The mood in the Blackbird is strained between its three passengers, Cyclops, Storm and Corsair. For twenty years, Scott Summers had believed himself to be an orphan. Now his belief has been destroyed by a simple revelation. Scott’s father lives, he is Corsair, leader of the Starjammers, and he has returned to Earth to seek his son’s help. The reunion so far has not been pleasant.
Storm looks at Scott guiltily, beginning that she knows something of how he feels. She is an orphan too, remember? He thought she was his friend, he spits back. A friend doesn’t betray a trust or lie. She knew Corsair was his father, yet she never told him. As he said a friend doesn’t betray her trust, she repeats his words. She promised Jean she would not reveal the truth. Scott angrily asks why she didn’t tell him. He thought they loved each other, yet she kept the secret, even when they were linked en rapport.
Corsair interrupts: he asked Jean too. He’d been away from Earth so long he had no intention of going back and, since Scott had obviously forgotten him, he thought it better not to reveal himself as a father he’d see only once briefly and then never again. He wanted to spare Scott pain.
Did he? Scott shouts, getting in his face. Wasn’t he really motivated by guilt and shame and coming face-to-face with the children he deserted? That’s unfair, Corsair defends himself. He and Scott’s mother didn’t leave by choice. They were kidnapped by the Shi’ar. Twenty years ago! Scott shouts. And in those two decades, did Corsair ever try to learn what happened to his sons?
Corsair explains that they thought they knew. When their plane was attacked, they saw the boys’ parachute catch fire. They thought they’d died in the fall. Later, Anne was executed before Corsair’s eyes and he was sold into slavery. He didn’t come home because he didn’t believe he had anything to come home to. Is grief a crime? he asks Scott. Is ignorance? If so, he stands convicted. Does that satisfy him?
It’s not that simple, Scott insists. He spent ten years in a state orphanage that was little better than a prison, praying that one day his parents would arrive to get him out of there. He tried to remember the kind of man his father was, to become a son he could be proud of. And what does he find? His father’s a pirate, as ruthless and cold-blooded as the villains the X-Men fight.
Their argument is interrupted, for suddenly the Blackbird glows and is teleported away by a transporter beam of the Shi’ar. An instant later, they find themselves aboard a Shi’ar dreadnought as do their fellow X-Men.
Wolverine immediately unsheathes his claws and orders Colossus and Nightcrawler to cover Xavier and Kitty. Xavier orders him to stand down. His telepathy reveals they are not in immediate danger.
Cyclops greets Xavier and they in turn are greeted by Gladiator, praetor of the Imperial Guard. Admiral Samedar asks Lord Chancellor Araki who these barbarians are that Gladiator addresses them with such respect. Coolly, Araki remarks that if Samedar had scanned the briefing tapes he’d provided, he’d know who the X-Men are and quickly describes them for him.
Xavier reminds his team to stay calm, even though there is no love lost between them and the Shi’ar. They won’t fight unless provoked. Right now, he’s feeling really provoked, Wolverine snarls.
Xavier reiterates his order for him to control himself and addresses Araki, demanding an audience with Empress Lilandra. That’s not possible, Araki replies and asks them to follow him to the briefing room. There, via a hologram, they are shown the events Corsair already informed Cyclops and Storm about, how at the meeting of her last grand council Lilandra was abducted by terrorists and many of her ministers were slain.
Xavier worries for his beloved and asks who is responsible for this outrage. Wolverine, always the sensitive one, opines that this is a Shi’ar problem and none of their concern. Araki corrects him that it is very much their concern. The trail leads to Earth, the evidence implicates inhabitants of their world.
Are they serious? Wolverine scoffs. They can barely fly to their own moon. The Shi’ar live in anther galaxy. Suppose Lilandra is here, Cyclops interjects, what do they want to do about it? Liberate her if she is alive, Araki replies, avenge her if she is not. Corsair is one of the conspirators. He will be punished for his treason. They will use Xavier’s psychic bond with the empress to locate her. Then, they will send a force of imperial guards and combat troopers to effect her release.
Xavier forbids this. He reminds them he is Shivarn’n halanau – the Imperial Consort. This course of action would certainly result in Lilandra’s death and the destruction of lives and property on Earth as well.
Samedar states dismissively that they are barbarians, lacking even a world government. Their lives, their puny planet mean nothing to the Shi’ar. Does he defy his lawful order? Xavier challenges him.
Araki steps between them. Xavier’s order will be obeyed… to a point. He will withhold imperial action for one rotation of their world about its planetary axis to allow the X-Men the opportunity to save Lilandra. After that, however, he shall take whatever action he and Samedar deem appropriate. As a guarantee of their good faith, he requires two hostages.
