It’s night. Wolverine imparts a story to the X-Men and the New Mutants. His voice is low. His words unaccustomedly elegant, as he weaves a spell around the campfire. The X-Men and New Mutants are only a few hundred yards from the mansion they call home – an hour’s drive from New York City – yet it seems now as if they are all alone in the dark, the only people left in the world. Logan’s narration goes on:
“…And for the third night, while the young Samurai stood guard, gazing up at the ancient ruined castle, she heard again, with the rising of the full moon, the sound of flutes, the laughter of some joyous celebration. She thought of waking her Lord, but knew he would merely scoff and think her unworthy of her swords. No, this summons was for her alone – and alone, she would answer it.
“All was dark and supernaturally still as she mounted the hillside. She passed through the castle gates… and lo and behold, there were no longer ruins about her but a magnificent palace! Invisible hands plucked at her, exchanging rough warrior’s garb for the silken robes of a princess. Only when she felt her sword leave her side did she at last resist, holding onto it with all her strength.
“She was then led into a starlit chamber and into the presence of the most beautiful man she had ever seen. ‘Lord of the Universe am I,’ said he. “Long have I sought the perfect soul with which to share the glory of the Heavens. Join me, my dearest love, and be Queen of all creation!” He held out his hands, which had created and destroyed both worlds, and the Samurai stepped forward only to gasp in pain. Her own hand was bleeding… though her blade was sheathed, it had cut her! ‘Come,’ the Lord said. ‘Your destiny awaits, cast aside that foolish toy, as you will soon the world.’
“She wanted to, with all her heart. She had no illusions about her life or future – she was no great beauty, nor had she wealth, and few Samurai worth the name died old or in their beds. She would be alone, without home or family, with none to mourn her passing or remember that she had ever been.
“Yet, she did not move. ‘My sword is my soul,’ she said with quiet finality. ‘I will not part with it. I am sworn to the service of my Lord, Great One. I cannot in honor abandon him. This is who I am. If do not remain true to myself, then how am I worthy of you or your love? Forgive me, but I cannot go with you.’
“She felt the greatest of winds and heard the most terrible of cries… and found herself standing alone and naked atop that barren hill, holding her sword. For love, she had been offered the universe… and in love, had refused it.”
Suddenly, a crisp “snap” sound is heard and everyone jumps in the air! Sunspot asks Wolfsbane what that is. Rahne confesses she doesn’t know… she can’t see… “Who’s there?!” she asks aloud, equally nervous to the others.
Storm appears, with an armful of wood. She explains the fire was burning low and she thought to gather more wood. She apologizes if she startled anyone.
Professor X contemplates that Ororo has withdrawn so deeply into herself since her powers were taken from her. He wants to help her deal with her loss but she won’t let him. In truth, though, what he most wishes to do is restore those lost abilities… but he fears that is beyond his skills, both as telepath and mentor of the X-Men. He laments the damage done to Storm is irreversible.
Watching from a distance, Cannonball notices that Professor Xavier doesn’t look too happy. Shadowcat explains he cares a lot about them – more than he’ll ever let on. When they hurt, he hurts. Kitty herself ponders that Ororo must feel so awful. She thinks she could handle losing her phasing talent but Ororo’s elemental powers made her one with the Earth… and maybe even life itself. This isn’t fair or right; Ororo never did anyone any harm. Why’d this have to happen to her?
“Spare me a minute, lover?” Amanda Sefton asks her boyfriend, Nightcrawler, until then resting on his lap. “Of course… but why?” Kurt wonders. Amanda explains that Kurt’s big Russian buddy is looking real down in the dumps. Kurt agrees. He’s afraid these haven’t been the best of times for the X-Men or Colossus.
“Amanda?!” a startled Piotr exclaims as Amanda grabs him from behind. Smiling, Amanda tells him that cookouts like this are meant to be enjoyed. Piotr confesses he’s not in the mood. “Care to talk about this?” Amanda prompts him. Piotr mutters that he fell in love… and she died… sacrificing her life for his. He feels obligated to her. He feels he has to remain true to her memory. Yet, everyone views that as a betrayal of the love he once felt for Kitty. He is beginning to believe that himself.
Nearby, Kitty commends Wolverine on the lovely story… was he trying to tell her something maybe, about what she just went through in Japan? “Who, me, Kitty?” Logan plays ignorant. He suggests she perishes the thought and offers her a marshmallow. “I’m okay, Logan, really,” Kitty reassures him. Logan believes her.
Xavier announces it’s getting late and suggests they bring this evening’s festivities to a close. He is swiftly met with a barrage of protests: “No!”, “Boo!”, “Hiss!”, “Meanie!”, “We’re not tired!”, “Another story, Professor… pleeease!!!”
Smirking, Illyana reveals to everyone present that, not all that long ago, her globe-girdling roomie told her a “fairy tale” to cheer her up when she was feeling sad and lonely. She thinks it’s past time she returned the compliment. Wolverine readily bets: five bucks says Illyana won’t make the kid laugh. “You’re on, Mr. Logan,” Stevie Hunter accepts the bet. Logan confirms the bet and shakes hands with her.
