As the terrified X-Man Kitty Pryde clutches the sturdy base of an oak tree in the forest, she reassures herself that this isn’t happening. It just can’t be happening. With her back to the tree, she rests momentarily with all of her senses on high-alert. Her eyes shift to the left and to the right. She sees nothing. She doesn’t hear him, either—but then again, she wouldn’t, would she? No one ever hears him, except, of course, for one sound…
SNIKT! Kitty’s eyes widen with horror. He’s found her. Without further hesitation, she takes off running, with her former mentor Wolverine in hot pursuit. Of all the ways she thought she would buy it, this was never one of them. While tearing through the woods, she makes the mistake of glancing behind her shoulder to get a glimpse of her pursuer. This moment of misdirected attention proves costly: Kitty fails to see the approaching ledge in time. She trips over a rock near the top of the bluff, loses balance, and cartwheels down the slope, into the rapidly moving creek at the bottom.
When she gathers herself and returns to the surface of the water, she looks upward and sees the menacing figure of Wolverine silhouetted against the blinding sun. “There you are! This would go quicker if you just kept still,” he says. Kitty, fighting for each breath amidst the turbulent water, just cannot believe how quickly everything fell apart. Less than an hour ago, she was so confident—so sure of herself.
An hour earlier…
Katheryne Pryde, the mutant X-Man known as Sprite, forms the perfect picture of confidence as she waits in the Danger Room. Dressed in her standard black-and-yellow X-Men uniform and cowl, she stands upright with her clenched fists on her hips, which she cocks to the side. Up above, in the control room, Professor X asks if she’s ready. She assures him she is.
Wolverine and Colossus stand behind the Professor with their arms folded while he gives detailed exercise instructions to his young protégé. Not only will the Danger Room obstacles come at her more quickly this time, he says, but there will also be controlled sonic bursts to distract her and disrupt her phasing ability. This doesn’t faze Kitty at all; she tells him she’s good to go.
“Twenty bucks says she nails it in under thirty seconds,” Wolverine says to Colossus. Colossus tells his tovarisch that he has a deal. With that, Professor X initiates the exercise.
Sprite dashes forward into the obstacle-filled room. She charges through an array of high-powered lasers—none of which can touch her because of her intangibility. She then catapults over an eruption of fire and slips through a giant metal hammer that tries to smash her into the ground. Even with a hundred things coming at her at once, none of it makes a difference. She never loses focus; she’s totally in the zone. The next obstacle, a field of circular saws cutting in all directions, poses no threat either. In fact, Kitty never has any doubt that she’d reach the other side of the room. She arrives at her destination and slams her fist into the button, effectively—and successfully—ending the exercise.
In the control room, Piotr Rasputin grumbles as he hands over the twenty dollars he owes Logan. Never again is he betting against Kitty, he says. Logan asks if he’s willing to accept a double or nothing bet. Without hesitation, Piotr accepts.
With the exercise ended, Kitty returns to the Danger Room and asks the Professor how she did—although she has no doubt about his answer. He knows this, and she knows this; she just wants to hear him say it. She passed with flying colors, he tells her. Colossus tells the Professor he’ll have to step up his game if he wants to provide her with any sort of challenge. Professor X agrees.
Down below, after being excused, Kitty exits the room and enters the hallway, where she encounters her friend Siryn. Theresa asks how she did; Kitty tells her she nailed it. “Excellent,” Siryn says while giving her a high-five. Kitty smirks and claims it was no problem.
I was so smug… so full of myself, Kitty later recalls. And then…it all went off the rails.
She peels back her cowl as she passes by an old portrait of the original X-Men with the mentor. Suddenly, an explosion of light rips through the whole school. It knocks Kitty on her back, stunning her. She lies unconscious for an unknowable period of time, only to awake on the hallway floor across from the unconscious Siryn. Alarmed, Kitty rushes to her side and tries to nudge her awake. Terry shows no reaction at all.
