A late night at the X-Mansion and Professor Xavier is restless. While he tries not to eavesdrop, his mind nevertheless roams and finds other inhabitants of the mansion awake.
Storm and Forge are in the kitchen and Ororo expresses her disappointment at her lover intending to leave the next day. Forge apologizes but tells her that Washington expects the X-Factor budget at the end of the month, which gives him ten days to figure out how to run the project with half last year’s funds. Ororo expresses her regret at their leading such complicated lives. They spend more time apart than together. Forge agrees. They need to get away – the more remote and romantic the better. Xavier understands too well the difficulties duty and distance place on a relationship.
They are all startled by a noise from outside, as is Jubilation Lee, another restless sleeper. The four of them race outside to find an armored Shi’ar, announcing that he has come for them. The X-Men wonder why his manner seems so belligerent, but Xavier quickly defuses what might otherwise turn into a nasty situation and orders them to step down. He introduces the Shi’ar as L’deroh, an envoy of royal commission. The armor is merely ceremonial.
Xavier asks L’deroh to what they owe the honor and the envoy explains that he has been instructed to ensure the presence of the royal consort and his X-Men aboard the craft immediately. Before the four can protest, a tractor beam transports the aboard. L’deroh apologizes but time necessitates a quick departure from the solar system, if they are to arrive on Hala in time before the ceremonies begin.
Xavier is getting fed up and demands an explanation. Why are they sent to the Kree homeworld? L’deroh again apologizes and explains that stargate traffic has quadrupled with ships en route to Hala, hence his passage E was delayed. He presents them with the invitation – announced by a hologram of Lilandra. The hologram greets them and requests the X-Men’s presence at the formal joining of the Kree territories to the Shi’ar Imperium.
While Forge wryly points out that he, Storm and Jubilee hardly qualify as the X-Men Storm observes that this was an extremely formal invitation. More like a politely worded royal command, Xavier corrects. This doesn’t sit well with Jubilee. This is an extremely pushy girlfriend Xavier has, she whines.
Storm observes that the Professor seems agitated and he admits that, between his and Lilandra’s duties, their subspace communications have grown more and more infrequent. He worries about the growing distance between them. And while he is always glad to see her, he does find her presumption that the X-Men can simply be spirited away at her order disturbing. He may be making more of crossed lines of communications than he should, Ororo tries to comfort him. Xavier silently agrees. Surely he and Lilandra have weathered far greater obstacles to their romance than just distance. He recalls the start of their relationship.
They built their relationship in the eye of a storm. He never expected that, when the X-Men fought against Lilandra’s mad brother, D’ken, that his sister would so completely overwhelm him. After too many years of suppressing his emotional needs, the intensity of his feelings for Lilandra threw him completely off-balance. To be with her, he not only abandoned the planet of his birth, but left the X-Men in the care of his greatest adversary, a then-reformed Magneto. It was only after the duplicitous machinations of Lil’s sister, Deathbird, failed and the attempted coup by the shapechanging Skrulls was revealed, that Xavier realized that, in spite of his love for Lilandra, he could no longer remain in the royal aerie of Chandilar.
If only he had fallen in love with the girl next door, he thinks, and not with a woman from an galaxy light-years from Earth – accessible only by traveling through a Shi’ar stargate near the sun.
The ship enters the stargate and, moments later, they arrive near Hala, the former capital of the alien Kree empire, now part of the Shi’ar empire. With all those gnarly looking ships circling the place you’d think the war wasn’t over, Jubilee observes and L’deroh admits that certain factions of the Kree refuse to acknowledge the Shi’ar victory. The armada’s presence is temporary until they accept their place within the Imperium.
