Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where fiery energy rises up in the middle of a civilian neighborhood. 'RUN!' someone screams as several civilians flee the area, while armed soldiers begin to close in. 'Get behind the perimeter, people!' one of the soldiers calls out, assuring them that the situation is under control. “Control” one of the other soldiers quotes, before pointing out that Main Street is burning like Three Mile Island. 'Choke the sarcasm, Captain. Scans show an electromagnetic field regulating that burn. One we can disperse... thanks to Gyrich's little gift here' another soldier declares. 'Copy. Kill the field, kill the flames' the Captain responds. Suddenly, 'Finger off the trigger, Captain! There's a mind in there. That firestorm's one of us. And he's in pain' a voice declares. The Captain turns as someone puts a hand on his shoulder. 'You're saying that thing's a mutant?' the Captain frowns.
'We come in all shapes and sizes... and none of them give you the right to murder us' Captain Kate Pryde announces, as she stands with Lucas Bishop and Kwannon a.k.a. Psylocke. The mutant in agony is called Fever Pitch, and more fiery energy resonates around him as Bishop tells the Captain to step aside as no one is dying today – unless he gets in their way. The three mutants make their way towards Fever Pitch, connected telepathically, Bishop tells Kate that she did nice work dealing with the rank and file, and asks if there is enough left here to save. 'He's in there, Bishop. Humans turned him into a suicide bomb. The man's been trying to pull himself back together ever since' Kate replies. Kwannon points out that spite is a powerful motivator, but that Fever Pitch is all over the place. 'Let's give him something to ground himself to' she suggests as she casts some psychic energy towards Fever Pitch, which strikes him and he collapses into Kate's arms. 'Got him, Psylocke!' Kate calls out, before telling Fever Pitch that he is safe, and introducing herself to him. 'Didn't think anyone'd remember. Didn't think they cared...' Fever Pitch utters, before Kate asks him if he is ready to go home. 'Who in the hell are you people?' Fever Pitch asks.
Days later on Krakoa, 'Katherine Pryde... what are you doing?' Kate asks herself as she trudges through a dense forest on Krakoa. 'Following some map from a mysterium puzzlebox. Into an archipelago even Krakoa didn't know about. Someone made it forget a part of its own body' Kate remarks to herself as she holds the box in one hand as she explores this mysterious region. 'And I thought Professor Xavier was a jerk' Kate tells herself, before she goes wide-eyed as she sees someone up ahead. 'You were wise beyond your years, child. After all... he put me here' the mysterious figure calls out. 'I don't often get visitors... so I've had to make my own fun' they remark as they can be seen digging in the sand. 'Did you know, if you dig deep enough, Krakoa has organs? There we are' they declare as they pull some sort of organ from the sand. 'Feeling's a funny thing. When I remove these wee bits, I almost get a tickle behind my ears. I think you'd call it... guilt? I've become enamored with the concept. But lest I ramble endlessly about my triumphs of personal progress...is there something I can do for you, Sprite?' the figure asks, revealed to be Cassandra Nova, as she looks up from the pile of organs that she has gathered around her, and addressing Kate by one of her old codenames.
Kate frowns: 'You know. Explain why a two-billion-year old box, inscribed in my handwriting...held a map that leads to you, Cassandra Nova, Xavier's homicidal sister'. Cassandra smirks as she replies 'Oh my. And how could that be? No matter, Your thoughts have such an exciting luster... but not for the box. For what it contains. “The First Blood Spilled”'. Cassandra then tells Kate that their past is richer than she knows. 'The first mutants of the second generation may have thrived on Okkara. But the last of the first still fight for life. They could be saved... with my guidance'. But Kate narrows her eyes and announces that she won't turn her back on mutant lives – she can't. 'But you killed millions in Genosha, including my father... you've got Krakoan amnesty. But I'll never trust you' Kate declares. Covered in a purple blood from the organs, Cassandra smiles and claims that she is quite reformed. 'Did the resplendent Jean Grey not tell you? She fixed my myriad of faults just before my residency here began. Look at me... I wouldn't hurt a mutant fly'.
Meanwhile, on Danger Island: 'I could've given you a weapon, Tempo' Kwannon tells Heather Tucker as they battle simulations of ninjas. 'Why?' Tempo asks as she leaps up and uses her powers on the ninja, touching their head, and speeding up time – reducing their head to a skull. 'Time blunts every blade' Tempo points out. 'Every bone too' Tempo adds, before remarking that she got a workout, at least, and asking Kwannon if she is going to sweat anytime soon. 'The Hand mixed and matched my mind like a ball under a cup. You're exercising. I'm enjoying myself' Kwannon responds, before she telepathically instructs Danger Island to reset. Tempo stretches her arms overhead and tells Kwannon that she thought the Marauders rescued people, but these guys look pretty maimed. 'Yes, well...a rescue to some is an attack to others...try to be ready for both' Kwannon suggests.
