Once again, Bishop finds himself utterly alone. Already separated from those he loves from the veil of time, he now finds himself shipwrecked light years from the planet Earth. And if a man’s home is defined by the presence of friends, confidants and lovers, then twentieth century Earth is a place no more home to him than this godforsaken world. In his own era – nearly a century in the future – he was an officer for the X.S.E. – Xavier’s Security Enforcers. And as a boy, he often imagined himself with the X-Men – mutants from the twentieth century. The X-Men were – are – sworn to protect a world that fears and hates them. In the course of his duties, Bishop came to be a refugee in their epoch. He has fought… bled by their side. Until now.
The woman he searches for is called Deathbird – would-be usurper of the star-spanning Shi’ar Empire, and one of the X-Men’s deadliest enemies. Weeks ago, she held him back when a stargate collapsed around the X-Men’s spacecraft. Now, in all likelihood, they are dead – sucked into the vacuum of deep space. And so would he be, had she not saved him. Or so she claims. He had blacked out – only to awaken inside an escape pod, his body paralyzed, and Deathbird at his side. He’d soon learn that his “paralysis” was chemically induced, her way of holding on to him. They crash-landed here – wherever that is. They have much to discuss, he thinks. He should leave her here. She deceived him when the X-Men needed him most. She tricked him – made him feel things he regrets. He should hate her…
Nevertheless, Bishop looks frantically for her in the debris of their spacecraft. “Bishop… my love?” Deathbird’s weak voice calls after him. Bishop tells her to hold on. He suddenly recalls what she told him before their crash. She implored him not to hate her. She knows his sense of honor. He would have followed his allies had he been able. And so he would also be dead. And for what? She points out the X-Men were weak in mind and body! Bishop – among all Terrans – is so much more!
As he finally discovers Deathbird trapped in the wreckage, he murmurs to himself that he could have saved the X-Men. He tells Deathbird he’ll get her out of here – but they do things his way from now on. “Anything, my Bishop…” Deathbird complies. She reminds him they could rule an empire together… each other is all they have… Bishop retorts that’s where she’s wrong: they’re not alone.
Indeed, some aliens can be heard close nearby, yelling in their own language. Hearing this, Deathbird blasts her way out of the debris. “Who dares…?” she aggressively hisses, ready for combat. “Feeling better, Deathbird?” Bishop mocks her. As he takes cover behind a rock, he tells her to take it easy and let them come to them.
The three alien warriors spot them, however, and one of them shoots Bishop, who screams in pain. He tells Deathbird he’s fine; just angry. They’re using weaponry mechanical in nature, which means his mutant ability to absorb and re-channel energy is useless. Deathbird vows she will eat their hearts while their bodies still twitch and launches her assault on them, using her own gun. Next to her, Bishop uses his fists to engage the combatants. He scoffs at Deathbird: what a pleasant world she found to strand them on!
Suddenly, Deathbird sees someone overhead, approaching with his aircraft and demands he identify himself. She, Deathbird, regent of the Shi’ar Empire, commands him! Next to her, Bishop pulls the strange projectile from his gut. He’ll feel it tomorrow. He thinks he’ll feel all of it tomorrow.
The man on the airship advises them to come quickly – if they want to live. He explains the Ursaa are a cowardly race. Where one group goes an entire colony soon follows. They won’t stop them all. He also points out he won’t offer again. Deathbird snaps he should take care how to address her – she shall give the orders here! Bishop argues they have little choice and suggests they go. “But…” Deathbird retorts. Bishop is adamant: he said “let’s go!” Deathbird shoots him a look he won’t forget for a long time. She’s angry; humiliated.
The pair quickly climbs aboard the alien man’s ship and take off. The man explains that the Ursaa travel in packs. They’re scavengers, looting wreckages and selling prisoners they take to the Chnitt. He asks Bishop how his belly is. Those harpoons are meant to pierce freighter hulls. Bishop replies he’s fine. As they traverse the alien landscape for hours, he thinks of what the man told them: his name is Karel. He’s a fellow off-worlder shot down, as they were, by a race of beings called the Chnitt. They’re headed for his camp, where he says they’ll be safe. Bishop doesn’t trust him.
Karel suddenly spots something with his binoculars. Bishops asks him what’s wrong. Karel explains it’s Chnitt: they found his camp… destroyed it… everything he has. They should consider themselves lucky. “For what?” Bishop snaps. That they weren’t there when the Chnitt arrived, Karel explains. The Chnitt take pleasure in slow execution. He reveals he knows another place. They take off.