Xavier sadly recalls what led to this: none paid a greater price during the Kree-Shi’ar war than the Kree themselves, whose entire race was nearly obliterated by the detonation of a nega-bomb. Hala bears wounds that yet have to heal. Their ship lands and they step out into the ruins waiting for the speeder that is to transport hem to Kree’lar. It’s like a ghost town that still reeks of death, Forge observes and Storm wonders how two so advanced civilizations could engage in such senseless battle. Xavier adds that the Kree were a race of soldiers and scientists. They received the largest casualties in the war. Many of the surviving Kree have returned to Hala since the war’s end. Perhaps they seek some understanding of the damage wreaked upon them by their leaders.
They enter the speeder and L’deroh points out that the Kree are surely far better off as members of the Imperium. History will be the judge of that Storm announces as they arrive at the new capitol building. It’s a huge luxurious place and Storm is uneasy about a government that invests more time in symbols than in their people. Xavier says nothing, but he too is troubled by the disparity of the war-torn world outside and the opulence of the interior.
An administrative liaison takes over and he notes disapprovingly that they are late. He doesn’t suppose they’ve received a schedule of their ceremonial engagements… that would be too much to ask. Xavier announces that he wants to see Lilandra. Impossible, the administrative replies. The Majestrix is far too busy. Perhaps he can fit him in after closing. Xavier asks him to at least make sure Lilandra knows they’ve arrived. Storm asks for a chance to bathe and relax and Forge points out that he didn’t have time to rent a tux. Taking a look at their nighclothes, Baranka states that he though that was a quaint Terran costume and asks another servant to see that the Terrans are properly dressed for the ceremony.
As the ceremony begins, Xavier, equipped with a Shi’ar hover chair, muses about his misgivings regarding the new Viceroy - Deathbird, Lilandra’s sister, a woman who has made cruelty and treachery an art. Following the Shi’ar victory, Lilandra named Deathbird Viceroy of the Kree territories, believing her treacherous sister might be less of a threat in public view and hoping that the covetous sibling would find the realities of office more bittersweet than imagined.
Xavier notices only few Kree in the crowd. Deathbird addresses the crowd, boasting in overblown terms of power and might of the Shi’ar Imperium. He tries to listen but Lilandra’s quiet entrance onto the balcony distracts him. Telepathically, he signals her, to be gently rebuffed - This is, after all, a royal function.
Elsewhere, Storm, Forge and Jubilee have been relegated to a balcony of dignitaries and diplomats of lesser rank. None of them feel comfortable. Storm and Forge criticize the celebration of the spoils of war, whereas Jubilee is simply bored. She leaves intending to check out the action below. She mingles with some Kree, who tell her to stop mocking Deathbird. Does she know what the guards will do if they hear her? She finally sees a blue-skinned Kree girl her own age and addresses her. What do they do for fun around here? The surprised girl asks if she is Terran and how does she speak their language. Translator plug in her ear, Jubilee explains.
A big Kree angrily addresses the girl as Shym’r and asks what she is doing. The Terran is one of the royal guests. She could ruin everything. He draws Shym’r away and Jubilee wonders what that was about.
On the balcony, Deatbird introduces Lilandra and the audience’s mood shifts noticeably. Deathbird engendered fear and dislike but Lilandra commands a grudging respect from her Kree audience. Still, even as Lilandra tries to calm the crowd, promising the Kree a bright future as members of the Imperium Xavier senses a great unease in the crowd that even Lilandra’s words cannot assuage.
Suddenly, a blue-skinned Kree in the crowd draws a gun, calling Lilandra a liar. Does she expect them to believe the Imperium cares anything for the Kree, when they are made to suffer the heartless rule of the scavenger royal Deathbird? ‘Death to the Shi’ar viceroy!” he shouts. Xavier feels the gunman’s rage and the sympathy and support from the crowd. Behind him Shi’ar guards rush beside her take aim and fire at the Kree with the weapon, even as Jubilee recognizes him as the man she saw with the girl. Surviving on pure hatred, the Kree mocks if they think that could destroy a true son of Hala. Refusing to surrender, Trigor commits suicide with a grenade rather than allow himself to be taken.
