Long ago, X-Factor’s Ship awoke in the hands of the arch fiend Apocalypse. It naturally assumed that Apocalypse had built it as his massive, mobile headquarters. Now though, Ship isn’t so sure. The mutant heroes X-Factor freed Ship and removed blocks placed on its burgeoning awareness. X-Factor took Ship for their own, treating it as both environment and as friend, they had planned to explore the mystery of Ship when they had the time. Now though, time is running out! Ship’s past is lost in its own preconsciousness times. But sometimes it dreams -of space and stars and the infinite beyond….
‘X-Factor, clear the deck! Quickly! We are under attack!’ Ship announces. X-Factor find themselves knocked backwards as Ship soars upwards, almost at a ninety degree angle. ‘Clear the deck? No way! But, Ship, who’s attacking? And why?’ Bobby “Iceman” Drake asks. Ship replies that it is uncertain, ‘I know only that I am being impelled y a mysterious force…and that our destination, at present, is a matter for speculation’. Scott “Cyclops” Summers remarks that the force of their acceleration is incredible, to which Ship agrees, and announces that in mere minutes they will break free of the envelope of air surrounding the Earth.
Ship tells X-Factor that since they refuse to go below the deck, he has constructed shields to protect their surface air supply, and to protect them from flying off into space. ‘Space. So…beautiful’ Jean “Marvel Girl” Grey remarks as she gazes out into the glittering open space. ‘I feared that I would never…soar through space again!’ Jean declares, before taking flight, bursting through the shield that Ship erected, surrounded only by her telekinetic shield. ‘Jean, no! What are you doing?’ Scott, holding onto his son Nathan Christopher, asks.
Warren “Archangel” Worthington III grabs a cable as he exclaims ‘Explosive decompression! She shattered Ship’s protective shield!’. Scott tells Warren to get after Jean, remarking that she will not be able to breathe out in space. ‘We’ll lose her! She’ll die!’ he exclaims. As Warren, with the cable tied around him, flies towards the hole in the shield, he tells Cyclops to grab something, remarking that everything not nailed down is being sucked into space. ‘We don’t want to lose you and the baby, too!’ Warren tells his friend. Scott hooks his legs around a railing and tells Warren not to worry about them, just to get Jean.
‘So…cold, here. Can’t breathe. How? Why? Madelyne…’ Jean thinks to herself, before passing out. Hank “Beast” McCoy grabs the cabling and tells Warren to secure Jean, while he reels him back. ‘And remember - you too are incapable of breathing in a vacuum!’ Hank points out. With debris soaring past him, Warren flies towards Jean, then grabs her unconscious body. ‘He’s got her Beast! Now pull!’ Scott tells Hank, who begins reeling the cabling back into Ship, but points out that the debris is still flying out the hole, ‘They’ll be pulverized!’ Hank declares. ‘Leave the debris to my optic blasts!’ Scott replies as he begins blasting the flying debris.
As he and Jean are reeled back to Ship, Warren thinks to himself that Beast’s increased strength is a godsend, before realizing that he is beginning to black out from holding his breath so long. Warren sees the oncoming debris and attempts to dodge it, thankful that Scott is demolishing most of it. ‘Can’t hold on much longer…’ Warren thinks to himself, before he and Jean meet with wind resistance as they are about to be pulled through the hole in the force field. Warren retracts his wings and holds onto the cabling and Jean tight, while trusting that Cyclops and the Beast will do what they do best.
In a moment, Jean and Warren are back on the deck, and Iceman uses his powers to put an ice-plug in the hole. Ship thanks Iceman, before stating that he will be able to replenish the air which was lost and begin hull repair. ‘But Cyclops…Jean…what happened?’ Ship asks. Scott, still holding his son as Warren and Jean drop down beside him, replies that he doesn’t know, but that he will find out. Scott asks Hank to take Bobby and Warren and look to Ship, to try and find out what is going on while he talks to Jean.
Turning to Jean, Scott asks her what happened, and points out that she could have been killed. ‘We…all…could have died, couldn’t we? You, the others…even little Christopher’ Jean remarks as she puts her head to Scott’s chest, telling him that she couldn’t breathe in space. ‘It didn’t used to matter’ Jean adds. ‘It was Phoenix who didn’t have to breathe, Jean’ Scott reminds her, but Jean, tears falling from her eyes, replies that she remembers soaring, unimpeded through a universe of stars. ‘Only…I can’t do it. I have the Phoenix’ memories…only…I’m not the Phoenix’ she adds.
