(Flashback, prior to Excalibur (first series) #46)
A world burns – and a lone warrior cried silently. The native people of this planet had prized peace above all else, for it seemed the best way to live together. It was – until the Shi’ar Galactic Empire arrived. Her name is Cerise, and she kneels by the body of a porpoise-like being in the middle of the fire-ravaged ruling city of the planet. She recalls that the people – the children – were cut down like wheat. She wonders if this is for the common good, if it is what she is.
Someone approaches her from behind and asks her what it is she is doing sitting down. He asks her if she thinks that just because it is her first assignment aboard an recruitment vessel of the Ghrand Jhar that she can slack off? Cerise turns and faces her commanding officer – Captain C’Efn – and declares that it was her understanding their ship was on a conversion mission and that their goal was to recruit members of the outer regions throughout the Shi’ar Empire through enlightenment – C’Efn cuts her off, laughing.
C’Efn grins wickedly and tells Cerise that they are converting these savages to the ways of the Shi’ar – and he guarantees that whoever survives will only be too happy to join the Empire. C’Efn offers Cerise some advice, telling her not to get too attached to the natives and that it will not pay for the Shi’ar Empire to perceive her as useless, before obliterating the young body in front of Cerise.
C’Efn asks Cerise if she is still a little weakened and orders her to beam back aboard the recruitment ship, declaring she is obviously not ready for this, before telling her next time, that she better be.
Cerise reveals that it was at that moment she realized she had to do something – anything – to stop that warship from cutting a light-year-wide swath of death across the universe, all in the name of the Shi’ar Empire – and that it is exactly what she did.
A guard kicks Cerise to the floor of the processing center and reminds her that she has already had her trial, so he doesn’t care what her story is. Dressed in brown prisoner clothing, Cerise is helped up by an elderly green-skinned woman as the guard informs them they are about to be “flushed”. Cerise asks what “flushed” means, and the elderly alien reveals that it means transported, that they are about to leave the “comfort” of the processing center to arrive on below on Krag, the rock within a world where they will spend the rest of their lives.
Many distant parsecs away, the spaceship known as the “Starjammer” jettisons its waste products before getting underway, the ships crew unaware of the would-be passengers arriving in a most unconventional manner.
A “bamf” marks the arrival of Kurt “Nightcrawler” Wagner, leader of the British super hero team Excalibur. Clinging to his tail is his teammate, the handsome Scott Wright a.k.a. Micromax, who has used his size-changing power to make himself small. Kurt suddenly realizes that teleporting here from the prison planet to the space station to the garbage chute may not have been the greatest idea, but that they had no choice, for they had to get the Starjammers to help them rescue Cerise.
Wright mutters as he holds on to Kurt’s tail for his life, that for once he agrees with him. Kurt tries to hold on to the wall, but can only barely. The doors to the garbage chute begin to close – however Kurt’s tail – with Micromax on it – are floating on the other side of them. Wright tells Kurt to pull his tail in. Nightcrawler replies that he is trying, but Wright tells him to try harder – and just before the door slams shut, Micromax is brought into safety.
As Scott returns to his regular size, Kurt mumbles that the Starjammers will detect them entering the ship through the garbage ship, for he saw it in a movie once. ‘Great’ mutters Wright before asking Kurt how he can believe Cerise is innocent when she freely admitted to be guilty of the Shi’ar charges brought against her. Kurt reminds Scott that he is a mutant and therefore should know he cannot always take things at face value.
Meanwhile, on Earth, specifically Braddock Manor in England, the home of the motley Excalibur crew, where one troubled woman has lost the love of her life and sense of self. Her name is Meggan, as an elemental she is one of Excalibur’s most powerful, but erratic, members. After losing Brian Braddock, Meggan has removed herself from reality by becoming one with a waterfall and the stream. Meggan’s fellow-founding teammate, Kitty “Shadowcat” Pryde sits on a nearby rock and asks Meggan to talk to her.
Kitty declares that she knows what it is like to lose someone, but that the first thing you learn is that you have to move on. Kitty tells Meggan that she is still herself and cannot define herself by her relationship with someone else. Meggan of course doesn’t respond, but Kitty again tells her that Brian isn't here but that she has to get on with her life. Kitty frowns and asks Meggan if she can even hear her, but when Meggan doesn’t answer, Kitty gets mad and shouts at her, telling her to snap out of it – causing Kitty to lose both her temper and her control of her mutant phasing power, so she slips into the stream.
