Publication Date: 2nd Aug 2021
Written By: Gremlin.
Image Work: Gremlin.


Born in Afghanistan as the only daughter of a single mother, Sooraya Qadir’s life was already off to an uphill struggle. It is unknown what happened to her father, but his absence put Sooraya and her mother under pressure from the Taliban in the religiously conservative country. As a Sunni Muslim, Sooraya adhered to her religious beliefs, but her mutant status would soon put her in grave danger.

Developing the ability to turn herself into a sand-like substance, Sooraya quickly came to the attention of some local slave traders. Sooraya and her mother moved around as much as possible to avoid them, often becoming lost in the crowds of the refugee camps in the war-torn country. However, her luck ran out when she was kidnapped from her mother by the slave traders. Knowing they would get a good price for Sooraya on the black market, they intended to sell her to the highest bidder. Sooraya instinctively defended herself by turning into a sandstorm, killing the traders by flaying the skin from their bones. She passed out due to the physical exertion, but her luck would soon turn around with the arrival of the X-Men. Having been alerted to Sooraya’s distress on Cerebro, Professor X dispatched a team and she was found by Fantomex and Wolverine.

Taken back to a nearby X-Corp base in Mumbai, Sooraya eventually woke up and, out of fear, turned into her sand form again. The arrival of the telepathic Jean Grey was enough to calm her down and make her see she was finally in safe company. She took a human form again and spoke a single word to them… Turaab. Translated into English as “Dust,” this word would become her new codename. Jean and Sooraya stayed in Mumbai for a while, where the young girl was told about the Westchester School and all it had to offer. Not knowing where her mother was, as well as the danger to her life back home, Sooraya was enrolled at the school so she could learn more about her mutation. [New X-Men (1st series) #133, 138]

Sooraya was a very quiet student to start with, mostly due to the culture shock as well as the language barrier she was experiencing. She was place in the school’s “special class,” where she would have the time and attention given to her that a lot of the other classes couldn’t afford. Unbeknownst to the rest of the teaching staff, the head of the special class, Xorn, wasn’t who he said he was. Dust’s first experience of him was a horrifying and traumatic one, as he tried to make her denounce her religion in front of the class. When she refused and ran off, she turned into her sand form to find Professor X. She tried to explain what Xorn had done but her teacher caught up with her and secretly used his telekinetic powers to force her to destroy Cerebro. Professor X was confused as to what was going on and he tried to telepathically calm Sooraya, but Xorn had other ideas.

Knowing she could become a problem to him, he used his powers to scoop her up and trap her in a jar. By now Professor X know something was off and he confronted Xorn, demanding he release Sooraya. Xorn revealed himself to be none other than Magneto, who brought Xavier down whilst the powerless Sooraya looked on. Although it turned out that this was not actually the true Magneto, this “fake” Magneto went on to destroy much of New York City. Sooraya eventually escaped her confinement and joined up with a group of students who were trying to stop him. The X-Men soon arrived and defeated Magneto, whilst Dust and the others helped the people in the streets get to safety. [New X-Men (1st series) #146, 149-150]

In the aftermath of Xorn’s treachery, the school was reorganized and Sooraya found herself put into the mainstream classes. Whilst her English had improved greatly, she still struggled with adjusting to a culture vastly different to the one in which she grew up. All students had to share bedrooms and she was paired with Noriko Ashida, aka Surge, but the two girls immediately got off to a bad start. Despite not meaning to, Dust inadvertently insulted the way Noriko dressed and the music she listened to, which caused the young girl to get angry, leaving Sooraya feeling alienated. As there were so many students at the school, they were split up into squads and assigned a teacher who would oversee them. Dust found herself on the Hellions under the tutelage of Emma Frost, whilst her roommate Noriko was on the New Mutants. A “friendly” rivalry was encouraged between the various squads, but this didn’t help Sooraya bond with Noriko at all. [New X-Men: Academy X #1-4]

Sooraya did find friendship with one of her teammates, Jay Guthrie. One day when he spotted Sooraya eating alone, he quizzed her on it and she explained that she didn’t eat in mixed company, as it would require her to take off her abaya. As her religion forbids her to show her face to unrelated men, she felt uncomfortable eating in the cafeteria. In fact, she had very little experience speaking with men at all, but thankfully Jay was friendly enough to understand it rather than question it further.

