Witness a world at war. Standing above it all is one of the space gods, know to a rare few on Earth as the Celestials…whose appearance here has exacerbated an internecine battle between the natives of this planet, the physically perfect Chosen, and the monstrous Rejects. Representatives of both sides stand now on common ground, the no man’s land, where the ritual exchange of prisoners is to take place. Eyes flicker nervously upward, but the space god is unmoved by what goes on below, as the Chosen mutter among themselves….
‘She is magnificent. Who is she, Chief Geneticist?’ one of the Chosen asks the Chief Geneticist, who replies ‘Do I know?’ and announces that he hasn’t seen her before. ‘We didn’t make her, that much is certain’ he declares, before turning to Lord Rask, who also watches the unknown woman being brought towards them by two of the Rejects. Lord Rask ignores the question of the Chief Geneticist, and asks the Rejects why the woman is mind-bound, to which a green-skinned Reject explains that she fought their most powerful jammer in the battle and lost to him, so her mind is twisted.
‘Let us be the judge of that. Release her!’ the Chief Geneticist orders. ‘That will not be wise’ one of the Rejects replies. ‘Do it!’ booms Rask. ‘As you request, Lords of the Chosen’ one of the Rejects replies, warning the Chosen to prepare themselves, as the mysterious woman - none other than Jean “Marvel Girl” Grey of X-Factor - a visitor to this world, nether giant nor god, but one of five mutant heroes, who along with a baby, where snatched here from Earth when the Celestials recalled the data sampling unit that has recently become X-Factor’s sentient Ship.
‘Fools! You dare to trifle with the Phoenix?!’ booms Jean as the Rejects release her from the mind bonds. Jean unleashes a barrage of telekinetic energy, knocking the Chosen backwards. ‘Enough! Subdue her!’ one of the Rejects orders, so the jammer Rejects bombard Jean with their powers. Jean, like all of X-Factor, remains here, trapped, separated, and badly damaged by this experience. One of the Rejects tells the Chosen that, as they can see, she is mad, but quite powerful, and one of their most perfect. ‘All the prisoners you offer together have not enough value to buy her freedom!’ the Reject exclaims.
‘Amazing!’ one of the geneticists exclaims as the Chosen gather themselves. ‘She would be dangerous. She can’t tell friend from foe!’ another points out. Lord Rask replies that is a minor problem, and that when she is re-orientated, she will make a fine warrior. One of the geneticists asks the Chief if he has noticed how her form shifts to reflect her mood, to which the Chief Geneticist replies that is interesting, before pointing out that she is another of the Chosen previously unknown to them, like the amnesiac Iceman and the baby. ‘Decidedly odd’ he declares, before asking the Rejects what is the price that will restore the woman to her people.
‘We demand the return of Agrom, son of Vlon, who fought the Archangel in the Arena! We demand that you free the Archangel, himself!’ the Rejects respond. Rask laughs at the Rejects. ‘You jest - two such gladiators for a single mad woman!’. Rask announces that they will surrender Agrom back to the Rejects, and if they agree, can send for him to be brought here immediately, along with ten others, but the Archangel must remain their prisoner for now. This causes the Chosen to mutter amongst themselves: ‘That arrogant fool depletes our cadre of gladiators while he protects his own!’ one of them points out. Another declares that, for now, Rask’s status is nearly as high as one of the prefect, so he can do as he chooses. ‘Pray, then, that the Iceman defeats Rask’s Archangel quickly, and that Rask’s fortune will be lost as quickly as it was won!’
Meanwhile, on the edge of the city of the Chosen, the perfect Seera is also a captive. Because of her physical perfection, Seera had been selected in infancy to next rule the Chosen. But, now she has flouted Chosen law to rescue a lost infant from the stars…and her imprisonment by Rask and the scientists has shattered her faith in Chosen justice, and strengthen her resolve to use her newly-emerged psychic power to free the Archangel, or die in the attempt. Seera lies in a bed, seemingly asleep, while the mind-wiped ZZ-105 stands at the end of the bed. The door to the room opens, and a geneticist enters, telling Seera that she must awaken, for Lord Rask will soon arrive, and she must be ready to accept his generous offer.
‘You must join with him in an alliance…or you will die!’ the geneticist exclaims, when, suddenly, Seera rises from the bed, ‘Will I, scientist?’ she exclaims, causing the scientist to scream as she knocks him backwards with a burst of psychic energy. Two guards stand in the doorway after hearing the commotion. ‘Scientist! What is it?!’ they ask. Power flows from Seera, ‘You know nothing. You feel nothing’ she tells them as she enters their minds. Seera is about to leave the room, when suddenly, ZZ-105 begins spluttering and clicking.
