The Calgary Stampede is called the greatest outdoor show on Earth and, during the year, well over a million people visit the cast recreational complex surrounding the fairground. The park is currently closed due to winter but, when the X-Men come calling, they might as well have left the place wide open.
Colossus uses his massive steel fists to destroy some woodwork, whilst Cyclops blasts another opening. Storm could simply have flown them inside but, carrying them both, she’d be a sitting duck. Cyclops is also in no mood to be gentle. Once the trio of X-Men are inside, Storm asks which way now. Scott points and asks her to scout ahead and see if she can spot anything from the air. He and Piotr will search on foot. Watching them from the shadows, Shaman knows this is not good. They clearly don’t intend to give up Wolverine without a fight. At least he can ensure that no innocents get involved. He reaches into his pouch and scatters some magic dust across the entrance. The entire stampede grounds will be sealed.
Scott wishes he could make sense of all this. The X-Men have been on the move ever since they left the Savage Land. They were flying home from Japan one minute and in a fight the next.
A freak storm forced the X-Men’s plane, a loaner from lawyer Jeryn Hogarth, to land in Calgary, where they were confronted by Alpha Flight’s Vindicator. He wanted Wolverine. Months earlier, James Hudson had attacked the X-Men in New York in a vain attempt to capture Wolverine and, now on his home turf, he was trying again. This time, though, he brought friends, and one of them destroyed their plane. The team and crew managed to evade Vindicator, as they escaped through a blanket of fog created by Storm, and they made their way to Calgary, with the Canadian heroes hot on their heels.
Vindicator cornered Storm and Banshee in a shopping mall but the battle was brief and Vindicator was forced to flee. Other X-Men didn’t fare so well. Both Wolverine and Nightcrawler disappeared, presumably taken prisoner, and Cyclops swore to rescue them. First, though, they had to be found. Scott and Piotr had seen James Hudson heading south and Storm figured that his distinctive power, which created a trail, could be followed. It was hard work and Storm lost the faint trail more than once but it finally led them to the stampede grounds.
Storm glides to the ground in front of Scott and Piotr and exclaims, “I have found them!” She immediately becomes airborne again and informs them that beyond a nearby building, Nightcrawler and Wolverine are alone in the center of some huge field. They appear unconscious. Colossus asks if they should be this direct as they head in that direction, suggesting it may be a trap. Cyclops is sure it’s a trap but, with just three of them against who knows how many, they daren’t split their forces. Colossus rips the steels gate off its hinges and they head inside, with Storm maintaining her superior viewpoint from above. She asks Scott if they’re doing the right thing. Wolverine is, after all, wanted by his government. Scott replies that Wolverine is no criminal. If he was, then Professor X would never have tapped him for the X-Men. Wolverine said he resigned from his government’s service, so his people have no more hold on him.
Sure enough, they spot the two X-Men tied together in the middle of the field, but see no one around. They could easily be hidden, Storm reminds them. As they approach their comrades, they are suddenly confronted by the entire roster of Alpha Flight. They are the culmination of a decade of intensive research and development, the equal of any super group on Earth, and this is where they get to prove it. Vindicator takes the lead as usual. He tells the X-Men that they have no quarrel with them; they can take their blue-furred friend and go. They’ll guarantee their safe conduct into the States; but Wolverine stays.
Meanwhile, back at the main gate, Misty Knight, Colleen Wing and Banshee arrive by cab. Misty reckons they are too late and Sean is a little annoyed that he isn’t healthy; otherwise he’d be in there with his mates instead of hanging around out of harms way. Being a former cop, he wants to take a look around and he assures Colleen that he may no longer have his powers, but he has other skills. As he dashes through the gates, he is abruptly stopped, hitting what feels like a brick wall. It is the invisible force field, courtesy of Shaman. Colleen checks the field, commenting that it feels like the air turned has itself solid.
Inside the wall, Cyclops is squaring up to Vindicator. He reminds James Hudson that, the last time they met, he almost killed Moira MacTaggert, not to mention themselves and their entire flight crew a few hours ago when Sasquatch wrecked their plane. Vindicator insists they were accidents but Cyclops replies that he seems to have a lot of them. Vindicator is adamant that what he is doing is just and says that it changes nothing. Their orders are to take Wolverine into custody. Cyke says it stinks but Vindicator tells him that, considering the odds, he’d better get used to the smell.
As they debate, Colossus notices Northstar acting strangely behind his leader. Suspicions flare in the young Russian’s brain and, whether they’re justified or not, he decides to act on his instincts. He brings his powerful leg muscles down on the ground, creating a shockwave, which momentarily destabilizes the Canadian outfit. He warns Cyclops to beware; he fears treachery.
Sasquatch manages to recover quickly and punches Piotr in the chest, as Vindicator prepares to attack, despite declaring that he doesn’t wish to fight. Wolverine suddenly rips his shirt off, revealing his yellow outfit underneath, and Nightcrawler teleports, allowing the ropes to fall off Wolverine. “A little late for that Jimmy!” he remarks. Storm is surprised that he’s awake but he informs her that he and the elf were playing possum. Storm takes to the air, her natural habitat, as below her the two teams confront each other. Hot on her heels, though, is Snowbird, who promises Vindicator that she will deal with her.
