‘Ro stares in disbelief at the unmasked Ghost Panther. An adult version of her, yet seemingly consisting only of energy. Who is she? What is she? ‘Ro bursts out. The adult version asks what she remembers of her life. Just some of it, the girl replies. She grew up in Cairo, Illinois. But her first memory is a … nightmare she has occasionally. She sees metal monsters.
An adult version of her with weather powers fights the egg-shaped metal monster and her human-shaped one. The monsters win.
Later, she’s the younger ‘Ro. She is on a job and is attacked by more monsters… Hounds! That’s where she meets Remy, who saves her. They become partners.
After that, things get blurry for a while. All of a sudden she is a prisoner of the Consortium. Those anti-mutant thugs who’ve been hunting the X-Men. They treat her like a lab rat.
The energy Storm is disappointed that this is all. She was hoping for more. She did not expect her memory loss to be so extensive. How come her memory is so important? ‘Ro asks. And the three of them, she, the Ghost Panther, Storm, why are they so alike? Are they family? Of a kind…the Ghost Panther replies.
Looking down, seeing the X-Men fight Perfect Storm’s troops, ‘Ro suggests they do something. Their situation is serious but not dire, adult Storm decides. What is important here is ’Ro. She takes off her glove and touches ‘Ro’s forehead and that moment memories flash through the girl’s minds.
She recalls being on Xavier’s grounds when she, along with several New Mutants, was attacked by Genoshan magistrates, led by a brainwashed Havok. The mutants were beaten, captured and teleported away by Pipeline to remain Genoshan prisoners in the heart of the Genegineer’s Citadel.
Quickly and with ruthless efficiency, they are taken into custody and prepared for final processing. Hodge is eventually about to kill Storm but the Genegineer intervenes, suggesting Storm should go into the genepool. Hodge demands to witness the mutate transmutation of Storm. Storm’s head is shaved and she is prepared. As Moreau describes the process she is about to undergo, Hodge is distracted by the intruders Wolverine and Psylocke and leaves to deal with them.
The moment he is gone, Moreau frees Storm, telling her she has to trust him. He explains that he and Chief Magistrate Anderson have been planning a coup ever since Hodge seized power.
Storm is suspicious but realizes Hodge is not actually giving her a choice. With that, another mutate touches her and copies her memories. Moreau helps her up and explains he will run a custom configuration of the transmode process that will allow Storm to maintain her memories and free will. But until the moment comes to reveal the truth, she must keep the secret. Storm replies she used to be a thief. Lying was one of the first things she learned.
And so, Hodge and his X-Men prisoners witnessed what seemed to be the irreversible brainwashing of Storm into Mutate 20.
While Hodge is busy playing with his prisoners, Psylocke and Wolverine, Moreau takes Storm along and another Mutate. In more private rooms he defends himself, it was never meant to be that way. The mutates were meant to save the good of their nation. Not the whims of a madman. From her perspective, he and Hodge are merely different sides of the same coin, she observes bitterly. Hodge is mad but both of them have done unspeakable evil.
Moreau still believes he does what he thinks right and is willing to accept the consequences. Normally, he’d use Wipeout to restore her teammates’ powers but he’s too terrified of Hodge to defy him. So he’ll create a biosynth, a precise replica of Storm with a portion of Wipeout’s powers. It’s the best way since he already has the genetic material on hand. Usually, Biosynths take months to gestate but they’ve been developing an experimental rapid growth matrix. With their time constraints it will have to do the trick.
With awe and horror, Storm watches herself being born. However the Genegineer is unhappy, the matrix is still unstable. Everything happened too quickly. She was meant to be adolescent like Storm, instead the clone is an adult. But they’ll have to proceed.
Storm argues that this biosynth is a living person, that his mental implant will make a second iteration of her. When all of this is done, what then? She cannot be simply cast away. She will not permit that! One challenge at a time, the Genegineer replies.
The plan is made and Storm plays her role. Later on, Magistrate Anderson orders that she attacks Cyclops. Around the two mutants, there is a burst of wild energy and, as the burning light fades, she has been replaced by the clone, seemingly Storm, now fully grown and free of Genosha’s thrall.
What actually happened was the Genegineer making a last minute switch. The real Ororo’s spectacular pyrotechnics generated such a blinding glare that nobody noticed when Pipeline teleported her away and replaced her with Moreau’s adult clone, whose modified genestructure restored the powers of the other’s while the young Ororo would stay safely stored away until needed. A secret weapon in the Genegineer’s struggle against Hodge.
