‘YEAAARH!’ screams Rachel Summers a.k.a. Marvel Girl, as the diabolical Grad Nan Holt alien known as Friendless shoves his astral hand through her astral head. ‘Does it hurt, little animal? Does it sting?’ Friendless asks as their astral forms hover in a warehouse on the Gul Damar space station, where a deadly anti-matter weapon has been fired. ‘This is what happens when you mind-duel with a reader/sender. This is what becomes of you’ Friendless declares, while various mind-controlled Shi’ar officers and Grad Nan Holt Janissaries stand nearby. Friendless tells Rachel that she is dying quickly, but that it will seem slow, for in their thoughts, all is as they make it. ‘And your friends, they’re dying, too. ‘
Indeed, at that moment, Rachel’s teammates from the Starjammers, Havok, Polaris and Korvus, her lover, who is carrying her lifeless body, flee from the anti-matter weapon, along with two of their X-Men rescuers, Magneto and Gambit, and the remainder of the crew of the Boneyard Dog ship, Glitter, Jat and Horse. Friendless tells Rachel that they seek to protect her physical body, but that they will fall to the null cascade. ‘A torrent of anti-matter that eats and eats and can never be satisfied’ Friendless calls it. He adds that those who sought to save Gul Damar by repairing its gravity generators, well, it is safe to say their mission has miscarried.
Friendless is of course referring to Rogue and Joanna “Frenzy” Cargill, the other two X-Men rescuers who lie motionless at the space station’s control room. Frenzy rouses, and gets to her feet, where she sees Sovel Redhand, the traitorous leader of the Boneyard Dog crew tinkering with the control panels of the gravity equipment. ‘You. Redhand. What the hell do you think you’re doing?’ Frenzy demands. Sovel replies that he is stealing the gravity generator, as it is worth a vast amount of money. ‘And I like money. I like it very much indeed’. ‘Yeah? How do you feel about compound fractures?’ Joanna asks as she rushes towards her opponent, fists ready.
Sovel smirks, and tells Frenzy to be careful, reminding her that she used up most of her strength in getting to this location, and loaned Rogue the rest. ‘So you really shouldn’t be touching -’ he begins, before Frenzy is knocked backwards by a surge of energy that radiates from Sovel. ‘- my personal force field’ Sovel concludes as he turns around, and sees Frenzy once again lying motionless on the ground, near Rogue.
‘Oh God, Frenzy!’ Rachel utters. Friendless asks ‘Is that her name? It suits her’, adding that it suits all of the half-formed, half-civilized creatures. ‘But don’t despair, little animal. Not quite yet. I’ve saved the best for last. Look. See’ Friendless tells Rogue, urging her to look ahead, where she sees a blinding yellow light. Various Shi’ar officers turn their head from the brilliance of the light, and Friendless explains that across the station, the shields are starting to fall, that heat and hard radiation are pouring in like water through a broken dam, and now the Shi’ar and the Grad Nan Holt are staring into the Death-God’s single eye. ‘Gul Damar is falling into the sun. And there isn’t a thing that you or anyone can do to stop it!’ Friendless boasts. And as the massive space station falls ever closer to certain doom, a shocked Rachel hangs her head and closes her eyes.
Back in the gravity control bay, ‘Rogue. Can you hear me?’ a voice resonates through Rogue’s mind. ‘Please. Say you can hear me. It’s Rachel’ the voice exclaims. Rogue stirs, and sits up. Redhand sees her and tells her to do herself a favor and stay down, and he will pilot them out of here. ‘Sovel! This is insane!’ Rogue exclaims, pointing out that without the generator, Gul Damar has no power. ‘He won’t listen to you. And you can’t fight him’ Rachel tells Rogue telepathically, before revealing to Rogue that she may not have to fight him, as Sovel keeps thinking about the weapon that he gave to her. ‘This thing? Why?’ Rogue asks, looking down at the small object. Rachel replies that she thinks it is not a weapon, that it is something else. ‘Well, I’ll be…’ Rogue whispers as she opens a small panel on the small object.
Rogue gets to her feet: ‘Cute, Sovel. You gave me a “stun baton” to protect myself, because it’s a big, wicked old world’ Rogue calls out. Sovel turns to her and tells her that it won’t work against him, to which Rogue replies that she is sure it won’t, but that she knows that is not why he gave it to her. ‘You just wanted me to be holding one end of a short-range teleport shunt’ Rogue declares as she presses a button on the device, adding that it is pretty primitive, and that it just has two sets of coordinates in the memory - one of them is right here, and she is sure the other one is wherever Sovel just came from.
At that moment, Magneto, Havok and Polaris do their best to hold the anti-matter wave back, but it moves ever closer to them. Suddenly, there is a brief noise, and Havok, Polaris and the others all glow, before vanishing. ‘Ah! I know how this looks’ Sovel remarks, eyes wide, as Havok and the others, including Sovel’s crew members, materialize before him. ‘It looks like you’re gonna get your brains beaten out, Sovel’ Glitter exclaims. Jat tells Glitter that their former leader his shields up, before using his abilities, he corrects himself, announcing that the shields are now down. Glitter moves closer to Sovel and thanks Jat, explaining that he just introduced her to a new experience. ‘This is the first time I ever felt warm and fuzzy towards a Kree’ she explains as she punches Sovel, knocking him out.
