Life-threatening situations often forge strange relationships. In this case, Tolo Hawk, a young cadet from the Union of Intelligent Race’s Union Defense Corps, works side by side with two alien pirates, who not only kidnapped him but aided in murdering his father. However, now he must work with Raza and Ch’od to get the Starjammer’s systems back on-line so life support can start working again. After an odd ion storm, the Starjammer has been left dead in space with almost its entire crew dead. Also dead are the two U.D.C. Viper’s that tried to engage the Starjammer in battle shortly before the storm.
As Ch’od examines some circuits, Raza tells Tolo to move his torch closer so Ch’od can see well. Tolo watches Ch’od work and even offers him some advice. Ch’od follows Tolo’s advice and gets a little shock through his body. Raza and Tolo slap hands, happy that there is still electricity in the Starjammer. As the systems on the Starjammer turn back on-line, Ch’od wishes that that physics would show him the proper respect next time instead of electrocuting him.
Elsewhere in the ship, the dying Captain Kalyx mutters to himself that he needs light to live. Suddenly, Raza’s voice comes over the ship’s intercom and informs Kalyx that they systems are back on and nothing should go wrong. At that moment the power in the Starjammer goes back off, leaving Kalyx back in despair.
Raza wonders why the ship broke down again, but Tolo reminds him that they don’t even know how it got fixed in the first place. Ch’od agrees. It seems as if it repaired itself for a moment. Something is not right on the ship anymore. Suddenly, the lights go back on, but Ch’od tells the others that he did not do anything. Raza and Tolo suggest that maybe there are ghosts aboard the ship. Ch’od tells Raza that without Corsair around he feels responsible for the ship. He will fix it permanently. However, he needs spare parts to replace the fried ones. Tolo yells at Ch’od and reminds him that they are dead in space. Where does he think he will get spare parts from? Tolo then realizes where Ch’od wants to get the spare parts from: the two U.D.C. Vipers.
Ch’od grabs Tolo and takes him to the launch bay to put on some space suits. As a former cadet in the U.D.C. he knows the systems in the corps ship. Angry, Tolo corrects Ch’od and tells him that he still is a cadet. The two suit up in special space outfits, but upon seeing the distance between the Starjammer and the nearest Viper, Tolo wonders if they can make it. Ch’od assures him that they can, as they have jet packs.
The two fly across the vacuum of space and Tolo tries to hail the Viper. However, there is no response. As they land on the side of the Viper, Tolo informs Ch’od that the crew is probably dead. Ch’od does not mind, though, as he just needs more spare parts not prisoners. He opens up a panel in order to get the door to open, but there is no power in the Viper either. With his tools he plays around with the circuits. Tolo informs Ch’od that there is an emergency release, but a spark is needed. Miraculously, a spark ignites in the emergency release. The two are surprised, but waste no time in entering the now open ship. Ch’od is sure that ghosts are helping them now. Tolo, however, is relieved that the ghost is cooperative.
As the two traverse the dark corridors, Tolo ask Ch’od if he knows what he is looking for. Ch’od confirms that he does, and Tolo takes the time to admit that the green beast looks smarter than he looks, with all due respect. Ch’od admits that he has heard that often. Tolo rounds the corner and finds a dead body, which is why they didn’t get any response when hailing the ship. The two enter the cockpit, where Tolo hopes to learn something. Ch’od becomes angry and asks Tolo what he hopes to learn. The Vipers came to destroy them. There is nothing to learn.
Tolo finds the dead captain and, after seeing so many dead Corps soldiers, he feels ill. Ch’od comes to Tolo’s side and tells him to think about all the dead Thorn on the Starjammer, who fought for their survival. Are they all that different from these dead U.D.C. soldiers? Tolo looks at Ch’od in silence then tells him that they should get back to work. The two get all the spare parts that they need. Ch’od is sure he can get the Starjammer back running again. Provided that they get cooperation from their ghost, adds Tolo.
Two days later, the Starjammer is back up and running again. Ch’od informs all that that ship is actually fifty percent functional and that it is all he could do for the moment. Raza informs the now healthy Captain Kalyx that it is good enough to get them moving. Captain Kalyx tells his two surviving crewmen that this has been a long and hard journey for all of them so they should get moving now. Raza tells the Captain that the Starjammer wasn’t designed to run on fifty percent functionality. Ch’od reminds Raza that the engines are still quirky, so jokingly Raza asks him to go out and push. Kalyx looks out to space and tells the two to set the Starjammer at maximum possible speed. He is too ancient for this life now and needs to feel soil beneath his roots again.
As the ship heads off into space, Tolo asks Captain Kalyx about what will happen to him. Will the other pirates kill him once they reach their base? Kalyx is honest with Tolo and tells him that, with all the dead Thorn on board, he is not sure he could stop them. Upon hearing this, Tolo asks them why they just don’t throw him out the airlock and get it over with. Raza consoles Tolo and tells him to give the others a chance. There is plenty of time to die later, if that is what is going to happen at all. Sometime later the Starjammer reaches the Thorn home planet. Ch’od slows for descent and Kalyx orders Raza to inform Hepzibah that they are coming and that is all. It is better to deliver the rest of the news in person.
The Starjammer lands in a thick forest full of mostly Thorn, but of other alien races as well. Included is the camp leader: the feline woman, Hepzibah. It’s about time he returned, comments Hepzibah. A multi-armed insectoid named Centene orders the others to move back unless they want to get crushed by the Starjammer. The Starjammer comes to a rest and the doors open to reveal Kalyx, Ch’od, and Raza. Hepzibah comments to Kalyx that it looks like he took good care of the Starjammer, considering it has already been to one end of the galaxy to the other by accident. She then asks where the rest of the crew is. Kalyx informs all that the crew is dead thanks to the Corps. One of the Thorns is horrified to hear that humans killed the crew.