The balcony begins to collapse; its supports damaged by the blast. Deathbird takes flight, her instinct always one of self-preservation. Xavier turns to the X-Men, but they are already doing their best to minimize the chaos caused by the suicide bomb. Storm does her best to focus an updraft to keep the balcony aloft, while Forge quickly assembles a telescoping support column to buttress the falling balcony.
Lilandra addresses Charles, asking him to calm the crowd before anyone else is hurt. Xavier succeeds in doing so and Lilandra formally thanks him. Charles moves to embrace Lilandra, but stops himself. A public show of affection would be a breach of Shi’ar etiquette. Politely, he replies that her safety is always his concern.
Lilandra apprises him of the situation, explaining that a minority of Kree are determined to continue the war. Her soldiers will hunt down those who conspire against the royal house, Deathbird announces. The would-be-assassin was identified as one of the Kree resistance front. Sometimes, she wishes the negabomb had eliminated the entire ungrateful race…
Most of the Kree are dead and she expects the survivors to be grateful, Jubilee asks, disbelieving. Deathbird replies that the child should return to the nursery. Jubilee is about to throw a fit, until Lilandra apologizes but supports her sister’s view at the same time. Until they have completed the rite of passage, children have no voice in Shi’ar society. She suggests they retire for the night.
Taking in the luxurious suite he shares with Storm, Forge expresses some unease over this extravagance, given the state of the rest of Hala. He notices that Storm isn’t really listening and she admits that she was thinking of Charles and Lilandra. Despite their love for one another, there is so much that tests their relationship. As they embrace, she tells him that she has seen so many relationships break apart with bitterness and acrimony clouding the memory of what was once intimate and strong. There are no guarantees in love, he replies, as she should know. Whether you are half a block apart or half a galaxy you still have to work to keep things together. Nobody said it was easy… Staying outside alone, Storm is clearly uncomfortable with the thought.
Jubilee finds herself stuck in a literal nursery, filled with stuffed plush animals. Pissed, she sneaks out for some reconnaissance and fun. She sees the girl from before and asks her to wait. The girl disappears around a corner. Instead, Jubilee sees hostile-looking Kree, several of them maimed and crippled.
Suddenly, the girl grabs her from behind and threatens her with a knife. Why did she follow her, she demands to know. Jubilee bursts lose with her pyrotechnic energy telling the girl – Shym’r to back off. She doesn’t want to hurt her, just ask some questions. Why doesn’t she ask the viceroy, the girl spits back. They aren’t on speaking terms, Jubes retorts and asks why the guy blew himself up. Shym’r decides to talk with her, but somewhere else. It is already after curfew.
Leading her elsewhere, the girl explains that Trgior was her brother. He believed that killing the viceroy would force the Shi’ar to leave Hala. She leads them to an underground room, where the other resistance members are meeting. Jubilee points out the number of armed ships circling the planet and Shym’r explains that, with Deathbird in power, they have nothing to lose. Jubilee points out that the odds are not in their favor. Do they know how many ships are in orbit around the planet?
They watch as the others plan their next action, and one of them mentions that Trigor had gone off on his own even after Malakii forbade them. The girls join them and Shym’r introduces Jubilee. The others get angry and Shym’r points out that Jubilee is a Terran and neutral. One of the rebels, Visog intends to kill Jubilee with a knife, but the girl easily sidesteps him and kicks him in the back. He tells her to prepare to die as a metal hand grabs his wrist. A huge scarred Kree with a metallic left arm announces that he is Malakii, leader of the resistance, and she has a very limited time in which to explain her presence. Jubilee decides to go easy on the wisecracks and starts explaining.
Back in the palace, Charles Xavier reminisces about the intimacy he and Lilandra once shared. They were truly soulmates. Now, the memory of that bond makes the distance between them all the more painful. With her back turned to him, Lilandra apologizes. But her schedule allowed her not time to contact him until L’Deroh arrived at the school. Xavier explains that he came willingly. He was just surprised at the abrupt nature of the invitation. Lil confides that the aftermath of the war weighs heavily on her. The Shi’ar are not without blame for the destruction of the Kree. She has sworn not to let such a thing happen again.