Scott tells Jean that he felt so helpless. ‘I didn’t want you to die’ he tells Jean, who replies that it may have been for the best. ‘Phoenix became…a destroyer. Like Madelyne’. Scott tells Jean that he loved both Phoenix and Madelyne truly, but that it is almost hard to mourn for them now, knowing that the best part of them was always Jean. As Scott says that, Jean’s expressions change, from smiling and feeling safe in Scott’s arms, to power unlimited, digging her fingers into his arm, eyes pure white, before changing again, to angry and bitter, fists clenched.
‘The best…or the worst?’ Jean asks, turning away from Scott, hugging herself as she tells Scott that she is the link, the common denominator between Phoenix and Madelyne. ‘I have their memories. They’re part of me now. Only, I’m having trouble absorbing…reconciling what happened. Sometimes…their memories…impulses…are so strong…’. Jean declares that the Phoenix inside her wanted to soar off into space, but Madelyne wanted them to die. ‘She’s dangerous…Scott. She waited…hid, till she thought her chance had come. She tried to make me kill us all!’
In another part of Ship, Bobby, Hank and Warren are at a computer console. Ship announces that partial gravity is implemented, and Bobby thanks him for that. Hank remarks that it is weird that they can access the computers, control gravity and the life support systems, and they can track where they have been, but they simply have no control over where they are going, nor why. ‘My apologies, Hank, I am trying…’ Ship states, but Bobby tells him not to sweat it, ‘You’re not the only one who’s gone off the deep end recently’ the youngest member of X-Factor remarks, before asking his teammates what is wrong with Jean anyway.
‘Who says anything’s wrong with -’ Archangel begins, before agreeing with Bobby and remarking that there is no point in fooling themselves. Warren reveals that the other day, Jean said to him that she could feel a darkness, a turbulence deep inside her. ‘It’s her recently acquiring memories. They’re having a bizarre effect on her’ Warren tells his friends. Hank remarks that he hopes what Jean acquired was only memories, to which Bobby tells him not to sweat it, ‘We are the team supreme! We saved her once. We’ll do it again if we have to!’
Suddenly Ship announces that he feels something very odd happening. ‘There on the screen. Scrolling numbers and symbols’ Bobby exclaims, motioning. ‘Oh, my stars and garters!’ Hank gasps, before picking up Warren and Bobby and bounding back across Ship to where Scott and Jean are sitting side by side, and Jean is holding onto the baby. ‘Scott, Jean - eyes to the stars!’ Hank calls out, announcing that a spectacular event is in the offing, one that they will not want to miss.
Everyone looks to the stars and sees a glorious display of colors splashed on a pink sky. ‘What…is it?’ Scott asks. ‘Hyperspace!’ Jean reveals. ‘Jean answered like she recognized it. As if she knows!’ Warren thinks to himself. ‘One minute we’re here and the next, we’re light-years away!’ Bobby exclaims. ‘The stuff of science fiction’ one of the others remarks, before Bobby declares ‘Oh man, yeah. Star Wars and the Fourth of July all rolled into one! George Lucas, eat your heart out!’ Bobby jokes. Cyclops asks Ship if he has any idea where he has taken them, to which Ship replies that he is as confused as the rest of them by this unusual occurrence.
As Ship hovers over a planet, one of the X-Factor team asks if it is possible that the denizens of the planet drew them here. Ship replies that is doubtful, as demonstrated by the gleaming lights that dot the planet’s surface, the people below are somewhat technologically sophisticated, but a closer scan of the planet reveals that most of their world has fallen into decay and disrepair. Ship announces that even the major cities appear deserted and fallen from their former glory. ‘War has ravaged this planet, Cyclops, brutal incessant war, for a thousand years!’ Ship reveals.
Suddenly, some strange sequence can be heard, and Ship reveals that it is one of the transmissions. ‘This is most odd’ Ship remarks, announcing that he understands the language, that he has an archaic form in his computer files. Five encoded translation devices appear before X-Factor, and Ship tells them to wear them and they will be able to communicate in the language of those below. Bobby puts his on his chest and presses it: ‘…troops surge in a guerrilla attack along the city’s perimeter…’ a communication states.