Illyana tells Lockheed to wish her luck: she’s going to need it. “Ready or not, Kitty, here it comes!” she dramatically announces. In keeping with a recent caper of her own, she’s calling this: The Adventures of Lockheed the Space Dragon and his Pet Girl Kitty. “Arrrgh!!” a raging Kitty snarls upon hearing the title of the story. “Do you mind, Pryde?!!” Illyana confronts her. She impatiently asks if there are any more comments, from anyone! “Thank you,” she puffs out and begins spinning her tale.
Far from home, far from help, the starliner Chicago is suddenly, viciously ambushed by the most fearsome pirates on the spaceways. Chicago is well armed and her crew give a superb account of themselves… to no avail. An officer announces that hull is breached amidships and notifies everyone of major fire in engineering! They can’t control it! Lost and forgotten in the confusion and growing panic is the young daughter of the ship’s master, Kitty Pryde. She tries as hard as she can to be brave, to set a good example, but this is the only home she’s ever known… and it’s being blasted to bits around her.
“Yyeeaaiii!” she screams as she is suddenly zapped by someone. “Nuri, Tal… is that you guys?!” she gasps… and then an armored pirate triumphantly exclaims “Prize!” and snatches her! Kitty demands he lets her go! “Cutie-Kitty mine!” the pirate captures her. As he departs with her, he rambles on incomprehensibly: “To Shiningmistress taker her go, praise we to get, glory to our crèche!” Kitty realizes the critter knew her name. They must’ve been looking for her, specifically… but how come? Are they going to use her as a hostage, to make her mom and dad surrender? She won’t let them! “Oh, yeah… just wait’ll my folks get their hands on…”
She doesn’t have the chance to finish her phrase as her captor tosses her at the feet of a woman. The woman tells her that neither she nor her benighted parents are in any position to make threats. “Who’re… you?” Kitty finds the strength to ask, beholding a woman dressed in blinding white, next to a black-clad man and an array of underlings and guards. The woman introduces herself as the White Queen; her beloved consort is the Black King. She then tells “dear Katherine” that she, like this precious vessel, now belongs to them. She possesses powers and abilities that the White Queen desires and will stop at nothing to obtain. From this moment, Kitty will serve her. In time, she will come to love her. And eventually, become just like her.
“The heck I will!” Kitty protests. “You doubt me?” the White Queen observes. She decides that a small demonstration is in order. She tells her to arise and give her her hand. “Why?” Kitty warily asks. The White Queen encourages her to do as she says. She has her word: she will not be harmed. Kitty reluctantly extends her hand… and then her arm, between elbow and wrist, is turned into crystal! “My hand… my arm… what have you done?!!” Kitty screams in horror. “We are one, dear heart… bound for all eternity,” the White Queen informs her with unconcealed excitement.
In desperation, Kitty does something she’d never done before: she phases through the deck beneath her feet! Surprised, the Queen demands she comes back at once or she’ll be severely punished! After Kitty vanishes, the Queen admits it’s fascinating. There’s more to the child than she suspected. When she interfaced with that console, she completely disrupted the systems. She wants her found and recaptured immediately!
Just then, one of her many underlings warns her about a scanner contact: another starcraft has intercepted course and is closing fast. An instant later, the pirate vessel is struck by a monstrous blast of raw flame. “Under attack… who dares?!!” the White Queen rages. She demands all weapons to lock onto that upstart and blast it to flinders. A servant of hers informs her that the attack is shifting to Chicago… and then he screams and collapses to the floor, as the pirate ship is violently shaken. Another of the Queen’s goons informs his mistress that the sensors indicate they’ve been boarded. She commands him to deal with them while she finds the brat!
Far from the bridge, cadres of heavily-armed warriors rush confidently towards their foe. Unfortunately for them… they quickly find him. “Heads up, suckers! Wolverine’s comin’ at’cha!!” Wolverine happily snarls and ambushes them, jumping down to the deck. Their armor proves little defense against claws forged of adamantium – the strongest metal known – and their most powerful blows are rendered virtually ineffectual by Wolvie’s adamantium-laced, unbreakable skeleton. In his berserker’s rage, Wolvie doesn’t notice when he’s wounded. It doesn’t really matter, though, because his body heals itself almost at once. Elsewhere in this huge vessel, Nightcrawler does his fair share, using acrobatic skills, a prehensive tail and, most importantly, the ability to teleport to excellent advantage.
Meanwhile, a flummoxed Kitty wonders what she did; what happened to her? She fell through solid objects like a… ghost! But she’s real! She’s scared, she wants her mommy… “What’s that?!?” she suddenly shrieks, as she discerns an ominous shadow on the wall. A creature nearby roars and unleashes flames from his mouth. “By the Black Nebula!” one of the White Queen’s pirates exclaims and they all flee.
“There you are!” the White Queen revels just then, as she finally finds Kitty. The Queen admits that Kitty’s led her a merry chase but did she really believe she could hide forever? Kitty asks her to leave her alone! The White Queen reprimands her: she’s been a naughty girl. She promised Kitty would be punished for disobeying her. Kitty will find she’s a woman of her word.