Charles understands the sacrifice of personal need for such a responsibility. Lilandra shushes him, but the buzz of an intercom signal shatters their stolen moment. A guard informs them that a detention center reports holding a young, female Terran guest on curfew violation. They are unsure of diplomatic protocol given that the Terran is here by royal invitation. Lilandra angrily shatters her glass, shouting that, in the Imperium, children know their place. Surprised by her outburst, Xavier tells her he will handle this.
Charles gets Jubilee out of the detention center, announcing how disappointed he is. They take a walk as Jubilee asks if they are alone, to then continue with her explanation. The Kree are hurting and they are ready to fight, she tells him and continues that he must know Deathbird doesn’t give a damn about the Kree. She met Malakii, the resistance leader, that night. She thinks he is willing to talk if somebody will listen. Somebody like him. She wants him to act as an intermediary with someone considered as a terrorist? he asks. Jubilee reminds Xavier that Malakii could have killed her, but let her go.
Xavier returns to Lilandra’s side, more aware than ever that the politics of the Shi’ar Imperium cannot be separated from the woman he loves. He tells her they have to talk, while inwardly he is reminded of “Romeo and Juliet.” Shakespeare called their doomed love-affair “starcrossed”. Unfortunately that romantic metaphor has become to literal a reality for him. Lilandra calls him to her, but he just replies that they have to talk.
The next day, the four X-Men, now dressed in rags, walk towards the market place, where Malakii agreed to contact Jubilee. Xavier walks uncomfortably, but walk he does, with the help of some braces and crutches Forge rigged for him. Still, his discomfort is nothing compared to the pain he senses around them. Dressed in a hooded cloak to obscure her features is Lilandra, who insisted on accompanying them. She reminisces about the war, still wishing things had gone differently.
They witness a Shi’ar guard abusing a woman and her child for begging, which has been prohibited by the viceroy during the time of the celebrations. Angrily, Liandra intends to put a stop to this, but Xavier holds her back, telling her she cannot afford to be recognized. Instead, he uses his psychic powers overpowering the guard, allowing mother and child to flee. The display does not go unnoticed, as Shym’r curiously asks if all Terrans have their abilities. She is their contact. As she leads them away, she confides how unusual Malakii agreeing to this is, as Deathbird has put a bounty on his head.
The girl leads them to the remains of the temple of scientific revelation, once a museum and shrine to the Kree’s absolute devotion to technology. Save for a handful of squatters and slug-mongers, the temple has been abandoned. One Kree offers to sell them fresh meat. Once they are inside, he contacts the Shi’ar guards, notifying them about the Terrans’ whereabouts.
Inside, Xavier warns the others of the resistance members lying in wait for them. Visog reacts nervously as there are more Terrans than expected. Training his weapons on them, he announces that they cannot be trusted. Angrily, Storm grabs his weapon from him, asking how fare he threaten them when they come at his leader’s request?
Forge asks her not to get upset. Taking the gun, he disassembles it within seconds, pointing out that the Kree’s weapons don’t intimidate them. If it were up to him, they wouldn’t be that smug, Visog snarls. But it isn’t up to him, Malaki, who joins them, states. Xavier remarks that he hopes Malakii has a more open mind than Visog or they will both be wasting their time. Malakii is glad that Xavier is direct. Hence, they can dispense with diplomatic niceties. Xavier points out that, while he is there to listen, he is hardly a diplomat. He cannot speak for the Imperium. But she can, Lilandra announces as she reveals herself.
Visog urges Malakii to take the chance and take her hostage. They’ll force the Shi’ar to leave.