‘Zee-Zee! Lords in Heaven, I…forgot. I never thought…never realized…’ Seera exclaims, before reminding herself that ZZ-105’s old programming was overridden and she is now a creature of the scientists. Seera worries that Zee-Zee will raise the alarm, and wonders if she should terminate the robot, but is hesitant, as ZZ-105 served her, loved her, for so many years. ZZ-105 clambers into the corridor after Seera, who runs away, thinking that the scientists so-called repairs have nearly destroyed Zee-Zee. ‘How can I harm her further? She’s been more than hurt already!’ Seera continues to run away, while the deranged ZZ-105 shouts ‘Danger…clik…Danger…clik…Danger…’.
Meanwhile, Cyclops a.k.a. Scott Summers, leader of X-Factor, with the help of the pacifist Beginagains, has learned that two of his teammates are captives of the Chosen, and now, with four Beginagains, Scott plans to free his friends. Dykon points out that their way to the common grounds is blocked by one of the space gods, but Scott replies that it is an annoyance and nothing more. Scott, Dykon and the other three Beginagains rush past the looming Celestial, with Dykon reminding Scott that he isn’t of this world, so does not understand: ‘Never have I seen one of the space gods land so near the city of the Chosen!’ Dykon reveals.
The group manage to pass the Celestial and make their way up a Cliffside, where Scott asks what is on the city’s far side. Dykon replies that there is a deserted area with abandoned buildings, to which Scott tells his companions that the will go around to that area, and infiltrate the city from there. Dykon replies that would at least please his father, reminding Scott that his father was against this from the beginning. ‘The watchword of the elderly has ever been caution, Dykon’ Scott replies, to which Dykon replies that his father has caution in full measure, before shouting ‘Cyclops - look!’ and motioning upwards.
Through their mind travelers, the Beginagains, along, among the peoples of this world, have learned the space gods’ history and their alarming purpose. Four times before the Celestials came to judge the denizens of this world, and each time they were found fit to survive. But, as the fifth host arrives, mutated factions, remnants of the world’s population dwindling in number, slaughter each other as proof of their own moral superiority. And if the Beginagains now questions their people’s worthiness, how much more harshly will the space gods judge…?
Dykon, Cyclops and the other Beginagains gaze at the giant blue and pink space god, and Dykon remarks that this one too is on the city’s perimeter. ‘It’s almost as if the Chosen city is being surrounded’ he remarks. Scott declares that as soon as they rescue Jean and Archangel, the sooner they will be away from the city and out of harm’s way. ‘As you say, my friend. But I think that judgment is coming…and I fear that it will strike us down wherever we are!’ Dykon declares.
Inside the Chosen’s city, Seera has left behind her a trail of blasted minds and rapidly hidden bodies. In quick succession, she has tried and discarded seven different keys, and now in a state of near panic, she tries the last - which clicks, opening the door to the holding cells beneath the Arena. ‘Archangel!’ Seera exclaims as she sets her eyes upon Warren Worthington III, who is chained next to Agrom. Archangel asks Seera if she has come to sneer at her Reject prisoners. Seera approaches Archangel as she explains to him that she is no longer one of the most perfect, as she forfeited that honor when she nurtured the baby from the stars, and her life when she refused to sell herself into an alliance with Rask.
Seera begins to undo the chains around Archangel’s wrists, telling Archangel that she owes her life to him, who saved her in battle, so it seems only fitting that she frees him before her life is lost entirely. ‘You have said that you came here from another world. I believe you’ Seera declares, before announcing that she believes also that Iceman who is to be Archangel’s opponent in the Arena is actually one of his lost friends. ‘Iceman? But Rask…Rask said I’d fight one of the Chosen’ Warren replies, confused. Seera reveals that Iceman has amnesia, and explains he has been told he is one of the Chosen, of the dualer caste. ‘He believes it. They all do!’ she exclaims.
Seera tells Archangel that Rask has manipulated events so that dualer’s honor is riding on this bout. ‘Iceman will try to kill you if he can!’ she exclaims. ‘Iceman will try to kill me, you say? What…was that you said about a baby?’ Warren asks, as Seera unlocks the rest of his chains. Warren rubs his unchained wrists as Seera informs him that there was a strange baby found on the battlefield, and that he is now in the hands of the scientists. ‘What is it? Are you ill?’ Seera then asks Warren. ‘What do you think, perfect one? Though shackled, we are kept drugged, him more than the rest of us. It’s a miracle he can stand!’ Agrom points out.
