Once upon a time, there was a woman who could fly. Now Storm lies dejected in a bed, awake yet not moving, not doing anything.
The door to her room opens and Forge comes in carrying a tray. Setting it down next to her, he asks her how she is feeling this morning, and adds he brought her some herbal tea and hot broth, his mom’s recipe, the Cheyenne equivalent of chicken soup. Guaranteed to cure anything.
No reaction. Impatiently, he urges her to eat. She can’t just lie there and waste away. Still no reaction. Angrily, he shakes her, shouting he won’t let her die, no matter how much she thinks she wants it. She’s going to live if he has to force her every bloody step of the way. She doesn’t react. Disgusted, he lets go of her and tells her to have it her own way. See if he cares! He slams the door.
Silently, he admits to himself that he does care. Too blasted much for his own good. How does he reach her? Forge wonders as he walks through his odd penthouse apartment full of floating platforms. He sits down at a console reviewing his lack of success so far.
His holographic system creates an image of Storm as she used to look in the early days of the new X-Men. Forge muses that they are two of a kind – mutants. He’s the Maker; he builds things like this holographic display system, whereas Storm controlled the weather. She’s beautiful, he admits to himself. The personification of life itself.
The image changes to modern punk storm. She changed last year. The goddess-like serenity gave way to an all too human passion. It made her lovelier than ever. But now - thanks to him – that’s over. The beauty gone forever, the woman destroyed.
He presses a button and the holograms display the events of a few days ago. A federal strike force was after Storm’s fellow X-Man Rogue on a murder warrant. They caught up with her on the banks of the lower Mississippi. When Forge arrived Rogue and Storm were too busy saving the lives of a tug boat crew to worry about getting away. Agent Gyrich used Forge’s Neutralizer, firing at them despite Forge’s attempt to stop him. Seeing the danger, Storm shoved Rogue aside and was hit instead.
Forge heard Storm scream as he did that night in Vietnam when he reached into the lowest pit of hell for salvation. Energy exploded around Storm. Miraculously the tugboat crew survived.
He doubts Rogue was so lucky. She fell mid-channel and the current swept her away. He managed to reach Storm and drag her ashore.
Suddenly, the real Ororo stands amidst the holographic scenery, dressed in a bed sheet. Somberly, she states that was not a kindness. He should have let her drown. Belatedly, Forge switches off the hologram.
In the meantime at Xavier’s, Professor X is using Cerebro, still trying to find Storm and having no success. Nightcrawler asks him he thought he could find any mutant on Earth with Cerebro. He should, Xavier agrees, especially one of the X-Men, but he has sensed nothing from Storm since he was struck down by that incredible burst of pain. A mental shriek of purest agony he felt through the psionic rapport he shares with them all. The psychic trauma was so intense it rendered him unconscious for a day and left him unable to utilize his power until now.
Hesitantly, Kurt asks if what he felt could have been Ororo’s death. Xavier doesn’t know but tries to stay optimistic. Storm left the mansion in search of Rogue. He’ll scan for her instead. Perhaps she can lead them to Storm.
Evening in Dallas, where Storm asks Forge if he has heard anything about Rogue. Forge summarizes that Gyrich and his team have been searching the river for her downstream from where she landed without success. She either drowned or escaped. Storm figures it’s the latter. Rogue is a resourceful young woman.
Curious, Forge asks how come the two of them worked together, anyway. Rogue is crook, a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. No longer, Ororo replies as she walks up to him. Besides, she and Rogue have more in common than he suspects. When she was half Rogue’s age she was the best pickpocket and thief in Cairo. Forge is clearly disbelieving. A moment later, she produces his remote control which he kept in his back pocket. Impressed, he admits she hasn’t lost her touch. It’s a human skill, something earned, she replies. The Neutralizer didn’t affect it.
The next moment, she asks if he could make the penthouse’s floors and walls visible again. She finds all this open space a bit unnerving. Forge complies by pressing a button on the remote, though he thought she’d be used to heights. That was when she could fly, she replies curtly.
Looking outside, she remarks there are cumulus clouds gathering in the west. Weather forecast is thunder storm, he informs her. Only a few days ago, she would not have needed to see the storm to know it was there, Ororo muses sadly. She would have felt its power resonating within her. She could have told him precisely when its rain would fall and how much, for how long. She could have nudged it aside or gentled its fury. She could have made its thunder and fury her on. Now she can only watch.
