First story :
This story is a reprint of X-Men (1st series) #115. There are, however, three additional pages.
At Xavier’s Institute for Gifted Youngsters in Westchester, Jean packs her bags. She thinks it’s funny that, of all the X-Men, she has been associated with Professor Xavier the longest. She knew him when she was a kid, long before he formed the team. Yet, this house was much more of a home to Scott. She looks at photographs on the desk of her friends at various times and thinks that this is really the only home Scott ever had and the X-Men his only real family. She’s never known anyone so lonely.
She runs her fingers across the photographs. Scott tried so hard never to let that show. He wanted so badly to be the rock on which they all stood, the strength to sustain them no matter what. He did his best, and she wishes she could say the same. As she becomes frustrated, energy begins to trickle from her fingertips and she turns away. When the X-Men needed her strength, where was the much-vaunted power of Phoenix? She transforms into Phoenix, furious that she managed to save the universe, yet she couldn’t save the man she loves. What’s the point of having so much power, if she can’t use it?
With the rage, comes a prelude of things to come. She finds herself inadvertently delving directly into the mind of Charles Xavier, who sits writing at his bureau. He looks so alone, lost in his grief. With this grief, comes distraction, and he doesn’t notice Jean prying into his thoughts. He is thinking about Jean, of Lilandra and his X-Men. His sense of failure is pronounced, yet Jean thinks she is to blame, not he. She cannot stop herself from prying and wills herself not to see his secrets, but finds the temptation too much. What defensive barriers his mind maintains, she knows she can smash.
She then finds herself in the mind of Lilandra, who occupies herself with physical tasks to keep her battle-ready. Her thoughts continue into Salem and Jean wonders why everyone must think so loud when she cannot shut out the noise. She doesn’t want to know and, as her power reaches a certain point, she screams, “Leave me alone!” She finds herself back in her normal clothes. A kind of circuit breaker, the same as when she almost defeated Magneto has cut in, preventing her from accessing the power she knows exists. She can’t touch it, yet. She also knows that she can’t handle this by herself, but how can she turn to the Professor? The moment they mindlink, he will know what she did and it will hurt him terribly. But, without him, without Scott, whom can she turn to? What is she to do?
Wearing only a loincloth, Piotr surveys the magnificent Savage Land in all its glory. It is a place where time, sort of, stopped millions of years ago. It’s a primordial enclave where dinosaurs still roam. Piotr Rasputin, better known as Colossus, hates it. The heat is unbearable. Even his mother’s kitchen after an afternoon of cooking was not half as hot as this. The clouds that hide the land from detection also mask the sun but they prevent its heat from escaping. The land below becomes like a steam bath.
Piotr is soaking from head to toe. The paper on his drawing tablet is so saturated that the pencil cannot make a decent imprint. All this greenery, he thinks, is so unlike his Rodina, his motherland. It is winter there at the moment when snow covers the Earth and the air is blessedly cool.
As he looks over the verdant fields, he wonders if he is dreaming. He sees Anya and his sister, Illyana, although his sister is just a child and the girl he sees is almost as old as he. Sweat pours down his forehead and he realizes that it’s only the heat toying with his imagination. It is actually three girls from a local tribe, each sporting a Mohican haircut. He thinks about Anya. It’s been months since they parted, yet he still misses her. She was so afraid when she saw him transform into Colossus. He looks at his half-finished drawing of Anya. In that instant, he became a monster.
His thoughts are brought to an abrupt halt by a scream. He instinctively heads in the direction the girls had been heading. As he rounds a corner, he sees them hiding behind a tree as a huge Tyrannosaurus Rex hunts its prey. The girls are armed with axes but they are hardly the tools to fend off such a creature. Piotr tries to change into his steel form but finds he is unable. He feels it’s probably the heat affecting his concentration. There’s no time to worry about that now though. He needs to distract the creature. He picks up a large rock and hurls it at the dinosaur. It makes contact with its jaw and it instinctively swings its tail in defense, knocking Piotr clear into the river.
He climbs out, bloodied, knowing he should have anticipated that move and reacted faster. He’ll hurt like the devil tomorrow and have bruises all over. He clambers ashore and grabs an axe. Behind the tree, one of the girls is facing the creature in the open, hoping to draw it away from her friends. Piotr must hurry and he ignores the aches and pains. He climbs a tree, using the vines to position himself above the creature and then he leaps, swinging on a vine and onto the creature. As he does so however, the creature grabs the girl in its huge mouth and bites. Piotr hacks away at the creature’s eye with the axe and it releases its vise-like grip on her. She falls to the ground, bloodied and helpless.
