For generations, the denizens of this alien world, separated by philosophical and physical differences, have fought bitterly. But, there is a prophecy that one day, strangers from the stars will be their world’s salvation and bring them peace. Now, god-like armored Celestials have come from the Heavens… but not as saviors. The world, however, has other alien visitors - the mutant humans X-Factor - transported here by the Celestials aboard X-Factor’s sentient Ship.
X-Factor have made friends – and enemies – among the warring factions and, now in the Arena of the Chosen, what was conceived as a battle to the death between Iceman and Archangel, has now becoming a daring rescue attempt by the Beast, along with the Reject known as Agrom, and the Beginagain called Dykon. Several of the Chosen guards have made it into the Arena by orders of the Chosen, and they attempt to take down the super beings. ‘Slice and dice ‘em, Angel, while I put ‘em on ice!’ Bobby “Iceman” Drake exclaims, before asking the Beast how he is doing. ‘I find, Bobby, that even among the Chosen, two heads are better than one!’ Dr. Hank “Beast” McCoy replies as he klonks two guards together.
Up on the throne platform, Palik, ruler of the Chosen shouts ‘Kill the Archangel!’ while the rest of the Chosen, ranked in tiers according to their physical perfection, roar with excitement – never has such a rescue been attempted. Protected from the melee in the Arena by a power grid, the Chosen wager on, the outcome and roar encouragement to the guards. ’Victory to the Chosen! Kill the Iceman - traitor to the Chosen!’ someone shouts out. ’Slaughter the Reject animals!’ someone else declares.
Palik rules the Chosen by virtue of his physical perfection, and continues to observe the battle and gauges the crowd’s reactions. He smirks to himself, while thinking that they must let this circus continue a while longer, as it is such a bizarre, unprecedented turn of events, so it is no wonder the crowd has gone wild. Palik decides that even with the help of the three strangers, the Reject upstarts haven’t got a chance of victory. Palik is thankful that Lord Rask has been hurled into the Arena with the other animals, and decides that Rask shall be left down there, where he hopes Rask will perish at Princess Seera’s hands.
Indeed, down in the Arena, the rebellious Princess Seera single-handedly takes on her nemesis, Rask. ‘You were the highest among the Chosen. You would have followed Palik as ruler!’ Rask tells Seera, while blasting her with his powers. ‘Why betray the Chosen to save that winged monster - and puling babe?’ Rask asks. Even though she is weakened, Seera lashes out at Rask with her psychic jamming power, but Rask blocks it, and in a crackle of energy, their powers lock. ‘Because the Angel once saved me! Because our people are a corrupt, Rask, and can do nothing so well as hate!’ Seera retorts.
Suddenly, the flaming Lev flies towards Rask, ‘Do not harm her, Rask - or you’ll face me!’ Lev warns Rask, who looks up, ‘Ah… the pyro-morph Lev! How intriguing that a lowly dualer like yourself would claim Seera as an ally. These are interesting days’ Rask remarks, adding that it is tragic they may be her last, and casts his energy blasts at Lev, causing her to drop to the ground. ‘Lev! No!’ a shocked Seera gasps, causing her to lose concentration, and her power falters - an almost fatal error for her and Lev, who she now kneels beside, thanks to Rask. But, the power crackles, and Seera continues to oppose him, when Warren “Archangel” Worthington swoops down.
‘Seera! Where are you? What’s wrong?’ Warren calls out, to which Seera replies that she is down below, and asks Rask what he has done to Archangel so that he cannot see her. Archangel quickly makes a sweeping turn, one of his wings accidentally intersects the invisible field of the power grid, causing him to call out in agony, and fall to the Arena floor. ‘Angel, my friend!’ Agrom calls out, rushing over to his companion, while Seera is once more distracted, and this time there is no margin for error, as Rask takes her out.
Rask climbs up the front of the throne platform, ‘Back, most perfect one. Lord Rask approaches… and not humbly!’ one of the other Chosen tells Palik. Rask asks Palik how he can let this happen, and suggests he subdues the insurgents at once, so the match between Archangel and Iceman can continue. ‘You forget, Rask. I give the orders here, I warn you – do not approach the throne too closely… lest the power grid fell you as it did the Archangel’ Palik replies calmly.
‘Your Archangel was losing, you know. You’d think that you’d be glad to have the crowd distracted from that fact’ Palik tells Rask, who replies that Archangel can’t see, ‘I tell! He seems half blind!’ Rask declares, before accusing Palik of blinding Archangel. ‘You used your power to blind him, to make certain that he loses!’ Rask exclaims. ‘You know I’ll make a fortune if he wins. You want to destroy me!’ Rask declares. A calm Palik tells Rask that his petty successes and failures are nothing to him, unless they threaten the Chosen way of life. ‘My duty is to the Chosen. And I take that duty very seriously’ Palik adds.
‘You bribed the scientists. You attempted to control our Government through manipulation of wealth. You fought the Iceman… and lost. You matched him against the Archangel, hoping to destroy him out of spite. You made him a hero to the dualer caste!’ Palik reminds Rask of his failings, to which a furious Rask retorts that the Iceman is a weakling, and that he could take him. ‘Could you, Rask? Remain in the Arena. Let us see you try!’ Palik exclaims as Iceman slides up to Rask on an ice-ramp. Palik decides that it is nearly time to call this to a halt. Standing behind his throne, he thinks that the Rejects are too skilled in battle, and they cannot afford to have their guards lose to them.
‘Guards, order the dualers into the Arena to quell the riot!’ Palik demands, declaring that, if any more of the Chosen are to die in this battle, then the dualer gladiators should be it. As the Beast smacks a Chosen guard over, Lev wakes, and thinks to herself that most of the dualers believe that Iceman is one of them, when in reality he is a stranger here, fighting against the Chosen, who say that they are her people, but who, ranked in their perfection, have ever been the enemies of the dualer caste. Lev reminds herself that the perfect Seera has made her stand against them, and wonders ‘What should I do? Fight the Chosen’s battles? Or fight my own?’