She’s alive, doesn’t that count for anything? he suggests. This is not life, she replies, merely existence, a shadow of what was. Forge refuses to believe that. He doesn’t understand, she insists, she could fly. She was one with all creation! Turning away, he remarks that now she has to walk like everyone else. The goddess has become just plain folks. Tough break!
He leaves her behind and gets to his swimming pool where he berates himself for not handling the conversation better. He wonders whether it was a smart move to leave her alone. The penthouse is five stories tall. She could end all her troubles by stepping off one of the high platforms. Then he decides that it’s her life and has to be her decision. Just like it was his.
He is proven right as Ororo joins him, remarking the water looks lovely. He suggests she hop in and find out for herself. She complies and suggests a race. Ororo wins by far despite his head start. As she reaches the other side of the pool, she sees why. His right leg is mostly prosthesis.
Forge joins her and tells her she should laugh more often. As he reattaches the prosthesis he tells her he does understand. If not for his own… knack at inventing he would be hobbling about on a steel pin and wearing a hook where his right hand uses to be. And still he is a lot luckier than most… too many of his buddies came back unable to walk at all, or they came home in boxes.
Home from where? she asks. The war, Vietnam he replies. He got too close to a bomb or maybe not close enough, depends on your point of view. At the time, he wanted to die and tried to kill himself. No luck though, he is still here. Yet he tried to deny her the same escape, she reminds him. He replies that with life there are always options, possibilities, hope. You never know what happens next, for better or worse. Death may be certain, but also final. There are no second thoughts, no going back. He thought that was what he wanted. He’s learning differently.
He notices she’s shivering and offers his towel. Ororo muses that her body automatically compensated for any environment. It was something she always took for granted. As he said, she has become just “plan folks.” The sooner she gets used to that…
Meanwhile, evening in Caldecott County, Mississippi, in front of a motel where Dr. Valerie Cooper meets a colleague – Phil – after having been to Washington. She informs him that Storm unleashed so much energy when the Neutralizer hit her she burned out the mutant scanner the Avengers gave them. Considering the circumstances she doubts Forge will loan them his. Is he angry? Phil asks. He doesn’t want to know, she scoffs. His day any better?
Phil informs her that they’ve lost Rogue. There are too many places along the river to hide and their net’s spread too thin. What about the mutie carted off by Forge? Gyrich said he’d deal with her, Val replies. Mr. Tact strikes again, Phil mutters. Forge will love that. If they slaughter each other, it’ll be fine by her, Val replies cynically and wishes him a good night.
Phil returns to his car, musing about the situation Forge protested to the president and Gyrich hitting the wrong person didn’t help. He figures this assignment might very well finish Val’s career. Too bad, she deserved better.
He muses about missing his wife, when suddenly a monstrous Dire Wraith appears on the road in front of him. The creature’s barbed tongue drives into his skull. Phil turns to dust as the alien creature takes on his form and memories. The new “Phil” calls forth her Wraith sisters, telling them the female awaits.
Not much later, Val Cooper is dragged out of the shower by incessant knocking at the door. Surprised and embarrassed, she finds “Phil” outside and invites him in. He grabs her, telling her that she’s showing such interest in Dire Wraiths. Tonight she will become one.
The other Wraiths enter but, before they can begin killing and absorbing Val, another surprise visitor enters: Rogue. Who--? Val exclaims confused. Flying at the nearest Wraith and kicking it in the face, Rogue asks if Val doesn’t recognize her after all the trouble she went to hunting her like a mad dog? Truth to tell, she really hates saving her. If anyone ever deserved being left to her fate, it’s Val, but right now she needs her alive!
While Rogue distracts the Wraiths Val uses the opportunity and claws at the face of the Wrath still in Phil’s form. She kicks him, realizing that if the Wraith is Phil, the real Phil is dead. She seizes his gun, points it at “Phil” and asks what they wanted from her. The Wraith refuses to answer. If this attempt fails, tomorrow’s will succeed. Eventually Val and her precious world will die. It won’t be here to see it, Val replies and shoots it. Almost hysterical, she runs away.
Rogue noticed and tells the Wraith she has to cut the battle short. She slams it outside with her fist, then screams. She’d forgotten she’s wearing civilian clothes without gloves. When she touched the Wraith’s bare skin, she absorbed part of it. Disgusted, she falls to the ground, wrestling with the monster’s identity.