Or goad them into destroying the Kree, Malakii replies grimly. No, they will talk with Lilandra first. He is curious why she suddenly evinces concern for a world she previously threw to her sister like a bone to a dog.
Changing the subject, he asks if Lilandra believes in an afterlife. It is part of her religion, she explains. Malakii has no faith in any god’s promises. The Kree prized science and rational thought, and so they created a living god to those ideals, the Supreme Intelligence. They sold their souls to that infernal meld of computer and organics and in return they were rewarded with genocide. The Supreme Intelligence had manipulated the Shi’ar into building a nega-bomb to create a superior genetic line out of the Kree survivors. Kree and Shi’ar alike: there is blood on both their hands! But while has no nostalgia for the empire of the past he does not wish to live under her power-mad sister’s caprices.
While Lilandra and Malakii discuss matters, Dantella and Visog have made up their minds. Malakii is wasting his time. They still have the stargate option. They leave watched by the youngsters who secretly follow.
Lilandra asks Malakii how he can justify yesterday’s attempt on her sister’s life if he is truly tired of war. He would shed no tears if Deathbird died, Malakii admits. But Trigor acted against his orders. Desperate acts are rapidly becoming all they have left. Xavier backs Malakii up, announcing that he senses no duplicity in his thoughts. He is hopeful: it’s a tentative start.
Others wish to shatter those hopes, as Dantella and Viosg arm up, intending to fly and begin the implosion sequence to destroy the stargate. Dantella points out the risk to Hala, but Visog eggs her on. The girls have caught this and Shym’r runs towards the two adults, telling them that Malakii hasn’t authorized this. Visog is convinced that Malakii has sold them out to the Shi’ar. Shym’r would understand if she weren’t as stupid as her brother. He hits her. Jubilee threatens to use her powers, but Dantella takes her out before she can act.
Makaii and Liladra are still deep in discussion when, suddenly, the temple wall explodes in a flash of light and thunderous roar. Armed and armored Shi’ar guards demand they stand down immediately. Everyone is under arrest by order of the viceroy. Xavier tells Malakii to get his people out while they will cover their escape. Lilandra dons her hood. She mustn’t be recognized, as this would be seen as a sign of mistrust in her sister’s government. Storm creates an ice cold winter gale to stop the guards and the mutants follow Malakii and his people through one of the few existing railway tunnels.
On the way, they find Jubilee and Shym’t, who tell them of Visog’s plan. It was meant to be a final contingency plan, Malakii explains. This tunnel leads to the airfield where they kept a shuttle to carry out the stargate destruction. By the time they reach the launch area, the shuttle is already in the air.
Forge considers a worst-case scenario: as the stargate is an artificial wormhole, the result of the planned implosion could lead to a gravimetric well that would pull everything within the solar system within its maw. As Shym’r points out that the shuttle won’t make it past the armada, Malakii replies that to the armada’s computers it will appear as an unmanned probe. Practically, Storm suggests they need another vessel to give chase. They have a tug they’ve been trying to retrofit, but it is not the fastest, Malakii offers. But it is all they have and very soon they lift off without Shym’r or Jubilee, as neither Malakii nor Lilandra wish to endanger children. Xavier again considers how alike those two leaders are and how they would not like to hear it.
Malakii compliments Lilandra on her piloting ability and she explains that she learned both from her time at the academy and her time with the Starjammers. She already has a solution for getting them past the armada and Xavier, watching her in her element wonders how they ever found time for each other in the middle of their chaotic lives.
Lilandra manages to coax enough speed out of the freighter to catch the shuttle as it nears the stargate. They contact the other ship via com frequency and Malakii orders Visog to shut down the implosion sequence. He can’t turn back now, Visog replies with a grin. The shuttle is a bomb primed to destruct the heart of the stargate. Dantella changed her mind, so he had to kill her…
Malakii pleads and reminds Visog this was meant to be their final option. They can’t give up the fight. He would die a thousand times for their people’s freedom, Visog replies. With a grin, he holds a gun to his temple and tells Malakii he’ll see him in the quantum fields. A shot and nothing more.