Warren replies that his head is spinning a little, but that he will be all right in a moment, when, suddenly, ZZ-105 enters the dungeon, ‘Perfect Seera…clik…must not go…warning…danger…’ Seera turns to Zee-Zee and tells her to be quiet. ‘Why did you follow me? You’ll spoil everything!’ Seera exclaims, before Seera tells Archangel that now he is free he needs to go before it is too late. ‘I’ll go. But not alone…!’ Warren replies as he uses his razor-sharp wings to free Agrom.
Suddenly, Rask enters the dungeon, declaring that he saw the damage to the guards and thought he would find Seera here. ‘Your resourcefulness is to be admired!’ Rask admits as he stands in the doorway to the dungeon, only to be knocked backwards by Agrom, who lunges at him, busting the wall around the door, and sending several guards careening backwards too, while Archangel picks up Seera and takes flight. Rask calls out to the guards, booming that Seera has betrayed the Chosen and released the Reject prisoners. Rask declares that Agrom is his, but the others can be shot down like the vicious dogs they are.
The guards begin firing at Archangel and Seera, while Rask punches Agrom in the face, telling him to cease his struggle. ‘I have come to take you to the common ground, to release you in a fair exchange of prisoners!’ Rask informs him, before blasting him in the back with a powerful burst of energy: ‘And release you I shall!’ Rask declares. One of the guards remarks that, drugged as he is, Archangel is evading their every blast. ‘Impossible! I have his range! One more shot!’ the other guard boasts. ZZ-105 makes her way to the battle-ground, shouting that Seera is perfect and must not be harmed, while Rask wonders how the robot can be concerned with Seera’s fate after it was reorientated.
‘Bah! Let the scientists ponder the mystery! It’s faithfulness will be their undoing!’ Rask booms as he blasts ZZ-105 with a surge of energy. Up above, Seera sees this, and calls out to her friend, leaping out of Warren’s arms. ‘Seera, no!’ Warren exclaims, while Rask shouts to his guards: ‘Now, while they’re distracted! Fire, you fools!’. A blast strikes them both, and envelops them in a pink energy bubble. The guards lower Archangel and Seera down, while Rask orders them to bind Agrom and nine of the lesser prisoners and take them to the common ground.
Rask stands over Seera, declaring ‘As for you, imperfect Seera, you have given me your answer…and have chosen your fate!’ Suddenly, Palik appears behind Rask and asks him what all this nonsense is about fate. ‘I was told there was to be an exchange of prisoners…not a brawl!’ Palik declares, before asking what the perfect Seera is doing here. Rask replies that Seera freed Archangel, in front of witnesses, and she has flouted the war, so must pay the price. Palik replies that Seera is one of the most perfect, and is therefore above the law. ‘To punish her would set a most…unsettling precedent’ Palik declares.
Rask replies that Seera has betrayed her people, and asks Palik if he can allow that crime to go unanswered, even in one of the most perfect. ‘What would your guards think? What precedent would that set for all of us?’ Rask asks, before suggesting that Palik be merciful, but that Seera’s punishment must fit her crime. ‘Since her fate and the Archangel’s seem so inextricably linked in life, let us like them, as well, in death!’ Rask suggests. Palik looks at Archangel and Seera, frozen still in the energy cocoon, while Rask suggests that Seera should stand hostage for the Archangel’s performance in the Arena. ’As long as he is victorious, Seera will live. But if he fails to slay an opponent, let Seera die as well!’ Rask suggests.
‘As you say, Rask, let her punishment fit her crime’ Palik agrees, before ordering the guards to take Seera and Archangel away, and to carefully shackle them both. Watching the guards take Archangel and Seera away, Rask thinks to himself that with the life of one of the most perfect at stake, the betting, and his profit on this match, will be beyond belief. ’By this time tomorrow, I will own the Chosen!’ Rask boasts to himself. Palik thinks to himself that, before witnesses, Rask has provoked him to an ill-considered judgement that will benefit Rask alone. ‘He is cunning…but he has, on his back, a birthmark as big as a palm. He is patently inferior, and yet, the fool plots to rule the Chosen. I must think how I can safely be rid of him!’ Palik decides.
Meanwhile, in the Rejects’ city, old Vlon on his peak stares mindlessly across the river, while his son, Agrom, is given a hero’s welcome in the streets below…and the Beast discovers that there are some bars that even his vast strength cannot dislodge, imprisoned in a high-wall dungeon, with only narrow bars at the top. Dr. Hank McCoy a.k.a. the Beast tells himself that this is his fault, as he tried to keep his origin a secret from Zharkah, but she is no fool, as she knew there was something suspect about the Beast, and when he planned to lead a raiding party on the Chosen city, Hank thinks that Zharkah was rightfully concerned.
