The Shi’Ar Empire is crumbling at the hands of Vulcan! The X-Men, with Professor X captured, search for the one group of heroes that can save them and all of the Shi’Ar...the Starjammers!
(Trell’eari - retreat for the Shi’ar High Council and royalty)
Amongst beautiful surroundings, Majestrix Lilandra Neremani, flanked by two guards, asks a young woman named Karanda where Chancellor Araki might be. She replies that he’s had a communication and has had to attend to something. She asks if everything is to her pleasing.
Lilandra assures Karanda that everything is fine. Being there has helped her more than she can imagine. She stumbles as she mentions what happened to her, but Karanda assures her that her lips are sealed. Lilandra tells her it’s kind of her to say so, but she was kind of a mess. Cassandra Nova almost destroyed her mind. However, she thinks it may be time to return to her duties. Karanda thinks the chancellor will be pleased to hear it.
Elsewhere, Araki communicates with Vice-Chancellor K’Tor, watching him on a large screen. He has given Araki news of Deathbird’s escape. Araki thinks that it couldn’t be one of their own that freed her, in case they failed. Still, he’s stunned at how quickly this has transpired. K’Tor asks if he will need assistance, but Araki chastises him, reminding him who he is speaking with. K’Tor apologizes.
Chancellor Araki turns to see one of Lilandra’s guards approaching. Araki quickly draws a weapon and blasts him with it. He then shoots the other guard, as well as Karanda. Lilandra is shocked and asks what he’s done. Araki smacks her on the side of the head with the weapon and she falls to the ground, unconscious. Araki tells himself that he has given the empire a chance at greatness. It’s something she could never understand.
(meanwhile, far, far away)
The X-Men discuss their options aboard their spacecraft, with Korvus in attendance. Warpath doesn’t trust Korvus, but Rachel reminds him that he was forced to do what he did. Korvus adds that if he meant to kill him he’d have done it before he came to. Warpath flips and storms towards him, but Havok steps in-between the volatile pair and order them to stop fighting. He figures Charles and Darwin are more important than their squabbling. He reminds James that Rachel has seen Korvus’ mind and she trusts him. That’s good enough for him. Even if he wasn’t, he’s the only one who can help them right now.
When Nightcrawler asks how they’re going to catch his ship, Korvus replies that they can’t. It’s a jumpship, which means it creates its own stargates. Lorna is disappointed, but Korvus tells her that there may be another way, if she and Alex are what Rachel says they are. Alex asks what he means. Korvus explains that they can help them create a stargate of their own.
“We can what?” exclaims Rachel. Kurt asks for an explanation, so Korvus informs them that it’s simple. Before they built the gates, Shi’ar cruisers like the one they’re on made their own jumps. They only have to bring the jump engines back on line, but they’ll need a power source. That’s what they will be. He, Havok and Marvel Girl will feed the engines, and Polaris will control them.
Polaris asks what she has to do. Korvus explains that their power isn’t the fuel they were built for, so she has to stop it from ripping them apart and leaving them stranded outside space and time. Kurt half-jokes that it sounds serious. Korvus replies that it’s worse than that, assuming they survive. When they arrive, their most powerful members will be spent, and their impulse drive will be offline. He looks out the window, and adds that following their teammates where his ship’s coordinates were set is out of the question. They need somewhere safe to rest and refit the engines before they leap into the fray.
“The Starjammers,” Nightcrawler suggests. Alex was going to say the same thing. The professor had their most recent location in the navcom, and he taps away at the computer. Korvus is surprised that they know the Starjammers. Rachel explains that Corsair is Alex’s father. Korvus grins, and says that maybe their luck is not all bad.
(Shi’ar High Council Starways)
Near a massive spaceship, the two Shi’ar that kidnapped Charles Xavier approach warily. They are cleared for landing and are asked to prepare to be scanned. One of them tells the controller that they are not the ones they were expecting, but before he can complete his sentence, the scan reveals three people aboard the craft, and no Phoenix Blade. They are ordered to surrender, as they have illegally entered the High Council’s causeway and will be considered hostile. One of the men asks them not to fire. They have a gift for the Vice-Chancellor. It’s the Earther, Xavier. Behind the two men, Charles sits bound and gagged; uncertain of his immediate future.
The controller asks them to hold position, and the two men chat. They are nervous about entering the craft but, when they are cleared for landing in bay seven, they are warned not to deplane in the hangar. They will be boarded. One of the Shi’ar thinks they will be killed for certain. His comrade replies that he is going to kill him if they don’t if he doesn’t be quiet. The craft slowly enters the hangar.
Meanwhile, back on the X-Men’s craft, Polaris practices using her augmented powers by taking things apart. Alex asks if she thinks she’ll be able to do it. Lorna doesn’t know, but with all the training she did with Rachel and the Professor during their downtime, her new powers are beginning to feel as natural as the ones she lost. She remains optimistic about their chances. She wonders how long it will be. Alex hopes it will be soon. They’ve been working on the engines all day.
Lorna points out that Alex has been a little distant since they decided to do this. She thought he’d be looking forward to seeing Corsair, in spite of everything. Alex replies that he is. It’s been a long time, however, and he doesn’t even know about Vulcan yet - his other son. On top of that, they’ve blown it at every turn. They get stuck in space and allow Charles to be kidnapped. Lorna points out that it was Charles who brought them onboard, but Alex says it doesn’t matter. He should have seen it. Now they’re running to his father for help instead of bringing it to him. All they have is bad news. Alex turns and walks out of the room with a lot on his mind. Lorna picks up some objects using her power and says to herself that Alex is twice the man Corsair is. If only he’d realize it.