‘Forget communicating. It’s the least of our problems!’ Bobby remarks, before announcing that, in case no one has noticed, they are on an impact trajectory, as the planet is now right below. Ship tells Bobby not to be concerned with that. ‘Ours may be an unconventional trajectory…but it is far from uncontrolled!’ Ship states, as everyone looks at a gleaming space ship ahead of them. ‘What the heck?’ Scott exclaims, before Ship remarks that he suspects that is the craft of the unknown creatures who have brought them here. ‘Craft? It’s as big as a moon! Bigger!’ Bobby exclaims, before asking ‘Who are these guys? What do they want with us?’
‘This is mere conjecture, my friend, based on very minimal evidence…but I suspect that it may not be us those creatures want!’ Hank remarks as a spectacular massive being of gold, carrying a red staff spears before Ship, and reaches out to grab it. ‘Then who? What’s that? He just appeared out of nowhere!’ Bobby exclaims as Ship is grabbed by the strange being. ‘Our Ship is as big as Manhattan Island, and yet he holds us in the palm of his hand!’ one of X-Factor exclaims. ‘He could crush us in his fist!’ someone else points out. ‘What is he? Some kind of robot?’ someone else asks.
‘Cyke…his face…if that is his face, it’s moving toward us. He’s…staring…’ someone remarks. Jean tells the men that she feels surprise emanating from the being, maybe even satisfaction. ‘But surprise at what? And why would he be pleased?’ Jean wonders, telling the men that she wishes her telepathic powers had returned to full strength. ‘Those vague impressions tell us so little’ she exclaims, before Scott asks her if she thinks they should try and fight him. Jean replies that she doesn’t think the being means them any harm, if that’s what Scott is asking. ‘I think he’s beyond…all that’ Jean remarks. Beast points out that fighting the being would do any good in any case. ‘He appears to be supremely powerful…he can do with us whatever he chooses!’
Suddenly, X-Factor find themselves transported to the planet below, arriving in the midst of a battle field. Jean wraps Nathan Christopher in a telekinetic bubble as the heroes take in the scene playing out before them: bizarre creatures, seemingly primitive, armed with weapons, battling fully-clothed humanoids who are riding on what appear to be robotic birds, similar to Earth’s ostrich and emu. ‘The Rejects!’ shouts the female humanoid with pink hair as she casts an energy bolt at one of the primitive creatures. A bearded man riding next to her calls her Princess and exclaims that it is an ambush. ‘Keep back and let those with more experience bear the brunt of the battle!’ he tells her.
‘How dare you command me, Lord Rask? Are my powers less strong than yours? Is my cause less righteous because of my youth?’ the Princess asks, while one of the bounding so-called Rejects shouts ‘Destroy the Chosen as the would destroy us!’. ‘What is this? Where are we now?’ Archangel asks, to which the Beast remarks that he suspects they have been transported to the planet’s surface and are in the midst of a battle between warring factions. ‘And the question remains - why?’ Hank adds, before the team suddenly gets split up by the ensuing battle. Scott calls out to Jean, asking her where Christopher is, to which Jean calls back that he is safe in her telekinetic shield, before telling Scott to watch out as a creature lunges at him.
Scott defends himself with an optic blast, exclaiming that everyone in the battle has powers and that the noise and confusion are dizzying. Iceman puts an ice-shield up around himself, but someone punches through it as he remarks that there are more of the humanoid ones than the plug-uglies, but that the uglies are better fighters. ‘Taking out handsome here is a piece of cake!’ Bobby boasts as he attempts to battle his opponent once more. The Beast suggests that avoid doing something they will regret, at least until they can ascertain which side they would prefer to be on, while kicking two of the humanoids off their steeds.
Archangel blasts past one of the flying Rejects as he asks Hank what makes him think they will get the chance to choose sides? ‘Ugly or handsome, they’re all trying to kill us!’ he points out, before seeing a giant Reject hold a large boulder overhead, preparing to squash the Princess with it. The Princess screams, ‘The brave little Princess!’ Warren exclaims as he swoops down towards her, remarking that it would appear his side has just been chosen for him. Warren picks the Princess up in his arms, just as the boulder crashes down behind them. ‘You…you touch me, filth! Despite the taboos and the penalties?’ the Princess exclaims as Warren holds onto her.
