DUST: Page 2 of 3

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


The heartache would continue for Sooraya as she woke one morning to find most of the world’s mutant population had been depowered in an event known as M-Day. She was one of the lucky few to keep theirs, but many of her classmates weren’t so lucky. Since there weren’t enough students to warrant so many squads, Emma Frost made them all compete in a battle royale style fight for a place on the one and only team. Dust made the grade and officially became part of the X-Men’s training squad. The dorms in the school were reorganized and Sooraya found herself sharing with the newcomer Laura, aka X-23. Laura was much more understanding of Sooraya’s religious beliefs, even though she constantly challenged them by asking many theological questions.

The anti-mutant groups were coming out the woodwork to finish off the remaining mutants, but it wasn’t just those still possessing an X-gene who were in danger. As Sooraya bid goodbye to her depowered classmates, a group of religious zealots called the Purifiers attacked the departing children and killed all of them. Sooraya and her team did their best to save their friends’ lives but nothing could be done in the carnage. The grief was enormous for the whole school and Sooraya retreated back to her religious beliefs as a way to understand the mindlessness of the attack. [New X-Men (2nd series) #20-24]

The trauma wasn’t to end there for Sooraya and her team as the Purifiers were only just getting started. Unbeknownst to many of them, Jay had been tricked by their leader, Reverend Stryker, into giving up information on the school. Jay wanted to make amends and so he met with Sooraya to say goodbye, leaving her with an ominous message and an address on a piece of paper. Sooraya didn’t know what to make of it but was determined to stop Jay from making a mistake. She tried to sneak out of the dorm but was quizzed by Laura, who told her that it was all a trap. Sooraya wouldn’t listen to reason, and so Laura knocked her out, dressed in her abaya and went to the address Jay had written down. Laura was right to assume it was a trap, as a sniper was waiting for her and she was shot in the guise of Dust.

When Sooraya woke up on the bathroom floor, she discovered the school was under attack by Stryker and his Purifiers. Her presence was a particular surprise to the gunmen, as they had been told she was dead. It turned out that Stryker had been using future predicting technology to gain the upper hand on the X-Men in a bid to wipe them out. He had received a prediction that showed Dust wiping out the entire team of Purifiers after the rest of her team were murdered. His prediction came true, as Dust turned into her sand form and flayed the Purifiers alive, just as she had done to the slave traders many months before. Without his soldiers, Stryker was defeated, but not before more students were murdered, including Jay. [New X-Men (2nd series) #25-27]

When Jay’s mother came to the school to fetch her son’s body, Sooraya ran to see her. The young girl fell into the woman’s arms and cried, begging for forgiveness for not being able to save him. The woman held Sooraya and told her that Jay had spoken about how beautiful she was and that she had nothing to apologize for. [New X-Men (2nd series) #32]

Not long after, when the students were finding some time to relax, one of Sooraya’s worst fears happened when the floor literally opened up beneath her and she found herself in Hell. It wasn’t quite Hell, though, as most of the students had been transported to Limbo by the demon Belasco. He was looking for his former apprentice Magik and he believed the students were the ones who saw her last. The students were split up across Limbo, but Dust had a front row seat with Belasco as he tortured her friends looking for Magik.

After watching him kill some of them, Dust and Mercury broke free of their restraints and attacked him. Believing him to be the real devil, Sooraya was terrified of Belasco, but she plucked up as much courage as she could and continued her assault. He proved to be a powerful adversary, but she discovered that his magics didn’t quite work on her in her sand form. The group was eventually saved by the arrival of Magik, who killed Belasco and teleported everyone back to Earth. [New X-Men (2nd series) #37-41]

When Dust had attacked the Purifiers in the school a few weeks before, not all of them had been killed. One of them, Matthew Risman, had been horribly disfigured and he bore a deadly grudge against Sooraya for his condition. He managed to get his hands on a Predator X, a genetically engineered creature that was created to hunt and kill mutants. Using some of Dust’s clothing, Matthew had been training the Predator X to hunt down the young girl. Once he was satisfied with its bloodlust, he let it loose and the creature ran across America in search of its prey. Sooraya was oblivious to this as she went about her life at the school, and remained in the dark as the Predator X stalked the grounds outside. Before it could attack her, though, the Predator X caught wind of another more powerful mutant and it turned heel to focus on that one instead. [New X-Men (2nd series) #42-43]

Predator X had picked up the presence of the first mutant born after M-day, but it wasn’t the only one searching for it. The X-Men, Purifiers and Marauders were all after the child for different reasons, but none of them knew where it was. When Surge heard that the Purifiers were involved, she wanted to join the mission and search for the baby. Dust was against the idea, as she could see Noriko was out for revenge after what the zealots had done to their friends. Finally taking a stand against her friends, she refused to participate in the team’s secret mission, as she didn’t agree with more blood being spilled. She had right to be concerned, as the group ended up in over their heads and Hellion was brutally injured in the ensuing fight. However, Dust had more pressing concerns as the O.N.E. Sentinels that had been guarding the school after M-Day suddenly malfunctioned and started attacking the mutants. Upon Cyclops’ orders, Dust entered the cockpit of one of the Sentinels and discovered the human operators had been infected with nanotech.