The mutations that gave rise to the Chosen’s paranormal powers have destroyed their ability to breed physically true. And it is here, in the hall of science and genetics, that the Chosen, obsessed with physical perfection, grow the next generation from carefully selected genetic materials. Through this hall, X-Factor’s leader - Scott “Cyclops” Summers - guides a strange alliance of Rejects and Beginagains in search of his lost son, and his teammate and lover. Whilge of the Rejects declares that this place makes her glad that they rejected the Chosen’s way and followed their own path. ‘We may be monsters by their standards, but we are as mother moon made us…’ she declares.
‘…and those few of our children who survive and are raised with love, not by some filthy robots… sent off by his loving parents to be killed in battle by one of the Chosen’s robot-raised offspring!’ someone else exclaims. The Beginagain pacifists say nothing. Instead, they use their powers to moderate the severity of their physical mutations, angering both the Chosen, who demand physical perfection, and the Rejects, who feel that their interference with nature defiles them. Cyclops suddenly unleashes a powerful optic blast, announcing ‘The command area should be through here, people!’ as the wall in front of them shatters.
A sci-bot sees the intruders and alerts ‘No! Rejects! Run! Scatter! We are under attack!’ Someone announces that the robot is a sci-bot, one of the scientists’ specially programmed helpers. A Beginagain points out that the sci-bot will have access to maps and information, and runs after it, ordering it to stop. Another Beginagain motions to a broken robot, and asks Cyclops what it is. ‘Destroyed as it has been, there is some residual power coming from it… almost as if it has a soul’ the sci-bot, under the control of the Beginagain, is forced to reveal that this is the robot ZZ-105, and that the scientists have brought it here for further study, to learn where its programming went wrong. ‘It went mad, you see. It tried to steal a baby!’
‘Baby? What baby?’ Scott asks urgently. ‘Baby…? Who said “baby?” I know nothing. Masters, nothing…’ the sci-0bot claims, to which the Beginagain asks if he should terminate the robot since it knows nothing. ‘…unless…’ the sci-bot quickly exclaims, ‘Unless you mean the strange infant found by the perfect Seera… who suborned her robot, ZZ-105, into helping her’. The sci-bot asks if its “masters” would like ZZ-105’s mind-tapes activated, and proceeds to do so. Images “fall” from Zee-Zee’s form, ‘Poor loyal Zee-Zee... who leapt to perfect Seera’s and the infant’s defense… and who was destroyed by Lord Rask… as perfect Seera will be destroyed’ ZZ-105, in a trance, states.
The Beginagain in control of the sci-bot tells it that a map display of the building’s power grid would help keep it from being destroyed. ‘Then a map you will have, masters’ the sci-bot replies, before displaying a map and motioning to where the control grid can be found. ‘You seem… agitated, masters. Perhaps a mood-minder will calm you and restore your confidence?’ the sci-bot offers. ‘Keep your decadent Chosen drugs to yourself, robot, lest your tempt us to rashness!’ Whilge warns the sci-bot, before she announces that this building is filled with the tools of decadent, before interrupting herself as she exclaims: ‘Wait! There! Cyclops, through that wall, I register an infant, lying in a creche! Perhaps it’s your son!’ she exclaims, pointing in the direction of the room.
Meanwhile, back at the Arena, Palik once more orders the dualers into the Arena, telling the demonstrate their loyalty to the Chosen. ‘Use your power of transformation to stop the Iceman and his allies - ‘or the dualers caste will answer for his treason!’ Palik warns. ‘It’s most perfect Palik’s order!’ a dualer exclaims. ‘We must obey!’ another declares. The captivated Chosen mutter amongst themselves: ‘The dualers have shifted to their lesser, monstrous forms!’ ‘Amazing! They’ve launched themselves en masse for the Arena floor!’ ‘Now there will be a battle worth watching!’ ‘ Let monster tear at monster!’ ‘May their polluted blood stain the sands!’ ‘A wager, my friend. I say five dualers will die to every Reject!’
The Beast looks on concerned, while Lev points out that the Chosen are screaming – but for dualer blood. ‘Because we have a second non-human form, they want us to die!’ Lev exclaims, before the pink-haired Seera remarks ‘My people are fools, Lev, don’t let your people be as foolish. Stop them. Please!’ Lev picks Seera up takes flight, telling her that she must come with her to witness what she says and act as an example for what she will tell her people. ‘Listen to me, dualers!’ Lev exclaims as she hovers above her people, reminding them that the Chosen have long sneered at this caste.
‘They have limited our wealth, our status, or opportunities. Ours have been the most dangerous or onerous tasks!’ Lev reminds her people, adding that, now, Palik is trying to reduce their numbers and with it their growing potential for power. Lev declares that Palik’s loyalty is to the near-perfect Chosen. ‘If we would not be slaves… he would destroy us!’ she exclaims, before revealing that Seera, most perfect next to Palik himself, has learned this truth, and now fights against the Chosen, her own people, just like Iceman fights below. ‘Can we dualers do less?’ Lev asks.
‘No! We are with you, Lev!’ a dualer calls out. ‘Down with the Chosen!’ shouts another. ‘For Iceman!’ ‘For Lev!’ the dualers call out. ‘For the dualer caste!’ another declares as Lev, Seera and the dualers make their way towards Archangel, Iceman, Beast, Agrom and Dykon. Lev throws Seera into Archangel’s arms, telling him to take her, as there is something she must do. Lev flies over to the handsome Iceman and kisses him on the lips, thanking him, she declares that although the dualers may die in the Arena today, they will die free. ‘Lev? I… remember you… as if from a dream... a very good dream!’ Bobby replies.
Sitting on his throne, a sour-faced Palik shouts: ‘Dualer scum! They’re animals! Worse than animals!’ He exclaims that they are where they belong – caged in the Arena, and orders the power grid to be activated to full force, ‘There’ll be no escape… for any of them! We’ll leave them locked in there to die… like the treacherous beasts they are!’ he booms.