Shaman wishes his teammate well but wonders what he can do to end this madness. He uses his magical abilities to create several animated creatures, which Cyclops proceeds to take apart with his optic blasts. Cyke orders his team to form on him; he knows they can’t afford to let Alpha Flight pick them apart. As he concentrates on Shaman’s creations, he is unaware of the super-quick Northstar, who rushes past him in a blur, landing a solid left on the back of his head. Nightcrawler sees Scott go down but has Northstar’s sister, Aurora, in his sights. He teleports right next to her but isn’t swift enough to grab her before she speeds off into he air. She almost dares him to catch her and Kurt teleports again and again as he follows her trail.
Meanwhile, high in the air, Storm continues her ascent. She realizes that Snowbird flies as well as she does and keeps forcing her away from the stadium. She could probably overwhelm her with her powers but the local weather patterns have become so unstable, she dare not take the risk. Snowbird approaches Storm and tells her that she may be a match for her human form but even she cannot stand against a giant Arctic owl. Ororo is surprised to discover that Snowbird is a shape-changer.
Wolverine relishes taking his frustrations out on Shaman’s magical creations. His main frustration comes from the fact that, for the past few months, they’ve been taking on some of the roughest characters on Earth and now they’re getting creamed, coming apart like some “flamin’ amateurs.” Shaman informs him that the key is teamwork. They have it; the X-Men don’t. He creates a whirlwind from a pinch of powder by whispering an ancient incantation. As the saying goes, it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. The X-Men are in real trouble.
In order to bring the X-Men to Calgary, Shaman warped weather systems from Calgary to the North Pole, creating a cyclonic blizzard. He shunted it this way and that, but he still believes he is in control, unaware that the storm has developed a life of its own. Now, its power builds geometrically with every passing second, turning in on itself like an ever more tightly coiled spring. Sooner or later, the spring has to snap; the elemental pressure cooker must burst.
Atop Calgary Tower, eating in the restaurant which normally provides amazing panoramic views, diners John and Darice share a quiet evening. Darice comments on the weather outside but John assures her its nothing to write home about and asks if she enjoyed New York. She loved it, especially seeing a Broadway show. Their conversation is halted abruptly, as their window shatters, forcing them to duck for cover.
Elsewhere, the hulking Colossus and the even-larger Sasquatch continue their own quest for victory. Sasquatch is getting the better of the Russian and taking Piotr’s best shots. Wolverine is unhappy that the weather is beginning to match the fight; it stinks. He sees Shaman riding air currents through the blinding snow and thinks that Shaman must figure he’s out of his reach. That’s his mistake.
He moves towards the mystic, thinking how he should have known Mac wouldn’t just let him go. He probably costs too much money. He wishes he was going this route alone, instead of involving the X-Men in his own problems. As he gets nearer to Shaman, he is fired at by Vindicator, who comes out of nowhere. He warns Wolverine to quit being so stubborn. He can say the word and the battle will be over.
Cyclops is having real problems tagging Northstar. He’s as swift as Quicksilver, almost impossible to hit, especially with his head ringing from ‘star’s earlier punch. He shouts over to Colossus and reminds him that he can’t win a fight with just his fists. He needs to use his brain too. In a timely display of judo skill, Colossus turns Sasquatch and tosses him over his shoulder, bringing him hard down onto the ground.
The eye of the blizzard is centered over the spell-sealed stampede grounds, and the weather within that eye is relatively calm, but, outside, it most certainly is not. Aurora thinks she has managed to evade Nightcrawler. If times were different, she thinks, this might be fun, but they aren’t. She wishes she were more like her brother, Jean-Paul. He’s been a scrapper from the day he was born. Above her, unseen, Nightcrawler appears and leans down to plant a kiss on Aurora’s lips. “You…Elf!” she cries, as she heads once more for the skies.
Vindicator now finds himself facing his old friend, Wolverine, one-on-one. His blasts are avoided but he too manages to steer clear of his opponent’s claws. Wolverine reminds him that it’s just like old times. Mac never gave him a chance about joining his tin-pot Yukon Avengers, so why should he start now? Mac replies that it’s not that simple. He and Heather gave him a home, a chance to be human instead of the wild, feral man he’d been. If he’s anything today, it’s down to him. Wolverine says he’s modest as always, but adds that what he is now is free, and he’s gonna stay free, or die.
Over Calgary, the core of the storm explodes, forcing winds of over two-hundred miles per hour thundering over the plains. Its snow turns to ice and falls like knives. Even though much of the blizzard is blunted by Shaman’s mystical force field, enough of its fury gets through to bring the battle to a screeching halt. Mac calls to Shaman and asks what’s happening. Unfortunately, Shaman doesn’t know.