She immediately uses the energies she wields to bring forth Kitty’s parents, telekinetically manipulating them. Shocked, Kitty pleads the Queen not to hurt them! She promises she’ll be good, she’ll do anything she says… “Too late!” the Queen loftily declares. Smiling wickedly, she tells Kitty to always remember, the fault for this is hers alone! With this, she turns Kitty’s parents into crystal… and they both shatter at once! Kitty bemoans their fate, as the remnants of her parents drop on her head. The Queen tells her to now take her rightful place at her side… as her child. She knows Kitty cannot resist. Her arm makes her forever susceptible to her will.
Then, suddenly, when all seems lost, a roar is heard nearby. Enshrouding himself and his Queen in darkness, the King spirits them both to safety, leaving Kitty to her fate. Kitty can see that something heads this way; another critter; a… monster? She thinks it must be pretty horrible, if the Queen’s scared of it. Kitty hopes it eats the Queen! She sees flames all about and realizes there’s nowhere for her to run. She doesn’t know how she fell through the deck before… not sure she would even if she could and she’d rather die than become the White Queen’s slave. She quickly realizes the thing’s closer; there’s so much flame, she can’t see. She hopes this won’t hurt! She defiantly states she’s not afraid and invites the critter to show itself!
A tongue mischievously whips her face… and Kitty confronts a little dragon! “You’re a dragon! You’re little!” Kitty mumbles. “Yup,” the dragon answers to both. Nightcrawler approaches and tells Lockheed, the dragon, that they’ve searched the entire ship. The pirates have retreated to their own vessel. Having suddenly spotted Kitty, he asks her name. Kitty introduces herself and admits she doesn’t believe this. Are they for real? Are they friendly? She guesses they must be: she’s still alive.
“Stands t’reason, pun’kin,” Wolverine replies, also approaching her. He tells her she’s pretty lucky. The rest of the crew and passengers are either croaked or in the pirates’ slaver holds. Engines and computers are a mess, too. Chicago can’t travel and she can’t fight: she’s a sitting duck. Kitty cries this is her home, it can’t be wrecked. Her parents can’t… “Kid…” Wolverine tells her. Kitty protests she’s not a kid, she’s Kitty! It’s her fault they died. Her fault everyone died! The Queen said so! “An’ you b’lieve her?” Wolverine asks her. Kitty insists it was her she wanted! Nightcrawler retorts that, even if that were true, she can’t ever win unless she lets her. Is that what she wants? “No,” Kitty sighs. But where can she go? What will become of her?
“Join you… oh, may I???” she suddenly asks, despair in her voice, tears gushing down her face. Wolverine simpers that Dragon’s the boss… what Lockheed says, goes. “Yah!” Lockheed gives his positive verdict. With that, they all vanish in the guttery glow of a teleporter beam to reappear aboard Lockheed’s starcruiser.
“I see you’ve brought home a souvenir,” a playful voice banters, seeing Kitty. Nightcrawler introduces Kitty to Illyana – the persona of their ship. Seeing a giant girl’s face on an electronic monitor, Kitty wonders whether she’s alive. Illyana retorts that she certainly likes to think so. She then informs them that she marks strategic ordnance being released by the pirate vessel, targeted on Chicago. She instructs them all to strap into their acceleration couches… this is their clue to vamoose! As the cruiser leaps into hyperspace, a new star dawns in the heavens behind them. Under the cover of these supernova-scale explosions, the villains also make good their escape.
Over the weeks that follow, Kitty cries often; the slightest thing sets her off. Those are hard days… and harder nights, haunted by terrifying dreams wherein the White Queen beckons and Kitty, to her horror, races joyfully to her side. She wakes sobbing, sometimes screaming, to always find Lockheed by her side. He never leaves her.
Eventually, though, both tears and nightmares fade and Kitty quickly becomes a full-fledged member of Lockheed’s intrepid band of freelance freebooters – roaming the galaxy, bringing law and justice to their wild and wooly corner of the cosmos. Yet, for al their success, the foes Kitty most longs to meet remain out of reach. Kitty vows that, wherever the White Queen goes, however long it takes… Kitty will get her!
Some time later, Nightcrawler informs Kitty that they received a summons from Charles Xavier, seigneur of the Spiral Arm, to help him celebrate his jubilee. “You’re kidding!” Kitty exclaims. Desperate, she asks Nightcrawler to help her: what’s she going to do? She hasn’t a thing to wear! However, Illyana playfully tells her this ‘gizmo’ – meaning herself – will facsimile whatever design her heart desires. “Bless you, Illyana, you’re a wonder!” Kitty thanks her “I know,” Illyana accepts the characterization. Kitty then ‘tries on’ on several different outfits, changing clothes each time she desires so. Unnoticed during Kitty’s impromptu fashion show, Lockheed gazes out at the stars, an expression of ineffable longing on his face.
