Ororo is lying on the ground with smatterings of blood on her cheek and top. Masonry lies all around her as she wonders why everything hurts. She finds a large piece of concrete pinning her to the ground, and finds herself unable to shift it. She remembers how she got there.
She had called the X-Men to Kenya to help her fight something, but she can’t quite remember what. Thoughts come to her of growing up as a young girl with her mother and father, but she knows this isn’t why she is lying there. It suddenly comes to her. Something hit her hotel, and a massive explosion hurled her fellow X-Men from the building, just like it had when she was a little girl.
She recalls falling from her room and losing contact with her friends. Her whole world came crumbling down. In her daze, she asks for her father and then her momma, just as she had all those years ago. She turns to see her parent’s unconscious beside her, and calls for them to wake up. It’s been so long since she saw their faces. They begin to rise, but they are now but rotting corpses. Her father tells her to take a good look. Her mother adds, “No one comes back from the dead, Ororo… not really.” Tears ease their way from her eyes as she falls unconscious and begins to dream. She finds herself in the arms of Forge, the maker, who assures her that it’s only a nightmare. They are alone.
(high above Kenya)
A Sentinel from Project O*N*E is in the upper reaches of the atmosphere; its pilot looking down on the city of Turkana below. He has found their missing X-Men but is holding steady outside Kenyan airspace, so as not to drag Uncle Sam into another war. Command asks what going on down there. The pilot’s best guess is that they were called in by Storm but were ambushed at the rendezvous point. They’re in a firefight with the local militia now.
Cannonball, Bishop, Psylocke and Marvel Girl are sheltering from incoming fire coming from a nearby rooftop. The militia have technology that can track them. When gunshots pin them down, Psylocke wishes to level the whole block, but Nightcrawler reminds her that there are families cowering in the houses. Rachel is having difficulty in reading their assailant’s thoughts. Everything’s kinda fuzzy. However, a young woman in an overlooking apartment can see what’s happening, and Rachel decides to see things through her eyes.
Rachel sees a group of men with a large hi-tech gun aimed at them. She relays the location to Nightcrawler, who teleports a few feet above and behind them. Using his amazing agility and a teleportation, he takes the group down with ease and looks at the weaponry. It’s cutting-edge hardware for a group of third-world thugs. Did they know they would be fighting the likes of the X-Men?
Ororo is in the uninhabited dimension that the Adversary placed her with Forge, her lover. She needs some persuading that this isn’t real, but Forge responds cryptically, by saying that if this is a dream, she is in it for a reason. “What makes you so sure?” she asks. Forge reminds her that he’s a shaman, and all the Cheyenne mystics who came before him knew better than to take dreams lightly. Maybe she has come to this place because he reminds her of what dreams really are - pathways to wisdom… mirrors to your soul. She kisses him tenderly, and he tells her he wishes their relationship could have ended better.
Ororo replies that it ended because it was time and it had run its proper course. Forge asks her about what’s coming up for her. Will that run its course too? Will it be any better that what they had? Ororo asks if he is asking her to stay. Forge says that they both know that isn’t on the cards. He asks Ororo to look up where two birds are flying gracefully high above them. They are their totems, says Forge. They share what the birds share - the need to fly free. They share another tender kiss, and Forge assures her that he always loved her far too much to ever cage her.
Colonel Shetani is barking orders at his communications officers. He wants the jaws of their trap closed. He orders his men to activate the screamers, then to get his predators into position: call in reinforcements if they must. An officer informs him that they’ve already committed every fighter in Turkana, but Shetani tells him to call their wives in that case. He doesn’t care if they kill half the city. He wants the X-Men dead! He turns to his soldiers and orders them to bring Ororo to him, alive. The communications officer informs Shetani that one of their predators has them targeted. Shetani asks him what he’s waiting for.
Nightcrawler teleports back to his comrades, who are in the shell of a building. He informs them of their opponents’ weaponry. Rachel tells them that they are closing in from both ends of the street but, before she can complete her sentence, she is attacked by the screamers. She becomes faint, and mumbles about some kind of psychic static, shrieking like a million burning babies. She must concentrate hard to keep her psi-shields up.