Out of nowhere, a booming voice echoes through the hallway. “So. It appears I missed one. I do not believe we have been introduced,” it says. Kitty turns around and beholds the giant, mental projection of the face of Magneto, the villainous Master of Magnetism. After introducing himself, the menacing projection says the approaching reckoning has been long in coming. Until now, he says, his mental powers were second only to those of Charles Xavier. Now, he claims, he has managed to exceed them. Since Kitty is but a child, he will give her a chance to avoid the X-Men’s fate; if she leaves now, and forgets all she has seen there, no harm will befall her.
Defiant, Kitty tells Magneto to forget it; they’re her team! Magneto asks if that is her last word on the matter. She affirms that it is. “Very well. Let you never forget,” Magneto says, “…the last word. Remember…the last word.”
Out of the apparition appears the silhouette of Wolverine. Initially, Kitty greets him with relief. His body language quickly reveals his less-than-friendly intentions, however. With an expression of disbelief, Kitty watches as Wolverine unsheathes his claws. “You’re not getting out of this,” he snarls.
Sprite throws up her hands; she begs Wolverine to listen. Magneto must be doing something to him, she says. This is something he can fight! “No, it isn’t,” Wolverine responds.
She runs. She figures she can phase through the wall and put some distance between her and the berserker X-Man. Things don’t work out that way, however; she smashes as full-speed into the wall at the end of the corridor. With her head suddenly swimming, she tries to compose herself, but the realization that Magneto has somehow shut down her phasing power makes this composure hard to find. In fact, it makes her a sitting duck.
Wolverine corners her. “This is gonna hurt for real,” he threatens. With the time he wastes speaking to her, however, he grants Kitty Pryde enough of a window to escape again. She shoves a table aside and darts down the hallway. He could have closed the distance between them and cut her down before she made it three feet, Kitty thinks as she flees. She deduces that this means Logan must be fighting whatever it is Magneto is doing to him. Maybe he’s slowing himself down—giving her time to get away.
Arriving in the library, she frantically searches the bookshelf for the one secret book that acts as a handle to a hidden door. Finding it, she pulls it and activates the secret elevator. Kitty dashes inside and desperately starts mashing the elevator’s buttons. The door, however, seemingly takes forever to close, while Kitty’s demented attacker draws closer and closer with each passing moment. She screams and smashes her fist against the control again. The door slams shut. Wolverine, however, lunges forward and inserts his adamantium claws between the doors, allowing him to pry them apart with ease.
With the doors shoved aside, Wolverine stares into the open elevator shaft. Kitty has already descended. This doesn’t stop him. He glances downward then takes a flying leap toward the moving box. Hitting its ceiling with a THUNK, he shoves his adamantium claws through the hull and toward the frightened girl trapped within.
The elevator doors open, and Kitty rushes into the corridor. She has a plan that she wishes will work.
After tearing through the roof of the elevator, Wolverine descends into the abandoned car and stares out of the open door into the sterile, darkened hallway. He sees nothing. However, follows his nose toward the source of the only scent he detects: that of Kitty Pryde. His hunt brings him around a corner, where he discovers the true culprit: Kitty’s abandoned uniform boots. She’s tricked him. At that moment, he hears the familiar PING! of the elevator and turns around in time to see Kitty closing its doors.
Inside the elevator, Kitty takes a moment to compose herself. The little trick with her boots bought her mere seconds, but it was enough. When she returns to the first floor of the mansion, she searches desperately for anyone who can help her—but finds the rest of the X-Men—Nightcrawler, Colossus and Storm—out cold. She has no idea what Magneto did to them. However, she has a pretty clear idea of what Wolverine will do to her.