Meanwhile, in the hall of science, Cyclops’s primary goal has been accomplished, as he holds Nathan Christopher in his arms. ‘My son!’ Scott shouts. ‘Your son. And what of his mother – the red haired telekinetic! Our former captive!’ Whilge asks, motioning upwards, to where Jean “Marvel Girl” Grey is suspended in a stasis cocoon. Whilge explains to Cyclops that it has been said she was attacked by jammers and has been driven mad. Jean looks down and sees Cyclops, and says to him ‘Scott…? I can’t get loose. Help me!’ with a desperate expression on her face.
‘Jean…?’ Scott replies, before blasting the stasis cocoon that surrounds her, enabling her to telekinetically lower herself to the floor. ‘Thank you, my darling! Try as I might, I couldn’t break free!’ Jean exclaims, before suddenly shouting ‘What bonds could restrain the all powerful Phoenix?’ Anxiously, Scott tells Jean to listen to him, that she is not the Phoenix. ‘No, not… entirely!’ Jean replies, before reaching out for Christopher. ‘Come to Mama, little Nathan!’ she exclaims, but, as before, Christopher throws up a force bubble around himself. ‘Christopher… what?’ Scott gasps, as Jean is knocked backwards when she tries to touch the force bubble.
‘Coward! Hiding behind a little baby!’ Jean exclaims. ‘May all of X-Factor die here, on this foreign planet! And you, who were my husband, most horribly... for what you’ve done to me!’ Jean exclaims, clearly personifying Madelyne Pryor-Summers, Scott’s dead wife – Jean’s clone. The Reject known as Boomer asks Cyclops if he has noticed how Jean’s face and form shift subtly to match her moods, and asks him why that is. Scott replies that, in a way, Jean has had thee incarnations, and is manifesting them. ‘It’s a long story!’ he declares.
‘Maddie? Madelyne… Phoenix… whichever you are… where is Jean?’ Scott asks the enraged woman standing before him. ‘She went away. She’s locked away -’ comes the reply, but Scott interrupts, ‘No! She’s in there. I can feel it. You’ve trapped her, haven’t you?’ he asks. ‘Didn’t you hear? Jammers attacked us. She fled inside and left the body for us. Now she has to stay inside!’ “Jean” replies. ‘No! No!’ Scott exclaims, begging Jean to fight her way free of them. ‘For my sake… and the baby’s… if not your own!’ he asks her. ‘I… Scott -? I’m lost… I hear you, Scott. Keep talking!’ Jean exclaims.
‘We love you… we need you!’ Scott calls out to her. Reaching out, Jean asks Scott to keep talking, so she can follow his voice home. Jean collapses at Scott’s feet, and Scott reaches out to her, while the baby drops the force bubble and crawls over to her. ‘Scott? Christopher, baby’ Jean whispers, telling them that she was inside, and couldn’t get out until he called to her, and she had to come home. ‘Scott, what… what’s happened?’ Jean asks. ‘We did it! We freed her!’ Nikoh of the Rejects exclaims, while his father, Boomer, points out that they acquired a formidable ally. ‘Yeah. Now – for phase two’ Scott declares, holding Jean and his son.
Shortly, Cyclops, Jean, the baby, Whilge, Nikoh, Boomer and the other Rejects and Beginagains make their way to the plant which powers the Chosen city, serviced by robot technicians. The robots’ human supervisors, Chosen from among the perfect, and largely superfluous, are in the Arena and thus miss out on the strange coalition which strolls unchallenged into the power plant. Jean thinks to herself that Madelyne and Phoenix are inside her, fighting to get free, and wonders whether she can live this way for the rest of her life – every moment a struggle to maintain dominance.
One of the Beginagains declares that the sci-bots’s maps indicate that the damper mechanism lies within the tower. ‘Destroy it, and the plant will blow sky high!’ he exclaims, before Cyclops orders his allies to take it out. Jean telekinetically lifts Cyclops, Nikoh and Boomer up to the tower, where they can use their explosive powers to destroy the damper. ‘Scott thinks this crisis is over, that I’m whole again. But if I rest even for a moment… they’ll be in control… and I’ll be… gone’ Jean thinks to herself, before, suddenly, the tower explodes in a massive display of raw energy. Jean protects everyone in a telekinetic shield, as flies them away.
The feedback from the explosion shakes the Arena and, seconds later, the security field fails. ‘And explosion in the city! The lights! The grid! It’s off!’ Palik shouts. The Beast and Agrom look upwards and see that the security grid has been turned off, too. ‘They’ve done it!’ Agrom booms, while Hank thinks ‘Good man, Cyclops! You couldn’t have timed it more dramatically had you known what was taking place here’, before hoping that Zharkah will make her move.
As if on cue, the ground suddenly trembles, as the cyclopean war-chief Zharkah leads her monstrous warriors from a thousand Reject tribes into the Arena, to grapple with the Chosen, in a war to end all wars. Hank tells himself that the Rejects’ war chant is enough to wake the dead, and sees that it is causing total panic. ‘The Chosen don’t know what’s hit them. Their “utopian” world is collapsing around them, poor fools’ Hank thinks to himself.
As the chaos fills the Arena, one figure approaches the central throne, untouched by any emotion, save for outrage. It is Dykon of the Beginagains, and he addresses Palik, remarking that the “brave” leader of the Chosen hides behind a grid while others fight and die for his pleasure. ‘What will you do, now that your grid is gone?’ Dykon asks. Palik realizes that the man confronting him is the son of the Beginagains’ chieftain, and admits he has heard of Dykon. ‘You carry in each fist the power of an earthquake… but the teachings of your coward father forbid you to use it to harm a living being!’ Palik exclaims.
As Dykon stands a few feet from Palik, Palik tells him that the Beginagains are fools. ‘Worse than the Rejects… who at least produce brave warriors!’ Palik warns Dykon to keep back, boasting that he has his own powers, and has no scruples against using them on him. Dykon thinks to himself that he must not go against his father’s teachings, but he believes that Palik deserves to die. Suddenly, one of the Rejects motions upwards and exclaims ‘Behold, another of the space gods is landing. They seek almost to surround us here! I like it not!’