‘Taboos and -?’ Warren begins, before telling the Princess that he took out that monster and saved her skin, in case she didn’t notice. ‘A simple thank you is usually the appropriate response’ Warren remarks, while the pink-haired Princess thinks to herself ‘He’s one of the Rejects! And yet, he’s beautiful…like a well honed sword! I cannot…must not think such thoughts! Unclean! I am unclean! And why -’ she stops thinking, before asking Warren why he would save her. ‘Except…you must mean to - oh no - you can’t! You wouldn’t! Put me down! Let go!’ she declares urgently, thinking the worst.
Warren sets the Princess down near where Lord Rask is holding his ground against the Rejects. ‘Is this whole world a mad -?’ Warren begins to ask, until Lord Rask uses his weapons to smack Warren in the stomach and on the back at the same time, causing him to call out in pain. ‘Unhand the Princess, cur! Your very touch has defiled her!’ Lord Rask booms. Rask announces that, by the laws of combat, that Archangel is his prisoner. ‘And for your insolence, you will die in the Arena…where the carrion dogs will rend the flesh upon your bones!’
Iceman sees Archangel being taken prisoner, and ice-sleds to his rescue, shouting out to Rask ‘He saved her! I saw! She’s on of yours! What insanity would drive you to -?’ Bobby is interrupted by a burst of fire which is shot in front of him. ‘Fire?!’ Bobby gasps, before a woman surrounded by flames appears from under his ice-sled, ‘An antidote against too much ice!’ she points out, before remarking that they had not heard the Rejects had an ice man among them. ‘So fragile, ice…and inclined to crack under the slightest pressure!’ Lord Rask exclaims as he smacks poor Bobby in the back of the head with the blunt of his weapon.
Rask congratulates Lev on providing the distraction, before Bobby begins to fall to the ground below. ‘He was mine, Rask! I had selected him! If he dies, the death-points will be mine alone!’ Lev exclaims, telling Rask that she didn’t ask for his help. ‘And yet I gave it willingly!’ Rask replies, before pointing out that he has his prisoner, and that if the ice man lives, Lev can have him. Rask continues on battling, and no one takes any notice of a golden being from space swiftly approaching the battlefield.
Elsewhere in the battle zone, Marvel Girl continues to hold the baby in a telekinetic shield, while keeping several of the Rejects at bay. ‘Look! A baby! One of the Chosen! Grab it!’ one of the Rejects exclaims urgently. ‘Keep away from him, monster!’ Jean shouts, while the Reject reaching for Nathan Christopher exclaims that she is a telekinetic and cannot move. ‘Slice her!’ he orders. Another of the Rejects attempts to, but Jean puts up a shield around herself, blocking him. ‘Surround her! She’s one of the Chosen…and alone! How powerful can she -?’ one of the Rejects begins to ask, before Jean knocks him out.
‘Stronger than any Chosen that I’ve faced!’ another Reject remarks, while another exclaims that they need a jammer here, and quickly, otherwise they will be lost. ‘I’ve got her!’ one of them exclaims, before using his jamming abilities on her. ‘Get out of my head!’ Jean screams, but in doing so, drops her telekinetic force fields thanks to the jammer. ‘No…Christopher!’ Jean calls out, while Christopher begins to wander across the battlefield. As this happens, no one notices the golden being from space make its descent down above them.
‘Jean! I’m coming!’ Scott calls out as he blasts through the Rejects, but Scott knows that he is backed against a cliff, and doesn’t have much chance of getting to Jean, as he is not used to fighting a whole army. ‘Gots eye blasts, eh? Not bad for Chosen!’ one of the Rejects exclaims as he moves towards Cyclops, revealing that his mama has eye blasts and his papa was invulnerable. ‘I got it all!’ he exclaims as he unleashes his own optic blasts against Cyclops, whose own power does nothing to this Reject. ‘But you Chosen don’t gots mamas, no papas, neither! You big losers…all around!’ the Reject exclaims. And with that, Cyclops can do nothing to save himself from being knocked off the cliff, while the golden being from space draws ever nearer, its feet nearly setting down on the battle field.
Far across the battlefield though, the Beast knocks two of the Chosen aside, while another of the Chosen warriors holds a one-eyed Reject woman prisoner, exclaiming that the death points will be his. ‘Don’t waste her, the Reject witch will be worth more in the Arena!’ another of the Chosen remarks. ‘Death points…the Arena…the Chosen act as if the destruction of Reject lives was some kind of game!’ Hank thinks to himself, before ordering the Chosen warrior to free the Reject woman. ‘She dies, Reject! You, too, will add to my credit!’ the Chosen boasts, before the Reject woman tells him not to count his death points before they are taken.