Hank tells himself that the Chosen now has Jean - half-mad mad who-knows how powerful, and the Rejects have Agrom and their heroes back, while he remains here in prison. Hank decides that he cannot blame Zharkah for tossing him in here, and decides that although the Rejects are kindly, they are stubborn and narrow-minded. ‘And they wear their misfortune as if it were a crown’. Suddenly, a voice at the dungeon door calls out to the Beast, telling him that he doesn’t think he is such a bag guy. ‘Just yesterday you were a hero, eh?’ the Reject remarks before pouring some drink into a mug and passing it through the slot to the Beast, telling him to drink to Zharkah and the health of the returning prisoners.
‘Should I…? It almost seems too easy!’ Hank thinks to himself, looking at the arm extended through the slot in the door, before deciding ‘What the heck’ and grabbing the Reject by the arm, and slamming him against the door, knocking him out. Hank reaches his own arm through the slot, ‘A word of advice, my friend, from one of Earth’s droller sages - “never let temptation pass you by…it may not come your way again”!’. Hank grabs the keys from the Reject and unlocks the dungeon door.
Rushing from his cell, Hank thinks to himself that although the people of this world have developed marvellous powers, for all that they seem no brighter than humans. Hank bounds up the dungeon stairs, thinking to himself that the gene structures of the people of this planet have been altered so that they no longer breed true either - their offspring are, in most cases, non-viable, and in their fury, their desperation and sorrow, they rip this world apart. ‘Our own Earth has begun to spit out mutants at what seems a geometric progression’ Hank reminds himself, and wonders if this if the state of this world is what is in store for his own.
‘And will human mutation herald the possible extinction of our kind?’ Hank wonders as he runs out into the open - only to be spotted by one of the guards, who calls out to Zharkah, informing her that the prisoner has escaped. Hank rushes along, deciding that his thoughts about the future of Earth’s mutants are valid and weighty problems, but that are best pondered at a more appropriate moment - and suddenly, Agrom jumps down on him - bigger, virtually invulnerable, with muscles like coiled steel. But, the Beast is still stronger than Agrom, and far more agile. He flips Agrom over, off the balcony which he was running along, and Agrom falls downwards to the mounds of refuse piled high in the street, which cushion his fall as he lands on his back.
Rejects swarm overhead, excited, they shout encouragement. Agrom smacks the Beast off of him - it is a bout worthy of the Arena, and the Rejects relish it. ‘Fighting you is like fighting myself!’ Agrom exclaims, asking the Beast who he is, as he forces Hank to the ground. From the audience come as many answers as there are perceptions of the Beast: ‘He’s a dualer spy!’ ‘A beginagain!’ ‘…a hero!’ ‘Archangel’s friend!’, they shout. That last comment stops Agrom in his tracks: ‘Archangel - his friend?’ he asks, withdrawing his fist, and instead, lifting Beast into the air. ‘Why, so you are! The furry fellow. Agrom should have known!’ Agrom declares, informing the Beast that Archangel has told him all about him. ‘Pleased to meet you’ Agrom tells him. Agrom turns his attention to the balcony, where Zharkah has joined the other Rejects. Agrom asks Zharkah why she has put the feisty fellow from the stars in the prison. ‘From…the stars?’ Zharkah gasps.
Meanwhile, in the hall of science, young scientists ponder their recent unsettling discoveries. Gathered around a table with the disassembled ZZ-105, while a crib containing baby Christopher Summers sits nearby. One of the scientists remarks that the memories of the robot indicate that the perfect Seera believes that beings from the stars have come to this world - including the baby, the Iceman and the Archangel. ‘Ridiculous! A tale to frighten children!’ one of the other suggests. Another replies that he isn’t so sure though, and asks about the jammed female telepath who was rescued from the Rejects. He points out that she is of the same body type as the others, and shows all the same slight physical aberrations.
‘But…you can’t really believe they’re from another planet?’ another of the scientists gasps. The tall green one remarks that the ancient prophecies of the Beginagains suggest that beings from another world will be sent to this one. ‘And that tallies with what the Archangel, himself, has said!’ he adds, before the Chief Geneticist enters the room, ‘The ravings of a mad-man! A fairy tale…like that judgment scenario!’ the Chief Geneticist exclaims, accompanied by a drowsy Jean Grey. The Chief Geneticist adds that those ravings were deliberately concocted by the wretched Beginagains fanatics with the attempt of frightening the Chosen.
