After being saved from an exploding underground complex, Beast has managed to find the courage to carry on, in order to save himself and Jean. He hauls her through the blizzard, searching for something resembling hope. He notices lights in the sky and realizes it’s a helicopter. He drops Jean and waves frantically but, in the snow and at nighttime, there is no way the pilots can see him. He tries to wake Jean in order to have her create a telekinetic starburst and, to his surprise, she suddenly bolts upright, calling Scott’s name.
In an instant, Jean is standing and unleashing powerful bursts of energy at the ground. Hank asked for a starburst, not the fourth of July, but Jean is desperate to rescue her fellow X-Men trapped beneath the surface. Hank can’t believe she has summoned so much power. A few seconds ago, she was cold as ice. The pilots see the commotion below, seeing what appears to be the shape of a bird lighting up the sky. One of them, Sammy, notices that there are people down there, as Jean continues her assault on the frozen ground. Hank finally steps in and tries to calm her down. He tells her that the volcano flooded the entire complex with molten lava. Her power saved them both but that’s all. He holds her and says with sorrow that the X-Men are dead.
Time passes. While the U.S. Navy helicopter fights its way through an Antarctic blizzard, Colossus smashes his way through solid rock and leads the X-Men into open ground. Storm is feeling the pressure; her claustrophobia almost getting the better of her. After tunnelling for so long, they now climb the last few feet to the top of a ridge. Banshee asks Scott, if this is Antarctica, then how come they aren’t freezing? Scott looks into the distance and replies that this is Antarctica all right, a part of it he thought he’d never see again. This is the Savage Land.
The team look over a wide valley with the Eternity mountain range surrounding it. The ground is lush and beautiful and, in the sky, overly large pterosaurs glide through the warm sky. Their uniforms are a little worse for wear after their recent battle with Magneto, not to mention having tunnelled all day and night through one and a half miles of solid rock. Banshee notices that Storm is looking a little twitchy. He says they have open sky above them and asks if she fancies doing a little flying. Ororo wastes no time in accepting his offer and opens her arms wide. The smile on her face says it all, as she leads Sean high into the air. In order to save themselves, Storm had created an ice storm to cool the lava flow long enough for Cyclops and Banshee to blast their way to safety. He knows that the effort of being buried underground for so long must have cost her. For now, though, she looks fine, and who wouldn’t, he thinks, on a day like this.
As he follows Storm, he notices the others down below, waving and shouting at him. However, the sonic scream, which he uses to fly, drowns out their voices and he decides to go see what they want. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a gigantic pterosaur grabs hold of him in one of its claws. Rule one in the Savage Land: Never let your guard down, even for an instant, because your first mistake is all too often your last. Scott doesn’t have a clear shot at the beast and Ororo is weak from her exertions. Wolverine asks Colossus to provide him with a fastball special and he opens his claws as he rockets skywards, propelled by Piotr’s prodigious strength.
Wolverine slashes at the creature, which distracts it enough to let Banshee out of its vise-like grip. His chest hurts but he’s alive. Wolverine continues to slice the beast, relishing the opportunity to cut loose once again. They both hurtle to the ground and the others head to the landing point. Kurt has sympathy for anything that gets in Wolverine’s way, but Cyclops says that, compared to some things in the Savage Land, the pterosaur rates as high as an overweight canary.
As they dash through the thick jungle, a familiar figure watches them from afar. He recognizes Cyclops, despite his change of uniform. He’d know his voice anywhere and presumes that those with him must be the X-Men. The team finds Wolverine sitting nonchalantly on his prey, saying he kinda likes it here. Scott, however, isn’t impressed and takes him to task on his recklessness. Wolverine begins to argue his corner, pointing out that he and Piotr saved the day before Banshee interrupts and points south. He and Storm saw a village in that direction and he figures they should pay them a visit. Karl Lykos can sense their power from a distance and it’s precisely what he needs.
(One week later, Westchester)
Half a world away, Hank and Jean arrive at the mansion and are greeted by Lilandra. She and Charles have been waiting ever since they phoned and she informs them that he is upstairs in his study. Hank introduces himself to Lilandra while Jean heads off to see her mentor. Hank takes Lilandra for a walk in the garden, as Jean isn’t bringing good news. She makes no sound as she moves through the house and, with each step, memories whirl around her. She never thought the house could feel so empty. She aches inside, as she opens the door to the study, finding Charles sat at his desk, writing. She remains calm and her hand is steady but, as Charles turns to face her, the eyes betray her. She places a hand on his shoulders and Charles bows his head with grief. She doesn’t need to say a word.
(The Savage Land)
That same morning, Scott is chatting with Chief Tongah, as Kurt entertains the tribe’s children. Smoking his mandatory pipe, Banshee emerges from a hut, with Tongah’s wife following closely behind. Another fine day, he thinks but it’s a pity Hank and Jean aren’t here to see it. He wishes the reaper could have taken him in their place. He can’t figure out Scott, though. He’s the group’s stoic but he’d have thought the death of the woman he loved would have shaken even his cool. He asks Scott what’s in store today and he replies the same as usual: rest and relaxation. He should enjoy it while he can, as they’ll be pulling out soon. Sean says he’ll spread the word.
