Speechless, the X-Men surround the body of their fallen comrade. His name is Piotr Nikolievitch Rasputin, Colossus. A Russian, a peasant, 18 years old, whose gentle nature belies his awesome power. He is a mutant with the ability to transform his body from flesh and blood into superstrong organic steel. Over the years, he and his friends came to believe that he was virtually invulnerable. They’ve just been proven wrong by Deathbird. First, she fired acid at him and later impaled his now vulnerable form.
Wolverine vows vengeance while Cyclops announces he can feel a pulse. Peter is still alive. Isn’t there anything they can do? If there was, and if it’d do any good, he’d be doin’ it, Wolverine replies darkly.
Suddenly, the police announce that they are under arrest. Fortunately, the newest Avenger, Tigra, is amongst the heroes. She shows the cops her Avengers membership card and announces they can’t arrest them. Her… associates and her were doing their job, battling a notorious super villain. The cop gets into her face, telling her to give him a break. They just trashed a two hundred million dollar project. It’s a miracle no one was killed. Tigra snarls at him to look again. Someone was! The cop apologizes, meaning it. Nevertheless, someone has to be held accountable for that mess and they are it…
At roughly the same time, at the F.A.A’s regional air traffic control center on nearby Long Island, the employees believe they are in for a calm shift. No comparison to the others, say, when they spotted that UFO. Suddenly, though, they spot something again and order every aircraft vectored out of the New York area fast. Something huge is heading to Manhattan….
And crowds in the street behold a sight none will ever forget – the Starjammer. The gleaming starship hovers above the city, seemingly close enough to touch, a beam of energy flashes from it to the street below. Some people panic, believing it to be a death ray. Others stand their ground in awe and wonderment. The beam envelopes Corsair and the four X-Men. They disappear. And then, as quickly as it had arrived the spacecraft disappears as well.
The cops wonder what to report and Tigra silently wishes the X-Men good luck. They’ll need it.
The X-Men find themselves aboard the Starjammer where Corsair is immediately enthusiastically greeted by his comrades and friends. But they were surrounded… trapped by Imperial marines! Corsair recalls. How did they escape? Miraculously of course! Ch’od laughs.
Cyclops reminds them of Colossus’ state. Can they help? They can try, Corsair replies and has Colossus put into a life support module to stabilize his body functions and give him at least a fighting chance. Beyond that, it’s up to their medic Sikorsky. The small flying creature examines him, judging that his death is quit possible.
Cyclops refuses that. He won’t let him die! Is he God then, that he can prevent it? Corsair asks. He knows how his son feels. He has stood helpless over the bodies of loved ones, wishing, begging, demanding the power to save them. It is out of their hands. All they can do is watch and wait. And pray.
Meanwhile, back on the Shi’ar dreadnought where Nightcrawler and Kitty are held hostage, Kitty is still playing with the clothes-making gizmo. They are being observed by a bored Shi’ar officer, who complains that the child’s non-stop prattle will bore him to death.
Suddenly within the cell, a three-dimensional hologram field pops to life, showing Lord Samedar. Politely, he asks them about their accommodations, before showing them what just happened to their friends. Namely Colossus being mortally injured by Deathbird. Then the projection breaks off. Kurt anxiously demands to know what happens next. Samedar apologizes for not knowing. A malfunction prevented their recording of any subsequent events. He must know if Colossus is dead or alive! Nightcrawler shouts. The Admiral’s only answer is a slight smile and a shake of the head before the holo-field goes black.
Kitty tries to hold back her tears. She doesn’t want to give Samedar the satisfaction, figuring he showed this to them to hurt them.
Elsewhere, Samedar is contacted by his secret ally, Deathbird. He informs her that everything is in readiness. Earth will be destroyed as scheduled. Should Chancellor Araki or any of the Imperial Guard who accompany him object, they will be dealt with. He congratulates her on her partial triumph over the X-Men, but fears she isn’t finished with their interference. They have joined forces with the Starjammers and even now pursue Deathbird’s vessel. He admits he was unable to stop them. “Did he even try?” Deathbird demands. No matter, she will take care of the Starjammer. Earth is his responsibility. He has been well paid and she expects value for her money.
Elsewhere, Charles Xavier awakes from his drug-induced slumber. He is a telepath and, as such, it is natural for his mind and psi-senses to wake before his body. His questing thoughts reach out to a friend and embrace a nightmare, a fiend from the abyss, the image of a reptile-like being. He cries out, his scream choking in his throat as his eyes fly open to behold the face of the woman he loves. Still shaken, he tells her that in his mind he saw something horrible… alien… evil He sensed such hatred, insatiable hunger.
Lilandra calms him that it was a dream, a side-effect of the drugs he was given. She is here and real. They kiss. Later, Xavier psi-scanned Lilandra and found no psychic anomalies in her. Then the mental images must have been hallucinations, he decides, and yet he is still uneasy. Why?