In the melee, Archangel stumbles to consciousness, aware of only one thing – ‘RASK!’ he booms as he throws his deadly razor-sharp “feather knives” at him. ‘So monster, you are alive… and awake!’ Rask replies, to which Warren declares that it is Rask who is the monster, one with no soul. ‘But you’ve a monster’s wings, fool! Alas, you have the sight to aim your lethal blades’ Rask replies as he dodges the “feathers,” telling Warren that he has taken his best shot, but has missed. Rask boasts that Palik has given him an edge which he will gladly use: ‘To destroy you!’ he exclaims as a blast of energy is fired from his fists, and into Archangel.
Dykon exclaims that he will respect his father’s teachings for a while, and boasts that he needs no powers to throttle Palik, as he lunges at the leader of the Chosen. ‘Do not be sure!’ Palik replies as he casts energy from his hands, and Dykon drops to his knees, exclaiming that he is blind. ‘Learn this, monster, though it will be your final lesson! To attack the most perfect is to court destruction!’ Palik booms.
Down below in the Arena battleground, Seera alerts her newfound allies to Dykon, crying out in agony. Seera tells the Beast to help Iceman, while she will deal to most perfect Palik. The Princess thinks to herself that she has known Palik since she was small, and that he taught her often, and was kind, yet, on a matter of principle and pride, she knows he would have let her die. ‘He acts on twisted values…which reflect the society in which he was raised’ Seera tells herself.
Dykon declares that his father’s precepts teach that they must not use their powers to harm another, and as he unleashes his power, explains that it will simply rock Palik down to the Arena floor, which it does. And, although the ground shudders thanks to Dykon’s seismic power, no one notices, as Chosen and Rejects fight – power against power, and the Arena floor is littered with the dead and dying. Dykon picks Palik up by the neck, and holding him off the ground he exclaims ‘To borrow your own words, Palik, to mock a prince of the Beginagains, is to court destruction!’, before boasting that he does not need his power, or sight, as his monster hands will serve to destroy him.
‘NO!’ screams Seera, rushing up behind Dykon, she tells him that he can’t, that Palik must live, and she uses her telepathic powers on Dykon, causing him to ask ‘What is this, Palik… some… Chosen jammer’s trick? It won’t work!’ he exclaims, before Seera reveals herself, and tells Dykon that he must let Palik live, that he doesn’t understand. ‘I have been trained… in the Beginagain way… to resist your psychic machinations!’ Dykon exclaims, shoving Seera aside. Seera assures Dykon that it is no trick, and that she is not attacking him anymore, but that she needs him to stop and listen.
Seera explains to Dykon that Palik has blinded both he and Archangel, and only Palik can restore their sight. ‘But he is blind in his own way. He can’t see what his society has done to all of us. Should he die for that?’ Seera asks. ‘Who are you to tell me this?’ Dykon retorts. ‘Seera… who was called… perfect!’ the Princess replies. Dykon reveals that he has heard of her, and tells her that if her form is as perfect as her reasoning, then she is indeed blessed. Dykon tells Palik that he hopes he recognizes the perfect intelligence of Seera’s argument. ‘She offers peace, but by your actions, you offer war. I’ve simply answered you in kind’ Dykon exclaims, before warning Palik to restore his and the Archangel’s sight, or else die.
‘Die, Archangel! DIE!’ Rask booms as he continues to pour his powers onto Warren. ‘Come closer, Rask… and we shall – SEE!’ Warren replies, as his sight is suddenly restored. Warren takes flight and moves towards Rask, who exclaims ‘Closer? Into the range of your razor sharp wings? I think not, monster! Not when I can kill you just as well from a distance!’ ‘That blast was close’ Warren thinks to himself, before unleashing another barrage of razor sharp “feather knives,” exclaiming that, by some miracle, his sight has been restored. ‘I’m not a helpless victim anymore!’ he declares, telling Rask that, if that was his best shot, then it will also be his last. ‘Warren – NO!’ Hank calls out as he and Bobby arrive on scene, but, it’s too late, as several of Warren’s blades strike Rask.
Meanwhile, Cyclops’s party floats through deserted city streets, while behind them a plume of acrid smoke stains the sky. ‘Look at the space gods. It’s as if a forest of them has sprung around this accursed city!’ someone exclaims. Jean reminds Scott that she is no longer a full-range telepath, but that she doesn’t need her full powers to know that the giants menace the natives of this planet. One of the Beginagains reveals that their mind travelers believed the space gods have come here to judge the viability of their race. Nikoh announces that Zharkah says that is all Beginagain nonsense. ‘It is… isn’t it, Dad?’ he asks his father, Boomer, who replies that he is not sure, motioning at the massive space gods.
One of the Beginagains tells young Nikoh to keep an open mind, for the future of their peoples may depend on their children. ‘But know this - our mind travelers’ search through time tells us that the space gods have been here four times before’. The Beginagain tells everyone that on each of those four times, the space gods judged their kind and found them worthy to continue. Motioning to the Arena below, the Beginagain tells everyone to look at the chaos: ‘Our peoples have taken sides against each other and against successful propagation of new generations. And even knowing this, some us Beginagains have taken sides… and now we scurry between the space gods’ ankles to engage in this destructive war!’
The Beginagain declares that their leader, Ryest sees what they have become, and worries: ‘For how can this fifth host of Celestials judge us worthy to go on?’ he asks, as Cyclops and Jean see their friends battling the Chosen below.
At that moment, on the outskirts of the city, Ryest, with a cadre of mind-travelers, and mind-travelers and the most powerful of the Beginagain elders, floats, telekinetically buoyed, towards the city of the Chosen. ‘We must hurry!’ Ryest exclaims, declaring that the peoples of this world doom themselves with their aggressive behavior. ‘Can they not feel the threat, hovering in the air like a clap of thunder?’ he wonders. ‘Can they not see that the anger of the gods will strike us down, and destroy our peoples utterly?’