Shortly afterwards, the team’s ship touches down at the Imperial Starport, on the grounds of Xavier’s palace royal, a backyard roughly the size of Brazil, to be greeted not only by Xavier and his consort, the Shi’ar Empress Lilandra, but the entire Imperial Guard, the proudest, bravest, noblest knights in all the realm.
As they exit the ship, Kitty confesses she never should have come. She looks like such a frump. She then sighs as sees the Guard welcoming them and tells Nighcrawler they are all so beautifully, so elegantly dressed! Nightcrawler assuages her fears: she looks lovely. “Really? You mean it?!?” Kitty mutters. “Would this face lie?” Nightcrawler jests.
As they pass right in front of the Guard, Kitty asks them if they know the big fellow down in the front; he’s so cute! Wolverine informs her he’s Pete Rasputin… Charlie’s champion, premier knight of his Round Table. As she passes right over him, Kitty takes it back: Peter isn’t cute… he’s gorgeous! “Face front, kiddo, yer gonna get us in trouble!” Wolverine quips.
Xavier welcomes them to their home and court. No effort has been spared to make their visit as enjoyable as it is memorable. Kitty bows and admits that his Majesty is too kind. Smirking, Xavier notices that one of his knights finds favor in her eyes. Kitty was hoping it didn’t show. Xavier, however, fears it is next to impossible to keep secrets from a telepath… though he tries never to pry into others’ thoughts. He then speaks into Kitty’s mind and wonders: would it help any if he told her those feelings are returned? “No foolin’???” Kitty ponders in enthusiasm. Xavier asks if he should introduce them. “Yes, please!” Kitty excitedly wails.
Just then, Lockheed abruptly flies off. Xavier admits Lockheed’s mind is ever closed to him and wonders what made him suddenly fly off like that. Where is he going? “Your guess is s good as mine, sir,” Kitty admits. However, she tells him not to worry: he can take care of himself. The lovelorn Kitty then proceeds to say “Hi” to Peter Rasputin, who greets her in return.
“Young love, mein freund,” Nightcrawler sighs – is it not wonderful. “When it’s real, elf,” Wolverine sternly replies. Nightcrawler asks him if he has doubts. “Yup,” Wolverine replies and tells him to mind store while he’s going to keep an eye on the dragon. Using his jet-pack, Wolverine propels himself upwards and considers that Lockheed is usually more polite than this. It seems to him he was answering some kind of call. Kitty would have noticed, too, if she hadn’t been making ‘goo-goo’ eyes at Rasputin. No accounting for taste, he thinks – Rasputin’s a nice enough boy, but nowhere near in her league.
While Nightcrawler dances and flirts with various women at the grand ball, Lockheed leads a merry chase into the oldest, most run-down district of Xavier’s throne city. He finally turns around a street corner… and is suddenly ambushed by a cadre of other dragons! Thankfully, Wolverine soon shows up: he knew this was a set-up! He asks his boss to hang on. He promises he’ll have him out of here in a jiff. He is surprised to see these are dragons: where’d they come from?! They always figured Lockheed was unique. He realizes Lockheed doesn’t know either: he looks as surprised as he!
Suddenly, Lockheed is gone in a pool of light – and the dragons with him! Not all of them, though, as Wolverine manages to grab one of the dragons before he teleports away. He’s now got a prisoner to tell what’s going on. The dragon growls and Wolverine suggests he growls away. He vows that, before he’s done, the dragon will tell him everything he wants to know.
“How delightfully bloodthirsty, Wolverine,” a voice behind him remarks. He is indeed a man after her own heart! Wolverine suddenly realizes he’s hit by a frigid-beam: he’s caught! These are his last conscious thoughts as both and the dragon are instantly sealed in a block of ultra-ice. The White Queen, the Black King and some of their followers appears. The Queen snickers that Wolverine is wrong: the dragon will tell her everything. And so shall Wolverine!
Sometime later, in the ball at Xavier’s royal palace, Kitty dances with Colossus… and she suddenly hears a voice behind her back: “Good evening, my precious Kitty-Kitty.” Kitty recognizes that voice… it can’t be… the White Queen?! The Queen explains she is merely a holographic projection. She tells Charles she’s brought him a present, in honor of his birthday. She presents them with the frozen dragon she captured. She asks Kitty: did she believe she had foregone her rightful vengeance? Not so; Wolverine is also her ‘guest’. She asks Kitty to surrender herself, fulfill the destiny she set for her years ago, lest she does unto Wolverine – and then to all of Kitty’s companions – what she does now to this pathetic beast!
With this, she crashes the dragon’s body merely by her finger’s touch and tells Kitty the choice is hers: her freedom or her friends and lovely ones’ lives. “Lockheed!” Kitty screams, believing him dead. She calls the Queen a “murdering witch” and vows she won’t give up – or give in. She’ll never harm anyone else again! She won’t find rest until she finds the Queen… until one of them is dead!