He tells her nothing more of his fear and remarks he was afraid she’d been tortured or worse. That may yet happen, she fears. Deathbird is not fond of Lilandra and her cruelty knows no bounds. She boasted of slaying Colossus. Lilandra would give anything to change that. She feels she has brought him nothing but misery. Because of her, Jean Grey and now Colossus have perished. She fears more of his students may join them before this fight is done. She sometimes wishes they had never met, never loved.
As there are times he marvels at the good fortune which has brought them together, he retorts. He too mourns for those they have lost. But for all the grief that has followed them he would not exchange their love for anything. Nor would she, Lilandra admits.
“Truly, little sister?” Deathbird asks as she enters and suggests Lilandra cede her the throne and she will grant her a lifetime of peace and love. It is such a simple thing. She cares for power, not love – Lilandra for love, not power. This gives them both their heart’s desire.
Calling her matricide, Lilandra flings herself at her elder sister. The only thing she’ll give her is a speedy journey through the gates of death! she threatens
Deathbird easily swats her aside, boasting that on the best day of her pathetic life, Lilandra was never a match for her. She laughs at the concerned Xavier, informing him that Lilandra’s wounds are superficial, though she could have cut her to the bone. Deathbird was firstborn of the Aerie. It is she who should wear the crown and she will!
After she has left, Charles asks if Deathbird is truly Shi’ar. Lilandra says that, for her unforgivable crime, she was stripped of rank and name, cast out of the Aerie forever. As a hatching, she worshipped her. She is Majestrix Shi’ar. So long as Lilandra lives, Deathbird cannot become Empress.
On the Starjammer’s view platform Cyclops takes in the magnificent view of the cosmos. Corsair joins him, confiding this is his favorite spot in the ship. Scott asks if there is any word of Colossus or Deathbird. It’s still touch and go for Peter, Corsair tells him. But Sikorsky sounds hopeful. Deathbird’s vessel is sub-light, the Starjammer has stronger engines, better computers, they’re in warp space. It is merely a matter of time before they overhaul her.
Ororo told him of Jean Grey, Corsair continues. He’s sorry. When she died, he felt so lost, so alone, Scott admits. Like his heart and soul had been ripped out of him. All things pass in time, even grief, Corsair tries to console him. Scott asks what happened to him and his mother. What split them off? Corsair beings to recount.
Corsair was an air force test pilot, returning from leave in Alaska – a camping trip with Scott’s grandparent – to join Project Mercury as an astronaut. The family, Chris, Katherine-Ann, Scott and Alex were flying an old DeHviland Mosquito that Chris had rebuilt. They were following the coast, south of Cape Yakataga, when they got a panicked call from Anchorage about an unidentified contact heading their way. The next thing they knew, it was right on top of them.
Chris tried to report the sighting and the ship opened fire. He was the best pilot alive, flying one of the finest birds ever built. That combination – plus a lot of luck - saved them during the initial salvo. Unfortunately, the Mosquito was a wooden aircraft. That proved their undoing. A near miss torched the fuselage and the dogfight was as good as over. They were overland. Ann strapped Scott into the lone parachute she could find, wrapped him around his little brother Alex, and shoved the two boys out the hatch.
But the sky was full of blaster fire. A bolt clipped their ‘chute and the canopy started to burn. Helpless, the parents watch them fall, imagining they could hear the boys’ screams. They thought they’d die too until a teleport beam yanked them aboard the starship.
It was a Shi’ar scouting mission. To them, Ann and Chris were zoological specimens representing the higher orders of life on Earth. They were separated. On the Imperial Throne world, Chris escaped the slave pens and set out to find her.
She was with Emperor D’ken, who was trying to force himself on her. Chris’ mistake was trying to kill him with his bare hands instead of shooting him down where he stood. Guards came to D’ken’s rescue. They wanted to execute him on the spot. D’ken had other ideas. He asked if the female was important to Chris and if he would die for her. When Chris agreed, D’ken mocked his noble sentiments. The penalty for his crimes is death by slow torture. But he wanted him to suffer. So he stabbed his wife in front of Chris’ eyes.
Corsair continues that he was sentenced to the star pits. There he met Ch’od, Raza and Hepzibah. They became comrades, then friends. Eventually, they stole the Starjammer and escaped. They’ve been fighting the empire ever since. Fighting. He used to hate it. That’s why he became a test pilot, then joined NASA. He loved flying, learning, not killing. He yearned to be a scientist, not a warrior. Look at him now. Scott was right. He isn’t the same man he was. Perhaps he’s not very admirable, but he’s not ashamed of what he is, or what he’s done. Scott admits he’s beginning to understand and thanks his father for telling him.
Hepzibah, dressed in a flight suit, joins them, apologizing for interrupting the tender scene. But Deathbird’s ship is on the short range scanners. They are about to intercept her.