When Wither, a fellow student, was arrest by the FBI, Hellion, the aptly named leader of the Hellions, decided to go break him out of prison. Despite having some misgivings, Dust felt she had to side with Hellion as he was the leader of her squad, though that put her at odds with Jay, who wanted nothing to do with the plan. Dust and the rest went to find Wither, but they were confronted by Surge, Jay and some more students, who were trying to stop them from committing a crime. As the teams fought, Surge took the opportunity to verbally accost Dust for siding with Hellion, as well as continuing to wear her Abaya. Surge’s electrical attacks had little effect on Dust but, when Wind Dancer switched targets, she used her powers over the wind to blow Dust’s sand form all the way back to the school and out of the fight.

Dust managed to reform again in the nearby woods, but she discovered she was naked. Too afraid to run to the school in case anyone saw her, she hid in the bushes trying to think of a plan. Surprisingly, she was discovered by Noriko, who bought her some clothes to wear, having been tipped off by Jay that Sooraya might be in need of help. As Sooraya got dressed, she thanked Noriko and the two girls talked honestly, coming to the agreement that neither really understood each other. [New X-Men: Academy X #5-6]

Not long after, the school held a dance, but Sooraya still wasn’t comfortable attending something like that. Jay even plucked up the courage to ask her to it, but she politely declined his invitation. [New X-Men: Academy X #14]

When it was time for the students to return home for spring break, Hellion invited his squad to his home in Los Angeles. Sooraya felt slightly uneasy as Hellion came from a very rich family and lived in a mansion. After an argument with his parents, Hellion raided their safe out of spite and found a mysterious scroll that could summon someone called the Kingmaker. Sooraya was apprehensive about using magic and dabbling in something none of them knew about, but she went along with the rest of the group anyway. The Kingmaker arrived and told them that he was able to grant their heart’s desire; they just had to tell him what they wanted. Sooraya was dead set against making any deal with him, as she knew he would want something in return. The Kingmaker openly confirmed this, and calmly explained that he would grant their wishes and, in return, they would help him grant other people’s. To get Sooraya on board, Hellion proposed that the Kingmaker demonstrate his abilities to them and they could choose whether to proceed or not.

Sooraya’s greatest wish was to be reunited with her mother again, and so the Kingmaker tracked her down to a refugee camp in Afghanistan. He took Sooraya there and she was able to speak to her mother for the first time in years. She explained all about the school and her mother was delighted Sooraya was in a place where she could choose what she could become. When it was time to leave, the Kingmaker explained that this had only been a taste of his abilities and, if Sooraya were to strike a deal with him, then he could make it so her mother could come and live in the US. Overcome with seeing her mother again, Sooraya had no questions when the Kingmaker asked the team to fulfill their end of the bargain in return for the full wishes. He told them of a research company that had created something that had become the target of a lot of villains and terrorists. The Hellions were to protect and retrieve the project to stop it falling into the wrong hands.

After sneaking into the base, Sooraya and the team encountered a couple of mercenaries, but they managed to escape with the case after a short fight. When they took it back to the Kingmaker, curiosity got the better of them and they opened the case to discover it was a biological weapon. Sooraya realized they had been tricked and the Kingmaker had manipulated them into stealing it for himself. Hellion went to hand the case over to him, but he demanded that their contracts be voided, as none of the team wanted to be indebted to him. The Kingmaker told Sooraya that, if she agreed to this, then he would not be able to reunite her with her mother. Knowing the sacrifice she was making, she agreed and the contracts were ripped up. Hellion double-crossed the Kingmaker, though, and tried to keep the case to stop it falling into enemy hands. The Kingmaker fought back but Dust and the team eventually won, handing the case over to S.H.I.E.L.D. for good measure. Afterwards, Sooraya tried to get in to contact with her mother but discovered she had been moved from the refugee camp and no one knew where she was. [New X-Men: Hellions #1-4]