‘Where are we, Rogue?’ Magneto asks, turning to her. Rogue explains that they are out in space, but close to Gul Damar, as Sovel shot the whole generator array free of the station. ‘Ah’ve got to bring us back in’ Rogue announces. ‘What about Rachel? She’s not moving. She’s not even breathing!’ Korvus calls out as he lays Rachel on the ground. Rogue reveals that Friendless got his hooks into Rachel good, and explains that right now, Rachel is fighting him, but Friendless is winning. Removing his helmet, Magneto points out that Rachel is the only one of them who has any mind powers, so no one can go to her assistance. ‘We’ll have to improvise’ he remarks as he places his helmet on Rachel’s head. ‘What good will that do?’ Korvus demands, and Magneto explains to him that it is resistant to telepathic scanning. ‘If we’re lucky, it will break the contact between the two of them…and allow her to pull free’ Magneto fears.
At that moment, ‘NO!’ shrieks Friendless as Rachel pulls free of his astral grasp. Suddenly, Rachel opens her eyes and moans. ‘By the marriage! She’s alive! She’s waking up!’ Korvus exclaims as he helps Rachel sit up, wrapping his arms around her. Rogue remarks that she is glad to hear it, but that it might not last. Rogue announces that they have to get themselves, and all of Gul Damar out of the solar corona, or else they are likely to be pourable inside of five minutes. Standing at one of the consoles, Rogue asks Jat to take the other console, and they both get to work. Jat declares that this is not going to work, as Gul Damar’s mass is too big. ‘We have to save ourselves. That’s all we can -’ he begins, but Rogue interrupts: ‘Not gonna happen’ she says.
Turning to Rachel, who is standing up alongside Korvus, Rogue tells her that she saw something in her mind when they were linked, something like a cannon. ‘The null cascade. It’s an anti-matter particle gun’ Rachel explains as she hands Magneto his helmet back. ‘Ah need it. And Gul Damar’s a big place. Think you can get us a fix on it?’ Rogue asks. ‘To a millimeter’ Rachel replies, but points out that the trouble is, Friendless is right there with it. ‘If he attacks me again, all bets are off’ Rachel remarks. ‘Ah think he might have other things to worry about’ Rogue replies, before turning to Magneto and telling him that this thing weighs tons, and that he will have to rip through possibly a hundred bulkhead walls to get to it. ‘Alone, that might be difficult. But if Polaris will assist me-’ Magneto replies as he puts his helmet back on. ‘Yes! Of course!’ Lorna “Polaris” Dane exclaims as she and Alex “Havok” Summers stand nearby.
As the gravity control center continues to hover close to Gul Damar, Rachel telepathically sends Magneto and Polaris a route map, and asks if it is coming through clear. ‘As crystal’ Lorna replies, while Magneto asks Marvel Girl how delicate the device is. Rachel reveals that it is built to withstand earthquakes. ‘Excellent. That’s what I hoped you’d say’ Magneto tells her as he and Polaris concentrate hard, using their combined magnetic powers, they rip the weapon from where it is in the warehouse, carrying it towards their floating control room. Holding it in space, Lorna reports that they have got it. ‘Now what?’ she asks. Rogue asks them to hold it in place while she adjusts the sun. ‘While you -?’ Lorna enquires. Rogue replies that there is no time to explain, and that she could only do it in Shi’ar anyway.
‘Vrasi! This isn’t good!’ Jat exclaims as he and Rogue continue to tap away at the control panels. Jat announces that these gauges are up to critical, and are still climbing. ‘Yeah, that’d be me’ Rogue explains, telling everyone that the final stage of a star’s development depends on the strength of the local gravity fields, and that she is trying to push this system’s sun all the way to collapse in one go. ‘What? A black hole will kill us just as dead as a live sun!’ Jat exclaims as he grabs Rogue’s arm. ‘Ah know what Ah’m doing’ Rogue assures him. ‘No, you don’t. And that Arin’nn Haelar thing doesn’t buy you any slack from a Kree, so just step away from -’ Jat tells her, before he is suddenly grabbed by Remy “Gambit” LeBeau. ‘You’re looking to save your life, homme? Start by taking your hands off her’ Gambit suggests to Jat.
Rogue reports that she is real close, but that the equations are too complicated. ‘Ah can’t solve them in real time, and Ah don’t have a model. Nobody’s ever done this!’ Rogue declares. Looking up, the handsome Havok announces that he hates to complicate things, but that he thinks they might have another problem. ‘No! That’s not possible!’ gasps Glitter, as the null cascade weapon begins firing once more. ‘It’s targeting us!’ Alex adds. ‘You think that’s an accident, or -?’ Gambit begins, before everyone sees Friendless, clinging to the edge of the weapon. ‘Carrying on fighting, little animals. Carrying on fighting to the last!’ Friendless snarls. ‘You are marvellous. You make this even sweeter than I imagined it would be!’ Friendless declares.