Cyclops and Jean Grey look up, and Scott motions to more space gods, ‘They’ve got to be the last!’ he exclaims, to which Jean tells her lover that they may be successful against the Chosen, and asks how they can hope to halt the destruction of the space gods. Scott sees Ryest and exclaims that Ryest preaches against war. ‘What can he be doing here?’ Scott wonders. However, Cyclops isn’t the only one who notices the approaching stranger, and several of the Chosen, sharper of eyes and more powerful than the others, sees: ‘More attacking Reject scum!’ one of them shouts. ‘Blast them! Wipe them from the sky before they add their powers to those we battle here below!’ another exclaims, as the Chosen cast beams of energy upwards.
Ryest and his other companions are struck, and their power fails, so they begin to plummet downwards. ‘Ryest! No!’ Scott calls out, before asking Jean to catch him. ‘I’ve got him!’ Jean replies as she catches Ryest and the others in a telekinetic field. Suddenly though, Jean realizes Ryest is a telepath. ‘Why didn’t you tell me he was a telepath?’ she asks Scott, announcing that her mind hurts. ‘The fit between our minds is imperfect, daughter!’ Ryest tells Jean, remarking that they can communicate in all this is a miracle.
Ryest remarks that, although he is a powerful interceptive telepath, he cannot read the thoughts of the others of Jean’s kind, and tells her that her interaction with the psychic jammers has ripped new pathways through her mind. ‘There is something in you…a soul of fire and pain… that cries out to the infinite!’ Ryest exclaims, to which Jean replies that, unless they stop the space gods, they will all be particles of the infinite. ‘Then we must not let that happen!’ Ryest declares, before calling out to his son, Dykon, and everyone below, announcing that judgment is upon them. ‘Cease your senseless battling and look up!’ Ryest urges everyone.
Chosen and Rejects, in deadly combat, suddenly turn their eyes to Heaven, and grow still has the final Celestial lands at the edge of the Chosen city. The fear becomes a palpable thing, for on his thumb is the formula of destruction. And even the other space gods fall back – for this is Arishem! ‘Can you feel it, Scott? He’s the most dangerous one of all… the final judge… the bringer of doom!’ Jean whispers, before telekinetically lifting herself and Christopher, Cyclops, Iceman, Beast, Archangel, Lev, Seera, Dykon, Ryest, Zharkah, Palik, Whilge, Nikoh, Boomer, ZZ-105 and a couple of other Beginagains high into the air.
Ryest announces that he feels another presence, massive and potentially dangerous, high overhead. ‘Scott, look! It’s out Ship! Somehow it’s escaped!’ Jean exclaims. Indeed, in a panicking roar, Ship tumbles from the sky to hover as close to its human masters as possible. ‘X-Factor, my friends, we must leave this doomed planet!’ Ship states, adding that, to stay, is certain death. Ship knocks part of barrier around the Arena, and sends rubble tumbling to the Arena floor below. ‘Ship… no!’ Scott calls out, telling him to back up, otherwise he will collapse the Arena and hurt the very people that they hope to save.
‘But…’ Ship begins to protest, though Scott interrupts, telling him that they will not abandon this world to be destroyed by those giants. ‘As you would not escape into space and abandon us!’ A stern Marvel Girl asks Ship if he has ever heard a people dying. ‘I have’ she tells him, explaining that the Phoenix, who had stolen a part of her body and soul, once destroyed a world, and that memory is a torment to her. ‘Now I can help save this planet… and in a way, make amends for what she did!’ Jean exclaims, announcing that she will fight these monstrous monsters, that she will die before she lets another world be decimated.
Cyclops tells Ship that they are all with Jean on this, and asks him to take Christopher where he will be safe. ‘Protect him. Take him home’. A pincer extends from Ship to collect Christopher, who surrounds himself in a force bubble and lets out a jolt, sending vibrations through Ship, who tells Cyclops not to worry about his son, as almost nothing that exists could penetrate the force bubble and cause him harm. Ship states that, in the coming conflict, Christopher will be the safest among them all. ‘I will watch him as carefully as if he was my own’. Ship tells X-Factor that they are his friends and masters, and that if they all choose to face the Celestials, then he will stand with them.
Zharkah remarks to the Beast that she would not have thought a machine capable of such affection or loyalty, and declares that she may reassess the Reject’s scorn of robots. Ryest exclaims ‘Enough talk!’ and floats upwards, exclaiming that the moment is at hand, and tells everyone that great Arishem is raising his hand. ‘He is their chief… and our greatest enemy!’ Ryest declares that, in Arishem’s seemingly innocent gesture, he will actually destroy this world, if they let him. ‘But more than he, we of this world have been our own enemies!’ Ryest exclaims. ‘Until these strangers called X-Factor came to our world from afar… to show us, by example, the error of our ways!’
Hovering high, Ryest exclaims that X-Factor are different from each other, as are the people of this planet. ‘We could call them Rejects, dualers, the perfect… even a giant robot Ship… but they call themselves friends. They call each other brother’. Ryest asks the people of this planet if they can do less than follow X-Factor’s lead, and unite against the great enemy before them, ‘Who would destroy us before we destroy each other? Or, perhaps, tragically, just as we are allowed to see how we can live together.’
As Arishem continues to raise his hand, Ryest asks what right the space gods have to decide their fate. ‘I say to you – unite! Drive the space gods from our planet… never to return again!’ he exclaims. Surprisingly, Palik announces that he, most perfect and leader of the Chosen, decrees that, in this, the Beginagain leader is correct. Palik remarks that Dykon, Iceman and Archangel, in defeating Lord Rask, have saved the Chosen government from being overthrown at Rask’s hands. ‘I declare that X-Factor and the Beginagains are now allies of the Chosen… and that we should join with them in defeating our common and true enemy… the space god, who with the wave of a hand, would destroy us all!’
A somewhat astonished Zharkah watches Palik carefully, and thinks to herself: ‘Spoken, Palik, like a true statesman who recognizes he has no choice… and turns the inevitable to his own advantage’. Zharkah addresses everyone now, announces that she asks her people if they can be less open to this change than the Chosen. ‘Are these space giants any less our enemies than theirs? Are X-Factor not even more our friends? And if they will risk their lives to save our world, what right do we have to hold back?’ Zharkah asks. ‘Attack the Celestial space gods!’ come the cries from the Rejects below. ‘Drive them away!’ ‘Together!’ someone shouts.