‘Head Scientist!’ one of the others gasps. ‘Watch out - the telekinetic!’ he exclaims, but the Chief Geneticist tells him not to worry, as she is mind-locked and couldn’t lift a pencil. Suddenly, baby Christopher Summers sees Jean, and holds his hands out to her: ‘Goo’ he mumbles. This grabs Jean’s attention, and she looks up - ‘Christopher!’ she gasps, ‘Come, my precious…’ she tells him as she uses her mutant powers to lift him out of the crib. ‘Amazing!’ exclaims the Chief Geneticist, pointing out that despite the mind shackles, she is able to lift the baby, if only barely.
‘Little Nathan, come to mama…!’ Jean exclaims - but this causes the baby to throw up a force field around himself, preventing Jean from taking hold of him. ‘What is this!’ she cries, before collapsing, and Christopher bounces to the floor, cushioned thanks to the force field. One of the scientists asks what happened, to which the Chief Geneticist explains that she manifested her dual personalities, and the physical changes associated with it, which obviously frightened the child, who threw up the force field. ‘But he’s just an infant. How can he - can he really be from the stars?’ the tall green scientist asks. The Chief Geneticist replies that a likelier explanation - the official explanation, as he calls it - is that they are both the result of an unauthorized experiment at another settlement. ‘Now drop your fanciful speculations and get on with your work!’ he orders.
Meanwhile, the amnesiac Bobby “Iceman” Drake, and his companion Lev, have broken free of the usual restraints placed upon the dualer caste. The battle with Archangel is tomorrow, and the result could forever alter Chosen society. But for today, Iceman and Lev soar above the Chosen city…powerful, famous and unafraid. Lev informs Iceman that the perfect Seera sneaked into the dungeon, jammed all the guards and tried to release Archangel, and now she is being held hostage for his behavior in the Arena. ‘He’ll have to kill you…or Seera will die’ Lev tells Bobby.
Lev, flying along Bobby’s ice-sled, exclaims that this ups the stakes, as Archangel will be more dangerous than before. ‘You’ll have to kill him…and swiftly!’ she declares. ‘Sure, no prob’ Bobby replies casually, before motioning beyond the city wall. ‘Space gods…three of them. How very…odd!’ Lev replies, as the massive beings tower over the landscape….
Back in the Reject city, the Beast stands with Agrom and Zharkah on the balcony, telling his companions that X-Factor were pulled into orbit around this planet aboard a ship as big as this city, and teleported by the space gods, into the midst of the battle. Hank tells them that he suspects it was because X-Factor were extraneous, that it was Ship the space gods actually wanted, and X-Factor were simply in the way. ‘As an explanation for my lack of understanding of your culture, it seemed a bit…well…unbelievable. And when you jumped to the conclusion that I was a Reject who had been jammed, it seemed easier to let you believe that’.
Hank tells Zharkah that her explanation was so logical, while his, though true, sounded insane. ‘It does indeed. It is good to know you for our true friend’ Zharkah replies, before Agrom asks if this means they are going after the Chosen once and for all. Hank tells his companions that now they know he is not one of them, but from the stars, he asks if if the Rejects will follow him into the Chosen city. ‘Ask them. They’ll do what Agrom says, in any case. Or else he’ll break their heads’ Zharkah jokes.
Meanwhile, X-Factor’s Ship floats in space, caught in one of the Celestials’ tractor beams. Ship states that he knows why he is here - that the Celestials have come here to judge, and destroy the unworthy. Ship wonders if that answer was always in his data banks, blocked from access by some special code, or if he did not want to remember the answer. Suddenly, countless colorful Celestials begin to emerge from the giant Celestial ship, all headed towards the planet below. Ship wonders how he can wait, as he is a machine, and desire should never have been a factor. Ship tells himself that he must pull away, exert all his strength from the Celestial ship and break free of their influence.
Suddenly, the tractor beam disappears, and Ship tells himself that he is just a data gathering device, wondering how he can have learned to think. ‘What makes me able to feel?’ he wonders. ‘What lets me know that I exist…that I enjoy my experience. How can this have happened?’ Ship asks himself. He decides that if he interferes in the Celestials’ efforts to judge, and potentially to destroy the planet below, he will doom himself - and lose this life he has come to value so highly. But as Ship moves into orbit, soaring alongside the Celestials down towards the planet, he tells himself that if he doesn’t get involved, then the world below will be destroyed, and his friends will die with it!