Illyana quickly follows Lockheed and Wolverine’s trails and leads everyone to the alley where Lockheed disappeared with the dragons. Illyana also informs them there’s a residual presence of the White Queen and her goons. However, overlaying them all is a unique energy pattern, the likes of which Illyana has never seen. It leads off into space. This trail’s quite distinctive; it’s also the only one they’ve got. She’ll have no trouble following it. Kitty suggests they get flying. They’ve lost too much time already. Peter would like to accompany her, if she’ll have him. Kitty accepts his proposal – his armored strength could come in real handy. Xavier tells her to take care; the Queen is a most formidable foe and her hatred for Kitty knows no bounds.
In the White Queen’s lair, one of her advisors, Bertani, informs her that, through their most exhaustive examination of the creature, before her Majesty consumed its life essence (“And most delicious it was, too, Bertani,” the Queen salivates), they’ve determined that it is extra-dimensional in origin and possessed of extraordinary powers. If they can locate that source and exploit it, the Black King cackles… “They could challenge even Xavier,” the White Queen finishes his phrase. This galaxy – this entire dimension – might be theirs for the taking!
One of her soldiers suddenly storms in and informs her that Lockheed’s starship has lifted off from throneworld. “Splendid,” the Queen remarks and orders them to activate their cloaking screen and follow at a discreet distance. She decides to let those heroic dolts blaze their path. They’ll spring any traps and be the first to confront any opposition. If they fall along the way, they’ll be dead and she and her crew will profit from their mistakes. If they succeed, they’ll no doubt be so drained by their struggles, they’ll be easy picking for them. Either way, she believes they win!
Elsewhere, a black-clad Kitty wanders in an ill-reputed district. She is disgusted: she thought Wolvie had shown her some lowlife dives. She hopes he’s okay but, knowing the Queen, they’ll be lucky to find him alive. This place she’s walking around right now is the pits. She’d give anything to be somewhere else, but Lockheed’s trail leads into a black hole and none of them have the skill to make a safe transit. They need the best pilot in the cosmos. Emperor Charles told she’d find her here. Kitty reasonably wonders, though: if she’s good, what’s she doing in a dump like this? She decides there’s no use grumping. She’s got no choice if she wants to save her friend… and avenge Lockheed. She still can’t believe he’s dead.
As she walks into the pits, she notices everyone’s staring. No wonder, she realizes, she’s the only one in the room who’s had a recent bath! One of the scum projects some rather obscene thoughts of his and Kitty exclaims “What’d you say?!?” and blushes. She suggests he moves his tentacles or lose them! As she advances in the pits, she realizes it’s so dark she can barely see. “Count your blessings, kiddo,” she tries to lend herself some courage.
She suddenly spots the woman she seeks at a back corner table. Still, she has a bad feeling about this. “Ororo,” she greets the disgruntled, half-drunk woman. “Whowantstoknow?” Ororo snarls. Kitty introduces herself and asks… is she the Star-Rider? Ororo quips what it looks like to her. “So much for this idea,” Kitty contemplates in disappointment but decides she’s got to try. She tells her she needs a pilot. Ororo retorts she doesn’t fly anymore. “Not even for Lockheed?” Kitty snaps. Ororo suggests she goes away – Lockheed’s dead and she’s busy. Kitty insists she’ll pay any price… if she has to, she’ll beg! “Waste’a breath,” Ororo replies. Help’s not hers to give. Even if she wanted to, she doesn’t fly… because she can’t!
Ororo’s companion, Rogue, tells Kitty the interview’s over. She better scat, before she gets her pretty little face rearranged! Kitty defiantly states she’ll leave when she’s good and ready. Ororo tells Rogue to let her go. Angered, Kitty asks Ororo what happened: she just gives up? Life got so tough she figured she’d crawl into this hole and rot? Something like that, Ororo admits. When you’ve had your heart and soul torn from you – lost everything that gave life meaning – there isn’t much else to do, she explains.
“Bull!” Kitty snaps. There are other ways to fly! They aren’t the same, Ororo insists. No, they might be better, Kitty retorts. Finding out involves taking a chance, risking failure and the pain of disappointment. It’s easier to convince herself from the start there’s no hope, to feel sorry for herself and let her grief and misery fester like a cancer. If that’s how she feels, the heck with her, Kitty bursts out. She declares they’ll go by themselves… and whether they succeed or fail, they’ll have at least tried!
Rogue growls that nobody talks to Ororo like that. She asks Kitty to take it back and apologize or she’ll tear her apart! “You an’ who else, red?!” Kitty scoffs at her. “Enough, children!” Ororo brings an end to their altercation. She tells Kitty she makes no promises. However, Lockheed was an old, dear, friend. For his sake – and his memory – she will try.
In the White Queen’s lair, the Queen cackles if they are meant to be impressed by the brat’s recruitment of Ororo. Whatever skill or courage the fabled Star-Rider possessed is gone. One of her servants tells her that the others approach the black hole. “Poor dears, rushing headlong into oblivion…” the Queen remarks – while they, thanks to the data extracted from their dragon, will be able to traverse the passage between dimensions with ease. She tells the frozen Wolverine that his friends are doomed and there’s nothing he can do about it.