Shortly, Cassandra Nova is packing up her toolkit of medical instruments when a familiar figure descends behind her. Cassandra smiles when she senses the arrival of one of her greatest foes. 'What brings you here, in your finest?' Cassandra asks. 'A reminder. I wore this when I left you crying at my feet. Don't make me do it again' Jean Grey warns the old woman. 'Perish the thought' Cassandra responds, telling Jean that she should thank her for her little injection of compassion. 'Now that I can realize the horror of what I've done... I may enjoy it more than when I felt nothing' she utters. Jean Grey looks horrified as she exclaims 'My god... you haven't changed at all'. Cassandra Nova calls Jean “Marvel Girl” and tells her that she is far from through with atrocity. 'But you did accomplish something... mutants have nothing to fear from me'. Cassandra then declares that her ship awaits and asks Jean to be a gem and clean up this mess.
Elsewhere on Krakoa, at the Boneyard, home and headquarters to X-Factor. 'Perfect form, Bishop' Jeanne-Marie Beaubier a.k.a. Aurora remarks as Bishop releases a surge of energy upwards from the top of the Boneyard. 'The dregs of Fever Pitch's fire. Most of what I absorbed went to power cells' Bishop explains. 'Should've seen their faces when I dropped them at the town's homeless shelter' Bishop adds. 'Free mutant batteries. It's a change, for sure. Speaking of which, let me just -' Aurora starts to reply before she speeds off into her quarters. '-pack' she finishes, standing beside a suitcase and several crates. Aurora speeds back to the rooftop where Bishop is standing on the edge. He asks Aurora if she is sure about joining the Marauders, to which Aurora tells him that it is time – Akihiro is on the New Marauder working out what Brimstone Love's torture troupe did to him, and she wants to be there for him – but it isn't just that. 'X-Factor's shown my plenty of death...I'm ready for some life' Aurora exclaims as she leaps from the rooftop and flies through the air.
Brimstone Love is chained to the stockade and screams as Daken uses his claws to slash and hack away at Brimstone Love's back. 'Like that, Love? No greater teacher than pain, right? You'll be a genius when I'm done with -'
'Time's up, Aki' a voice calls out, ending the dream and bringing Daken back to reality, 'You promised me years in there, Somnus. When it was just us and a bad back in our day...you had decades to spare' Daken utters as he looks up at Carl Valentino a.k.a. Somnus, who is crouched beside him. 'I swear you complained less back then' Somnus responds. 'What he means is – you've got an intriguing visitor' Aurora calls out as she arrives. She smiles at Somnus as she adds 'That's right. Your present lover conspiring with lovers past to dig you up a bit of happiness. Careful, you might just like it'. 'Not that he'd admit it' Somnus remarks as he looks at Aurora. Aurora sits down next to Daken and asks him how his dreams go, and how many times he has to kill Brimstone Love before he can relax in the real world. 'He boiled me from the inside out. There's always time for one more' Daken responds. Bishop can be heard telepathically instructing everyone to get on deck. 'You were saying, my love?' Aurora asks Daken, who frowns.
Shortly, Cassandra Nova stands in the shadows of the ship's bridge, while Kate addresses the rest of her team – her crew. She tells them that as part of hher ongoing efforts to test their faith in her judgment, it's time for them to meet their final crew member. “Final” Cassandra quotes as she steps into the light. 'Must you make it sound so grim?' Cassandra asks, grinning wickedly. Bishop stares back at her, arms folded, while Tempo, Daken, Aurora and Kwannon all look on in shock, mouths gaped open. Somnus looks a little confused, and rubs the back of his head: 'Should... I know who this is?' he asks. He turns to Bishop: 'You're the only one whose mouth is not on the floor' he points out. An unimpressed Bishop announces that he knew it was coming, and that he hated it then and doesn't like it now. 'Don't like bald Katherine Hepburn? Is this a joke? I know I'm new here, fresh out of an egg and all...but what's everyone afraid of?' Somnus asks, confused, while Cassandra looks pleased with herself.