The young magician, Feron appears nearby, holding an umbrella over his head as he hovers cross-legged by the waterfall. He mocks Kitty before suggesting that he should make the next attempt to reach Meggan. Kitty shakes the water off herself and tells Feron that he has a nice idea but that he is missing the point. Kitty declares that it doesn’t matter what she or anyone else says to Meggan, for they are not who she needs to speak to right now. She starts to march back towards the Manor exclaiming that since Brian Braddock is not going to stop by for a chat she is going to find a towel. Feron asks Meggan if what Kitty said is true – that she needs to speak with Captain Britain, and grins, asking why no one said so sooner.
Back in space, at the processing center near the entrance to the pan-dimensional prison Krag, located beneath the planet’s surface. Cloaked in the standard prisoner-robes, Excalibur members Kylun and Rachel Summers have secretly entered the queue to be transported to the prison, and Kylun points out Cerise, ahead of them in the queue. Rachel reminds Colin McKay that they do not want to draw attention to themselves, especially as they went to all the trouble of stealing the robes. They watch as Cerise is transported below, and Rachel is annoyed they are too late.
Kylun urges Rachel to stay calm, reminding her they will do more good if they maintain there cover. A guard tells the two to stop talking before asking for their paper work. Rachel sees the concern on Kylun’s face, so she telepathically tells him not to worry, as she saw this in a movie once. Using her telepathy, Rachel tells the guard that he does not need to see their papers, for everything is fine and they are free to proceed. The guard is less-than-impressed and tells Rachel that they may not proceed. He asks her again for her papers before telling her he will tear them off her.
Kylun suggests to Rachel Summers that the guards are protected by mental manipulation, when suddenly the guard rips Rachel’s robe from her, declaring he has had enough of – he doesn’t finish his sentence, for he falls to the ground and everyone around him creeps backwards at the sight of her Phoenix costume. ‘The symbol! Do you see it?’ ‘Gods below – it’s the Phoenix!’ Rachel frowns and tells Kylun he may be right, ‘or they just don’t get HBO out here’.
Meanwhile, above the planet Krag is the “Starjammer” spaceship, home of the aptly-named Starjammers. Right now, the Starjammers are engaged in a debate with the Empress Lilandra Nermani of the Shi’ar Empire. Corsair tells her that she is being unreasonable and reminds her that Professor Xavier has vouched for the integrity of Cerise. Lilandra tells Corsair not to try that button with her and declares that it would not matter if Charles were personally appealing on Cerise’s behalf. Lilandra raises her voice through the holographic-projection-intercom and declares she will not re-try Cerise for the heinous crime she has committed.
Hepzibah tells Lilandra that she is using the Starjammers like pet dogs, but Corsair cuts her off, and tells Lilandra that if she will not cast some light on the very questionable conviction Cerise is on and to give him some idea as to why Cerise would be sop content to accept it, then he will ask her himself. Lilandra points at Corsair and tells him not to overstep himself, for she has enough to worry about right now without his meddling. Lilandra reminds Corsair that they have an alliance and suggests he does not make her forget that, before fading from view.
Raza tells Corsair that they are standing by for his orders and asks what they are to be. Corsair raises his gun and shoots a panel on the wall, declaring ‘this’ is his order. The panel breaks away, revealing Nightcrawler and Wright hidden behind it. ‘Oh. Uh, hello!’ exclaims Kurt. ‘Stowaway’s! declares Raza, as Corsair asks Kurt if he enjoyed the trip. Nightcrawler teleports over to where Corsair is and asks him if he also believes that Cerise is innocent. Corsair exclaims that he is not so sure, before marching away and telling his team to prepare to beam down, for they are going to find out the truth, no matter what the cost.
Back on the prison planet, a riot has broken out, as Rachel, Kylun, the guards and other prisoners have all engaged in battle. The guards squabble over who is going to claim Phoenix as their own, the prisoners trying to capture her also, for everyone wants the bounty on her head. Rachel apologizes to Colin for dropping their cover. As Rachel knocks out a prisoner, she declares that she doesn’t want to hurt them, as they are probably as innocent as Cerise. Kylun exclaims that his swords will separate good from evil, and suspects that there is plenty to be separated.