As if on cue, Wolverine appears at the top of the stairs and once again charges at Katheryne. She resumes her flight. This time, she darts out the front door of the mansion. She realizes that heading toward the nearby woods is the worst possible decision—after all, no one loses Wolverine in a forest—but with the other cut off, the forest represents her only choice. It is only a matter of time before she trips up and tumbles down the ravine into the creek. “There you are,” Wolverine tells her as the water carries her away. “This would go quicker if you just kept still.”
Downstream, Kitty’s hand breaches the surface of the water and grabs for the nearest object it can find—any object, for that matter. Fortunately, she grabs hold of a snag jutting out into the stream and pulls herself out of the water. She fights the turbid river and drags herself ashore, fighting for breath the entire way. She has little time to recover before she once again hears the familiar SNIKT sound that signifies her former mentor turned assailant.
Perfect, she groans as she eyes the familiar shadow lurking in the canopy of the trees. Wolverine lunges at her. “Time to do you in!” he shouts. Kitty, however, grabs a nearby branch and swings it in Logan’s direction, timing it just right to break the branch across his face. The motion diverts the thrust of his claws enough to spare her life. Taking advantage of this momentary respite, Kitty forces herself off the ground and assumes her fighting stance. “Have a taste for danger?” Wolverine snarls, caressing his jaw.
Kitty, standing with the remnants of the branch clutched in her hands, reminds Wolverine that she has learned a lot from him since arriving at the mansion—the most important of which is to not give up. Ever. Wolverine unsheathes his claws and begins to circle around her. “Yeah, well,” he says,” there’s some other things for which you’ll just have to make room.”
Something about her mentor’s delivery arouses Kitty’s suspicion. Why is he talking like that? Logan doesn’t understand, so she clarifies. His syntax is weird, she says. And he keeps emphasizing words at the ends of his sentences. She recalls the series of odd sentences he’s uttered since first attacking her after her encounter with the projection of Magneto: “the last word…you’re not getting out of this…no, it isn’t…this is gonna hurt for real…get back hear, you…there you are…this would go quicker if you would just keep still…time to do you in…have a taste for danger…for which you’ll just have to make room!”
Triumphantly, Kitty throws up her arms. “Professor! I get it!!!” she shouts, dropping her branch. Although Wolverine charges at her with his claws outstretched, Kitty doesn’t react. In fact, she pivots toward him and shoves her finger in his face. He knows where he can stick those claws, she snaps. She tells him to knock it off; they’re done. Turning toward the sky, she begins shouting—presumably at Professor X—that she broke his code. The key is the last word, she says. First Magneto said it, followed by Wolverine. It was for emphasis, she realizes, because that was the key to the rest of the puzzle: the last word of every sentence Wolverine spoke. “This. Isn’t. Real. You. Are. Still. In…” Kitty repeats. Her surroundings melt away, revealing the familiar construct of the X-Mansion’s notorious training facility. “…Danger Room,” Kitty says, finishing. It was all hologram technology, making her think she was in other places.
In the control room above, Professor X confirms her logical deduction. Continuing, Kitty infers that he used his telepathy to make her believe she lost her phasing power. Their lives aren’t as simple as walking into a room knowing what danger awaits them, Professor X tells his pupil. Their enemies will find insidious ways to trick and trap them. Sometimes, their powers will be useless—even Kitty’s powers. Professor X believed it was necessary to see how she functioned using only her wits: to see if she could work through a problem while believing her life was in danger.
“And—?” she asks. Professor X tells her she obviously succeeded. Kitty assumes that means the test is over; Wolverine, however, corrects her. The test ain’t ever over, he says. If she hasn’t learned that, then she’s learned nothing.
Dumbstruck, Kitty assures Logan he would be amazed at what she’s learned. He smiles; he thinks she’s probably right. With that, Kitty departs, using her neglected phasing ability to run through the Danger Room’s wall. The jubilant Wolverine, meanwhile, turns toward the control room and tells his buddy, Piotr, that he now owes him forty bucks. Piort Rasputin sighs. He’ll never bet against Kitty Pryde again—for real this time.