Hepzibah notices Tolo and relates him to the Shi’ar Empire. She then wonders which bone she should break first in his body. Raza steps in and calms Hepzibah down. Tolo, however, tells Raza that he will face whatever he has to and doesn’t want help. Yes, you do, replies Raza lowly. Hepzibah reminds Raza that she runs the base, but she will always listen to reason before an execution. She orders the Thorn to take Tolo to the Grove of Elders.
Tolo is taken to the Grove of Elders, which is comprised of a ring of giant ancient Thorns, who bear a very striking resemblance to towering trees. Tolo is shocked, but Hepzibah explains that they are mature, wiser Thorns, who have set their roots in the soil permanently. Hepzibah turns to the Elders and informs them that the U.D.C. has slaughtered many Thorns, who were on a mission to liberate Hyrax seeds and thousands of unborn Thorns. There is only one captive. What should they do with him?
Raza steps in once again and informs the Elders that they did save the Hyrax cargo and killed plenty of humans in the process. Tolo may be salvageable, so he will speak on the human’s behalf. Captain Kalyx also steps up and explains to the Elders that Tolo fought bravely, though he is disillusioned. He even saved his life. Tolo is just as misguided as any other human. However, the Committee is their enemy. That is why all these races have come together isn’t it? Some have joined them to rob the U.I.R. and take some booty. Others are here for revenge. Some are here for political purposes. Before, they believed that anyone who willingly serves the Union should die. Tolo did indeed slay many Thorns, but he claims that they killed his father. Who knows? All humans do look alike to them. The point is that they should teach Tolo the truth about the Committee, not kill him. One of the Elders speaks up and tells the group that they will need time to think about this.
Tolo is taken to a tent to wait for the Elders’ decision. Raza comes in with a package of new clothing. His Corps uniform is a bit too conspicuous. After Raza leaves, Tolo moves towards the package. He worked hard for his uniform and it is all he and his father ever wanted. Throwing it away is like shedding his old life. However, now he has seen the rebels first-hand and has heard their stories. What if all these tales are true? He was taught that the Committee was just and kind. What is the truth? Tolo changes into a green, rebel outfit with black boots and black gloves that go up to his triceps, leaving the shoulders exposed. He is, however, presented with another problem. He has seen the pirates commit atrocities with his own eyes. Somehow, he must remain true to his ideals, no matter what side that leaves him on.
Outside, Centene screams to the others to take arms. Scanners have detected incoming ships, lots of them! As women and children run and hide, Hepzibah tells the men that they must fight for their lives. Tolo runs out to see what the ruckus is about, but is left dumbstruck when he sees several U.D.C. ships landing. As ground troops move in, the ships begin to shoot at trees and set them on fire. The ships use standard procedure to decimate the forest, like they have done before. As the ground troops flush out the aliens, they kill them all off.
Several other U.D.C. soldiers begin to collect Hyrax seeds before the fire spreads to them. Other soldiers run around with flamethrowers. They come across the Grove of Elders and set the Elders on fire as well! Raza and some Thorns take cover as the U.D.C. soldiers over power them. Ch’od knocks over a tree to crush some soldiers, but it is no use. Hepzibah tells her troops to fall back to whatever shelter they can find. They are outgunned.
From behind a tree, Tolo watches the carnage unfold. He wonders why the U.D.C. soldiers are doing this. They are supposed to defend intelligent races, not kill them. Tolo then realizes that he could run over there and join the U.D.C. soldiers. If he explains what happened they will take him back to Kinshaa. He can still be a part of the U.D.C. and be a soldier like them. Tolo runs off to a group of troops to get to the bottom of this attack, but Captain Kalyx jumps out and confronts the soldiers. He orders the murderers to face him, which they all do with their guns trained on him. Tolo calls out to the troops not to kill Kalyx. He then informs them that he is part of the U.D.C. as a cadet.
The soldiers are disgusted with Tolo and call him a vermin. If he is with the pirates then he is a traitor to his race. Raza tackles Tolo down just as the soldiers open fire on him. Kalyx takes advantage of the distraction and attacks the soldiers. The guard captain orders his troops back. They got the Hyrax seeds and they taught the pirates a good lesson. The soldiers move the Hyrax on board and fly back to Kinshaa.
As the forest burns, Hepzibah orders the survivors to grieve later. First, they need to put out the fires. Centene freaks out, as this was the worst attack ever. How will he keep track of the damage? He had a careful account of their assets and provisions. They will never recover from this. Hepzibah tells Centene to be quiet and to trust her. She and her comrades have lost everything before and made it back up. Kalyx returns back to the Grove of Elders and finds only a few of them still alive. Tolo begins to cry in shame, as he cannot believe that the troops did this. Several Thorns stop him and give him angry, murderous looks. As they surround him, Tolo yells that not everyone is the same and they cannot murder indiscriminately. Hepzibah asks why not. Didn’t the U.D.C. just do that to them? Tolo informs the pirates that they murdered his father though he was innocent. What does that make them?
He never signed up to do what the Corps just did. He did not swear an allegiance to just the Corps, but to the ideals for which it stands for. This is not one of those ideals! If he was lied to by the Committee then so were a lot of other people. He met Princess Sabra on the Kurnit Corona. He knows that she doesn’t know what is going on out here. She has a good heart. The Committee must be the ones issuing these orders under her good name.
However, because the Starjammers are outlaws they - no, they all - won’t be given audience and a chance to air their grievances… but they can find a way to talk to her. After seeing what they did to his father on the Kurnit Corona he is sure that the Starjammer way is not the right way. However, he knows this massacre here was wrong too. He never thought he would say this, but for now he chooses to stand with the Starjammers and fight on their side!