‘Are you insane, woman? You hit me! Glitter, she hit me! Shoot her repeatedly!’ the intergalactic pirate called Sovel Redhand shouts as he stares up at the X-Woman known as Rogue. Sovel’s crew, Glitter, Jat and Horse stand nearby, while the unconscious Rachel Summers a.k.a. Marvel Girl lies on the ground. Glitter tells Sovel that she would like to shoot Rogue repeatedly, but that she cannot. ‘What do you mean? Just do it!’ Sovel tells her. ‘She challenged you for leadership - in the name of Arin’nn Haelar, you have to answer’ Glitter replies. ‘Or else y’all could take me to find mah friends, instead of running for the exit’ Rogue declares, adding that she is not leaving Havok and Polaris on a hunk of metal that is falling into its own sun.
Sovel gets up and remarks that they are bandits, scofflaws, that they make their own rules. ‘Not this one. This one binds us all’ Glitter tells him, to which Sovel tells Glitter that if she feels so strongly about it, why doesn’t she fight her. Glitter tells Sovel that if he nominates her as his champion, that she will. ‘In fact, I was kind of hoping you’d ask’ she adds. ‘I can name a champion? Oh, well, that’s different’ Sovel remarks, adding that he intends to uphold the warrior traditions of their noble race. ‘Yeah. Of course’ Glitter mutters. Sovel tells Rogue that he has offered him insult, and announces that as a Shia’r warrior, he will be satisfied. ‘You’ll be fighting Horse’ Sovel declares, motioning to the multi-limbed alien.
Meanwhile, elsewhere on the space station, specifically vector counter-spin 40-720, distance of 3.2 standard units. Remy “Gambit” LeBeau, Joanna “Frenzy” Cargill and Magneto, the Master of Magnetism follow several Shi’ar officers down a platform. ‘Commander, we’ve found them’ one of the Shi’ar calls out. ‘Excellent, give me the imager’ the commander replies. The commander looks at the imager and remarks ‘Ah, yes! Grad Nan Holt, definitely. The same clan and sept that attacked us’ the Shi’ar commander remarks, adding that the cargo bay in the imager must be their man beachhead in ochre radial. He points out that there is some anomalous readings in there though, probably a race that is not in the imaging database. ‘Could they be human, like us?’ Gambit enquires.
‘Perhaps’ the commander replies, adding that it is impossible to say. He calls out to his lieutenant and asks him to bring up the semi-portables. Magneto approaches the commander and asks him what his plan is. ‘The plan writes itself, alien. We’re going to blast those rebel scum into loose atoms’ the commander announces. Gambit grabs the commander by his arm and asks him if he is mad. ‘That’s your strategy? Seriously?’ The commander looks at Gambit and replies that he is a commissioned officer in the armies of the Majestor Shi’ar. ‘And I’ll thank you to remove that hand’ the commander adds.
Gambit points out that the Grad Nan Holt took prisoners when they attacked the Shi’ar. ‘We saw them. What you’re doing makes no sense. You’ll be killing your own people’ Gambit declares. The commander replies that the service of the empire demands sacrifices. ‘When necessary. But a futile sacrifice only aids the enemy’ Magneto remarks. The commander asks him what his point is, to which Magneto suggests that they could go in first and negotiate on their behalf. ‘G-gods!’ the commander utters, shocked as Magneto uses his powerful abilities to lift one of the semi-portables overhead and crush it. ‘You’ve seen the power we wield. It’s yours, if you’ll work with us to avoid pointless bloodshed. I we fail to secure the release of your prisoners, the option of brute force is still open to you’ Magneto states.
The commander remarks that there is some merit in what Magneto suggests, and announces that he will confer with his superiors and bring an answer shortly. ‘Man, you’ve changed your tune’ Frenzy mutters. ‘Have I, Ms Cargill?’ Magneto asks. ‘Looks like it from here’ Frenzy tells him, declaring that the Magneto she knew would not have lost any sleep about collateral damage. ‘Perhaps not. But if my daughter is in the midst of a civil war, I intend to find her’ Magneto replies. He announces that the Grad Nan Holt seem to represent their best hope, and admits that his failings as a father have been extreme, so it is past time that he began to atone for at least some of them. ‘So our word for today is “atonement”’ Frenzy states. Gambit informs Frenzy that Magneto has his own way of defining it, and Frenzy watches her former leader as he walks away, assuring Gambit that she totally gets Magento’s definition. ‘Strap yourself to the mouth of a cannon…and say you come in peace’.
Meantime, ‘Ah don’t want to hurt you, Horse’ Rogue tells the alien, who stands over her. ‘Thanks. Then I’ll do the hurting’ Horse replies. Sovel tells Rogue and Horse that he wants a good fight, but that it doesn’t have to be a clean one. ‘May Sharra and K’ythri bless and favor you both’ Sovel adds. ‘But mostly him’ he remarks, motioning to Horse, who slams his three left arms down towards the ground, knocking Rogue backwards. Jat slaps a hand against his head and announces that this is grotesque, for it Horse lands a punch, Rogue will be blood and pulp. ‘You’re missing the point, as usual’ Sovel replies. Jat asks what the point is, to which Sovel smiles and replies ‘Better her than me’. Horse slams his fists into a wall as Rogue dodges him. ‘Running out of road’ Horse calls out. ‘No. Just getting you into position’ Rogue responds as she gets behind Horse and smacks him in the back of the head. Horse goes wide-eyed, and falls to the ground.
