Evening in Chicago. Kitty Pryde reminisces, as she talks to her therapist Maureen Lyszinski. Two snapshot moments from her life pretty much sum up why she is there. Both from back in the day when the X-Men were clandestine and their identities secret:
A kid from dance class called Kitty a mutie-lover and she decked him in response. When her teacher tried to calm her down, telling her those were only words Kitty answered with a racist insult, asking if Stevie Hunter would be so tolerant, if he had said that? Stevie had no answer.
Another time, much later, Kitty met a boy named Larry Bodine and hit it off with him. He was a mutant, able to create lovely light sculptures. She never got the chance to tell him about Xavier’s because other kids at school threatened to out him. Larry committed suicide. At his memorial service, Kitty spoke, but couldn’t find the courage to admit the truth about herself, that she was a mutant, too. Nobody should be the object of that much hate.
Maureen asks Kitty if she thinks she will win the election. She has to, Kitty replies. They have to. Maureen observes that Kitty is always talking in the plural in this context. Old habit, Kitty replies. Push comes to shove, the X-Men end up fighting for the whole human race. And Kitty wishes she were with them, Maureen states. Kitty admits it, but she also knows that this is where she belongs.
Maureen presses that, while she understands the importance of the X-Men’s battle, what is the significance of Kitty’s? Kitty states the obvious: She is a mutant. Alice Tremaine still refuses to concede they are even human and she is slick enough to get a lot of people to believe her. If Kitty wins the election when she proves she can do the job, she can change perceptions on a bedrock level. The darker angels of their natures don’t need encouragement.
So what’s her solution, Mareen asks. Show people the way back to the light, Kitty replies simply. Prove that they aren’t monsters. Why Kitty? Maureen demands. Because she is like Maureen, she replies. She has served her time in the valley of shadows. She wants something better for her kids.
Chandilar, the Shi’ar throneworld:
Xavi, the imperial heir, shows the horrified Superguardians the head of his slaughtered mother, Lilandra. He claims that Xavier is the killer and demands that he and the X-Men must die.
Oh, hell, Cyclops concisely sums matters up. Even while he thinks to himself that Charles would never do this to Lilandra, the giant Superguardian Titan attacks him, smashing the ground beneath Cyclops. While Xavier gloats, Cyclops falls, along with Phoebe, Cable and Dust. Cyclops grabs the Stepford Cuckoo Phoebe and Dust, while Cable telekinetically secures all of them. Titan attacks again, figuring his psi-blockers will protect him from Cable. He has got that right. Not from X-23 though, as she tears trough his foot with her claw.
The Cassandra Nova-possessed royal heir curses and urges Titan to just step on her instead of flailing about. However, instead, Cyclops manages to keep the giant further off-balance with his optic blast. Monet follows through and takes him down with her strength, announcing that this is revenge for the death of Archangel.
Titan falls, while Cable pulls up Cyclops and a strangely reluctant Dust, who urges Cyclops to let her go rather than risk his own life for her. Scott refuses.
Xavi runs from the Titan-caused destruction helplessly shouting that he is the emperor. He is supposed to win!
On the astral pane, Xavier is little more than a drooling idiot, his mind emptied by Cassandra Nova. Gloating, she informs him that he was right to be afraid of her. He always knew she was the superior twin. She was the alpha. Now they both have proof.
Cassandra has all but forgotten about the tied-up Rachel. Like her mother, Rachel was always bonded to the Phoenix, although to a lesser extent. For most of her life, she has denied that birthright, but now she embraces it with all the wild passion in her soul.
Cassandra literally opens Xavier’s skull to find a tabula rasa inside, a blank slate she intends to fill with her own essence. And then, using their combined powers she will wipe the X-Men from existence. Suddenly, she screams in pain as now Rachel is digging her fingers into Cassandra’s skull, just as she has done before to her brother.
Back at the imperial palace, a relieved Cyclops hugs his son. The worried Cable asks if the back-up is coming any time soon, as more Guardians are coming in. Cyclops orders the Stepford Cuckoo Phoebe to keep a telepathic ear out for her sister Celeste. Then he orders Cable to find Rachel and Gambit. Cable protests, but Scott urges that Rachel is more important than she realizes. Fighting off Gladiator, he tells Cable to do as he is told. Then he turns to Magneto, who informs him that the situation is grave. The enemies’ numbers are beginning to tell, but plan B is coming into fruition.
The Acanti carrying Storm’s team exits from the stargate swallowing the Starjammer (a ship bigger than Manhattan Island). Within the Starjammer the Brood Queen embryo having taken over Aliyah addresses her children, announcing they are blessed by the fates. The Acanti thinks them trapped, but they shall make it their slave and claim its body and soul for their hive as their brethren did in the past.
Suddenly, above Aliyah a laser cuts through the ceiling and Bishop, Psylocke and Sage come through. Seeing the Brood warriors, they immediately attack with lethal force. Psylocke quickly uses her psionic blade to free the captured Nocturne and Nightcrawler. Sage notifies the others that some Brood, carrying Aliyah and the cocoon that holds Jean Grey – are about to get away. She then turns to the ship’s security system, intending to put it back online as it could deal with the Brood wholesale.