An officer contacts Colonel Shetani and mentions that the screamer units have taken down the X-Men’s telepath. He asks his men to take cover. Rachel rubs her forehead, and says that the last impression she caught was a single word - hellfire. “The Hellfire Club, here?” Kurt asks, incredulously. Bishop looks out into the sky, and informs him that hellfire is also a type of missile.
As soon as he has spoken, a massive explosion rocks them as the missile lands, but fortunately, Rachel is able to combine her telekinesis with that of Psylocke to create a defensive bubble around the team. Luckily, no one is injured. Rachel asks where it came from. Bishop looks up and informs them that they have ‘predator’ unmanned aerial vehicles up there. That’s how they caught them by surprise. There are no pilots whose thoughts might betray the, He’s betting there are more targeting them right now.
Kurt deduces that if they stay put, the whole neighborhood will be reduced to a crater. They only have two choices: they either retreat or they take down the warlord that Storm sought to depose. They quickly dash through the streets, taking fire from Shetani’s fighters. Storm is buried underneath the building, and Rachel cannot make telepathic contact due to the static storm that’s being broadcast. Kurt says that they must cut the head off the beast before they rescue Storm, otherwise they’ll never manage it. Bishop knows it’s a tough call for Kurt, but this is war.
Storm’s kiss with Forge fades away and Marvel Girl, dressed how she did in the early days, enters her dream. Even in her dream, Ororo can feel the pain from her injuries. She tells Jean that she has the feeling that they’re being stalked, but Jean isn’t sensing anything. All the same, Ororo wishes to get moving, and soon the dreamscape changes and the pair find themselves wandering the city streets; from the Serengeti to the concrete jungle.
“You’ve gotta love dream logic,” quips Jean. Ororo thinks it’s a logical place for them. It’s where they built their friendship. Jean remembers. They used to slip away from Xavier’s so she could gripe about Scott, and Storm could pretend not to check out the guys. Ororo smiles, but replies that she wasn’t checking them out. Jean asks if there’s anyone in the bar that she likes. Ororo wonders if that is what she’s there to figure out. She looks at the men admiring her physical form, and compares them to the eyes of hungry jackals and hyenas on the plains of Tanzania.
Jean asks if she remembers any guys who don’t remind her of scavengers. A young African boy appears in her dream. He can’t be any older than a young teenager. She tells Jean that she did once meet a boy many years ago. He was remarkable, and he went on to bigger things. Jean thinks they’re finally getting somewhere, asking if their paths crossed again. The Black Panther appears behind the young boy, showing the man he grew up to be. “You could say that,” Ororo replies. “His name is T’Challa. He is the King of Wakanda, and he has asked me to be his bride.”
Jean knows that T’Challa seems to be on her mind, and Ororo informs her that he was her first love. At least she thinks it was love. She was young, after all. She takes a drink and asks what love is, anyway. She doesn’t just mean falling for a guy. She’s talking about a lifetime commitment. She thought she had that with Forge. She thought Jean had that with Scott. “I did,” she replies, but Ororo reminds her that he broke her heart, twice. Jean defends him by saying that it was only after she died.
Jean asks Ororo what her heart tells her about T’Challa. “To run away and hide,” she replies. Jean doesn’t think that sounds like her. What is she afraid of? Ororo admits that she is daunted by the fact that she wouldn’t just become his wife - he’s the King of Wakanda. She’ll end up producing his heirs. Will his staff, or court or whatever, try and control every hour of her day? Will he just lose interest with so many other bright young things throwing themselves at him every day?
Jean reckons that her friend’s insecurities are ill-founded. She thinks she is really afraid of being abandoned; afraid of family. She doesn’t feel that Ororo ever got over her mom and dad ‘leaving’ her, and that pain’s as deep as her claustrophobia. Ororo tries to deny this, but Jean then asks why she never tried to find them. She has played house with the X-Men, all the while knowing that her own flesh and blood were in northwest Kenya. Ororo zones out a little, and Jean asks if she’s listening.
The patrons in the bar have changed from humanoid form to that of jackals and hyenas. Jean asks her not to do this. They were making progress, but Ororo insists it’s not her, but then flees to avoid any further questions. Jean takes care of the predators, just as Ororo comes around.