In the engine bay, Nightcrawler and Warpath have become spectators as the shirtless Korvus works on the engines. He tells them that it’s nearly ready, but he hasn’t worked on engines like this since he was a boy. James asks if his father was a mechanic for the empire. Korvus replies no. This was after his death, when he was in the slave workforce… before he became a man and was locked away. Kurt and James pause a moment before making their excuses to leave. Korvus assures them that he’ll finish it on his own. He can’t sleep anyway.
As they walk away, Kurt says that is seems like Korvus has been through worse treatment than many of them. “It appears,” replies James. Kurt asks if he still does not trust him. James thinks that there’s something about him; a scent that he can’t place. He doesn’t seem suicidal, however, so he guesses he can be trusted with the engines. Kurt tells him that he worries more about Rachel, and the effect that he’s had on her already. She took some of the Phoenix Force from his sword within herself. Even the smallest spark of the Phoenix in Rachel Grey could be a danger to them all. It could be much worse for Rachel.
Elsewhere on the ship, Rachel has nightmares about Korvus and the treatment he underwent at the hands of his slave captors. She wakes with a start and decides to get up. She decides to grab a bite to eat but finds nothing appetizing. Instead, she grabs something to wear and heads to the engine bay to see Korvus. When she arrives, she tells him that he’s in her head. He reminds her that she’s the telepath. Can’t she shut it off? She asks if it’s happening to him, too. Korvus admits that something is; ever since they merged minds through the Blade of the Rook’shir. Rachel tells him that it’s like she has pieces of his memories mixed with hers. She asks about the sword, wanting a reminder of how it’s connected to the Phoenix.
Korvus holds the blade in an outstretched hand and it fizzles with energy, revealing an image of the Rook’shir along its length. He tells Rachel that, hundreds of years ago, Rook’shir was possessed by what was then called the Phal’kon. He was where the Shi’ar legends of the Phoenix truly originated. They kept the story quiet, but knew long ago that the energy could join with those it chose. Rachel says that she thought Jean Grey was the first person the Phoenix connected with. Korvus corrects her. There were two others, each ending in disaster. Rook’shir destroyed worlds. He had the Phal’kon in him for only a few days, and he killed so many.
He adds that when they finally managed to slay him, a small piece of the Phoenix remained within his sword. But, it’s not the true Phoenix. Rachel agrees. To her, it’s more like a faded blue shadow, or an echo of it. Rachel touches the sword, and reckons it’s not such a bad thing. It’s a lot less power but it’s easier to control. Korvus thinks it’s too easy. When he first held the blade, it opened his mind to the lives of those who carried it before him. It taught him how to use it. Rachel reckons that even a shadow of the Phoenix wants to be used. She notices Korvus staring at her and asks him to stop looking like that. Like what? he asks. “Like you know me,” replies Rachel. Korvus says that he does know her. He shouldn’t, but he does.
Rachel and Korvus approach one another, so close that Rachel has her hand on his chest. Korvus tells her that he even knows why she is there in the new clothes she made instead of sleeping. Rachel tells him to stop, but she’s not that convincing. “It’s the same reason I can’t,” he adds. Rachel turns and Korvus holds her gently by the shoulder. “Oh, God,” sighs Rachel, “We’re really in trouble now.” Korvus smiles and says that he’s known nothing in his life but trouble. They’ll survive. He takes her head in his hands and kisses her tenderly. Rachel reciprocates, stroking his hair as they embrace, as if it was always meant to happen.
Meanwhile, Charles Xavier is now a captive of Chancellor K’Tor. He is strapped uncomfortably into a machine that holds his head in place. Charles grimaces from the pain and of the knowledge of what might come. K’Tor is standing before him, gloating about what is going to happen to him. He explains that the machine is called the ‘kiss of agony.’ Its touch sears right through the brain. He wouldn’t know personally, of course, and it’s not as if he’s about to try the device on himself. Charles warns him that Lilandra will have his feathers for this. K’Tor slaps him hard across the face. He tells Charles not to try and use his mind-control on him. The collar he wears prohibits those abilities. Charles replies that he doesn’t have those abilities anymore.
The machine forces Charles’ body upwards and places him in a horizontal position. K’Tor asks for forgiveness if he doesn’t take him at his word. In any case, he adds, he won’t have those abilities soon. The machine is loaded with nasty-looking blades, syringes and all manner of devices with painful intent. Charles cries for him not to do this. Lilandra will kill him. K’Tor grins, and informs Charles hat she will do no such thing, because she’s as helpless as he is now. The machine goes to work, and Charles screams in agony. The two Shi’ar that brought him in are observing from a nearby viewpoint and have no stomach for torture. They decide to leave it to the professionals.
As the retreat to their quarters, one of them remarks that his wife will be pleased with their reward. From a dark recess, Darwin observes them approaching and, once they are within range, he attacks. He delivers a crunching kick to the face of one of the hapless crewmen, and his colleague draws his weapon. He warns Darwin that, if he fires his blaster, every guard on the ship will come running. Darwin looks focused and not to be messed with. He replies that he has survived a jump through space holding onto the roof of their ship. If he thinks a blaster is going to hurt him, he’s dreaming.
He turns sharply and shatters the weapon with his fist. He then punches the Shi’ar in the face, destroying his nose and covering his face with blood. The crewman asks what he wants from him. Darwin snarls, “I want my teacher… and you’re going to help me save him!”