They drop into normal space, seeing Deathbird’s much smaller vessel ahead. Strangely, it does not try to escape or defend itself. Wolverine doesn’t like this. This caper is going down way too easy. Moments later, they have the reason for that as the alarm goes off…
With contemptuous ease, a giant seemingly organic vessel, previously cloaked, shows up and swallows both the Starjammer and its prey. Deep within the gargantuan vessel, matter extrudes from interior walls to form docking cradles beneath the two ships. Simultaneously, a hollow pseudopod slams against the Starjammer’s primary airlock. All aboard know what that means.
Within the tunnel, a cadre of armed Brood shock troops gather for the assault, eager to avenge the defeat their brethren suffered at the X-Men’s hands, on Earth. Then without warning, the airlocks blows off into their direction and Colossus steps out, eager for Deathbird’s blood. Flanked by Wolverine and the taciturn, bionic warrior Raza, the young Russian charges and mayhem erupts within the vast docking bay. Following in their wake is a second wave comprised of Storm, Hepzibah and Ch’od.
Storm senses that the Brood and their vessel reek of evil. She’s never felt such an instinctive natural repulsion. Ever fiber of her being cries out for her to destroy them utterly. But she refuses to as she is pledged never to take a sentient life. Ch’od notices she is holding back and tells her it is a mistake. Show the Brood the same mercy they would accord her. Ra’za tells her the same thing, though less kindly.
She responds by generating a blizzard that numbs their adversaries down and sweeps them away down corridors suddenly slick with ice. The reaction comes not from the Brood but from the alien vessel itself, which bucks and twists like a wild bronco, as if the fight within was causing it physical pain.
Far from the battle, in one go the domed cities that dot the vessel’s hull, the Brood discuss what to do with their foes. They want their formidable foes as potential hosts for the Mother Queen. The clan master orders a zero gravity environment in the combat zone; that should hamper the mammals’ effectiveness.
Back in the combat zone, suddenly everyone begins to float, making most of them easy targets. Storm is not hampered, though, and uses her winds to move the others out of harm’s way. Raza orders her to shunt Colossus towards him. Raza provides him with gripsoles which adhere to any surface, thus enabling Colossus to fight more effectively. Peter thanks him and admits he forgot about Cyclops and Corsair in the heat of the battle. Their mission is the important one. Like them, they’ll live or die, the ever stoic Raza replies.
At that moment, aboard Deathbird’s ship, Brood soldier enter Xavier’s and Lilandra’s cell, intent on slaying them, before the X-Men can save them. Luckily, their weapons are never fired, as Cyclops and Corsair have arrived just in time. Xavier suddenly uses the null-grav to propel himself toward the entrance towards further Brood, which were sneaking up on Cyclops and Corsair. Outside the cell, the inhibitor field no longer works and he can fight them with his telepathy, while additionally in zero gravity his crushed legs are no longer a handicap.
Cyclops shouts at him what he think he is doing. He isn’t trained for this line of work. Xavier apologizes for acting hastily, but those creatures threatened him and the woman he loves. He could no longer sit idly by and do nothing. Whatever the consequences, he had to act. A splendid, foolish gesture, Lilandra remarks which she shall treasure forever. Silently, Scott admits he can’t blame Xavier.
They catch up with the others and Xavier is happy to learn that Colossus is alive and well. Only Storm has stayed behind, still tangling with Deathbird. Her foe’s unusual speed and agility enables Deathbird to elude all of Storm’s elemental attacks. Deathbird also tries to beat Storm psychologically, asking why she is defending Lilandra. Was she not responsible for the execution of Storm’s friend Jean Grey? By rights, Storm and Deathbird should be allies against the empire! While asking her to join, she at the same time fires a javelin at her. Storm evades it and it hits the spaceship’s wall.
Storm notices a liquid oozing from the wall where the javelin struck and realizes it is some form of blood. This ship is a living being! While she is distracted, Deathbird kicks her in the stomach and orders the Brood Captain Haeg’rill to open the portal. At that, a portion of the wall behind Storm opens and sweeps the semi-conscious heroine outside into space.
Fortunately, her exit does not go unnoticed on the Starjammer. The Starjammer blasts through the wall of the alien vessel and, once free, locks onto Storm and teleports her aboard… just in time.
Later, after she’s recovered, she learns that Scott’s plan to save the Professor and Lilandra worked. Storm tells the others that the spacecraft was a living creature. In saving him and Lilandra, they may have done it mortal harm. Xavier wonders how the Brood could control such an entity. Is it sentient? And if so, their willing partner or their slave? The ship’s computer, Waldo announces, it thinks it is the latter. It ran a sensor scan while they were inside. Indications are that it is intelligent, but that most of its higher brain functions have been deliberately destroyed.
What about their condition? Corsair asks. Could be worse, Waldo tells them. They suffered some damage. It estimates it’ll take them 24 hours to effect repairs and return to Earth.
Lilandra protests that, in less than six hours, Araki’s deadline will expire. If they cannot contact him and assure him she is safe, he will destroy Earth!
Waldo apologizes, but there is no way the Starjammer can reach Earth in time. If they are Terra’s only hope, then it’s afraid that planet may be doomed.