Ororo lies dazed amidst the rubble. “Nff, I have to go,” she tells herself. She shuffles and suddenly drops through the floor to the level below; an old tomb. She lands with a heavy thump, and a sharp spear pierces her side, just above her hipbone. It causes her pain, and she places her fingers around the intrusion, realizing what has happened.
Gunfire continues to rain down on the X-Men, and Psylocke joins Rachel in defending the team by creating a telekinetic shield. Betsy is tiring a little, and Kurt acknowledges that this kind of fighting doesn’t exactly play to their strengths. Rachel suggests that Kurt try and teleport just one block away, just above the roofline. He does so, and the team appears with a thud on the nearby building. The weak roof collapses from the weight, and they drop into an apartment below where a frightened woman hugs her two sons.
Outside the hotel where Ororo is lying injured, a couple of soldiers hear something, though one is more interested in looting the deceased than anything else. Three little sambas approach and their leader reminds the soldiers that everyone was ordered to hunt down the outsiders; yet they stop to fill their pockets. The looter tells him that he doesn’t understand yet, but one day he will have a family to feed. That is all they are doing, and they are happy to share. The lead samba points his pistol at the man’s stomach and says that he will tell his children of his generosity… when they round them up.
Back inside the building where the X-Men landed, Bishop assures the woman that they mean no harm. They just want to find the man in charge of the soldiers outside. She insists that she cannot help them, and orders them from her house. Bishop asks if she’d rather Turkana remain under a warlord’s heel, and the woman’s eldest son is hopeful that they might be able to stop Colonel Shetani. She doesn’t agree, and replies that if he finds out that they helped them, he will take them for his little sambas. “But only orphans become little sambas,” he points out. “Exactly,” is her response.
Rachel asks her what little sambas are. The woman informs her that they are children that Shetani has turned into killers. They have no pity, no judgment and no understanding of the suffering that they cause. Kurt agrees that there are few things more frightening than a ten-year old with a Kalashnikov. The son says that sooner or later he will be forced to fight. He doesn’t want to chew khat and shoot people. He wants to go to school. He points to a large building in the distance and informs the X-Men that Colonel Shetani is there. He asks them not to fail, or he will come for them. He adds that when they kill him, they should be sure to hang the body where everyone can see it.
As she falls back into her dream, Storm wonders who it is that she is really trying to escape. Those beasts in the bar? Jean? Herself? She finds the dreamscape change into an Egyptian town, and she is joined by Kitty Pryde, dressed in her first X-man costume. She tells Ororo that she’d go with her third option. “Welcome to Storm’s nightmare, Kitty Pryde. Hope you survive the experience,” she jokes. Ororo tells her that it’s no joke as she climbs the steps to a temple. Kitty asks if she’s supposed to take seriously a woman who controls hurricanes that is afraid of her own shadow.
“What do you know about fear?” asks Ororo. Kitty’s costume changes into her green costume with the smaller facemask. She replies that she knows what she and Wolvie taught her. She came to the X-Men scared of her own power, but she got her to push through any obstacle in her way. She’s like a second mom to her. Ororo replies that she is precious to her, too, as are the X-Men, but they are part of the life she has made for herself. She came back to Africa to learn of those who came before her.
By the time they reach an opening, Kitty is dressed in her first Shadowcat costume. Ororo informs her that T’Challa’s line goes back generations. Everywhere he walks in Wakanda, he is surrounded by family history. She has nothing like that. For all the strength her X-Men family, give her, she still stands alone. She adds that, if she does have a daughter one day, she wants to sing her the same songs her mother sang her. But, she cannot remember them. Too much has happened to sweep her history clean.
As they chat, they are surrounded by the human-sized hyenas and jackals. This time, Ororo is not going to run from her demons. Her Storm outfit covers her body and she and Kitty go on the offensive. They wade through the beasts, as the panther god that was seated nearby stands up and approaches them. She feels it is coming to her rescue, but she doesn’t want that. She unleashes an electrical blast to take down the beasts, and takes to the air, now almost naked save for a skirt. She tells the god that she will fight her own battles. She holds her hand out to stop him in his tracks and tells him that he serves T’Challa, so he should know this. If she accepts his proposal, she will face him as his equal. She will be accepted as his equal by all, or this is as far as it goes. Kitty whispers to her friend, asking if she really wants to make the thing mad.