At that moment, high above the ‘infield,’ Snowbird, in her Arctic owl form, comes closer to Storm with every pass. She also has the storm to worry about and wonders just what Shaman has done. He used his spells to whistle up this great wind, assuming that it could be turned off as easily as a light switch. She knows she cannot waste time and she must deal with Snowbird. Expertly, she removes her cloak and uses it to envelop Snowbird. With the cloak’s unstable molecules effectively making snowbird escape impossible, Ororo hurls her to the floor in front of Cyclops and then takes to the skies once more.
The cold doesn’t affect her body, so she flies ever higher. The blizzard’s core reached a frightening intensity before it started expanding. If unchecked, she knows that it may not blow itself out until next summer, if then. With her arms outstretched, she soars past the clouds and into the cold, thin air in which a normal human would perish in seconds. Her perceptions widen until she sees and feels the storm, not as clouds and wind and snow, but as patterns of energy.
She reaches out with mind, body and soul, becoming one with the tempest. Then, gently at first, she draws it to her, channelling it through her body and into the upper atmosphere. The blizzard’s fury is spread across an entire continent, creating surprise snowfalls from the Rockies to the Atlantic coast. A misery to be sure, as she slowly diffuses the storm’s core, but far better than the alternative. She finishes a little before dawn.
After expending so much effort in clearing the storm, Ororo glides back to the stampede ground. It was more powerful than she thought and forced her to tap into the electrical potential energy of the Earth itself. She never wants to try that again. She is severely weakened and, as she lands, feels like she could sleep for a whole year. Foolishly, Northstar suddenly makes a move, rushing past Storm as he had Cyclops earlier and punching her on the back of the head. Cyclops shouts her name before unleashing a blast, which catches Jean-Paul directly in the face.
Luckily for the impetuous Canadian, he only gave him a tap and is quickly standing over him. He grabs Northstar’s costume in his clenched fist. “You lousy, little… Storm risked her life to save your misbegotten country! Or did you thin that blizzard your Shaman created blew away by itself? Pray she isn’t badly hurt Northstar. As it is, you’re going to lose your teeth!”
Amazingly, the normally hot-headed Wolverine grabs Scott’s forearm and prevents him from striking his young opponent. Scott asks what gives, as he’s the one who normally needs holding back. Wolverine replies that life sometimes throws these funny curve balls when you least expect ‘em. He’s checked Ororo and she’s fine; just a little stunned. As of now, this fracas is finished. He reminds Scott that this is his scrap. They want him and couldn’t care less about the X-Men. He would have called it quits long ago, if he hadn’t started enjoying the roughhousing, and saved everyone a lot of grief.
Scott is willing to stand by him and insists that he is an X-Man. His fight is their fight. Wolverine appreciates the sentiment but he doesn’t want his friends chewed up on his account. He tells Mac that, if he wants him, he’s willing to go. Mac says he made the right decision and he gives his word that the X-Men will be allowed to go free.
Minutes later, at the main gate, Sean believes they have Ororo to answer for the storm’s subsidence. He tells Misty and Colleen that, if he had his powers back, he could vibrate his way through this barrier. He tries to give it a tap to make sure it’s still there and, instead, falls flat on his face. He felt it for an instant and then it was gone. As he picks himself up, he hopes that it was there for all the right reasons. He turns and notices an armored car approaching with its lights flashing. It drives into the Stampede ground and Wolverine calmly clambers into the back. The guard, Garson, informs Wolverine that this cage was designed specifically for him. He couldn’t bust loose in a million years. Course, he’s probably dumb enough to try. Wolverine warns him to quit flapping his mouth or his wife’ll be a widow before her time.
As the van whisks away, Colossus points out that they didn’t have to treat him so. He’s not an animal. Nightcrawler adds that they only see the surface Wolverine and know nothing of his true self.
Hours later, the X-Men are on their way again. Their plane is escorted to the U.S. border by a flight of Canadian Air Force fighters. They are finally heading home. The fighters soon turn back, leaving the X-Men to fly home in peace.
Cyclops then stands and tells his team that they have two alternatives. They can either go home or return for Wolverine. He sees no excuse for not attempting the latter. His fellow X-Men are in agreement and Scott asks Annie to change course. He directs her to head for the Rockies as soon as its feasible, drop below radar cover and head for Canada. They’re going to rescue Wolverine, whether he wants them to or not. A voice from the passenger seat says he wouldn’t do that if he were them. Cyclops is shocked to find Wolverine relaxing in the seat with a wide grin on his face. “What the blazes are you doing here?” he asks. He replies that he’s enjoying the ride home and jawing with a pretty girl.
Scott is still amazed and asks about the truck. Wolverine replies that a cage hasn’t been built that could hold him. What about next time, enquires Scott. Wolverine asks him not to worry about it. He takes each moment as it comes, no questions, no regrets. He adds that, if Scott’s so flamin’ happy to see him, though, they should break out the drinkin’ stuff and celebrate, because the X-Men are going home.