The pain in Bishop’s gut flares with each bump and thrust of the hovercraft. Karel takes them to a “friend” he claims can help them. Soon, they reach the man’s place. Karel announces his presence to his friend, Tu. Tu points out he can’t see him, but he can hear Karel and his friends. He welcomes them to Tu’s – where bargains bloom and purchasers pay front-up. He whimpers he’s just a poor old, sightless one with nine offspring and no food…
Karel tells him to save it. They need his help. He explains these two were attacked by the Ursaa. After Karel found them, he returned to camp, only to find it destroyed… he believes by the Chnitt. They need a place to rest until low sun. Then they’ll get out of his hair. He explains one of his friends is injured. The other is… difficult. Bishop watches Deathbird bristle, a sight that warms his heart. He wants to savor it… but right now he has questions.
Karel realizes they deserve answers, so he decides to give them to them, as well as an offer that he hopes they’ll take. His name, as he said, is Karel – but he’s not of this world. His planet lies light-years from here, ravaged and razed by the damnable Chnitt. He came to this planet in search of a weapon powerful enough to destroy these creatures, and return his world to the peace it has always known. Deathbird scoffs: they call themselves a peaceful people and yet they seek victory through force? He’s lying to them! Karel insists his people are peaceful. Some would even condemn his actions. There’re only a few of them who possess the will to fight. On his world, they’re considered deviants… outcasts… but still, he’s determined to save his planet. He’s sorry if she can’t understand. Fully aware of Deathbird’s personal history, a grinning Bishop believes Karel would be surprised.
Deathbird stresses she believes in the survival of the strong, the superior; weakness is dominated, sooner or later. Karel retorts that the Chnitt aren’t superior; they’re evil. He vows he will destroy them or be destroyed trying. Bishop wonders: if he crashed on this planet like them, how does he plan to leave? Karel explains that this planet – as Tu likes to say – is a trader’s planet. Where one finds traders, one also finds smugglers. The city of Kuth, on the ocean, is their city. There’s a warp gate there… a portal off this planet. He’s going through it.
Bishop wonders if the Chnitt know about this gate. Karel assumes they probably do. But Kuth lies across the “Flats,” a dangerous stretch of terrains teeming with predators and ravaged by storms. They are almost unnavigable by low-flying craft. The Chnitt would have to land their mothership to take that city, but that would mean end their blockade in orbit. They’re not without limits. Bishop again wonders: if the Flats are so dangerous, how will Karel cross them? Karel reveals they’re safer at low sun – though not much. He has confidence, as well as nothing to lose. He’ll camouflage his cruiser as best as he can, then be off. He planned on making them an offer…
Bishop readily announces they’ll go with him. They’d all fare better with some help. That warp gate sounds like his only way back to Earth. Hearing this, Deathbird contemplates that Bishop speaks quite freely for one whose fate is bound to hers. They are one: he will traverse the warp, but it will be at the heart of the Shi’ar Imperium, where he will rule by her side… or serve at her feet…
Bishop discerns Deathbird making that face again. Another situation he cannot control. In Karel, he finds a kindred spirit. Like him, he seeks to return to a world in which he is not only an outcast, but a stranger, as well. The X-Men are more his fellows than his friends. Ghosts – dead men and women who died long before he was even born. He finds it highly unlikely that Karel will succeed in his quest, though only for a moment. His life’s mission is too similar to be pessimistic. As they prepare to leave, Karel says his farewells. He says he has Tu to thanks for a lot of things. Unbeknownst to him, however, at that exact moment, Tu is secretly communicating with someone on his radio.
Meanwhile, in Ptarmigan Creek, Alaska, Cyclops, Phoenix, Iceman, Archangel and Beast are wrapping up their reunion and packing up to go home. Jean thought Hank was helping her pack. Beast replies he can’t talk; he’s playing! “You’re just a big furry teddy bear, aren’t you?” he murmurs while throwing around a teddy bear dressed up as Captain America. He asks her if it’s Scott’s. Phoenix asks him not to tell him he saw it. She won it for him a few months ago. Checking the fridge, Iceman wonders when was the last time this thing was defrosted. “You poor, poor ice cubes. Daddy’s here…” he purrs patronizingly.
