A Shi’Ar warship called “Vengeful Wing“ arrives in the Mother’s Ruin system. They are hunting the Starjammers, but scanning the surroundings they can‘t detect any energy signature, so apparently the Starjammers have switched off their engine and are hiding somewhere in the system. Mother’s Ruin is sun of the system is a cepheid variable star, it expands and contracts violently causing all off it’s planet to have extremely dense, sluggish atmospheres, still disturbance or planetfall would register and so the Starjammers can’t be hiding on one of the planets. The commander decides to release some fusion mines so that whereever the Starjammers are hiding they can not leave. Even though one of the officers reports that Mother’s Ruin is on five commercial shipping routes, the commander repeats his order.
Not far away, Corsair orders Raza to scan the Vengeful Wing, but carefully as he doesn’t want them to notice and track their scanning beam. Hepzibah has the weapon systems prepared, Ch’od has reiforced the ship’s shields and the team’s latest addition Keeyah, serving as pilot, too is ready for Corsair’s commands. As their scanners reveal that the Vengeful Wing lowers it’s shields (to release the mines) Corsair orders to attack. Upon being called by his codename, he requests to be called “Chris“ or “Captain Summers“ as he thinks “Corsair“ is no longer a fitting name. The ship had been hiding in the cooler parts of the sun’s skin and now surprise attacks the Vengeful Wing. Keeyakh flies in, so that Hepzibah can fire at their engines. The Starjammers can now easily escape, but before they are out of range, Hepzibah fires some highdispution bomb that destroys the Shi’Ar craft and all aboard. Summers demands a full status report and their are no damages to the ship, also the fifty Kree refugees that the Starjammers are carrying are unharmed. However Raza reports that he picked up a transmission from the Vengeful Wing to a Shi’Ar outpost – soon there will be other ships to battle them. Summers asks Keeyah for the fastest way hiome, which apparently is a well-guarded stargate two hours away.
On Chandilar a messenger enters Lilandra’s palace. He wants to speak with the Empress but is intercepted by the Minister of Peace T’Cahr. The minister says that he knew the messenger’s father well, and takes the scroll pretending to hand it to Lilandra. Still when the man has left, T’Cahr reads it himself and as it is the report of the Vengeful Wing being destroyed by the Starjammers he decides to keep it secret.
In another room, Lilandra is talking to some of her ministers. They explain that all life on a world called Ardent Spring, on the edge of the imperium, has been expunged by unknown assailants. That is the third such incident and they don’t know who is behind it and why these worlds were chosen, so far the only pattern is that the attackers seem to be moving in a straight line towards Chandilar, the throneworld. The council is sure that the foes are not the Phalanx as they would have assimilated the lifeforms and not killed them, the Skurlls and the remaining Kree do not have the needed ressources for such big attacks, and the Clench, a web of anarchist world, have remained politically neutral so far. Obviously they are under attack by an unknown alien race.
By now the Starjammers are near the needed stargate and try to come up with a way to use it without having to encounter the gunships guarding it. They can’t use their shunt drive (a faster than light travel), because to pass through they need to match the gate’s frequency, which they only can accomplish at a much slower speed; otherwise the ship would be rpited apart when entering the stargate. Chris comes up with a plan. The computer are programmed with a preset course, the ship approaches the gate in shunt drive and only a very short distance before entering switches back to gate engines. Very risky as the slightest miscalculation would have meant that the switch occured too early and exposure to the guards, or too late resulting in instant death. Summers himself is proud of the maneuver, althoufgh Hepzibah is not so happy as she thinks it was too risky. The rest of the journey is without problems and a few hours later the team reaches their destination.
The team and their passenger make planetfall on Standing Still, a Clench world. They are welcomed by Helek, one of the Clench leaders and he asks how much they saw of Hala, the former Kree homeworld. The Starjammers report that Shi’Ar government is bleeding the planet dry; malnutrition and dirty water endanger the health of all inhabitants. Helek is angered by the Shi’Ar religion and philosophy of forcing other cultures into “mariage“ and pressing it into Shi’Ar customs. Fortunatly Standing Still and a few other worlds losely banded together as the Clench and so far have been left alone by the Shi’Ar. Helek continues that a world on the imperium got torched and strangely the attackers passed over a Clench world to get to it. Summers and Hepzibah slip off to spend some time alone and Chris asks his feline partner why she killed the crew of that warship. Hepzibah gets angered, she reminds how they all suffered in the slave pits on Chandilar and she will never forgive the Shi’Ar for that. Chris thinks that Linadra is not as bad as D’Ken was, but Hepzibah asks why then they are continously attacked by Shi’Ar war cruisers.
Far away on the empire’s border there is a solar system of which some planet belong to Shi’Ar and the rest are Clench space. Suddenly Watermark, one of the Clench planets is attacked and destroyed by alien ships. The Shi’Ar are able to pick up their transmissions : “We are the Uncreated – this was a necessary act – recant now – do not force us to make more fires – Recant !“ Lilandra and her council wonder what the message can mean, as one of the ministers makes the connection; all of the attacked worlds, Clench or Shi’Ar, were planet practising a formal religion. As it seems the Uncreated are religious fundamentalists, willing to destroy anything that belongs to a religion not their own – including Chandilar.