At the same time, Xavier has managed to establish a mindlink with her via Cerebro but senses that her thoughts are alien and vile. He mutters: lust for death… destruction… overwhelming psychic defenses. Kurt takes his hand, asking him to draw from his strength and help Rogue if he can. He wonders how much worse things must be for Rogue.
Val, in the meantime, has reached Phil’s car. Hearing a helicopter above, she doesn’t know if it’s friend or foe and doesn’t want to take the risk. She gets into the car and panicked tries to get out of the parking lot ramming the other cars. She manages to get out and drives at top speed, without any real plan, still hysterical after the Wraith’s attack.
The next moment, Rogue grabs her from behind, telling her she hopes this hurts. She brings the car to a stop. She begins to absorb Val’s memories. When she learns what has happened to Storm she is horrified. She tries to deny that knowledge. The feds wanted her. Why did they have to hurt Storm? Cooper had better pray Storm is all right or she’ll be seeing her again!
She smashes her way out of the car and runs to hide as a helicopter is about to land close to the car. She had wanted to get Storm out of this mess alone as Rogue pulled her into it, but now she has no choice. She has to tell the Professor and get the X-Men’s help.
Back at Eagle Plaza, Ororo chooses an outfit from the clothes Forge had delivered for her. Putting on a pink evening gown, she finds herself wondering what he will think. She walks into the kitchen, causing him to cut himself with the kitchen knife when she calls his name. He is at a loss for words when he sees her. Nervously, she babbles that she found the color of the dress lovely. When she notices he is staring, she feels uncomfortable and walks out again to find something else. Both inwardly chide themselves for their behavior. Storm wonders why she so craves his approval. It’s totally unlike her.
Wearing something more demure and practical, she returns. Forge apologizes for upsetting her before, but she caught him off-guard. Is he so ashamed of what he thinks and feels that he must guard his thoughts and emotions? she shoots back. Sometimes, he admits, stating he likes his privacy. Storm wonders if she is imposing them. He asks her to stay.
Curious, she asks what dish he is preparing, a curry dish she knows. Putting the food into the oven, he asks her to pour some champagne. Ororo protests she doesn’t drink. He suggests she be daring. She might even enjoy herself. She is doing that already, she admits. Joking, he pours her a glass and, hesitatingly, she tries it.
The two of them begin to flirt. The conversation turns more serious when Ororo asks him about his Indian heritage. Forge replies curtly that he is a Cheyenne. Ororo realizes that the topic makes him uncomfortable and asks if this subject is forbidden. No, he replies, he is proud of his heritage, but what he was has nothing to do with who he is or the life he leads. That sounds clever, she remarks. He tries to explain that the path of destiny doesn’t always lead where one wants. She, after all, began as a thief before joining the X-Men. Did his life change as… dramatically? Ororo asks. Abruptly, Forge turns away, pretending he needs to check the food.
Ororo confides that her parents were killed by bombs that leveled their house. Her mother and she were buried in the rubble. She watched her die. That is why she is terrified of enclosed spaces. She has never told this to any living soul. They are a lot alike, Forge muses and proposes a toast.
Ororo notes the thunder outside. The storm must have reached them. Forge suggests she press the yellow button on the console to see for herself. The walls turn invisible and they find themselves surrounded by the storm. Ororo cries out and angrily and helplessly demands he make it stop.
Forge takes away the module and restores the walls to visibility. Ororo sinks down on the chair, explaining she felt so small and insignificant in the face of the storm’s fury, so afraid. He assures her it’ll pass, she’ll cope.
Ororo thanks him and admits that of late, even before she lost her powers she had been living on the raw edge of her emotions, feeling… reacting to everything as intensely as can be. The first lesson she learned when she developed her powers was that they were bound up with her emotions. The greater her feelings, the more extreme the atmospheric response. To protect herself and those around her, she cultivated an absolute serenity, that she virtually lost all awareness of herself as a woman. A few months ago, she cast away those restraints and rebelled, cut her hair, changed her look. Like him, she denied completely her old world and self and beliefs. Now, ironically the problem no longer exists. She need not fear her feelings, for the only person affected will be her. Not quite, he tells her and kisses her.
For a moment, Ororo feels happy, comparing her feelings to soaring like an eagle. Would she really like to fly again? Forge asks. The damage might not be permanent; he’d like to examine her. She thanks him but states she has no illusions. Her powers are gone. Forge suggests the process might be reversed.
