A junkyard for used airplanes, outside Cairo, Illinois. Here Lian Shen, thanks to her hounds, has followed the trail of Storm and her new partner-in-crime, the mysterious Gambit.
The Shadow King impatiently contacts her via telepathy, demanding information. She brings him up to speed and he tells her to do what she wants with Gambit, but Ororo he wants alive and unharmed. Lian agrees and lets loose her Hounds. Laughing, she remarks that the boy is as important to her as the girl is to the King. There is a debt between them and she dearly looks forward to taking strip by strip out of Gambit’s hide.
Standing outside a plane, Gambit observes that the wind is rising. Impatiently, Ororo snaps back that she is aware of this. He continues that, if they don’t leave as fast as they can, they won’t be able to leave at all. Every instinct is screaming trouble. He knows she can fly on these winds she commands. But lifting a whole airplane the same way may be pushing things.
This is her home and she won’t leave it, she replies stubbornly. Possessions can be replaced, he points out, but she is gambling with their lives. Nothing holds him here, she replies. He can leave.
The plane begins to shudder and start to move. Only a minute too late, Gambit observes, as a hound comes attacking through the window.
Panicked, Ororo cries for him to get it off her. Quickly, Gambit’s eyes flare and a playing card begins to glow, charged full of energy. The sudden scare doesn’t shake Storm’s concentration though, as Lian had hoped. Quite the contrary, in fact. The winds lift the derelict DC-6 as the impact of Gambit’s playing card sends the Hound flying the other way.
Lian can’t help being impressed and figures her boss is lucky that Storm is only a child. As an adult, she may well be his match.
Another hound is on the plane’s roof. Gambit joins him out there, spins his staff to distract him and then gets rid of him with a well-placed kick to the chin, wishing him a happy landing.
He chides himself for being so flippant. After all, the Hounds were human once, or what passes for it among “quality folk,” until the Shadow King twisted them inside out. Compared to that, death is a mercy. He muses that they want the same for Storm. That moment, the female Hound he overlooked attacks. With the plane pitching over, Gambit needs both hands to hold on. Storm steers the plane in a way to shake the Hound off.
As he enters the cockpit, she just remarks that one good rescue deserves another. She has clearly no idea were to head, so he suggests she follow the Mississippi in the direction of New Orleans.
He takes a look around Ororo’s living space, while he remarks that the plane has no light. Ororo explains that she seems to be generating a glow about the aircraft. Any who see them will likely mistake the plane for an UFO. Gambit finds a snapshot of the X-Men, as well as a knife. It’s for protection, Ororo explains. Bad thing to bluff with, he comments. Hard to use for keeps. Tears in her eyes, Ororo admits that she knows.
She recalls that, when she left Cairo and headed towards Sudan… She breaks off. She is in America, how can she be remembering Egypt? Something drew her south; a call to her soul she couldn’t deny. A man offered her a ride in his truck. He tried to rape her. When Ororo couldn’t run away and he left her warning unheeded, she stabbed him.
Gambit comforts her, saying that he isn’t worth the tears and distracts her with the photo of the X-Men and the grown-up Storm. They puzzle about her connection to Ororo when, suddenly, a glowing larger flying vessel appears above their plane. Ororo recognizes it as Nanny’s ship.
Nanny projects a hologram of herself into the cockpit and Ororo reacts as a chastised child, begging Nanny not to be cross. The terror sparks Ororo’s memory.
In Australia, grown-up Storm was snared by the ship and drawn inside, where she came face to face with a mannequin in her costume. The mannequin reached out to her and adapted its features to match Storm’s. Nanny explained that it’s a SHIELD surplus Life-Model decoy about to fulfill its primary function with a little unwitting assistance from Ororo’s X-Men companions.
Telepathically, Nanny influenced Havok, telling him that only he could save Storm.
His plasma blast destroyed the false Storm and a decoy ship ejected by Nanny, while the real Ship along with its prisoner Storm was on its way undetected.
While Ororo is still frightened out of her wits by the Nanny hologram, the Orphan-Maker is about to board the plane. Gambit tosses an energized card at him, with the desired effect that Nanny is too busy taking care of her charge to further terrorize them. With Storm still in hysterics, the plane is about to crash. Using some reverse psychology, Gambit gets Ororo to snap out of it and reassume control of the plane before it’s too late, as she indignantly demands he not call her “Stormy.”