Nightcrawler grabs Aliyah’s flypack to follow them, only to get attacked by a Brood warrior from behind. Nocturne fends it off and orders Nightcrawler to teleport clear while she handles them. Kurt teleports the flightpack to Bishop, telling him he has to save Jean and Aliyah on his own, as Kurt has to help Nocturne. Using the flypack, Bishop flies into action, announcing it is as good as done.
Sage is still busy with the computer, so busy that she is ignoring the Brood closing in. Psylocke slices it apart with her blade and suggests Sage prioritize. Without even turning around, the mentat just announces that she is busy, while Psylocke and Nocturne grimly realize that they are outnumbered. She thought Betsy loves a good fight, TJ states. Psylocke smiles ferally as she replies, the more impossible the odds, the better.
Not too far away Bishop realizes that the flightpack is a piece of junk, as the Brood are about to outrun him. He can’t give them the chance to split up or duck into a side corridor. He fires and manages to have them drop Aliyah and the cocoon. He assesses that the cocoon will protect Jean and focuses on catching the girl instead. A moment later, the flightpack gives out and they both crash.
Aliyah babbles, thanking him for the rescue while simultaneously apologizing for the sorry state of her flightpack. Suddenly, she stops, exclaiming whether he is Bishop. That’s right, who is she? he asks confused. She’s Bishop too, she replies. She’s Aliyah, his daughter! She immediately hugs him.
Bishop has barely time to take in that news when they are attacked from behind by a Brood warrior. The evil Brood queen inside Aliyah momentarily takes control of the girl, silently urging the warrior to slay Bishop. The next moment, Bishop breaks the creature’s back and Aliyah is back to normal. Then Bishop notices a familiar energy signature, but too late, as Slipstream teleports in, grabs the cocoon housing Jean Grey and disappears with her, all in one smooth movement.
On the astral plane, Rachel exults in her triumph over a strangely smiling Cassandra Nova. She opens the villainness’ skull to find inside a perfect copy of the classroom she herself is in. Suddenly, Cassandra has disappeared and she herself finds herself in that classroom with Cassandra peering in from above. Hasn’t she heard the dictum about experience and guile being far more than a match for strength and youth? Cassandra mocks. Who has trapped whom? she asks as spiders, all with Cassandra’s face, stream from her mouth to attack Rachel.
The Blackbird is entering Chandilar’s atmosphere. It is covered by Iceman’s ice to handle the atmospheric friction. Nevertheless, the co-pilot, Dazzler, is very nervous about that stunt, despite Iceman’s assurance that he is a pro. And she is a reserve X-Man, she reminds him. She sings for a living. She saves the universe in her spare time, so he should forgive her for being a tad nervous. She’ll do fine, Storm, who can only move with the help of an exo-suit, assures her.
She concentrates to merge with the planet atmosphere and learns to her horror the atrocity that was committed there. She tells Iceman that they must stop the battle. Not understanding her urgency, he agrees and reminds her that this is what they are here for, to kick some major Shi’ar buttskis. She’s not talking about victory, she shouts. Something is very wrong on-planet. They have to stop the fighting completely now. Well, he is open to bright ideas, Robert amends.
A little later, backed up by Dazzler’s light show that is meant to calm everyone, Storm appears before the combatants, ordering them to stop. She explains that there are forces greater and more malevolent than any of them suspect at work.
Gladiator and Starbolt are still out for blood, particularly hers. Don’t they know what happened? Storm inquires. Gladiator shoots back that their Majestrix was murdered because of the X-Men. What else matters? Storm reveals that poor Lilandra did not die alone. Every living soul on Chandilar beyond this palace perished. Gladiator points an accusing finger at Magneto, blaming his force-pulse. Magneto reminds her that this was Plutonia’s doing when she attacked him. He is no monster and doesn’t slay indiscriminately and especially not innocents.
Cyclops chimes in, pointing out that this is way more than collateral damage. These events were set in motion for a reason. They’ve been fighting so hard, non-stop, there’s been no time to see the pattern. If you snuff out billions of lives in an instant, that represents an unimaginable storehouse of psychic energy. But if that power’s to be used against the X-Men, why provoke a battle with the Imperial Guard? And the X-Men aren’t even all there, he adds, thinking of his wife, Emma, and their children. They were attacked, apparently because Jean re-manifested as Phoenix.
A hologram of Bishop appears, announcing that Slipsteam grabbed Jean and teleported away with her. Storm exclaims that they have all been manipulated. She remind them that Plutonia clamed to have been controlled by the Immensity.
That would be me! a voice announces as the heroes are attacked by an energy blast, courtesy of a Charles Xavier possessed by Cassanda Nova. Obediently standing behind him is Slipstream, guarding the Phoenix cocoon. Cassandra smirkingly reminds Gladiator that this is just like old times, except now she is far more ambitious. She means to fulfill the destiny of the Phoenix and bring about the end of all that is!