Sean heads to Ororo’s hut and thinks that this is a nice place but not his idea of paradise. As he thinks the last of those words, Ororo emerges, wearing the skimpiest collection of robes possible. She smiles at Sean and says that the Chief’s wife gave her the robes and asks if he likes them. With his eyes almost popping from their sockets, Sean replies, “Ororo luv, do ye have to ask?” Ororo says the place reminds her of Africa. She’d forgotten just how much she misses it. Sean replies that he often feels the same about Cassidy Keep and excuses himself. He has errands to run. Storm will be sad to leave this place, partly because of its beauty and partly because it holds the spirit of her dearest friend. In Kenya, she was called a goddess but was powerless to save Jean.
Down at the river, Scott is shaving using a pocketknife and is concerned that, when people depended on him, he blew it. As a result, Jean and Hank died. He’s been over the fight with Magneto a thousand times and, the truth is, the X-Men fought pretty well. He wonders how he will explain this to the Professor. It’ll break his heart. He’s surprised it hasn’t broken his own. Surprised, and a little scared. He thinks that he wasn’t impressed with his beard and wonders how he looks sporting just a moustache. He allows the water to calm and reckons he doesn’t look half bad; piratical, almost like…Corsair!
His head jerks backwards and a huge realization sweeps through his mind. It didn’t register at the time but, when Corsair spoke, he did so with a Nebraska twang and using American slang. He remembers being in the M’Krann Crystal. He thought he was dreaming then but Corsair was calling him Scott. He’d never seen him, so how did he know his real name? Like a line of toppling dominos, one memory unlocks another.
Scott is falling, clutching his younger brother, Alex, tight. He is scared and confused, and events flash by too quickly for him to assimilate. However, Corsair is there and a woman is with him, sobbing as she shoves them out of a plane’s escape hatch.
All his life, Scott’s wondered about the gray nothingness that was his childhood. Suddenly, the answers are within his grasp. Ororo says his name and the memories fade abruptly. She says she was concerned and a little lonely. She offers to share her grief over Jean’s death with him but he replies that he wishes he had some to share. Ororo doesn’t understand. Scott says he doesn’t either. He mourned for Hank but, for Jean, there’s nothing there. After the shuttle flight, nothing had changed between them, yet everything had. She wasn’t the girl he’d loved anymore. Ororo suggests that it was simply that she was no longer a girl and he no longer a boy. She turns and heads away, adding that they have all changed and, hopefully, grown as well. If he only wanted to preserve the Jean that was like a fly in amber, then perhaps what he felt for her wasn’t love after all.
As she heads away, she knows she was harsh with him but she loved Jean too and couldn’t help herself. She sees Piotr with a girl on each arm, chatting with Wolverine. They wish to show Piotr their special island and he asks his comrade if he wishes to join them. Wolverine grins but passes on the invitation. He has some sewing to do and would like some solitude. Besides, he wouldn’t want to crimp his style. He tells him to have a good time and not to do anything he wouldn’t do. Piotr replies by asking if there is anything he wouldn’t do? They leave and Wolverine reaches into his belt and pulls out an old photograph of Jean. She was the first person he really cared for and he never even told her his name. He had plans for them but now all he has is an ache inside that’s killing him, like someone cutting out his heart.
Not far away, Storm decides to go for a swim in a small, upland lake. As she takes off her cape, Karl Lykos watches her and, despite knowing it is wrong, he hungers. Ororo swims in the crystal clear waters, fed by streams from the mighty escarpment that wall and protects the Savage Land. To Ororo, it’s the next best thing to heaven. She feels more alive than she has in weeks. The land is so unlike New York. Here, the air is so clean and even on a good day in the city the sky smells like an open sewer. Scott says it’s progress but she wonders how the murder of Mother Earth be progress.
Ororo lies half in, half out of the lake, eyes closed, and doesn’t notice a pair of hands reaching towards her. As the hands grab her around her face, she begins to scream and Lykos apologizes for the pain this causes. He only needs a little energy. Unfortunately, he gets more than he’s bargained for and Storm’s power feeds into him like a tidal wave. He can’t stop it and finds himself changing. Storm lashes out with a lightning bolt in desperation, which attracts the attention of her fellow X-Men, who rush to her aid. They arrive in force, except for Piotr, and Cyclops halts them, ordering them not to make a move except on his mark.
Kurt asks, “What is it?” Scott replies that ‘it’ is someone who should be dead. Facing them, holding the unconscious Ororo by the hair, is someone Scott hasn’t seen for a long time. “Dead, mutant? I am evil incarnate. I cannot die! Behold fools, the rebirth of Sauron! And know that as I claimed this she-mutant’s life, so shall I claim yours!”