Warren has been thinking that Jean and Scott came to Alaska for a reason. Scott needs time to recover from his wounds, and they both need time away from the X-Men. Are they sure this is the right thing to do? Don’t they think they are leaving too soon? Are they sure they aren’t just… “Running away, Warren?” Jean finishes his phrase. Warren tries to rephrase that, but Jean tells him he has a point. However, aren’t their lives about running away, from a certain point of view? They can never divulge who they truly are and choosing the life of an X-Man means sacrificing so much.
Cyclops shows up and tells Jean they have to talk. Bobby intervenes and is about to ask him if this teddy bear is his, but Hank shushes him. Jean asks him what’s wrong. Scott reveals he just came back from the realtor. Apparently, their deal is off. The buyers… he doesn’t know. She said they just backed out for some reason. It’s the “soft market,” she said. Beast asks him if he thinks the trouble last week made them suspicious. Scott doesn’t know. But the realtor didn’t exactly offer up any suggestions. And she didn’t seem as happy about shaking his hand goodbye as she did about closing the door behind him. Anyway, it looks like he’s going to have to stick around to sort this out. Jean should probably leave with the others. He’ll meet her at his grandparents’ in a couple of days.
“If you’re sure, Sc…” Jean replies and then suddenly pauses, mid-sentence. Scott asks her what’s wrong. Jean explains it’s like somebody’s… Suddenly, something is hurled inside, breaking through the window, barely missing Jean’s head. Jean drops to the floor, but quickly reassures Scott she’s all right. “Stars and garters,” Hank exclaims as he sees what was thrown at them: a stone. Archangel peers out of the window and catches a glimpse of the perpetrators: kids, a couple of young punks. Should he…? Scott suggests he lets them go. The last thing they need is to make matters worse. Anonymously disappearing after a heroic act is a little harder in Ptarmigan Creek than New York. The sooner they all…
Clinging on him, a terribly upset Phoenix asks him if he feels… “B-Betsy? Wha – what...?!” she then gasps out. And then, it strikes suddenly, as though from out of nowhere: an unknown, unseen psionic attack only felt by Phoenix. Unleashing an unnerving, harrowing howling, Jean collapses to the floor. Numb with shock, Warren wonders if she actually said “Betsy!” “Good Lord! Beast?” Scott asks him in worry, as he sees him kneeling above Jean and examining her. Hank reveals she is barely breathing – she appears to be catatonic! He begins calling her name, while examining her open eyes, now devoid of consciousness.
At that moment, galaxies distant, Bishop and the others rest: peace before a long journey. Suddenly, Deathbird is abruptly pulled out of her sleep and finds herself facing off a huge, hideous monster, her cape pinned on one of its spiky legs. Struggling to catch her breath, she warns Bishop to stand back. She vows that, in the name of the Neramani house, she will slay the beast! Karel tells Bishop that it’s the Chnitt! He begins screaming something about their eyes. Bishop realizes it’s their weakness: he’ll exploit it.
Just as the Chnitt brings Deathbird’s head closer to its jaws, presumably to devour it, Bishop proceeds to shoot at the monster’s eyes. He tells Deathbird to roll out; he’ll finish this one. Just then, the Chnitt attacks Bishop, throwing him off-balance. Bishop accidentally throws his gun away, but Deathbird clasps it. She tells Bishop she’d not give him all the pleasure. She is Shi’ar. She is a “warrior born” and the pleasure will be all hers! With this, she shoots her attacker at point-blank range, thereby slaying it.
Karel acknowledges she fights strong… for a woman. Deathbird snaps back she fights strong for anyone. Karel wonders how they Chnitt found them. This place is supposed to be a secret. Bishop reveals that the Chnitt had inside help. Inside help that got killed once it served its purpose. Karel realizes what he means when he comes across the slaughtered body of Tu. Keeping himself from vomiting, Karel suggests they go.
The trio makes the Flats with double haste. Karel argues that if Tu sold them out, there will be more Chnitt. That’s the last he mentions Tu. You think you know somebody… Bishop thinks. He notices Deathbird is quiet since the attack by the Chnitt. He wants to talk, to tell her something, but he’s not sure what. She breaks the silence, though. As they fly above the Flats, she admits she finds them terrifying, deadly – but beautiful, in their own way. She discerns Bishop likes the combination; she can see it in his eyes. She reiterates that she offers Bishop a kingdom – power to use as he wishes. She offers him herself… and still he spurns her. Bishop stresses he is a man of principles. “Principles? Or inhibitions…? Deathbird wonders.