Meanwhile, Ororo pilots the ship that heads towards the black hole, in the company of Kitty and the others. Nightcrawler explains their course is projected on their main holocube. Sadly, Illyana confesses that her computer sub-systems are becoming increasingly undependable – interference generated by the singularity. It’ll be up to Ororo to pilot them through. Ororo admits she’s painfully aware of that fact.
Sweating from the effort, Ororo thinks she must expand her awareness and feel – in mind and body – the shape of space around her. She could do that once. She was more at home here than on any planet. Her powers made her one with the cosmos. She fears she’s a fool… what was lost can never be regained! However, Kitty depends on her. The slightest mistake will destroy them utterly! She approaches the black hole, just a breath away from it… and suddenly decides she can’t and turns away from the hole. Desperate, she tells Kitty she tried but it’s no good: her nerve is gone. Kitty reassures her she understands. “How generous,” Ororo replies – but then, those who are whole are always quick to judge – and condemn – the maimed!
“I wouldn’t know,” Kitty reveals. She presents her with her crystallized arm and tells her that being crippled doesn’t make her so special. Ororo she’s not the only person who’s ever suffered. Kitty wants to run away, too. She wants to scream and cry and grieve – she’s tired of fighting and being hurt. “So why go on?” Ororo wonders. Kitty assumes she’s too damn stubborn. Life’s too short and precious to be wasted: Lockheed taught her that. “And now you pass it on?” Ororo asks. Kitty nods. She tells Ororo to look on the bright side – she can do through skill what she used to do through talent. It’s the perfect opportunity to prove she really is the best.
“All right then, Kitten,” Ororo reluctantly complies. She tells her to just remember, she asked for this. “Me an’ my big mouth, huh?” Kitty smirks. Precisely, Ororo agrees. As she determinedly flies the ship towards the hole, Illyana informs the crew they’re past the event horizon: from here on, there’s no turning back! The ship enters and begins shaking violently! “Rough ride!” Kitty remarks. Ororo asks her what else she expected. Illyana warns them the gravimetric stresses are off their scales. She doesn’t know how much more she can endure. Ororo glibly suggests she considers this the ideal chance to consider herself equal to her pilot. Illyana chuckles and tells Ororo she’s got herself a deal.
Finally, the ship makes it through hyperspace. Kitty notices the “negative” of the space all around them. Ororo explains the stars are not really black, nor space white – that is merely how their senses perceive them. She asks Illyana on the status of their trail. Illyana reveals it leads to the fourth planet of this system: size and environmental stats are roughly Earth-normal. Multiple life readings at trail’s terminus – all non-human and not listed in her data banks. It appears to be some sort of settlement: she registers extraordinary power levels but no sign whatsoever of any technology. She wonders how these entities travel, without spacecraft. Ororo believes they shall learn soon enough.
As they pass through some peculiar mountains, Kitty observes they are bigger than the Himalayas. Ororo notices it’s pure crystal: this world puts Ballybran to shame! Kitty wonders whether they’ve found the White Queen’s homeworld. Is that why no one’s ever tracked her down? Ororo doubts it. Illyana warns them she marks a familiar contact just ahead. It can’t be but she thinks it is… “Who, Illyana… What?!” Kitty asks impatiently. “Lockheed!” Illyana dramatically announces. Kitty immediately asks everyone to get in battle armor, weapons at full charge! She hopes Illyana is right and asks them to beam them down!
Indeed, they are teleported on the ground, amidst the crystalline mountains. “Nobody move…” Kitty exclaims and aims at her adversaries… only to suddenly exclaim “Oh my goodness gracious!” as she spots Lockheed, conveniently resting, surrounded by several dragons! Nightcrawler contacts Ororo who’s still on board and informs her that Lockheed is indeed alive and unharmed, albeit perhaps a trifle… worn out. Apparently, this dracic community is entirely female. Hearing this, Ororo wagers that the problem will not be saving the poor darling, but persuading him to leave.
Suddenly, Illyana warns Ororo of massive interference… and then her voice is lost. “Illyana?!” Ororo calls her out. However, there’s no answer: the com system is being hammed. She cannot contact the landing party… and suddenly the ship is hit by plasma torpedoes and explodes!
On the ground, Kitty notices the high-altitude explosions on the lit up sky and realizes someone’s attacking Illyana. “Not quite, dear heart, we have destroyed it!” the White Queen gloats, as she appears overhead, on top of one of the mountains, in the company of her King and her pirates. Kitty immediately calls out her with hatred. Rogue advises her to be cool: they’re outnumbered and outgunned. Kitty, however, doesn’t care.
Suddenly, they all hear a deafening noise as another dragon, this one of gigantic proportions, erupts from the ground. Peter wonders whether she is the ruler of this place. He also wonders what all these little dragons will become. “Who cares, Petey, the goos’re scatterin’!” Rogue notices with satisfaction – the big lizard’s got them on the ropes! “Way t’go, honey!” Rogue applauds the dragoness.