Zharkah puts a hand on Jean’s shoulder and asks her if she can feel the power of their united peoples. ‘We all of us have something of the divine in us, but Ryest has shown us that you, Jean Grey, have some part of the infinite!’ Zharkah exclaims, asking Jean to link them, help them wield the synergistic power of this world to drive the giants away. Jean replies that it is their one hope for victory, and tells Zharkah that she must do as she asks. ‘And yet, the Phoenix and Madelyne who haunt me hunger for the power you offer. They’ll try to wrest it from me!’ Scott tells Jean that she will find a way to bear them. ‘For our sakes, you have to try!’
And so, Jean, guided by Ryest, reaches out with something more than her mind – to link the power of the Chosen to that of X-Factor and the Beginagains. Together, they reach out to the Rejects – heart to heart and mind to mind. Difference of body and belief are forgotten as souls, so much the same, are linked… and a rising tide of faith and power rages almost beyond control… ‘I am the vessel, Scott, by virtue of that remnant of the Phoenix power within me… but I dare not focus or wield such energy…what if that power corrupts me… the Phoenix is within me, rejoicing… and I don’t know if I can stop her!’ Arishem raises his hand further, beginning to move it into a “thumb’s down” signal.
Scott tells Jean to let him help her. ‘I’ll be the lens for your power!’ he exclaims, before pointing out that Arishem is raising his arm. ‘We must strike – NOW!’ Scott shouts as he unleashes a massive burst of optic energy, alongside the Phoenix raptor, manifested by Jean’s power – and as Arishem is about to stick his thumb downwards, the power of the people cause Arishem’s hand to explode in a massive display of power. ‘His hand is gone… decimated by the power of these people… manifesting itself as an optic blast of unspeakable force!’ Warren exclaims, while Scott, holding onto an exhausted Jean, exclaims ‘And its shape… the Phoenix… the bird of fire! But what now?’ he asks.
All at once, the Celestials rise from the city of the Chosen and take to the skies. ‘Now it seems, Scott, that they’re leaving!’ Hank exclaims, while, down on the ground, members of the Chosen and Rejects rejoice: ‘They’re going!’ ‘We did it’ ‘Drove them off’ ‘We are spared!’
Scott calls out to Jean, who rouses, ‘They’re… they’re gone’ she whispers. ‘We did it! The space gods are gone!’ Scott exclaims. ‘I… I meant Madelyne, Scott. And the Phoenix. I fed you their power with the others’. And… now they’re gone!’ Jean reveals. Jean tells Scott that she can still remember Madelyne and the Phoenix’s lives, but like a faded story, not like she lived it. ‘We saved this world, Jean’, Scott tells his lover. ‘Yes, but I’m the one who’s finally free’ Jean smiles.
At that moment, high above the planet, the mothership of the Celestials, in response to their call, drops from space, on an apparent collision course with the world below. In the Reject city, old Vlon, on his tower, awakened by Jean’s telepathic call, and aware after many years of dreams, looks skyward as the Celestials depart - and he utters a cry of horror, echoed by the Rejects down below: ‘A meteor!’ someone shouts. ‘A ship as large as a moon!’ another exclaims. ‘It’s sweeping the space gods into its innards!’ someone points out. ‘They’ve called it to destroy us for our insolence!’ someone suggests. Suddenly, the mothership turns, skims past the Reject city, and beyond the arena of the Chosen and, drops something. ‘A bomb!’ someone shouts. ‘No… something else!’ someone declares. ‘Something huge!’ another exclaims.
Ship tells everyone to be at peace, explaining that it is a monitoring device, of the Celestials, left by them to record the progress of this worlds’ people. ‘As you were, Ship, when you were first created?’ Cyclops asks. ‘That is correct. It has the potential to be as I am’ Ship replies.
Later, the victory is celebrated far into the night, as Chosen and Rejects - while not yet friends, at least become allies. The people are confident in their united power to destroy any evil – but the Beginagain ruler, Ryest, takes a more realistic view, and tells those gathered around him – X-Factor, Seera, Lev, Palik, Dykon and Zharkah – that it seems today, they have defeated the space gods, whom X-Factor’s Ship calls Celestials, and so they must celebrate. ‘But know this, ye Chosen and Rejects and Begin gains – the combined power summoned by our peoples… all the power that we had put barely a dent in the Celestial arsenal’. Zharkah asks then why if that was the case the Celestials left, to which Ryest replies simply because they wished to leave.
Ryest announces that he believes that the true function of the Celestials’ fifth host is to force a world to judge itself. ‘Which we did… by uniting. Becoming one, to destroy the hand of judgement…’ Lev exclaims, to which Dykon adds ‘…a target they clearly offered us… in place of each other’. Ryest declares that, to unite, even against such impossible odds, showed the growing wisdom of their peoples, and thus they were spared. Zharkah remarks that it would seem then that even Celestials are ruled by a will, and a mercy, beyond their own. ‘Indeed. They brought the possibility of total destruction’ Ryest reminds everyone, adding ‘But they also brought us X-Factor’.
Dawn breaks, fine and clear. While the flesh-and-blood beings celebrated, the mechanical sentients have been hard at work. Ship announces that he has reprogrammed and repaired the computers of the Chosen and the Beginagains, and that he has… spoken… to the instrument dropped by the Celestials and shared with it his own accumulated knowledge. Ship explains that the other vessel is not awake yet, and that it is in its infancy, just like he was when he came to Earth. ‘But given time, and need, it will awaken’.