Before they can continue, the discussion the phone rings. Forge takes it and is clearly not pleased as he suggests to the caller to wait while he switches phones to his office. He promises to be back soon.
Left alone, Ororo suddenly realizes she should have called Professor Xavier at once to tell him she is all right and let him know about Rogue. She takes the receiver and inadvertently eavesdrops on Forge’s conversation with Henry Gyrich, who informs him that Val Cooper’s in a catatonic coma which is Rogue’s trademark. If Rogue learned Storm’s whereabouts from Val, she will be on her way. They want Storm shifted to a federal facility.
Forge refuses. He is best equipped to care for her. She trusts him. Gyrich accuses Forge of being emotionally involved. That’s right, comes the irritated reply. Gyrich shot Storm, but he designed the gun.
Hearing that, Storm cries out in disbelief and drops the receiver. Forge calls down to her, asking her to let him explain. Never! she shouts back, deciding she has to flee but even as she runs downward the platforms and steps turn invisible. Ororo loses her step and falls, luckily landing on a couch (though still wrenching her shoulder).
She wonders how to find her way down to the main level without breaking her neck and decides to try out Forge’s control module which she held onto. Pressing a button has the wrong result though, as suddenly there seems to be a detonation right next to her. The holographic system has creates a jungle under attack by B-52s dropping bombs.
As Forge runs downward he recognizes it as the B-52 strike that maimed him and wonders how Ororo accessed that file.
Strangely, the bombing raid is followed by monstrous unearthly beings fleeing for their lives, before they disappear. Storm wonders what that was, whether Forge created them or not.
Tying to find her way, she drops off the edge of a platform. Forge shouts at her not to move, she’ll only make things worse.
Cynically Ororo thinks he probably hates the thought of losing his prize specimen. If she goes on, she will only fall again. Desperate, she calls out to her goddess for help. That moment, lighting strikes the building close to her, shattering the windows. Ororo stumbles outside onto the balcony into the thunderstorm.
Forge follows, stating there is nowhere to run. Furious, she warns him to have a care. The cornered animal is the most dangerous. Forge tries to assure her he is not her enemy, which she doesn’t believe. The gun wasn’t meant to be used like that, he claims. To which she asks why it was built in the first place. When he explains it’s his job, she sarcastically states he is only following orders She is no guinea pig!
She runs to the balcony’s edge which makes him concerned that she will jump. He gives his word that no one will hurt her. She cuts him off that his word is worth nothing. Besides, the damage has already been done. By him.
When he apologizes, she replies with sarcasm. Angrily, he asks if she’d prefer he turn the weapon upon himself. He’s the only hope she’s got for a cure. She calls this an empty gesture as the gun only affects superpowers. His mind is his power, he reveals. He is like her – a mutant!
She believes this to be another lie. Fed up, he reminds, her if he was the swine she thinks he was he’d have let Gyrich have her from the start. Instead, he has merely delayed the inevitable, Ororo insists. He can protect her, he promises. She asks him if he is blind or thinks her a fool. All he learns from her will be told Gyrich who will then use it to subjugate or destroy mutantkind. Their people. Does that mean nothing to him? What else did he sacrifice with his heritage – honor, decency humanity? To think she wanted to impress him… She wore that gown, unburdened her heart… to a man who could not care less! When he tries to reach out to her she belts him with all her strength.
Calmer, she calls him pathetic. He lives in his high tower, untouched and untouchable… surrounded by illusions, so terrified of living in the real world he cannot bear to violate the sanctity of his space even with something as small as a flower. His home is a true reflection of its creator, cold, cruel, sterile and ultimately a deception. An ideal world where the master of lies can feel safe and secure.
Forge listens to this grimly, then protests she is wrong. He isn’t like that! She suggests that, while he may lie to her, he shouldn’t lie to himself. Forge promises that he cares for her. Ororo points out that he asks for her trust, yet gives none in return. What has he told her of his hopes and dreams and fears? Even if she accepts his word and gives free rein to her feelings, what shall she do when he betrays them and her? He won’t! he shouts.
To be loyal, one must believe in something, she continues. He is hollow, form without substance. He cannot believe, because there is no “him.”
Angrily, he insists she has no right to judge him. Turning away, Ororo asks him to prove her wrong. They are much alike, she echoes his previous words. She sees in him a “her” that might have been but she chooses to walk another road. Her feet may never leave the ground again, but someday she shall fly again!