Suddenly, ‘My…head?!!’ the Chosen gasps, before his head implodes. The Reject woman remarks that he will hardly miss it, as he didn’t use it anyway, otherwise he would never have touched a known entropist. Hank and the woman stand over the warrior’s body, as the Reject woman jokes that it is a useful battle skill, though not much use around the house. ‘I haven’t seen you before?’ she tells Hank, who begins to respond, until he notices a shadow being cast upon them all. Suddenly, everyone begins to flee, ‘A space god!’ one of the Chosen calls out. ‘He’s landing here!’ one of the Rejects exclaims as they scatter, while the golden being’s massive feet get ever closer to setting down.
Lord Rask puts the unconscious Archangel on his steed and tells the Princess to come along as they must be on their way. ‘The battle has been ended, and profitable, young Seera. Most profitably’. Princess Seera follows, thinking that the winged Reject actually touched her, so he must pay in the Arena, for it is law. ‘The talk of my disgrace will thrill the audiences and encourage the wagering…and Rask’s coffers will swell near to bursting!’. But Seera knows that the winged one saved her, ‘For some…horrible, unmentionable purpose…almost certainly…’ she begins to think, before: ‘…or perhaps…from kindness. But can a Reject even be kind? And even if he could, why would he? If only he were not so very handsome…’
Nearby, Bobby has returned to his human form, wearing his blue and white costume, he holds himself up against a boulder, while Lev soars over nearby, thinking that she has lost the body of the ice man. ‘And the points will be mine only if I can confirm his death!’ Lev tells herself, before noticing bobby propping himself up. ‘No…that cannot…it must not be!’ she tells herself, before realizing that it is her ice man, as he is still covered with a rime of frost, and reverted to one of the Chosen. Lev drops her flame guise, and appears as a young blonde woman in a yellow and orange costume, she rushes over to Bobby, telling him that she has never seen nor heard of him before. ‘Who are you?’ she asks. ‘Don’t…know…’ Bobby replies, rubbing his head. Lev remarks that he was probably caught in a jammer backlash, before asking him why he didn’t announce himself before he joined the battle.
As the space god’s feet loom down upon the scattering duellers, Lev holds onto Bobby and helps him make a getaway, thinking to herself that he is another Dualer, whose perfection has been marred by the emergence of a secondary form, making him the brunt of jests and recipient of sneers. ‘I thought I knew all of us…’ she thinks to herself, before urging Bobby on. Lev realizes that Rask will tell that she of all the Chosen mistook a Dualer for a Reject, and everyone will laugh. ‘When I’m as wealthy as Lord Rask, they will, at least hide their smirks behind their hands’ Lev tells herself, before telling Bobby that he has probably made her a laughing stock.
At that moment, the Beast’s newfound friend tells him to cease his gawking and move, as the space god is nearly upon them. ‘But…this is incredible!’ Hank exclaims as he is urged onwards. ‘Rejects - collect your prisoners! We must be gone!’ the female Reject declares, while Hank doesn’t see one of them carrying the unconscious Jean.
Elsewhere, Christopher begins to cry. ‘What’s that?’ one of the Chosen wearing full armor and a long cape asks, before seeing the baby. He picks Christopher up and remarks that the baby is perfect, a child beyond price. ‘Can’t leave you here to be crushed, can we, little perfection…?’ the Chosen remarks, taking Christopher and declaring that the scientists will pay handsomely to have him back. ‘But who could have taken him from a crèche? And what is he doing here…in the midst of a battle?’ he wonders, while Beast’s ally screams ‘It’s nearly upon us! RUN!’, as indeed, the two massive golden feet are but moments away from touching ground - and whatever else.
Nearby, Cyclops moans as he forces some unmoving Chosen and Rejects off of him. ‘Feel…like I was…hit by a truck!’ he tells himself, wondering what happened and where he is. ‘Jean! Christopher!’ Scott calls out, before seeing the situation above him. ‘Good Lord!’ he exclaims, before unleashing a powerful optic blast at the base of the space god’s foot. But that doesn’t phase the space god, who is but feet from standing on Scott, who doesn’t have time to run, as he is in the middle of the massive foot. ‘What is that thing? What the heck is going on…what a stupid way to die!’….