Xavier addresses Cyclops, asking for his suggestions. As an afterthought, he includes Storm as well. Storm notices the order and it does not go well with her. At last, they have decided on Nightcrawler and Kitty remaining behind as hostages. As Xavier gives Kitty a farewell hug, he quickly and secretly fills her brain with all his knowledge of the Shi’ar. Overwhelmed, Kitty faints.
The X-Men are teleported down to the ruins of Xavier’s school and though he hides his feelings well this sight does indeed break Xavier’s heart. From there, it’s a relatively short drive to Avengers Mansion. Regrettably, only one Avenger, their latest member Tigra and their butler Jarvis are in residence, the rest of the team is away on various missions. A phone call to the Baxter Building gets a recorded message that the Fantastic Four are likewise unavailable.
Sitting in the den, Colossus and Wolverine wonder what to do while Tigra hovers above Wolverine’s armchair. She tries to cheer him up. Wolverine extends his claws, warning her to back off. He ain’t in the mood. Pissed off, Tigra tries to attack, as Colossus gets between them. That moment, Xavier, Cyclops and Jarvis enter. Cyclops shouts at them to behave, adding that Kitty behaves more like an adult than the lot of them put together.
Jarvis offers them tea and sandwiches and asks if the Professor is all right. He doesn’t look well. What’s happening, Charles? Wolverine asks. Xavier protests against that nickname. If Wolverine must be familiar, Charles will do, better yet Professor. Anyway, he attempted to establish telepathic contact with Lilandra. But he was anticipated. Their foes rigged a psionic ambush and he barely managed to escape. But he established a rough fix on Lilandra’s location. She is very close, somewhere in New York, perhaps even Manhattan. When he is rested, he shall make another attempt. By the way, where is Corsair? He has some questions for him. Wolverine replies that his scent is faint. He isn’t in the house. Neither is Storm. But if it’s urgent, he can track them.
At that moment in an observation blister above the Shi’ar flagship, Kitty is overwhelmed at the sight of Earth from space. Kurt notes she’s shivering in her bikini and suggests she get some new clothes. Kitty shows him a gizmo she’s discovered. It makes clothes. Standing beneath it, she has her clothes change into a gown, an elegant costume, a Shi’ar outfit and finally Darth Vader.
Kitty explains that their captors think she’s just playing. But, under the cover of that, she’s been using the knowledge the Professor punched into her skull to tap the ship’s primary computer. With that on their side, plus his power to teleport and hers to phase, they’ll be able to go anywhere and do anything.
In the meantime, Corsair and Ororo are walking the streets of Manhattan, uncaring of the looks Corsair gets due to his outfit. He muses how much the place has changed. And yet it all seems so primitive to him. His world isn’t… his anymore.
Ororo remarks that she’s heard similar sentiments from Colossus. Because of his experiences as an X-Man, Peter fears he has lost forever the simple farmer’s life he once enjoyed. He cannot return to innocence anymore. None of them can.
Corsair muses that Scott was right. He should have come back. But when his wife died, he died. How does he explain a loss like that and what it does to a man? Scott would understand, Ororo remarks. No, Corsair insists. To understand he has to live through it. Precisely, Storm agrees. Corsair recalls that Scott loved Jean Grey, Phoenix. He hasn’t seen her among the other X-Men. She is dead, Storm explains gently. Oh, his poor boy, Corsair exclaims. They were so happy, so… right together. How did it happen?
While Ororo relates the tragic story to him, strange reptile-like aliens watch them. On the command of their mistress, the Brood Warrior fires the weapon, a psi-scream, at them and reality shatters around Corsair and Storm… Images of their most primal fears and hatreds are ripped from their deepest subconscious, to be twisted and reshaped – to make them even more hideous – before finally being unleashed. Under such an onslaught even the strongest of minds quickly go insane.
Deathbird notes with satisfaction that the psi-scream worked. They are helpless as she attacks them. While preferring a proper fight, there is too much at stake right now to play fair. She does them honor, she announces, for they are among the first to fall before the new empress of the Shi’ar - Deathbird.
Before she can kill them, though, she is hit by an optic blast. The rest of the X-Men and Tigra have arrived.
Deathbird falls and Tigra gets ready to engage her, despite her snappy patter aware of the danger the fallen poses thanks to the Avengers files. She jumps at Deathbird, announcing she guesses Deathbird knows what cats do to canaries. The two women struggle until Deatbird dislodges her. Instead of plummeting to her death, though, Tigra gets by using her acrobatics.
Deathbird unclips a pair of energy javelins from her gauntlets and fires at them, Xavier most specifically. Colossus automatically throws himself infront of the Professor. Cyclops fires at Deathbird, again noting that she seems to be as tough as Wolverine. He dare not use any more power. His optic blast at anywhere near its full strength would probably kill her.