'Ah, yes.. .you're all horrified, I'm sure' Cassandra Nova scowls, before turning to Somnus and addressing him as Carl, she tells him that he is looking luminous for a cententarian. 'You – you already read my mind?' Somnus exclaims, surprised. 'A near-constant compulsion, I'm afraid. And to think...you're the one person here that could've barred me entry if you'd honed your gifts' Cassandra remarks, before explaining to him that their crewmates are cross because she once killed a few million mutants. 'A light rain compared to the blood that's washed the hands of, say...their hero, Apocalypse. Or the gene thief, Sinister. Yet they were given council seats, while I received eternal house arrest' Cassandra points out. She looks at Kwannon and smiles as she adds 'But you all know where the past goes...down below'. She claims that she is here to ruthlessly defend their kind, and that she has grown so bored of bloodless hands. 'Shall we start with the first of us, who stand imprisoned by our so-called allies?' Cassandra asks.
'I'll start by taking what you know on our terms, filth. Not yours!' Kwannon retorts as she readies her psi-knife and raises it towards Cassandra, who drops to her knees – then suddenly, Cassandra grabs Kwannon's wrist and forces the psi-knife into her head, grinning wickedly as she does so. 'Please. Do have a rummage around' she tells Kwannon, who frowns as she tells Cassandra that she will know before the synapse fires on her first wrong thought. Kwannon moves away, and the psi-blade remains lodged in Cassandra's head. Cassandra tells Kwannon that it is perfectly safe. 'I think you'll see...I need not lie to frighten you'. Surprised, Kwannon realizes that somehow, it is true. She removes the psi-blade, and looks at her crewmates, telling them, at least Cassandra believes it is true, and reports that the first generation of mutants are prisoners of the Shi'ar.
'Our longtime allies who she just happened to once conquer?' Bishop asks, before querying if Xavier's daughter, Xandra, the Majestrix, has been lying to their faces. Tempo points out that allies tend to lose their nerve when things get inconvenient. 'I know it's a huge ask. But I also know this – we rescue mutants. And our best intel says the first of us are still out there...think of what would be lost if we don't pursue this' Kate tells her crew, reminding them that they said they would go where needed, not where they wanted. 'That's the mission. And right now... we're needed in space'.
'THIS IS INCREDIBLE!' Somnus exclaims as he looks out a window of the New Marauder ship as its blasts off into space, leaving the Earth behind it. 'That's a planet in our rearview!' Somnus adds, his face pressed up against the window. 'You're fogging up the glass, Carl' Daken remarks. 'Don't listen to him. Enjoy it...everyone remembers their first time' Aurora smiles. Kate is at the controls and Bishop sits next to her as he reminds Kate that Chandilar has a gate, and suggests they could have scouted ahead, skipped the sightseeing. 'And let me fly this ship alone? They'll be monitoring the gate, Bishop. And with what we're coming to ask...they won't be happy to see us'.
Later, on Chandilar, the Shi'ar Throneworld, where Majestrix Xandra sits on her throne. Gladiator stands at her side, while three of the Imperial Guard – Mentor, Manta and Delphos – stand before Xandra, who asks Mentor for a report. Mentor informs the Majestrix that long-range sensors have shown a breach into Shi'ar space, and that the ship is attributed to Earth's Hellfire Trading Company. 'It's the mutants. Scans show eight aboard...including the beast Cassandra Nova' Mentor reveals. 'My aunt is alive? By Sharra...' Xandra gasps. Mentor then informs the Majestrix that there is more – mysterium is on board, and somehow, it is over two billion years old.
Suddenly, Delphos tells Mentor that he is dismissed – that all of them are dismissed. 'To Honor the First Blood Spilled' Delphos utters. 'No... you? You're one of them?' Gladiator asks. 'To Honor the First Blood Spilled' Delphos utters once more. '...very well' Gladiator tells her. From her throne, Xandra calls out to the Superguardians and Gladiator, asking them where they are going and what is happening. 'Who are you to dismiss my Imperial Guard?' Xandra asks. 'I am as I always have been...DELPHOS THE RED' comes the response as Delphos waves her hand, and her costume transforms into an extravagant red jumpsuit with large spiked shoulders, a long red cape and a red helmet over her head, covering her eyes. 'Noble of the Kin Crimson. Shepherd of Shi'ar history. A rank that far exceeds Superguardian. We've always been here, hiding in plain sight... until called upon by the moment' Delphos reveals.