The little sambas make their way inside the half-destroyed building and discover Ororo, lying amongst the rubble. Tribal masks and spears line the walls. They determine that it must be an old tomb that has lain undiscovered under the hotel all these years. One asks if Storm is dead, but the leader replies that, if she was, her mutant signal wouldn’t be so strong. One of them asks if they want to see her come alive. He reaches towards the spear, intending to wiggle it, but he suddenly feels a kind of tingling. Ororo’s eyes begin to glow white. She is ionizing the air in the tomb, which isn’t a good sign for anyone trying to scramble her guts.
A bolt of lightning cracks its way onto the roof of the building, and the sambas prepare to open fire on her. Before they can, Ororo stands up and channels the electricity through her body and into theirs. It has the effect of shattering their weapons, too. The lightning burst burns out the spear in her side and cauterizes the wound, but it still causes her discomfort and pain. She tells the sambas that their Colonel Shetani has set them up to fail in their mission, and asks if they will learn from this experience that he is no friend of theirs. The lead samba still thinks they can takes her, but she creates a wind that sweeps her out of the building, dragging them along behind her. Ororo had called the X-Men in to protect the city, but now Shetani has wrecked it, all bets are off.
Elsewhere, the X-Men are heading to Shetani’s headquarters, with Bishop holding a rearguard action. Shetani’s men inform him that they’re closing in, and he orders them targeted with predator missiles. An officer replies that hundreds of their men would be caught in the blast zone, but Shetani doesn’t care. He wants the missiles fired. As the drones fly in carrying the missiles, Cannonball blasts through them, destroying them without coming to harm himself. He sees a tornado created by Storm closing in on Shetani’s headquarters, and figures she got out alive.
In the headquarters, Colonel Shetani knows he is about to be defeated, and figures his men can regroup in the mountains and retake Turkana once the mutants have gone. The X-Men have other ideas. Shetani’s windows are blown out by the tornado, and Storm flies through one of them, using a lightning blast to destroy Shetani’s rifle. She lands, and informs him that there’s been something she’s been wanting to ask him. His men scour the country for mutants, leaving murder and misery wherever they go. Why? What did those poor people do to him?
Shetani grits his teeth and replies that he doesn’t have to tell her anything. She immediately whisks him through the window and high into the air. “Why?” she asks again. Shetani tells her that it’s because his men have been looking for her. Storm asks, for the last time, why? “Because, you stupid girl… I am your uncle!
(the Great Rift Valley, Kenya, later)
Storm came to Africa seeking her family and instead found an injustice to correct, never suspecting they were one and the same. Colonel Shetani answered questions quite readily once the other X-Men joined her. She thinks he was quite afraid of Bishop. He led them in shackles to a hidden village in the valley that spawned the human race itself. This town was old long before writing was ever conceived. There, the wisdom of ages is kept alive in song by people like the woman she befriends; someone she never dared hope to meet… her grandmother. She recognizes Ororo at once, and says she felt her coming from afar. She tells her the things uncle Shetani spent his life trying to deny.
She learns that she descends from a royal lineage, reaching back to the dawn of humanity. The power in their family passes from mother to daughter. Shetani felt left out, so he sought a different sort of power to destroy theirs. It was because of him that no one ever came to find her. He threatened to have her killed should they ever try. Her mother, on the other hand, rebelled against tradition and a role she felt was forced on her. She left her homeland to embrace the modern world. She found love, and she had a child… Ororo. Her people prayed she was safe from Shetani, but all this time, her grandmother knew her heart would draw her home; and so it has.
Kurt asks how her side is, and if it still causes her pain. A little, she replies, but even that feels welcome now. The pain reminded her she was alive whilst stuck under the rubble in Turkana. In any case, she adds, there’s an older wound to her heart that she should attend to. But, it will be simple enough to finally heal it. Betsy asks what that means, exactly. Ororo smiles, and says, “It means, Betsy, that I owe the King of Wakanda an answer to his question.”