Ship informs Princess Seera that, at Archangel’s request, he has repaired her personal robot, ZZ-105, and a panel lifts up, revealing ZZ-105 behind it. ‘Zee-Zee! You’re alive!’ Seera exclaims. ZZ-105 states that she is very well, as Ship has repaired her. ‘I am better than before, and filled with knowledge’. Seera reminds ZZ-105 that she sacrificed herself for her and never had the chance to thank her. ‘You have thanked me, Seera. By learning to think and act for yourself. As I, myself, found necessary long ago’. ZZ-105 tells Seera that she is a credit to her teaching, and that she is proud of her. Archangel tells ZZ--105 that she has reason to be proud, as her mistress has earned her loyalty, and vice-versa.
And soon, Seera thanks Dykon for his help in the Arena, while the Beast bids Zharkah farewell. ‘May you rule wisely and well’ he tells her, while Ryest tells Cyclops that they will miss him. ‘You are as a second son to me, and you have brought us peace’ he tells him. Jean holds Christopher as Seera bids farewell to the baby, telling him that she will miss holding him in her arms. ‘It was you who changed me… even more than the Archangel!’ Seera exclaims, to which the Beast asks her why she doesn’t lead her people in another change. ‘Surely you can have a baby of your own some day’ Hank tells her. Seera smirks, ‘Why… I…’ she utters, before thinking to herself ‘I wonder if that would be possible? The Beginagains have learned to protect, to some extent, the genesis of their children…like Dykon, Ryest’s son. He is different than the Chosen, but he is certainly no monster…’
Within moments, a platform extends from Ship and lifts Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Beast, Archangel and baby Christopher up into Ship. ‘Good-bye, my friends. And good luck!’ the Beast calls out.
And shortly, far above the planet, Cyclops tells his companions that the coalition of Ryest, Palik and Zharkah will try to work out the difference between their peoples with Lev’s input. Iceman replies that he trusts Ryest and Zharkah to work in good faith, but that Palik is too into status to want to help. Archangel remarks that Palik will not be in charge forever, as Seera rules after him. ‘And I would trust her…. well, with my life’. Ship interjects, announces that they are ready, and asks X-Factor to brace themselves, as they will soon make the jump to hyperspace.
Moments later, Ship announces that they have made the jump and reveals that his sensors indicated they passed another ship, but that they went by it so fast he had no time to scan it properly. Cyclops tells Ship that it doesn’t matter, as long as it posed no threat. Hank remarks that it is odd, a planet teeming with mutants of all shapes and sizes, where the paranormal has become the norm. ‘When our mentor, Professor Xavier, brought us together, we were among the few known mutants on Earth!’ Scott replies, to which Hank remarks that he wonders what the Professor would have made of a planet filled with mutants. ‘He’s out there, somewhere, Cyke, fighting a war with the Empress Lilandra and her crew of Starjammers. I wonder where he is right now…?’
In the other ship that X-Factor speeds past, Professor X sits up in his bed, ‘That ship, Lilandra! They’re on that ship!’ Xavier exclaims urgently, declaring that, for an instant, he felt them. ‘My students… Cyclops, Jean, Beast, Iceman, Angel… changed… but still the same… my original X-Men! Still the heroes I had known. Gone now. Gone…’ he utters. Lilandra Nermani tells Charles to lie back and rest, before turning to Sikorsky and asks ‘His students, that’s madness… isn’t’ it?’, adding that they are on Earth, light-years away. The small alien replies that the ship was close, and Lilandra reminds herself that Charles would once have known exactly who was in that vessel, what they wanted and everything. ‘And now he’s grown so weak. He’s getting worse, isn’t he?’ Lilandra asks. Sikorsky replies that he is getting delirious. ‘Sinking fast. Possibility of termination, fear I’.
Back aboard Ship, Ship tells Scott that there was something odd about the other vessel. ‘It’s gone now, who knows where. Forget it, Ship, and take us home!’ Cyclops replies, remarking that they have left the New Mutants alone on Earth far too long. Jean, holding the sleeping Christopher, remarks that there do seem to be more mutants born on Earth ever year, to which Hank remarks that he wonders what sort of world their kind will create if indeed they are the next step in evolution. ‘All our brief days glimpses into the future hint at dark days ahead, filled with prejudice and strife. And yet, in choosing to unite the Chosen, and Rejects, and Beginagains give me hope… that, in the end, the good in any people will dominate over the evil and petty’.
As Ship descends towards Earth, he tells X-Factor that, thanks to them, the people of that world have been awakened to their true selves. ‘As their interaction with the Celestials tested and strengthened them… so too our struggles against the arch-fiend Apocalypse and a hundred other evils… have tested and strengthened us’. Ship states that he is a machine, a Celestial artifact, which Apocalypse stole and tried to twist to his foul purpose. ‘And yet, through the pain he inflicted on me, I awakened. Through your friendship, I attained my true self. Now I have solved the mystery of my past…and I can feel the hand of destiny in all our futures!’….
On the border between India and Tibet lies a mountain range called the Himalayas. Its highest peak, Mt. Everest, is the tallest mountain on Earth and one of this planet’s great natural wonders. Far below, lies an unnatural wonder – the secret citadel of X-Factor’s most primal enemy, one of the most powerful and deadly mutants… Apocalypse! It is within the vast central keep, girdled by massive spy-screens and other esoteric paraphernalia that a gray-flannelled, mysterious figure has materialized with a surprising message for the master of this place of darkness…
‘I offer you the chance to join me – to spearhead my Acts of Vengeance here on Earth!’ exclaims the mysterious suited man, staring up at the deadliest mutant of all. ‘I am Apocalypse, little man. Who are you to offer me anything?’ comes the reply, before Apocalypse reveals to his “guest” that he has watched him in secret, playing at being a human servant to villains. ‘But, in fact, these villains really serve you. You have manipulated -’ Apocalypse begins, until his “guest” interrupts: ‘Persuaded… I assure you!’ he claims, before Apocalypse extends an arm, and transforms his hand into a clamp, which he picks his “guest” up in. ‘ –manipulated them into joining your villainous uprising. Into battling heroes against whom they have no personal grudge!’ Apocalypse continues.
