Ororo Munroe is believed to be dead. Performing a ceremony in remembrance in the sewer system beneath Manhattan for the deformed outcast mutants who once dwelt there, something happened. Cable, her colleague, found a faceless copse at the site that must have been Storm.
Westchester, 1 AM.
Cable is restless. He is a soldier, leader of X-Force, the mutant guerrilla team, currently residing in the mansion home of the X-Men. When he fought in wars, he knew the people he fought with, knew them intimately. He barely knew Ororo Munroe and now she’s dead. He can’t sleep for thinking about her.
He tries to open the door to the communications room, swearing, as Hank McCoy always locks it at night. Telekinetically he opens the door. He is also a telepath. He heard Storm’s deathscreams. In his mind. His telekinesis flashes across the console and keyboards finding and dialing a number with angry thought The number of Storm’s lover. The leader of X-Factor, the govenrment sanctioned mutant strike force.
Forge’s face appears on the screen and he seems astonished that Cable would call him at this time of night. Why is Cable looking at him like that?
The Hill; no-time
A fortress stands upon the Hill. Before it, on the cliff, waits Mikhail Rasputin, a madman. He presides over a place existing in a dimension separate from our own – a hellworld of Darwinism gone mad, where its denizens must eternally scale the Hill that comprises the world or suffer. Come to me, my children, he calls out to the mutants who are close to reaching their goal. Show me your strength, my children and dwell with me, above the poison weather.
A purple mutant manages the final part of the climb, reaching the cliff upon which Mikhail stands. He is strong, Mikhail commends him and the Morlock smiles gratefully calling him father. His look of relief turns to one of horror a moment later as Mikhail brutally steps on his fingers. As he falls, Mikhail shouts after him that he must be stronger. Stronger than him even. And evolve better fingers. He gives orders to close the gate. Their chance for great ness is done for the day.
Time runs faster on the Hill than on Earth. And age has not improved Mikhail Rasputin.
On a cliff perched even higher, Storm stands having taken in the scene. She has been here for some hours considering her position. And remembering.
She’s brought out of her reverie violently as an arrow hits her in the shoulder. Below her, some Morlocks cheer and make faces at her. A line is attached to the arrow and one Morlock tries to pull her down with it, shouting if they can’t have the summit, neither can she.
Typical of this poisoned place, she thinks. Survival of the fittest means having to watch one’s back forever. They mean to drag her off the rampart and murder her, she realizes. She shouts out ‘no’ and lightning hits the Morlocks. Her mutant talent is inexorably tied to her emotional state. The vicious lightning rises with her anger, becoming a furious, lethal coruscation. Once, she was worshipped as a goddess. This is the terrible aspect of that goddess.
As Storm pulls the arrow out of her shoulder, Mikhail, having watched the display, asks her with an eager smile that she will show them what strength is and calls her mother. She is no one’s mother, Ororo protests. Her emotions got the better of her. She would not see those people dead. They’re not, Mikhail explains - nobody dies here except of old age. He tells her to look at her wound and Storm finds it has stopped bleeding. This is a world of eternal pain and struggle, Rasputin explains - death is too easy an end to the struggle. Something here heals their wounds. But they are left with honest scars.
Her internal struggle is pointless, he suddenly announces. They believe her to be dead in her world. And time moves in strange circles here. For a whole while, time here was faster. Now it’s slower. She has been dead for some years. All her friends may be deceased.
Why does he want her to believe him so desperately, she wonders, as he asks her inside telling her that her children would like to meet her again. She follows him inside, deciding that a good leader would look a the current crop of mutant terrorists this place has spawned.
Westchester, the comms-suite.
Forge still cannot quite believe what Cable has just told him. Storm’s dead? What is he saying? Cable elaborates. There was a kind of accident in the Morlock Tunnels. They’ll know more in the morning. But he just spoke with her, Forge muses. How could she be gone?
Out of nowhere he states that he thinks she wanted them to split up. What? Cable asks. Forge continues: Ororo told him their relationship just wasn’t going anywhere. She seemed preoccupied but she spoke of thinking in the short-term all the time. Like she was still on the streets of Cairo as a thief. Never thinking further than her next meal. She said she never looked ahead far enough and, when she tried to look ahead in their relationship, she didn’t see anything and now… neither does he.