In her prime, the matriarch of the dragons could have laid waste a world – but no longer. Age has taken its toll, leaving her vulnerable to the pirates’ weapons… and she collapses lifeless to the ground. Peter notices with trepidation that the dragon is down. Kitty, however, is aware that she pulled the creeps off of them. Thanks to her, they’ve got a chance. They should make sure she didn’t die in vain!
They all proceed to attack the pirates. As the battle progresses, Peter notices they’re holding their own, but their efforts mean nothing so long as the Queen’s starship remains in orbit above them. From orbit, it can blast them to atoms. Kitty asks him to leave that problem to her. She tells Lockheed they should fly before she realizes how off the wall crazy this stunt really is! As he begins fluttering upwards and Kitty holds onto him, she confesses she missed him a whole lot. “Yah?” Lockheed mumbles. Kitty nods. She’s glad he’s okay. She just wanted him to know.
Kitty holds her breath and keeps from freezing while Lockheed carries her up out of the atmosphere. They form so small a target, she figures the enemy sensors won’t spot her. She realizes the dummies are so sure of themselves; they haven’t even raised their shields! Ignoring the fiery band tightening around her chest as she runs out of air, Kitty focuses her concentration and phases the two of them through the starship’s hull. It’s a supreme effort and it takes its toll, leaving Kitty collapsing on the floor.
Several pirates move towards them, as the sensors report the presence of intruders. Lockheed, however, has other ideas and unleashes his fiery breath against them. As Kitty resumes her senses, she assumes they made it. Any trouble while she was unconscious, she wonders… only to then spot the incinerated corpses of the pirates. She realizes she shouldn’t be upset. They slaughtered the crew of the Chicago and countless other ships without mercy and sold the survivors into slavery. This was no less than the butchers deserved. She then tells Lockheed they will split up. She will sabotage the computers while he finds Wolvie.
Just then, one of the Queen’s underlings informs the Black King that there is trouble aboard: dragon and pet. His presence is required. Exasperated, the King puffs out: must he and the Queen handle everything?! He asks his goon to beam him up: Lockheed’s the primary target. The underlings promise they will guide him to him.
Seconds later, in the Queen’s private chambers, the Black King storms in and finds Lockheed. Blasting the dragon immediately, he wonders what he’s doing here: he could have done far more damage elsewhere. “Depends on your point of view,” a voice mocks him. The King wonders who spoke… and what’s that noise? “Me, bub… an’ my claws!” Wolverine lashes out at him, all the while explaining how his boss thought Wolverine might want to be in on the action, so he thawed him out!
In the battlefield, the White Queen screams as her psilink with the King is severed – and the ship won’t answer her comcalls! “Tough, ain’t it, queenie?” Kitty snickers, exiting the ship in the company of Wolverine and Lockheed. “You!” the Queen hisses and asks her what she has done. “Balanced the scales. Paid some debts,” Kitty explains and snaps her fingers… and the Queen’s ship is blown into smithereens.
The Queen tells Kitty that even though she may have slain her consort and destroyed her vessel, it’s a triumph she’ll not live to enjoy. As she fires at them with her gun, Lockheed shoves Kitty aside, taking the full force of the blaster beam himself. “No, curse you, witch… No!” Kitty utters in desperation and fires at her with her own gun. Seeing the Queen slithering on the ground, Kitty blurts out in hate: “Still alive? Not for long.” The Queen retorts that rage and hatred have made Kitty careless. She forgets their souls are bound. Kitty is more like her than she will ever admit.
As she begins exercising her powers on Kitty, she declares that with her psi-powers, she can exchange their psyches: she will become Kitty! Kitty screams in horror, as the White Queen informs her that resistance is futile: she is no match for her. Struggling with all her might, Kitty stammers that’s where she is wrong! She’s not a baby! “Thanks to all you’ve done… I’m your equal… an’ more!!” she growls as she deflects the Queen’s energy back to her, causing her to collapse on the ground. Perspiring from the effort, Kitty announces to the Queen she’s finished. She’ll never hurt anyone or turn any more kids into orphans… or frighten her, ever again.
The Queen urges her to shoot. What is she waiting for; has she not the courage? Kitty explains she faced her on her terms, with her weapons and won. She doesn’t want her life anymore. She doesn’t need it. The Queen promises that Kitty’s ‘benevolence’ will cost her dearly when next they meet! Kitty retorts that just because she’s through with her, doesn’t mean she’s free. She still has them to answer to, she explains as she points at the horde of dragons that menacingly surrounds the Queen. The Queen doesn’t scream for very long; Kitty doesn’t listen.
Kitty knows she lied. Holding Lockheed’s lifeless body, she realizes the scales aren’t balanced; they’ll never be, now that she lost him. She never dreamed the price of her vengeance would be Lockheed’s life. She’d give anything for it not to be so. Approaching, Peter assures her he grieves for her loss and hopes he can make it up to her. Kitty is afraid he can’t. She thought what she felt for Peter was love but she was wrong. She thinks he’s a dear friend – she’ll always care for him – but Lockheed… Lockheed…Weeping, she tells Peter she’s sorry. She never meant to lead him on.