Deathbird flees into the construction site of a skyscraper. Cyclops orders Wolverine to flush her out but warns him she is not alone. Storm and Corsair were fired at by a sniper from within the IBM construction site. The more, the merrier, comes the reply. He addresses Tigra. If she wants to learn how to live dangerously, she should tag along.
Meanwhile, Storm and Corsair are engaged in a private war against each other. When Cyclops and Colossus separate them, Corsair instantly attacks Cyclops, believing his son to be D’ken. As Corsair tries to throttle him, Cyclops finds he doesn’t have the heart to use his optic blast against his estranged father.
Xavier intercepts by restoring Corsair and Storm to normal with his telepathy. Horrified, Corsair apologizes, perhaps Scott’s feelings about him are justified. And perhaps he passed judgment before all the evidence was in, Scott admits. This wasn’t Corsair’s fault. One of Deathbird’s flunkies made them crazy.
“Deathbird?” At the mention of her name Corsair manifests his blasters. She’s part of the reason he came to Earth. The Starjammers learned that she’s the guiding force behind the rebellion against Lilandra. An angry Storm flies towards the construction site, ready to engage Deathbird.
At that moment high above in the construction site a disgusting looking reptile – Skür’kll, a Brood warrior - gets ready to use the psi scream again, this time on Xavier, already looking forward to the effect the device will have on a telepath. Unfortunately, that moment Wolverine has found it. The Brood attacks. The fight is as one sided as it is brief.
But Skür’kll does not act alone and so an unsuspecting Storm is shot at with a tangleweb, which explodes around her and envelopes her in its clinging constricting strands. Though snared, she does not fall, for her mind controls the winds that keeps her aloft and is unimpaired, but then the web begins to tighten….
Nearby, another sniper enters the fray. Its target is Xavier. Once more, Colossus shields the professor with his nigh-invulnerable armored body. It’s an instinctive reaction and a costly one, as he finds his body burning. The shell was filled with acid that burns through his armored skin.
Cyclops orders Tigra to dive for Storm and swing her towards Wolverine, an order to which she complies. Wolverine orders Storm not to move as he slashes her free, after which Storm then catches the falling Tigra and thanks her.
They land on the ground where they see smoke coming from Colossus’s chest as the acid burns through his skin. He fears his good fortune is at an end, he moans. Nonsense, Storm retorts curtly as a lightning bolt flares from one hand, a monsoon downpour from the other, the former to vaporize the acid, the latter to wash it away and cleanse the wound. As she and Cyclops help Colossus to stand, she reminds him gently that she is a goddess of life as well as of storms. If it is within her power to save him, she shall. Cyclops tells Colossus the battle is over for him He is to stay with the professor while the rest of them clean out Deathbird’s nest.
Meanwhile, Wolverine battling a Brood warrior is almost impressed by its fighting skills. As it inevitably falls, it shouts that the Brood will still triumph. The others wonder what that was. Wolverine has no idea, but it ain’t human and it ain’t nice. It calls itself Brood and is hooked up with Deathbird. Before their eyes, it disintegrates. Tidy buggers, Wolverine comments. That’s the last sniper taken care of.
Wolverine saw Corsair heading to the basement before Storm got zapped. Indeed, down there Corsair is in a shootout with more Brood, a species he doesn’t recognize. He is joined by the X-Men.
Scott calls him “pop” and asks if he is having a good time. No complaints, what kept them? Corsair deadpans. Traffic, what else? Scott retorts in kind. When he called him “pop,” Corsair remarks, it didn’t sound like a joke or an insult. It wasn’t, Cyclops admits. He doesn’t know Corsair well enough to hate him or love him. He doesn’t know him at all. But he’d like to learn. Fair enough, Corsair replies and takes his hand. Now c’mon and let’s rescue the empress, he suggests.
Neither defenders nor hatch last for very long. But, when the dust settles and the heroes charge forward, they find Deathbird holding Professor X hostage. They left him in Colossus charge, Storm recalls. What could have happened?
Scott figures that Deathbird must be inhibiting Xavier’s psi-powers. Her talons are at Xavier’s throat, so he dare not use his optic blast. They stand back and Deathbird fires an energy javelin at them.
Immediately afterwards, she takes off with her prisoner in a starship which had been hidden by the construction site. The launch is impressive, no less so is its aftermath as sixty stories of glass, granite and concrete come crashing down. And at the bottom of that incredible mountain of debris are the X-Men.
Later, after digging themselves out, they go looking for Colossus and find him in human form impaled by one of Deathbird’s javelins. Scott cries for someone to call an ambulance. Shaken, Wolverine replies it wouldn’t make a difference if one was here already. Petey’ll be missed and avenged, he vows.
A moment later, they are surrounded by armed policemen, who inform them they are under arrest.