He can make anything, he tells Cable. Why couldn’t he make her happy? Forge asks Cable to call him as soon as he has any more information and Cable promises to do so.
The Hill, no-time:
They descend into the guts of Rasputin’s castle. There is something magnetic about the man – his psychosis she supposes. She has read that serial killers are among the most charming of men. His eyes glitter like marbles. His mouth twitches into a brief chilling smile and then reverts to a deadly line. She sees how Mikhail Rasputin can inspire awe. And fear.
He asks her to enter one chamber, calling her ‘mother.’ Or may he know her as Ororo, he inquires. In there are the greatest of his children, the fittest to survive to punish the human guilty of Earth. He orders the motley, yet deadly-looking crew of young mutants to name themselves for their mother. Pain, Snow, Loss, Glass, Charm, the Morlocks monosyllabically reply. Their dull, heartless voices echo in the Dark Chamber. There is no life left in them. Their shark’s eyes have no light in them. To ascend to the summit of this world, they must carry only death; must think it, dream it, breathe it. This is Gene Nation.
They are preparing for a mission on Earth, a holy crusade of punishment, Rasputin raves. They are going to Virginia where they will plant a bomb. This device will destroy the X-Factor headquarters. So he has been the force behind Gene Nation, the murderers of innocent humans, Storm states calmly, and now he even turns against his own kind – mutants?
Yes, Mikhail concedes, X-Factor is a mutant organization and, of course, she romances their leader, Forge. However, they serve the human establishment. They kowtow to the “upworlders” – besides with the passage of time Forge is already dead of old age, but the statement of the bombing is the purpose.
The Hill; the ramparts. A gloved hand reaches for the summit.
Westchester, 2 AM
Cable leaves the mansion.
Addressing the Gene Nationals directly, Storm asks why they are doing this. What is the point of this senseless destruction? The Morlocks she knew, their mothers and fathers, had respect for life. Really, Loss asks mockingly. They lived in sewers, “mother.” They will not be kept down. They will have a country of their own. They will kill the ones who would bury them and bury the ones they kill, Charm adds stupidly.
Another person closes in on their confrontation.
She will not let them do that, Storm announces. She is weak, Loss accuses her and throws a knife. She was a bad leader. Her decisions never addressed the Morlocks’ real concerns. Ororo catches the knife, while Loss still accuses her of having done nothing while the Morlocks died in their tunnels. She is no mother. She is nothing. Loss lifts her clawed hands, ordering Storm to defend herself to show them she deserves to live. Having to fight another Gene Nation child, Storm can’t help but think of Marrow.
Storm! An angry voice suddenly shouts, as Callisto has finally reached them. She has led the Morlocks before her, she had Rasputin before her, she rejected him before her.
Mikhail suddenly shouts out in pain, even though nobody touched him. As Ororo is distracted, Loss injures her in the back with her claws, stating derogatively that her death will be a worthless, cheap thing. Storm hits her upfront, ordering her to be silent. She doesn’t give orders here, Callisto announces, as she raises a gun. She saw her in the ramparts. She didn’t get cast down just to see Storm take her place with Rasputin.
Mikhail still screams and the lights of the transfer effect appear around him. It is involuntary, Storm realizes. Storm hits Callisto with a lightning bolt and pushes the Gene Nationals away with her winds. Rasputin said that he opened a gate when the Ceremony of Light is performed on Earth, but that may not have been the whole truth. She takes her knife and holds it to Rasputin’s throat, ordering him to transport her through the gate or she will saw through his windpipe. She is worthy, he announces, but this solves nothing. He could come for her again. The Gene Nationals will still kill.
Callisto threatens she will kill Mikhail should he transport Storm. Just like he killed Marilou in order to fake Storm’s corpse on Earth. Explain, Ororo demands with glowing eyes. Time passes more quickly here, Callisto states. Quickly enough that Rasputin had time to find someone of Storm’s sex, color and approximate height, put her in black clothes, killed her and threw her through the gate into the tunnels, just after he took Storm. Callisto complained and he cast her down for being weak. Her death is Storm’s fault, for entering their tunnels, Callisto announces.
Holding out the Bomb, Loss proclaims that their ’father’ would prove himself weak if he did what Storm asked. If he dares transport her and if Storm cuts his throat, they will still detonate the bomb.