Xandra declares that she has never heard of such shepherds and points out that Delphos does not outrank her. 'You will return my guard and explain yourself!' she instructs Delphos. Delphos instructs the Majestrix to sit, and tells her that her rule is anything but changed. She states that the Kin Crimson have stood since before Xandra's throne was built, since before the first Majestor, when the Shi'ar were little more than galactic radiers, and that since then, they have defended their people from challenges, both external and internal. Xandra frowns as she tells Delphos that she fears no challenges and needs no secret society, and that she may consult Ambassador Urr as to how she deals with threats. 'Please understand Majestrix...we would never reveal ourselves for something as small as a Stygian mutiny. No, Mentor's report triggered one of my preconceptions. I've seen what's coming!' Delphos announces.
Delphos continues, anxiously declaring that the Marauders rocket toward them on a collision course, and that what they seek is not just Xandra's throne, but all of society. 'And what is that?' Xandra asks. 'Ancient history, Majestrix!' Delphos exclaims, suggesting that it is better if she shows her. Green energy glows around Delphos and she extends it to Xandra, who holds it in her hands and looks at it, wide-eyed. “The First Blood Spilled” she utters. 'This...it would mean war with Planet Arrako. With my friends. With mutantkind' she sobs, covering her eyes, before informing Delphos that she has the order – the Marauders must never uncover the truth.
Back aboard the New Marauder, which speeds through space, Aurora and Tempo are devouring a green fruit. 'You two good back there?' Bishop asks them. 'More than, Bishop. As long as Tempo and I stay fed...the New Marauder's cruising at mutant warp' Aurora responds. 'Boost fruits?' Kate asks, looking at Bishop and telling him that thisis why she needs him. Bishop tells Kate that Smerdyakov started growing them for him, as he got sick of Cortez's lip. 'First Brand places him with Khora. Now you sub him out for a plum. It's -' Kate starts to reply before an alarm sounds. '- beautiful? We've barely got a toe in Shi'ar space!' Kate exclaims, then tells Daken that she wants tactical. Daken reports that this is a proximity alert, and that escape vectors are low. Cassandra smiles whiel Daken announces that there is unidentified craft, with guns hot, closing fast. 'I know a predator when I see one, Captain' Daken adds.
At that moment, a battleship glowing with red energy speeds up alongside the New Marauder. 'So do I. This shi's full of them. PREPARE TO ENGAGE, PEOPLE!' Kate calls out. 'We never expected a welcome mat!' someone calls out. Bishop and Kwannon are suited up in space suits and helmets, and Bishop tells Kwannon to lock in – the two of them run offennse while Pryde keeps them occupied. 'Solid. Let's sting while we can...before they decide to multitask' Kwannon responds. The other ship opens fire on the New Marauder, and Bishop tells Kwannon that there won't be time, as helms've got seven minutes of personal environment. He hands Kwannon a large weapon and tells her that the other ship looks like it has a hard light hull. 'Sting better' he adds. 'A space rifle for the ship's second crulest telepath' Kwannon remarks telepathically as she and Bishop are ejected from the New Marauder into space. 'We didn't recruit your telepathy. We recruited you. Dagger or not, I want someone who'll defend her crew' Bishop responds, before asking if he was wrong to think that he had found her, while firing a blast of energy towards the other vessel. Kwannon darts a blast fired from the ship, 'No' she tells Bishop as she fires her space rifle, which strikes the enemy ship. 'Not in the slightest' she assures Bishop.
Inside the enemy ship, a voice announces 'Priority report – I've engaged the primates, Noble Delphos. They continue to underestimate me. So be it. The time for feints has passed... I have always been power incarnate'.
Suddenly, a large glowing red force field appears around the New Marauder. 'BRACE YOURSELVES! They've got a field up! I'll try to phase us out -' Kate calls out to her crew, but the ship just slams against the force field. 'That energy bubble might as well be adamantium. Maybe I could get through with a boost fruit...but I'm not leaving anyone behind' Kate declares.
Outside, Kwannon and Bishop find themselves up against the force field, too, as Kwannon informs Bishop that it's no use, as the shell has its own psionic readings – and they are tough. 'The red balloon's got thoughts?' Bishop asks. 'No – more like it is thought' Kwannon explains.
Large talon-like constructs reach out and start scratching at the New Marauder. 'Hull breach!' Daken calls out, telling Aurora to get behind him. 'The hell I will! I hope this bastard likes it bright -' Aurora begins – but before she can unleash her light power against the enemy attach, Bishop and Kwannon are thrown back into the New Marauder. 'Weren't those two the big guns?' Somnus asks as Bishop lands with a THUD. 'There isn't a gun big enough. Marauders. You are trespassing in Shi'ar space. Your choice is simple' a voice calls out. The Marauders look on in shock as a figure suddenly appears aboard the ship and exclaims – 'Turn back or die... by order of ERIK THE RED!'