After the Sentinels were dispatched, the X-Men continued on their mission to find the child. Not knowing what to do with herself, Dust decided to tend to the graves of her fallen friends. However, when she went outside, she was horrified to discover Predator X digging up the graves and eating the bodies. Dust turned into her sand form to avoid its attacks, but it soon smelled the presence of the other students and ran into the school, looking for its next meal. Dust and the team fought hard to try take down the Predator X before it found its way to the medical bay, which was full of injured mutants. Unable to even slow it down, Pixie cast a spell to teleport the Predator and everyone else to the one person she knew could kill it… X-23.

Dust suddenly found herself on Muir Island, in the middle of an all-out fight between the Marauders and the X-Men. Whilst the students had been left out of the action to protect themselves, it was their presence that helped turn the tide for the X-Men. Dust in particular proved useful as she managed to take out the powerful Exodus, by entering his lungs and damaging them, allowing Emma Frost to finish him off telepathically. In the end the X-Men prevailed, with the mutant baby being sent with Cable into the future for its own safety. Tragically, Professor X had seemingly been killed in the battle and so Cyclops decided to disband the X-Men. [Messiah Complex crossover]

With nowhere else to go, Sooraya returned to Afghanistan and used her newfound confidence to become a hero to the local villages. Using her sand form, she attacked members of the Taliban and set herself up as something of a supernatural protector. It wasn’t long before Cyclops came looking for her and asked her to join a new team he was setting up. Travelling back to America, she joined up with Rockslide, Blindfold and Wolfcub, as well as a new member called Ink. Cyclops told them they were the last generation of mutants and needed to be trained to survive. He explained their first mission was to take out the newly formed Brotherhood of Mutants, led by Sunspot and his New Mutants teammates.

For weeks the group trained in the Danger Cave, a specially built base that used holographic technology to create realistic scenarios. Dust could see Blindfold was uneasy about the whole situation, and offered her some support. Blindfold revealed she had received a vision in which an unknown member of the team would betray them, leading to one of their deaths.

Soon enough, it came time to take out the Brotherhood, with Dust, Rockslide and Wolfcub tasked with attacking Magma first. Catching her off-guard, the team attacked her in the streets but, when Dust went in for the first blow, Magma used her fiery powers to turn the young girl to glass. Sooraya was saved by Wolfcub, catching her statuesque body and placing it on the ground before it could shatter. Magma was soon defeating by Wolfcub and Rockslide, but Dust was now trapped in a solid glass form. No one knew how to fix Dust and so they left her on a bed in the base until they could get proper help. In the meantime, it was revealed that the Cyclops who had been giving them orders the whole time was actually the villain Donald Pierce, using an image inducer. During the fight between Pierce and the team, Dust’s body was shattered into many pieces, with the team believing her dead. However, it was Magma who saved the day by melting the particles of glass, allowing Sooraya to reform herself once more. Dust and the team joined up with the New Mutants to take down Pierce, but not before he killed Wolfcub. [Young X-Men #1-5]

The real Cyclops appeared soon after and invited all mutants to join them in the new base in San Francisco. Hearing what had happened to Dust and the rest of the team, Cyclops decided to allow them to continue operating together under the tutelage of Moonstar and Sunspot. Pierce had been placed in the X-Men’s brig, and Sooraya took time to visit him to let him know his twisted plans had failed. [Young X-Men #6]

Sooraya continued to meet with Donald Pierce, as she had discovered that one of her team wasn't a mutant, but she didn't know who it was. Pierce informed her that he was well aware of their identity, but he toyed with Sooraya, getting her to reveal information about herself.  After a barrage of questions Sooraya eventually let slip that she was dying of cellular degradation caused by her fight with Magma. Pierce told her that when she had first been turned to glass he had a team looking into her condition before he was imprisoned. He offered to help fix her current condition on the promise she would help get him out of prison. [Young X-Men #6, 10, X-Force (3rd series) #12-13]

Sooraya mulled over his offer but ultimately decided she couldn’t live with herself knowing she was setting a murderer free. When she met with him to give her answer, the manipulative man told her he was going to escape regardless. It was up to her as to whether she would live to see it. Feeling backed into a corner, she reluctantly freed Pierce from his cell and attempted to get him to a jet. The X-Men easy caught up with them, to which Sooraya profusely apologized for her desperate actions. Pierce tried to manipulate her again, but Dust wouldn’t betray her friends and attacked him in return. Her act of defiance seemed to be her last, as the physical act of turning to sand had pushed her condition to its limits. She collapsed in Moonstar’s arms and died before anyone could help.

Sooraya’s salvation would come from Ink, who had been revealed to be the non-mutant on the team. His abilities were derived from his tattoos, which were given to him by a mutant tattoo artist. A short time before, Ink had gotten the Phoenix Force tattoo over his eye to give himself a power boost. Sitting with Sooraya’s body, Ink channeled the power of the tattoo and resurrected her, much to everyone’s surprise. [Young X-Men #11-12]