Peter assures her he understands. Kitty explains it’s like someone’s torn out her heart. All her life, after her folks died, whenever she needed someone, Lockheed was there – drying her tears, making her laugh, giving strength, sympathy… love! But when he needed her, she was with somebody else. Now it’s too late to tell him how much she misses him, how desolate her life is without him.
And then, a miraculous thing happens: a tear streams down her face and drops right on Lockheed’s eyelid… and the dragon slowly opens his eyes! Kitty realizes he’s not dead… he’s alive! Immediately, she embraces him, just as Rogue sees Ororo approaching: she’s okay, too! “Of course, Ororo, what else did you expect?” Ororo laughs. She has only just learned to live again. And she is far from ready to give that up – and far too tough and ornery!
Kitty realizes that, apparently, all this world’s male dragons had perished in a plague. The surviving females faced extinction unless a male could be found to propagate their species. And Lockheed was it! No harm was meant by abducting Lockheed, but the dragons were desperate. They could not afford failure or a refusal. Locheed’s a pretty popular fellow – and has a pretty signal honor: papa to an entire race!
As they all prepare to depart with their ship, Kitty admits some guys would call this heaven. She wonders what she’d do if her roles were reversed. Ororo says they’ve got to get rolling – so, Kitty asks Lockheed, is he going to stay or what? “Oh, ‘course, I understand,” she says. “I understand, don’t be silly!” she tells him. There’s no denying how much the dragons need him. In a way, he is their future. She won’t stand in the way of that. She wishes him to be well and be happy.
They all quickly depart. Later, in the ship, Kitty confesses to Ororo that she thought everything was turning out great. Now, she feels more miserable than ever. Ororo notices she could have forced him to come with them. No, Kitty retorts, he’d have hated her for it – and she’d have hated herself. He made his free choice – as she got to maker her own with Colossus – and she’s really glad he’s happy. She’ll just have to get used to the fact that it isn’t with her. Ororo hugs her and wonders: will Kitty survive or will Ororo have to seek her out in the darkest cornier of the scummiest dive in the cosmos?
Left all alone, Kitty wonders if Ororo can teach her to fly through that singularity; will Lockheed mind her dropping in for a visit? Suddenly, she realizes someone next to her. It’s Lockheed! Ecstatic, Kitty and Lockheed grab each other.
Illyana explains that Lockheed had already done his duty by the dragons. He could have stayed to enjoy a life of unending pleasure but no way was he going to desert his other self, his truest love. And so they lived happily – albeit adventurously – ever after. Kitty ironically commends her on the story and argues that Illyana put the babies to sleep. Xavier urges her to be charitable. It was a good story and it is very late. He quips that some of them ‘adults’ can help him put the New Mutants to bed while the rest of them tidy the campsite and extinguish the fire.
“Don’t hear no guffaws, Hunter,” Wolverine smirks and extends his hand, telling her she owes him five bucks. Stevie assures him it’s her pleasure: a story like that is worth twice the price – especially if Illyana gets away with what she thinks she was up to. “Amen t’that, darlin’,” Logan replies and offers to walk her home. Stevie thanks him; she’d like that.
Storm confesses there is a solace of a kind when one wallows in self-pity – but not much fun. Perhaps the time has come for her to leave this nest, as she did her African home years ago when Professor Xavier invited her to join the X-Men. “Never know till you try,” Kitty replies. She reminds Ororo they’ve both been through a lot lately. They’ve suffered, they’ve been hurt… but they survived. They got better. They’ll get better still. Ororo agrees. Kitty wonders if she will see her again. Storm assures her that, in her heart and soul, they will never be apart. Same here, Kitty admits. “Now for the hard part,” she adds. “No less so for him,” Illyana reminds her. “I guess. Wish me luck,” Shadowcat exclaims.
She tells Peter to wait. Colossus asks if that how she believes it was with him – she and Lockheed in the story representing himself and Kitty and Zsaji? Kitty realizes her never told her Zsaji’s name – it’s beautiful. Colossus stresses he loved her. “More than me, I know,” Kittt sighs. She knows it wasn’t intentional. Sometimes things happen. If anyone’s to blame, it’s that dumb Beyonder. But she’d still like them to be friends. “I, too,” Colossus agrees.
As Peter departs, Kitty mischievously ponders Beyond that, big guy, who knows? “Goodness gracious me, demons preserve us, the stone face smiles!?!” Illyana is shocked to see Kitty smirking. Kitty tells her to lay off; she hasn’t been that much of a grump! “Wanna bet?” Illyana teases her. She tells her it’s her turn to walk the dragon; Illyana will douse the fire. “Miss me, fella?” Kitty tells Lockheed – she’s been away a long time.
She contemplates he’s cute and in her mind’s eyes, sees him as a handsome young man. She wonders what he thinks of her, unaware that he also sees her as a beautiful female dragon. She carries him and begins to leave. Illyana wishes her sweet dreams. Kitty thanks her; she owes her. “Hey, what are true friends for?” Illyana replies. “Not just a true friend… my best friend!” Kitty clarifies.