‘He can survive in hard vacuum?’ Korvus enquires. Rachel reports that Friendless did so once before, when the wall of the cargo bay was breached. Rachel turns to Rogue and reminds her that she said she needs processing power. ‘In the worst way. But even if Ah had a big enough computer -’ Rogue replies, as Rachel interrupts, announcing that she is not thinking about a computer. ‘Friendless has a genius-level intelligence. If we could slave his mind the way he slaved mine, we could force him to solve your equations’ Rachel suggests. ‘No, beloved! He’s stronger than you. He’s proved that twice!’ Korvus exclaims. ‘In a fair fight, he is. Way stronger. But I wonder what he’d be like in a tag match’ Rachel smiles.
‘Damn, girl, you like to play dirty, don’t you?’ Rogue asks. ‘I’m a Summers. Mostly I play to win’ Rachel replies as she takes Rogue’s gloveless hand. ‘Fifty-fifty, more or less, but you better take the lead’ Rachel suggests, remarking that Rachel knows the steps of this dance a lot better than she. Suddenly, on the edge of the null cascade, Friendless cries out ‘No! What are you -?’ as Rachel and Rogue enter his mind. Their astral forms attack his astral form, ‘Kind of a tough call, isn’t it, Friendless? Can’t attack either of us without lowering your guard to the other’ Marvel Girl tells him. ‘Ain’t exactly fair, when you put it like that. Then again…neither is genocide’ Rogue declares. Friendless screams in agony, while on the deck of the gravity control center, Rachel asks Rogue if she has what she needs. ‘Few - more - seconds’ Rogue reports.
Rogue asks Magneto to turn the null cascade so it fires into the sun. ‘Anti-matter and solar fusion, Rogue? That’s -’ Magneto begins. ‘Dangerous stuff to play around with. Ah know it’ Rogue replies. The weapon is turned to face the ever-approaching sun, and the worried expressions of the X-Men and their allies can be clearly seen on all. ‘Like lighting a cigarette in a room full of gasoline fumes’ Rogue remarks. ‘Except that this room is about a hundred million miles across’ she adds. As Rogue presses a large red button, she tells her friends and companions that if anyone feels inclined to pray, now would be a good time.
With that, Gul Damar space station and the gravity control room that is still separated from the station, falls into the sun in spectacular display. Magneto and Rogue embrace, while the others shield themselves from the immense solar heat. Suddenly, the anti-matter wave cascades around them - and an undermined amount of time later, the space station in its entirety, and gravity control room, appear floating in orbit around planet Earth. ‘Wait! Bluey-green planet with an atmosphere? More water than land? Isn’t that -’ Jat begins. ‘It’s Earth!’ Havok calls out. ‘You did it, Rogue! You did it!’ Rachel exclaims as everyone stares at Earth.
‘Hey, congratulations’ Frenzy calls out. Rogue turns to Joanna and thanks her for everything. ‘But what was it that you did, exactly? I seem to have been unconscious for most of it’ Frenzy remarks. ‘Imstari had the math, and Friendless had the smarts to solve the equation’ Rogue smiles, revealing that she collapsed Gul Damar’s sun into a wormhole and pointed the far end at Earth. ‘We’re home! We’re finally home!’ Polaris exclaims as she and Havok embrace. ‘Some of us are’ Korvus remarks, hanging his head as Rachel puts a hand on him. ‘Don’t try to spoil the moment, Korvus. It won’t work’ Havok tells him. However, Magneto points out that Korvus raises a valid point, as Gul Damar Station is now in Earth orbit, along with its billion displaced citizens.
Magneto adds that it is possible Friendless survived the stellar collapse. ‘Yeah, it is, Magnus, but sometimes you just have to win the fight you’re in, and leave it at that’ Rogue tells him. ‘What about us, Rogue? You’re still our captain’ Glitter calls out as she, Jat and Horse, who is holding up Sovel by his ankle. ‘I’d be happy to take the title back. I don’t hold grudges’ Sovel calls out. Glitter tells Horse to feel free to rip Sovel’s head off if he makes another sound. ‘Does that include breathing?’ Horse asks. Rogue informs Glitter that she still has the teleport shunt, and can put them back on Gul Damar for now. ‘But before long, Ah’ll find you a ship and a captain. You got mah word on that’ Rogue assures Glitter.
The gravity station is driven down towards Earth, and Havok asks Rogue if she thinks she can actually land it. Rogue replies that if she can’t, Magnus and Lorna can set them down just fine. ‘But…those coordinates. You’re taking us out over the West Coast’ Havok points out. Rogue replies that there are some briefing sessions that need to be had at that. ‘Lorna. Alex. Rachel. Welcome home’ Rogue calls out. ‘Now let’s see…where do Ah start?’ Rogue remarks, as they approach Utopia….