Above Arakko, formerly Mars, its new viceroy Storm soars in a private sky, an envelope of atmosphere around her.
She flies down to her destination instead of using the Gates. She is the new regent of Arakko and has defended the title so far. Arakko hasn’t broken her. Not yet.
In the arena, the challenger, Fiery Calderak, who seems to consist of molten stone, demands to know where she is. He plays up to the audience and disparages Storm.
In the audience sit Frenzy and Khora of the Burning Heart. Frenzy tells Khora she just got a psi-flash from Mentallo that Storm is running late. Should she go down and say something? Make an excuse on her behalf? Does she want to be regent of Arakko? Khora asks. Frenzy considers it, then decides not right now. Then don’t step into the Circle Perilous, Khora warns her. She further explains that, if you want a seat on the Great Ring, you challenge the one sitting. No hindrance, no help. If you step into the Circle, there are only three ways out. You win. Or you die. Or you yield.
In the arena, Calderak begins accusing Storm of fear.
Talks a lot, Frenzy comments. Khora figures it shows fear. If Storm is delayed, she is delayed. If she is hiding, it is something else, but he can’t make it so by talking. Khora’s eyes glow red as she announces, she is here.
A moment later, Calderak finds himself frozen by the polar winds that came in Storm’s wake. Does he yield? she asks. He calls her a witch. Weather witch, Storm corrects. She has a meeting to attend. Does he yield?
Later, Ororo stands before the Great Ring – the ruling body of Arakko – announcing that she takes the seat of All-Around-Us at the Day Table.
Reciting one of his haiku-like poems, Lodus Logos throws a knife at her. Storm catches it with her hands, then compliments him on its balance. Would he like it back? Pleased, he tells her to keep it, hoping to speak a more perfect gift soon.
Storm notes that the Seat of Law is empty. Will Ora Serrata be joining them? Xilo explains Ora is recording Storm’s duel, confirming that it was in accordance with law. He as keeper of history found the fight inconsequential. Isca the Unbeaten smirks that no fight is without consequence for the loser. Addressing Storm as regent, she remarks she called them here for a discussion. What is it she wishes to discuss? Will there be another contest today? Will there be consequences?
Tarn the Uncaring grins evilly and tells Storm to answer the question. Will there? She reminds Tarn she told him last time she was here: any act against Krakoa is an act against her. Yes, she did, he replies, studying his nails. Storm continues, he gave his word to all here, he would not set his foot on that island. Yes, he did, Tarn smirks. And then… he did! And then he beat the thieves who live there like dogs. And he will do the same. Again and again. Until he is satisfied. If she likes, he’ll continue to lie about it. As sign of his respect for her. To the Vile, Tarn’s word has hideous meaning. But to those less… it is emptier than air. A fart. And praise Tarn for even that!
That sounds like a challenge, Storm observes. Is that a route he wishes to take? She speaks the word with such gravitas, he mocks, but she is on Arakko. Challenges fall here like rain or blood. How did she get to sit here without knowing that?
Storm battles a woman looking like her in her original costume growling I Amm Yuu. She repeats that statement, while wrestling Storm to the ground and holding a knife above her.
How else? Storm coldly states. The challenge was made. The rain fell. And the blood flowed. And now this seat is hers. The casting vote. The regency of Arakko. No mutant has taken it from her. She did not yield to them. She will not yield to Tarn. She will meet him in the Circle. She walks away adding it is his prerogative to be late, but she warns him not to run or hide.
Isca asks Tarn if he is after Storm’s seat. He replies that the Seat of Loss fits him well. He has no ulterior motive. She simply offends him. Her death is motive enough.
The Circle Perilous, one hour later:
Frenzy and Khora of the Burning Heart sit in the audience. Frenzy asks how dangerous Tarn is on a scale of one to ten. Khora grimly tells her to count the numberless dead in the abyssal prisons Tarn helped oversee. Then double it.
Tarn is waiting in the arena. She is on time, he states, as he sees Storm hovering in the air. She retorts, he isn’t hiding, so they are both pleasantly surprised. He announces that verbal jousting pleases him, when an opponent shows their spirit before he takes it away. His eyes glow. Fall, he orders. Storm loses access to her power and falls hard. Tarn boasts that this is how the Great Genomic Mage fights his battles – by ending them. He explains he edited her DNA with his mind. Took away her powers. Windrider no more. Ororo Earth-crawler now. But all the same, let’s make sure. His eyes glow again and Storm screams in agony as her body becomes distorted, limbs thickening, tentacles growing from her body, her face deformed.
Frenzy is horrified, Khora stoic.
Tarn grins, noting he could give her new powers, weapons of the Vile School, but she has not earned them. Still, if she approaches with deference, he will end this humiliation by taking her life. And why not? what is she now, voice of Sol? he mocks. What is Storm without the storm?
Storm takes her knife and buries it in his chest. She warns him if she sees his eyes glow again, she will touch the blade that rests against his heart. Once. That’s all it will take. Blood flowing from his mouth and taken aback, Tarn snarls he can kill her with one thought. Is he sure he can do that before she kills him? Storm taunts. Can he bear his great work ending like this, oh genomic mage? She taunts him to take the chance. He swears then yields. Then they are done, she announces and tears the blade from his chest.
Tarn screams in pain, then announces he still won. She cannot remain on the Great Ring without her power. They will not accept her without… Storm interrupts she is the regent of Arakko. She has not given up the role nor will she. Madness! he bursts out. She is broken! She cannot possibly survive another challenge. But he is unsure and Storm smiles. Tarn begins to laugh. Storm the Uncaring! She fooled him with her Krakoan disguise. But now… he sees her as she is. His eyes glow as he returns her to her normal state. She is of Arakko… and perhaps even of Amenth.
Later in Storm’s quarters in the Krakoan embassy on Arakko:
Wiz Kid has examined her and assures Storm that her DNA is a match with the file. Tarn left no trap in her DNA. She left the Circle the same as she entered it. Frenzy adds they even checked if Tarn gave her a boost: took a couple of year off, amped her abilities…
Storm is sure he didn’t do that, because it would be an insult.
She steps outside. She knows how Arakko thinks What they expect. She is exhilarated by the storm. She will not break for Arakko, she tells herself, not yet. But she knows storms. And when they do break, they show their true face…