“Heads up, people!” Karel suddenly alerts them. There’s some sort of tentacle, dead ahead! Not just ahead, Bishop warns him, as he sees they are now surrounded far and wide by titanic tentacles. Deathbird wonders what manner of beast this is! Karel retorts it’s the hungry kind and tells them to hold on! As the tentacles begin closing in, hoping to ensnare them, Karel realizes they have one chance: aim at a narrow open space ahead of them, their exit to freedom. Finally, they manage to break free, just as the tentacles shut tight. The passengers of the aircraft settle back, the danger passed. Exhausted, Deathbird leans against Bishop and sleeps the remainder of the trip. He knows the woman is a killer – a cold-blooded butcher and one of the X-Men’s greatest foes. So why does he not push her away?
As soon as they reach the outskirts of Kuth, they land. Karel announces they go on foot from here. They have a better chance of blending in that way. He reveals the warp gate is located at the end of the main concourse. Bishop recalls that he mentioned a weapon of great power. Karel allays him he already has it. Big power doesn’t always mean a big gun. The Chnitt build their great ships and exercise their power like the dominating giants they are. They would never expect the small-scale attack he has planned, nor could they ever imagine the conflict he will inflict.
Deathbird asks him to tell them of this weapon. Karel explains that has obtained a device that, once unleashed, literally “eats” whatever metal it comes in contact with – much like some microorganisms have been known to devour flesh. The Chnitt’s day is done on his world. He has three “nullifier” charges in his possession – a preciously small amount of this rare, priceless substance. And no, he cannot spare one so Deathbird can try to capture her sister’s throne. The woman is incessant, an indignant Bishop thinks.
The trio makes their way through the city until Karel halts them. He indicates them to the Barodi, who control the gate. They can be bought – assuming they had any money with which to buy them. Since they don’t, he’s open to suggestions. Deathbird is furious: God helps whoever stands between her and that portal! She will… she will…
She pauses as she looks up, aghast, and sees the Chnitt’s mothership hovering above their heads. Bishop realizes that the Chnitt have a lot to lose in this attack. Their orbital blockade is broken. But they have tracked them from the beginning. And letting Karel live is even more dangerous to them. Karel has to make that jump off this planet. From above, the mothership begins raining death on this city of smugglers, blasting everything underneath to oblivion. The mothership lands and the Chnitt lash out, taking Kuth!
Karel tells Bishop they have to get to the gate – there’s little time. Deathbird is shocked to see Bishop hesitate: why does he care for the people of Kuth? He will risk his life for smugglers… vermin?! Turning to Karel, she demands he lead them on. They’re going through, now! Bishop hears Deathbird’s screaming – but it’s one among thousands. Torn, he walks past her – his choice is made. He asks Karel to give him one of his nullifier charges and get to the portal. He will meet the two of them if he can. Deathbird warns him that, if he leaves her, she will make that jump alone – she will not wait! Karel tells Bishop he’s an inspiration for him and hands him the nullifier, wishing him good luck.
Bishop tells Deathbird he has to take out that mothership. He cannot run from this. Fighting – protecting – is what he does. In many ways, it’s all he has. He would expect more understanding from a “warrior-born” like her. He tells her goodbye: it’s been fun. They turn from each other. They don’t look back.
Deathbird and Karel fight their way to the portal. Deathbird vows she will forget Bishop. He was a tool. It is a long bloody fight whose victors deserve reward. She will forget Bishop. He is soft inside. She is Shi’ar. Strong. Alone, if need be. Determined. She will forget Bishop. She must get through. She has lost so much, already. She will forget Bishop. She… she has no choice…
Elsewhere, Bishop tries to push himself on. He vows he will forget Deathbird. He climbs atop a building, right underneath the mothership. The canister is cold in his hands. He reaches down deep for whatever’s left inside him, and he throws the canister, and he hopes and prays. The canister hits the mothership… and the giant ship explodes in a sweltering light.
Agonizing, Bishop finally makes his way to the portal. He sees Karel standing in the portal, bathed in bluish light. He asks him if Deathbird… “Yes, Bishop! She’s, she’s…” Karel replies, only to suddenly vanish in a flash of light and sound. The gate collapses, reduced to rubble. Karel made it just in time. Bishop is alone. He didn’t expect her to wait for him. He didn’t. He hates her. He…
Much to his surprise, Deathbird suddenly shows up and asks him if he’s just going to sit there. They have much to deal with and home is a long way from here. That it is, Deathbird, Bishop thinks. That it is.