Apocalypse asks once again who the man is, and what he hopes to gain from this absurdity. Suddenly, with a snap of energy the gray suited figure transforms – into his true self, Loki – Prince of Lies! ‘Thou disappointest me, Apocalypse! I would have thought thou wouldst guess my true identity!’ Loki exclaims as he escapes Apocalypse’s clamp. ‘By what right do you annoy the heroes of Earth?’ Apocalypse demands to know, to which Loki replies ‘By what idiocy dost thou, a mutant mortal, hope to imprison a god?’ Loki blasts Apocalypse with an energy beam, remarking that the mortals of Midgard have long annoyed him, particularly the Avengers. ‘Whom you, by your misguided actions, forced into being!’ Apocalypse reminds Loki.
Loki declares that the Avengers have felt the power of his displeasure, while other so-called heroes of Earth have been distracted from coming to their aid. He adds that he wants others to feel his lash also. ‘Others?’ Apocalypse asks as he is knocked from his platform, but uses his metamorphic powers to extend an arm and wrap it around a beam. ‘The X-Men! Cyclops, leader of X-Factor… and the young New Mutants, who will soon return to Migard from elsewhere! They too have ofttimes annoyed me and mine!’ Loki exclaims, before telling Apocalypse that if he defeats them, then he would have proved his worth, and he will allow him to join him. ‘Your so-called Acts of Vengeance is already a failure!’ Apocalypse retorts.
‘No! I have caused the Avengers anguish. They have felt pain. I would have destroyed them, had not my servants, my so-called master villains… continued to pursue their own petty interests… in place of mine… and have thus been humiliatingly defeated!’ Loki replies, to which Apocalypse remarks that it is no wonder the humans have ceased to worship Loki. ‘How little you understand the human heart!’ he tells him, pointing out that humans are not immortal and have little enough time to accomplish their own goals. Apocalypse tells Loki that humans are not the weaklings he takes them for, as each – hero or villain – is dying from the day they are born. ‘Each breath… each effort… is an act of courage against inevitable doom… such courage we immortals only dream of!’
Loki darts about the place, when Apocalypse’s increased mass appears before him, Loki crashes into him and falls to the floor. ‘Courage? I could crush them!’ Loki boasts. ‘Could you?’ Apocalypse asks, reminding him that he is not one of his petty villains. ‘I, like you, have been a god!’ Apocalypse reveals, exclaiming that he knows the ability of faith empower those who are worshipped. Lying on the floor, Loki doesn’t see someone approach him from behind – it’s Caliban, who shouts ‘And to transform the worshipper!’ as he slashes Loki with his sharp claws. Loki falls to the floor once more, ‘Who are you, creature, to interrupt your betters?’ Loki asks.
Caliban introduces himself, ‘Apocalypse has made Caliban what he is, and Caliban is his servant’. Loki blasts Caliban with a burst of energy, telling him that his master should train his servants better. Suddenly, an energy field takes hold of Loki, who throws his hands in the air ‘By what magic have you trapped me?’ he shouts. ‘By knowledge gleaned from a Celestial artifact that knew not its own power… and by the loyalty of my servant, who risked his life to distract you while I sprang my trap!’ Apocalypse replies, as he walks over to Caliban, who is rolling on the floor to flame down the fire that sprung up when Loki blasted him with energy.
‘You worship me, don’t you, Caliban? My will is your own!’ Apocalypse exclaims. ‘Yes, master!’ the former Morlock replies as he gets to his feet. Apocalypse exclaims that Caliban is his masterpiece, his faithful Hell Hound whom he has transformed. ‘Through him, in part, I will test and strengthen humanity. I will winnow out the unfit and temper the strong!’ Apocalypse exclaims as he and Caliban stand before the trapped Loki. ‘Even as my machines drain you of power and overwhelm you… so, too, the time is coming when evil forces will overwhelm the Earth!’ Apocalypse exclaims. ‘As you struggle, now-so the denizens of the Earth will be forced to fight with renewed vigor… or be destroyed utterly!’
Apocalypse declares that the effort of the earthlings will be terrible, but that those who survive will emerge with powers undreamt of. Apocalypse declares that he will not be manipulated by Loki as so many others were. ‘I am wiser… stronger, perhaps than they, and can see your feeble lies and tricks for what they are!’ Apocalypse reveals that even though he is immortal, he still clings to his human roots. ‘I, like them, have my own agenda… my own goals. The strong must grow and survive to become the norm. So that those who rise from that fertile soil will be stronger still! Strong enough, one day, to challenge the gods themselves!’ Apocalypse declares.
Apocalypse tells Loki that, not only does he refuse his offer to join, he will oppose Loki when and wherever he can! ‘From henceforth, I am your enemy… as you are an enemy of mankind!’ Apocalypse declares. But Loki replies that threats from one such as Apocalypse do not frighten him: ‘Nor can your alien machineries hold me for long!’ he booms as he raises his fists and destroys Apocalypse’s machine with his power. Apocalypse looks up and sees that Loki appears in the monitor once more, to which Loki replies that he is simply ending a discussion that had become tedious and pointless.
Loki tells Apocalypse that “his” humans will not survive long enough to challenge the gods. ‘And you, so proud of your own wisdom, are a fool. Dare to oppose me… or my plans… and you will join your human race in death!’ Loki warns Apocalypse. ‘It is well to know where we both stand. Our paths, certainly, shall cross again. I have for you, one last parting gift…!’ Loki exclaims before causing the screen he was appearing on shatters, and glass falls down towards Apocalypse and Caliban. ‘He shattered the screen!’ Caliban exclaims as Apocalypse puts up a shield to protect them from the falling glass.
Caliban declares that Loki is powerful, and a god. ‘If he chooses to destroy us, how can humanity stand against him?’ Caliban asks Apocalypse. Apocalypse replies that much of what Loki says are lies, except for his hostility toward humankind, which is genuine. ‘And he is not alone in his hatred of our kind!’ Apocalypse adds, declaring that humanity must grow strong – and quickly. Apocalypse tells Caliban that he will soon be ready to begin his mission on Earth, to find and test the worthy. To destroy the weak that the strong have room to grow. Come, my Hound. We must begin….’