station and took their places to lay an ambush.
Rachel asks why they were spared. He replies that the Warskrulls said their code wouldn’t allow them to kill any who saved them. It’s the first he’s heard of Skrulls having any code. Charles feels that the Skrulls aren’t without honor, however twisted it may be. He allows the Shi’ar to travel with them until they reach the nearest hub. Kurt doesn’t think that this is a good idea, but Charles is concerned that the Skrulls might break free before their signal reaches the authorities.
Once inside their holding cell, the two Shi’ar chat about Charles who they recognize as being Lilandra’s former consort. For now they can do nothing, but when the time comes, they will deliver him to the vice-chancellor’s justice.
(the third moon of Phygim - high security prison)
The vice-chancellor visits a prisoner who is being held in powerful shackles. He asks the man if he knows who he is. He replies that he’s the man who put him there. The vice-chancellor says that he’s much more than that. He’s also the man who had his brothers killed and his mother sterilized; just as his predecessors have done with the descendents of Rook’shir for five hundred years, wherever they can find them. He looks at Korvus and says he is the last.
He asks if he knows why he is allowed to live. Korvus has no idea. The vice-chancellor replies that he knew there would be a day when he would need his services. He asks Korvus if he would like his sentence commuted; to roam freely among the stars. Korvus asks what he has to do. “What do you think?” replies the vice-chancellor, “Something that only the Blade of the Phoenix can do…”