Sovel, Jat and Glitter gather around their fallen comrade, and Rogue announces’ So, Ah guess Ah’m running the show now’. ‘No! No no no no!’ Sovel repeats. ‘Yes’ Rogue tells him. ‘But how? How is it yet? It should be no!’ Sovel exclaims. Rogue stands nearby and reminds Sovel that it was he whom she called out, and tells him that since he went ahead and picked himself a champion, she decided to get herself one, too. ‘All in the game, right? My name’s Rachel’ remarks the Rachel Summers as she stands up, warning Sovel that if he wants to experience firsthand what she just did to Horse, then by all means he should reach for a weapon. ‘I need another champion!’ Sovel shouts, to which Jat remarks ‘Sorry, fearless former leader. The king is dead. Long live the queen’.
Glitter tells Sovel that he should have picked her the first time, as she doesn’t do rear-guard. Rogue walks towards Marvel Girl and tells her that it is good to have her back. Rachel replies that it is good to be back, and notices Sovel reaching for pistol. She tells him that if he draws it, she will make him shoot himself through the foot. Rachel turns her attention back to Rogue and asks her if she is the rescue party. ‘Ah guess Ah am’ Rogue replies, explaining that she got herself a teleport power for a while at least, and some powerful back-up, before asking Rachel what she is even doing in this lunatic asylum. Rachel replies that they answered a distress signal and walked into a civil war, before revealing that it is worse than that - a lot worse. She explains that there is something out there that packs a mind-punch hard enough to knock her out for a week. ‘We’ve got to find the others. The don’t know the odds they’re facing. Or even who the real enemy is’ Rachel declares.
At that moment, Alex “Havok” Summers and Lorna “Polaris” Dane enter a room where several Shi’ar officers are sitting on the floor. Lorna orders them all on to their feet. The Shi’ar officers have their hands bound, and they emerge single file from the room. ‘You’re not Grad Nan Holt. Why would you side with them?’ one of the officers calls out. ‘Because you Shi’ar enslaved them, and treated them like dirt. They’re fighting for their freedom. It’s a cause we don’t mind getting behind’ Havok explains. One of the officers turns to Lorna and introduces himself as Imstari, explaining that he is a scientist. ‘So?’ Polaris asks him. Imstari reveals that the gravitic flux array is damaged, and pulling them into the sun. He claims that he can repair it, if she takes him there, he can recalibrate the grid and save them all.
‘Tell the tribunal, when you go before them. They’ll give you a fair hearing!’ Havok tells Imstari, dragging him along. Lorna tells the Shi’ar that when they get to the arch, to go right on through. Several Grad Nan Holt stand guard around the arch, and through the arch sit several of the Grad Nan Holt, in the middle of a an amphitheater, surrounded by hundreds more Grad Nan Holt. One of the seated Grad Nan Holt announces ‘The Janissaries of the Grad Nan Holt sit in judgment. Where is the reader / sender? Where is Friendless?’ One of the Grad Nan Holt crouching nearby announces that he stands ready. ‘Then do yout job, filth. Tell us the prisoners’ ranks and their offences’ another orders, while Havok and Polaris‘ teammate, Korvus, stands nearby. The Grad Nan Holt crouched on the ground replies that all but one are soldiers of the Majestor Shi’ar. ‘They killed our brethren in great numbers. The last is…different’.
‘That one!’ the Grad Nan Holt declares, pointing at one of the Shi’ar. ‘My name is -’ the Shi’ar begins, but the Grad Nan Holt interrupts: ‘N’ket Imstari. Technician cadre. High in rank. And in esteem’ the Grad Nan Holt declares, adding that he ran Gul Damar’s power grid, and commanded many. The Janissaries turn to each other and speak in their native tongue. One of the senior Grad Nan Holt then points to the Shi’ar and shouts ‘A quick and honorable death for the soldiers. A slow and shameful one for the scientists. The tribunal has spoken!’ Korvus unsheathes his large sword and moves towards the Shi’ar, one of whom shouts ‘We’ve done nothing!’ another adds that they are serving soldiers, and demand their rights under the treaty of - but he doesn’t get to finish his sentence as Korvus slices him apart, making his way through the Shi’ar soldiers.