So much for talk, Lil states grimly. She cannot override the destructive sequence. They can do it manually from the engine core of the shuttle, Forge suggests. But that involves getting there. Plus, he doesn’t understand everything about Shi’ar and Kree tech. He might cut the wrong wire figuratively speaking. Malakii explains that he knows the core backwards and forward. Before the war, he was an aeronautics designer. If he hadn’t lost the hand during the war, he could repair it. Xavier offers to link the men’s minds, if they get close enough to the ship. They do and manage to link the ships with an umbilical tether. Not very secure, but it’s all they have.
Forge tells Ororo good-bye and she asks him to take care. Dressed in space suits, Malakii and Forge climb the tether to the other ship and begin to talk. Linked through the psychic rapport Xavier created between them, they see the similarities in their lives, the injuries they sustained in war and the women they love or loved. They begin to feel a kinship.
Inside the ship, Forge runs into trouble with the ship’s CPU and Malakii suggests changing the wave frequency of the explosion. If they can make it resonate with the energy required to keep the stargate open, it might augment rather than disrupt the wave field structure. Forge begins to follow his instructions, working as fast as he can.
Soon, Xavier warns them to get out, before they are drawing too close to the stargate. Several seconds before detonation, they reach for the tether before it is detached from the shuttle.
They get in and the ship leaves moments before the fireworks start. The stargate holds, the mission was a success.
However, the celebration is cut short when a Shi’ar cruiser orders them to prepare themselves for being boarded. The Shi’ar are in for a surprise, when Lilandra identifies herself and orders them to transport them back to Hala.
Back on Hala, Malakii laughs for the first time, recalling the faces of the soldiers when they saw their sacred Majestrix with them. However, the laughter dies abruptly, for they are expected by Deathbird, who orders her soldiers to arrest the Kree, claiming they kidnapped the Majestrix. Jubilee protests and Malakii states in dejection that he should have expected this. They all wait for Lilandra’s response and she finally states that the Kree helped avert a disaster that would have wreaked havoc on the entire planetary system.
With a smirk, Deathbird reminds her of the resistance’s acts of terrorism, not to mention the failed assassination attempt on her. Lilandra cannot deny they are enemies of the state.
To Charles’ surprise, Lilandra agrees and orders the men to take them. Charles protests and Lilandra points out that Malakii may have defused a bomb, but it was one of his own making. Deatbird congratulates her on making the right decision and Shym’r angrily tells Jubilee that Visog was right. The Shi’ar care nothing for the Kree. She runs refusing to be caught. She’d rather die like Trigor.
Seeing the soldiers shooting at the girl, Jubilee angrily lashes out at them with her powers but is overwhelmed. Xavier tells her that she is outnumbered and Malakii has surrendered to prevent further bloodshed. He turns to Lilandra, pointing out that taking Malakii prisoner will not lessen the tension between Shi’ar and Kree. Lilandra replies that she will consider Malakii’s words, but he is a known terrorist and only represents a handful of people. It is a difficult decision but one she makes for the safety of Hala and of the Imperium. He’s not talking to her as Majestrix, Xavier implores. But it is who she is above all else, Lilandra replies. Making an exception for Malakii would encourage other acts of terror. For the greater good of the empire, sacrifices must be made.
Xavier begins to understand. She will always be Majestrix first, he agrees before turning away. Lilandra states that this isn’t about them. But it is, he replies. She cannot abandon her empire and he cannot leave the X-Men - That leaves little room for them. Lilandra reaches out but Xavier replies that he doesn’t know, telling himself not to look back.
The return voyage is interminably long to Xavier. Ororo, Forge and Jubilee worry about his silence, but Xavier feels he won’t be ready to talk until they are back home where familiar sights and duties will lessen the pain. Right now, he feels adrift in space, directionless and very alone.