South Africa, Mozambique borders, years ago:
Two Russian hunters, a powerfully built bearded man and a sharp-featured woman, stare at an elephant herd. How much longer, Sergej? the woman asks impatiently. He tells her to be patient. This is a young strong herd, well worth the wait. She reminds him she wants the matriarch’s head as a trophy. He retorts they want the infant alive.
He shoots one of the elephants. The woman fires as well. He congratulates her on her prowess. Moments later, Logan attacks the man who will one day be known as Kraven the Hunter.
Logan runs to his elephant friend Lull, who has lost her mother and sister, and the two hunters flee. Logan tells the elephant she needs to be strong and lead the them but she fears the hunters will find and kill them. There is no safe place anymore.
The Jean Grey School today:
Kitty Pryde is still baffled that Wolverine has an 80 year long history of annual trips to Africa and friendship with a herd of elephants she didn’t know about. On second thought: He is Wolverine, it makes perfect sense. But she’s still not sure how they can find those elephant friends of his.
Doug Ramsey has a suggestion. He explains that elephants communicate subsonically. He’s asked an old SWORD weather satellite to register seismic readings in the region but to narrow the frequency to those used by elephant herds. Then he can simply listen to the readings and discern what is being talked about. He gets the readings but they don’t quite make sense to him.
Madripoor, the docks:
Wolverine’s senses are still haywire and he is shocked that Tyger Tiger knows of this poaching operation and approves. Her guards’ weapons are aimed at him, Tyger Tiger warns him that she isn’t bluffing. She orders him to leave Madripoor or his hide will end up on the same black market like those tusks and horns.
He asks if she is responsible for this. No, but she is no fool either. There are untold millions of dollars to be made from an enterprise like this. She cannot let him interfere.
Why? he demands. Why what? she retorts and reminds him the crime he so despises ran rampant when Viper and then Wolverine’s son Daken controlled Madripoor. Drugs, gun running, slavery, child prostitution on an unbelievable scale. Crimes they couldn’t abide but shutting it down came with a price. Madripoor has always trafficked in horns and skins. Despite his rules. And when international laws loosened, the trade exploded and hundreds of millions dollars were suddenly made available to replace the revenue lost by closing down other businesses. With demand so high, all this became the perfect replacement.
She admits the scale of the trade is staggering. She didn’t realize how much of this contraband was being bought and sold until tonight. But she can’t just cut off a revenue stream this grand. There’s a price to be paid for maintaining Madripoor’s way of life.
It’s too high! he shouts and unsheathes his claws. She orders her men to stop him and they fire. She pleads with him to leave. She doesn’t want this. After all these years, that’s the best she got? he mocks and tears into the men.
Furious, Tyger grabs a machine gun and levels it at him. Do her worst, he challenges her. He ain’t backing down. Tyger fires and he falls back into the pile of horns. Tyger begs him to be rational. They are way beyond rational, he moans. She just doesn’t get it. Every two tusks represent a dead elephant, every horn a dead rhino, every skin a dead tiger or leopard, butchered by bastards who don’t have a clue or care! How can she not see how wrong this is? Because they are animals! she shouts. They are not like people. And they are certainly not worth as much. She can’t let them be!
Back at the Jean Grey School, Kitty asks Cypher what this means. The herd of elephants are fighting amongst themselves. One is even abandoning her infant. Why? He explains that elephants have a complex language. Those subsonic rumbles communicate shared memories. Like a network of communal emotions. It almost sounds like telepathy, Kitty muses, sort of the way the Acanti communicate in space. Somewhat, Doug agrees and starts a computer simulations to show her how those animals perceive the world. It’s not unlike how Storm perceives the world as patterns of energy. Their entire lives are built around that kind of tribal communication. In their way, they are the spiritual guardians of the land.
Has he found Wolverine’s elephant? Kitty asks. Doug listens. No one here seems to have a strong communal memory of a man fitting Wolverine’s description. Their memories of him date back decades. Their emotions are palpable. They are afraid.
As they speak, Doug and Kitty are unaware of Quentin Quire eavesdropping.
In Madripoor, Tyger Tiger walks toward the crouching Logan. He has no idea what she had to do to save this place and its people after Daken left. She did what had to be done. He grabs her and tells her she could have made a thousand different choices! These animals are going to be gone! Species wiped off the face of the Earth so greedy old men can get their peckers hard! How can that not scare the hell outta her?
Does he know what scares her? Tyger shoots back. Ten-year-old girls being traded for sex. Countries starving because of religious war and imperialism, because of a few powerful people making decisions that affect entire continents! She accuses him of hypocrisy. How many “honor killings” has he committed? How many has he murdered out of petty revenge? How many animals have died at his hand to satiate his feral appetites?
He killed because he had to, Logan snaps back, never for money or land or kicks. And he was never proud of it. But she’s sanctioning the massacre of entire species. They’re animals! Tyger shouts. They don’t have souls! Most people think he is no more than an animal! Logan shouts back. The X-Men, the Avengers, her? What about it? Does she think he’s got a soul? He grabs her arm.
Is he insane? she argues. Of course he has a soul. He’s a man! What’s he doing, she demands as the hand that holds her extends one claw. He holds it to his face, telling her if he is an animal, then he has no soul. Don’t be a hypocrite, he goads. Do it herself! Tyger screams in horror as he uses the claw to carve off the skin of his face, in an attempt to show her how savage all of this is. It’s the only way he knows how.
He turns away and walks off, ignoring her question of where he is going. He opens the crates with dead animals and realizes it’s easy for him to waltz in here and make her the villain. He burns them. It’s less easy to tackle a history so broken by fools like them that life itself means so little and sometimes means nothing at all.
At the Jean Grey School, Kitty asks why the tag lights are disappearing. This is an extinction level, phenomenon, Cypher repeats. An elephant is slaughtered about every fifteen minutes. Kitty looks horrified.
In Madripoor, the entire warehouse burns.
Back at the Jean Grey School, Oya and a boy with wings catch Quentin eavesdropping. Apropos of nothing, he tells them that Cypher’s powers don’t work on a conscious level. The translation is automatic like a smartphone app. There’s no contest, emotion, history, just a word for word conversion. But what he saw in Logan’s subconscious… He can’t even begin to comprehend how much like humans the elephants are. How deeply they feel. How much they know. What they go through when they are killed like that. But Quentin can. And so can Wolverine.
Tyger and her men stare in horror at the burning warehouse.
The Jean Grey School:
Quentin enters the lab, telling Kitty Logan and his friends need their help. And he thinks he knows something they can do.
Back in South Africa, Logan has started a fire and has gathered the remaining tusks. The elephant thanks him for bringing them home. He is relieved she is still alive. She is almost gone, she tells him. She is old, she is alone. She is the last. He is older than her, she points out, and they got some of the bastards. She is tired of hiding, she tells him. Tired of watching the young die. Their smell is gone from these bones. They bleach them, Logan explains. He tells her he isn’t giving up on her. And she can’t give up either. This world and these people need her kind. Even if they are too blind to see that at the moment. He has things to do but she better be back next year to greet him. She leaves with the ghosts of her people.
Kruger national park, two days later:
The members of the Jean Grey School equip the rangers with multi-cam vests, rifles, ammunition and supplies. Kitty tells them a mutual friend told her he owed them a vest and a rifle or three and more. Quentin points out it was his idea. Josephine asks where their mutual friend is. Just a few klicks from here, Kitty replies. Doing a little hunting himself.
And some distance away, Wolverine attacks some poachers about to shoot an elephant.