‘Your will is done, noble masters’ Korvus declares as he stands over the dead soldiers. ‘Half-done, Korvus. The scientist yet remains’ one of the Grad Nan Holt points out. Another shouts ‘Bring the torture instruments’. Imstari turns to a cart that is being pushed into the ampitheater. Blood stained weapons are laid on the cart. ‘Oh Gods! Oh sweet Gods!’ he utters, before turning back to the Grad Nan Holt leaders and telling them that he is Shi’ar, that if they want him to break and weep they will be disappointed. He asks where his torturer is, so he can look him in the eye and curse him. ‘You misunderstand’ one of the Grad Nan Holt replies, while another informs him that he will wield the blades and screws himself. ‘Reader / Sender, be about your work, lest you be punished yourself’ the third tells the Grad Nan Holt on the ground.
The alien replies ‘As you direct, masters, Friendless obeys’ and remarks that a mind-sending of the third order should suffice for the Shi’ar wretch. ‘I - I - I will not!’ Imstari replies. ‘You can’t make me -’ he declares as he walks towards the instruments, trying to resist the mental thrall, he raises a jagged curved blade to his face. ‘This seems cruel’ Lorna tells Alex, hanging her head. ‘You know what the Shi’ar did to these people, Lorna. The torture of an enemy isn’t just a right. It’s a sacrament’ Alex replies. Suddenly, ‘I hope we’re not interrupting anything’ a voice from above calls out. ‘We come in peace. For the most part’ Magneto announces as he drops down beside Alex and Lorna, with Gambit and Frenzy behind him.
‘Gambit! And - Magneto? Hold your fire!’ Havok exclaims. ‘These are friends! I - I think’ Polaris declares. Alex approaches Gambit and tells him that he is a sight for sore eyes, while Polaris faces Magneto, asking if he came here with the X-Men to find them. ‘You made a truce with the X-Men for our sake?’ Lorna enquires. Magneto replies that the details can be left until later. ‘I’m delighted to see you, my daughter’ he adds. ‘That goes for all of us’ Gambit adds, before telling Havok that whatever play he was about to make, they have his back. ‘Play? We were just enforcing the judgments’ Alex replies. ‘Enforcing?’ Remy asks, confused. ‘Come and watch. We’ll talk later’ Alex tells him.
The Janissaries get to their feet: ‘Who are these entities?’ one of them asks. The Friendless one replies that they are super-normal indigenes of the planet Tellus, and that they are in league with the Shi’ar. ‘It stands clear in their minds’ he states. Magneto tells the alien to read a little deeper, and points out that a Shi’ar battalion stands ready to destroy this base. ‘Oh God! Magnus -’ Lorna begins, to which Magneto explains that the Shi’ar allowed them to approach first and broker a truce. One of the Janissaries states that they desire no truce, as Magneto approaches them. Imstari continues to cut himself, while Korvus stands with his head hanging. ‘Then say no, by all means. But they’re watching us now’ Magneto informs the Grad Nan Holt. Magneto tells them that if they send him back empty-handed, the Shi’ar will pour enough firepower into this bay to melt it into slag.
Nearby, the free Shi’ar are watching the scene play out below. ‘Well now. Look at that’ the commander remarks. ‘He’s got them talking, at least’. ‘Yes, sir’ one of the officers replies. The commander wonders what they are talking about. ‘That’s the question he tells his officer. ‘Permission to make an observation, sir’ the officer requests, announcing that the walls of the cargo bay are already damaged. ‘You can see they’ve taken some heavy hits, a while back. Very heavy’ the officer points out, suggesting that a full salvo would probably breach what is left of the shielding. ‘Punch through the vacuum you mean? Empty us all right out into space?’ the commander asks. ‘Exactly, sir’ the officer confirms. ‘Duly noted, lieutenant. Tell the gunners to stand ready’ the commander orders.
Back down in the cargo bay, one of the Janissaries announces that they have learned from experience that the Shi’ar not to be trusted. ‘We’re not suggesting you trust them’ Gambit points out, asking the Grad Nan Holt to move out and leave the prisoners until the last moment. ‘They’re you’re guarantee’ he remarks. One of the Janissaries announces that there is only one prisoner still alive and that they will not - and cannot - release him. ’His rank is high, and his sins are therefore great’. ’This guy?’ Frenzy asks, looking at Imstari, who calls out for help as he holds a knife to his chest. ’What did he do? Insult your mother? He’s older than dirt’ Frenzy mutters. ’Yes. Also…he’s dead’ the Friendless one states as he commands Imstari to kill himself - ‘NO!’ Frenzy shouts. But Imstari plunges the knife into his own chest.
The commander sees this from up above, and orders ‘Fire all guns. Maximum aperture’. A massive blast is fired down into the cargo bay, knocking everyone backwards. ‘Those idiots! We’re hard against the hull! Can’t they see they’re committing suicide?’ Frenzy asks. Magneto asks Gambit and Frenzy to watch his back, when suddenly, ‘You’ll do nothing, murderer!’ Polaris exclaims as she fires a blast of magnetic energy at Magneto. She hovers over him as she attacks him. Magneto turns to her, while Korvus leaps towards Gambit and Havok confronts Frenzy. ‘You’re my father, Magnus, and I revere you. But you’ve hurt the Grad Nan Holt. And that means you die!’