Suddenly, Rachel’s telepathy picks up a strange thought-pattern from the transport platform, but before she can act upon it further, everyone is frozen still in time. An amphibious alien walks up to Rachel and Kylun warns her to be careful as the alien is reaching for her face. The alien touches Rachel on the chin before announcing that she is not the Phoenix, merely wearing her dread garments, but does not fill them. Rachel is about to do something to the alien when everyone around her is freed from their suspended animation.
Rachel wonders what happened, Kylun suggests they no longer considered her worth fighting over. Someone tells Rachel not to worry, for there are those who would gladly die to behold her shining visage. Rachel turns and sees that it is Raza, who along with the other Starjammers, Nightcrawler and Micromax have arrived at the processing station. They apologize for their delay, before Kylun asks the question – ‘now what?’ Nightcrawler exclaims that he can only speak for himself, but he is going through the transporter to find Cerise, and then is going to bring her home, kicking and screaming if necessary.
Below the surface of the planet Krag, a tempestuous climate gives reason for Cerise to tell the elderly Cryan to huddle closer to her, for the ionic winds can freeze skin off. ‘I’m not really the cold-blooded assassin everyone here seems to think’ Cerise mutters. Cryan thanks Cerise and huddles closer, causing other prisoners to mock them. A reptilian alien points to the ‘puerile alien and the venerable primate’ huddled against the ‘acrimonious zephyrs’. He makes a joke before calling to Cerise and Cryan, informing them that they are not listening with their ‘respective auricular apparatus’.
Cerise and Cryan ignore him, causing him to go up to them and furiously tell Cryan that he will not be disregarded with such impunity. He grabs Cryan at the shoulder, causing her to scream – until Cerise kicks the reptilian to the ground. Someone rushes to the alien’s aid, but upon reaching him points out that he is dead – that Cerise killed him. Cerise narrows her eyes and reminds everyone that he made the decision to attack Cryan, not she. She tells the others to back off, or else they will be next. The aliens back off and tell Cerise that the body is hers. ‘Great, that is just what we need right now – a maniacal Lizard’s dead body’ mutters Cerise, not knowing that the strange mind detected by Rachel Summers sometime earlier is actually watching her.
At the processing station, Excalibur and the Starjammers confront the person in control of transporting people to Krag. With various weapons pointed at him he folds his arms and not-too-impressed he asks if this is the part where he screams “No don’t kill me, I'm too young to die?” Kylun tells the alien that it may be if he does not improve his attitude and start working the controls. ‘Yes! Itchy trigger fingers is mine, big-ears!’ exclaims Hepzibah as she holds her gun to the man’s head.
The transporter chief declares that he does not need their threats and tells everyone that if they want to beam down to an inescapable hellhole then who is he to stop them? He ushers the eight onto the platform that will send them down, muttering to ‘Miss Skunk’ that she ought to watch where she is throwing those ear comments she has been making.
Corsair stops Kurt and tells him that before they go down, he thinks there is something he and everyone else should know before they make the trip. Corsair orders the chief to call up the evidence against the prisoner Cerise – ‘or I’ll blow another hole in your head’. ‘Again wit the threats!’ mutters the transporter chief before pulling Cerise’s file on screen. Nightcrawler and other others watch in horror at a recorded message made by Cerise, in which she confesses to taking full responsibility to the death of every crew member aboard the encruitment ship.
Cerise exclaims that perhaps no one will ever fully understand what she is about to do or why, but that she knows she is right and hopes that someday the universe will find it in its heart to forgive her. Corsair reveals to everyone as they watch the encruitment ship explode that it was the final transmission and only record of what happened to that ship. He declares that Cerise was tried in absentia for treason against the Empire, for everyone assumed she had died with the rest of her crew – until a few days ago when her Shi’ar bio-implant registered her existence in Earth’s atmosphere.
Kurt asks Corsair if he thinks this changes the way he feels about Cerise and the situation she is in, because it doesn’t. He exclaims that He knows Cerise and therefore knows she must have had a reason to do what she did, and that no one but Cerise will be able to tell him differently. As Excalibur and the Starjammers are transported to Krag, Kurt exclaims that he will not stop until he has found Cerise. No matter where she is, no matter what stands in his way.
On Krag, lightening strikes and rain pours down as Cerise keeps the elderly Cryan company – unaware that the ferocious Fang is ready to attack her.