Later (Ororo’s nightmare)
Ororo is being cornered by a hulking monster, unable to escape She tries to use her elemental power against the hulking suit of armor, but is too young to properly use it. She is caught and forced to put on the armor, as Nanny asks her if it such an awful thing to join her crusade to save imperiled young mutants all over the world. Against her will, Ororo begins to smile, commended by Nanny.
Gambit enters Ororo’s room, asking if she is O.K. Still half asleep, Ororo reaches for the knife under her pillow and hurls it at Gambit. Even as she realizes her mistake and wants to shout a warning, Gambit simply catches the knife.
Everybody wants her, she tells him. He agrees and tells her she has value because of what she can do and she has enemies. A hard road to walk, she’ll do better on a full stomach. He brought her some new clothes. After she gets dressed, they can go eat and figure out their next move.
One Cajun-style meal later, Gambit introduces her to the French Quarter of New Orleans. And over the days that pass, Ororo begins to feel at home. At which point, they get back to thieving. They hit bad guys only, stripping criminals of their ill-gotten gains and returning them to those who need them most. The times are so good that she no longer thinks of the reasons why she fled Cairo or of her nightmares.
One evening during a Mardi Gras parade, Ororo sees Gambit running for his life, chased by the Orphan Maker. One of the parade’s floats is actually Nanny’s ship, disguised. Its tentacles ensnare Gambit and the ship takes off with him. Ororo still denies that the same thing has happened to her; she figures it was just a grown-up who looked like her.
Using her flight power, she takes off after the ship and enters unseen, to find the Orphan-Maker manhandling Gambit. Gambit tries to charm Nanny and seems quite adept at it, until Orphan-Maker notices and violently shoves him into a wall to shut him up. Nice try, Ororo figures cynically, wondering what she can do now, as some element in the ship seems to work against her powers. Suddenly, she gasps as she sees a familiar cocoon. Nanny changed her in there.
Ororo finally remembers.
Grown Storm was shut in the cocoon, her powers dampened. Nanny figured that, as an adult, Storm’s will was too strong. However, by reverting her to childhood, stripping her of her powers and her memories, she can reshape her character. Storm fought with all she had. Her claustrophobia gave her the berserker strength to overload Nanny’s systems and blast loose. But the damage had already been done. Ororo was now a preteen without any memories of her teenage and adult life.
Orphan-Maker comes charging in after hearing Ororo’s gasp, but doesn’t find her, for she has hidden in the suit of armor Nanny had intended for her. As Peter leaves, Ororo puts on the helmet, intending to use the suit to free Gambit, no matter how hard this is for her.
A little later, she crashes the door to the room where the others are and threatens Nanny, demanding she move away from Gambit. Nanny just observes that she looks lovely in the armor and orders her to put down her arms. Storm replies that she is no longer talking to a child, harnessed easily to her will. She fires the armor’s guns at Orphan-Maker, who is unimpressed. Childishly, he points out that his armor is tougher than her guns because boys are meant to be bigger and stronger.
On the other hand, she is in danger of damaging the ship, as a panicked Nanny points out. Storm fires a shot, deliberately missing the Orphan-Maker to blow up the control panel next to him. Then, she finishes him off with a punch that ruptures every circuit in her suit. Exhausted, she takes off the suit, only to face Nanny’s wrath. Finally, she has decided that, if Storm isn’t with her, she has to be removed.
That moment, Gambit’s eyes begin to glow, as he charges a card hidden up his sleeve and he fires it into Nanny’s back. The ship crashes into the swamp and Gambit manages to save himself and Ororo. He figures that, if the others didn’t get out in time, they are still in the ship at the bottom of the swamp. He isn’t complaining about that either.
Ororo thanks him for the rescue and he observes that they work pretty well together. Would be a shame to break up their team when they are just getting started. Ororo tells him she appreciates the sentiment. But there is more to this than just the two of them. Gambit realizes that she sounds different… older in fact. She admits that she is no longer quite he girl he befriended. Has he ever heard of a band of mutant heroes called the X-Men?