Piotr tries to take out the other eye but the dinosaur reels in pain and Piotr has to grab the vine again, as it dashes away in panic. It runs straight into a bog and Piotr hears his heart hammering, as much from fright as exertion. He figures the creature won’t be back as the mud drags it under. It’s a good thing too, as he doubts he could have lasted much longer. The air is so humid; it’s like being underwater.
One of the girls approaches him and places her hands on his muscular chest. “My brave warrior,” she says. “You saved us! I am Nereel.” Piotr gives her his name and she knows him to be one of the outlanders. Piotr asks about her friends. She turns and Piotr sees Fahe kneeling down with her face in her hands. Fahe is well but lying beside her is Shakani, who was not so fortunate.
At midnight, the tribe cremates their fallen warrior on a pyre. The change from night to morning symbolizes the casting off of Shakani’s fleshy incarnation and the union of her spirit with the eternal, infinite cosmos. Piotr and his fellow X-Men watch, thinking of their own recent losses; friends they’ll never see again.
That night, Piotr doesn’t sleep well. The great predator stalks his dreams and it wears Shakani’s face. He tries to fight but his armored skin tears like flesh. He tries to run, only to become mired in bog. Fangs close in on his face. He can’t even scream. In the morning, he suddenly awakens, startled by the presence of Nereel and Fahe in his room. Nereel tells him that there is a last ceremony. “A memorial to Shakani we must perform,” adds Fahe. Piotr stands and the two girls lead him outside.
As they walk, they come across Wolverine, who is stitching his uniform back together. Piotr asks him if he’d like to join them. “Well, I’ll be,” Wolverine replies, “Is this the Petey Pureheart I’ve known and loved?” He says he’s much obliged but thinks he’ll pass. Besides, he wouldn’t want to crimp his style. As Piotr carries on, he wonders what Wolverine meant by that, and why are the girls giggling?
He thinks about the people on his home collective who still follow religious ways. They seem much more serious than this. Different lands, different customs, he figures. They climb onto a raft and Piotr rows them to a nearby island, an island close by the bog where the dinosaur fell. Once they’re on the island, Piotr finds that the two girls have more than a ceremony in mind. He asks what he must do and Fahe says he should simply be with them. Their attentions actually make him blush. He says he cannot but Nereel asks why. Piotr asks what of their memorial and Nereel asks what better way to honor a fallen friend than by hopefully creating a new life?
Piotr is taken aback by the suggestion and her attempt to kiss him. He tells her that she should not be with him, but with one of her own, a man who will care for her for the rest of her days. She replies that children are the charge of the entire village. The tribe is their family. There is no shame in joining with an outlander, especially one of such nobility and courage, for his blood makes them stronger. Piotr struggles, as much out of embarrassment as of his lack of belief in their ways.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, the injured T-Rex appears and roars at the three humans standing before it. Piotr tells them to scatter, to the trees and the deep water. It’s him the creature wants. Fahe says they won’t leave him but Piotr orders her to do as she’s told. The creature lunges at him and he realizes he has no weapons, no rocks handy to slow it down. As Nereel watches the creature’s attack, she is amazed as Piotr finally manages to change into his steel form. The crackle of energy as he changes comes as a relief. Yesterday, when he couldn’t change made him afraid. He extends himself to full stretch between the jaws of the giant dinosaur, far enough to cause the jawbone to crack. The creature falls and Piotr leaps to the ground. He can hear surprise and alarm in the voices of Fahe and Nereel, and wonders how long before that turns to terror.
He would love to put an end to that kind of unreasoning fear, as easily as he does the beast. He launches a fierce attack, punching it with all his might until it fights no more. The two girls approach and Piotr tells them that this is what he is, as much as he was when he was flesh and blood. He is not as they are, or other humans. He is a mutant. Nereel asks why there is sadness in his voice. Without his power, it is they who would lie slain, not the thunder lizard. Piotr replies that he knows. He was just thinking of someone he once cared for and how she fled when she saw him like this. He feared they might do the same.
Nereel says she was foolish; they are not. They see nothing in him to fear, as would anyone with enough sense to follow the dictates of their heart. She leans forward and holds Piotr, kissing him on the lips. Piotr is still nervous and says that, when his fellow X-Men leave, he must go with them. Fahe joins her in embracing him and Nereel says that they must then cherish the moments ‘til then. “You mean that! You truly care?” he asks. Silly boy, Nereel replies, let us show you how truly much we do. Suddenly, Piotr Rasputin finds he’s smiling with a wild light-hearted joy he’s never felt before. He knows that, for the first time, he’s discovered love.