Unfortunately, all the Genegineer’s plans turned to be for nothing. Hodge had anticipated his rebellion and killed him. As the battle for Genosha raged to its conclusion, the Citadel crumbled. Among the fatalities was Pipeline, slain before he had a chance to restore the real Ororo. Her digital essence remained locked in the central lab’s memory cache. No one suspected that the Storm, who helped the X-Men in Genosha and continued to fight alongside them, was merely a copy.
Over the ensuing weeks, magistrate investigators searched the rubble and found the tranfax console. Genosha had changed, the mutants were free and many of the Magstrates didn’t like that. The Consortium seized upon the growing anti-mutant sentiment and so a mutually beneficent deal was struck. The tranfax console was transported across Hammer Bay to a secret lab complex established there.
What they found surprised them. But without Pipeline they could not reassemble the data stream. Whatever was in there looked like a ghost. The scientists called for help. To their surprise, their request was answered by Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, and Ingrid Trask. They managed to get ‘Ro out.
Ingrid figures that when the transfax was disrupted critical data was lost. Is she sure? Tony wonders. Seems to him like there’s too much raw data for this body to handle. Like trying to pour a large bottle into a small cup. What happens to the overspill?
Suddenly, a scientist warns that they are getting some powersurge; the systems are being fried! There is a thunder storm.
Soon, Iron Man flies around the complex. The lab was completely destroyed whereas nobody was hurt, like the lightning was under someone’s conscious control…. Leaving them with an unconscious girl and a mystery. At the same time, there were reports of strong electrical activity in the ruins. Worth checking out.
He finds a mohawked adult Storm made only of electrical energy. He addresses her and she asks if he can help. Is it truly her? he ask. Not entirely, Storm admits. Her memories and powers are all there. Yet her physical form seems to be elsewhere. The girl back in the lab, he realizes. But how? Trapped within the transfax matrix was a portion of life energy drained from Warlock. When they tried to reconstitute Storm’s body, they started a chain reaction that literally tore them apart. She and the child are not whole.
First thing, Iron Man figures, they have to keep her energy focused and coherent. He adjusts his armor’s chestplate and places it on her torso, to siphon off charged ions from the atmosphere. The part of the armor he gives her, he explains, will feed raw elemental energy into her system. And will help cloak her. He can’t do anything about the glow. She needs to keep out of sight.
Storm reminds him of her thief past. She is used to that. And good at it. He promises to design her something better, and after that they will set things right.
He returns to the scientists as Tony Stark, not informing Ingrid and asking if there is a problem. She replies that the Genoshan government has started asking questions. This location is no longer safe. She’s decided to transfer the subject to their facilities in Manhattan. Stark wants to know Ingrid’s plans for the girl. What does he think? she scoffs. She’s a mutant! She’s a child! Stark protests. In a few short years, she’ll be an adult. What’s his point? Evil isn’t in the genes, he insists. Ingrid is not convinced.
Time passes. ‘Ro was rescued. While Tony works he listens to the news learning that T’Challa has been murdered and is succeeded by his wife Queen Ororo. Ingrid calls him, telling him Project X is now a go. His presence is required on the satellite. Tony promises to be there as soon as he’ll wrap up one last loose end.
Iron Man catches up to the real Storm and they discuss the news. Storm bitterly remarks her double has been very busy, first betraying the X-Men and then T’Challa, a man whose only crime was to love her. Iron Man gives her a suit of armor, a second skin which he designed to honor an old friend. Storm puts on the suit, reminiscing that when she was young she and T’Challa saved each other’s life. It is fitting that she armor herself in his tribute. As far as the world is concerned, she stands before them as the Ghost Panther! But what of Tony? He’s an Avenger, he replies, he’s off to do what he does best. Try to save the day.
Flying away, he looked so beautiful, Storm muses. She never imagined she was seeing him for the last time. She had intended to return to the X-Mansion to seek Xavier’s help to set things right. But then the school was destroyed and with it all the X-Men who resided there. Her best friend Jean Grey. Kitty. Even ‘Ro, her other half. She was used to looking like a ghost. Suddenly, though, she felt like one – alone.
But she’s not ‘Ro smiles. They are all alive. They only pretended to be killed; it was a giant fake out. But how did this other Storm go so wrong if they are all the same person? Storm muses that Moreau was right. Because of her accelerated aging, the balance of the bio-synth character was inherently unstable. During the X-Men’s battle in Scotland with Legion and the Shadow King, their minds touched. Part of the abilities spliced into her genome by the Genegineer was to absorb portions of other mutants’ talents. That fleeting contact somehow grafted a measure of the Shadow king’s malevolence onto her. As the X-Men struggled to rebuild, the fake Storm sought out the Consortium. If she could not be sole leader of the team, she would destroy it and the same urge to dominate led her to destroy T’Challa, and now to confront them here on Genosha. ‘Ro fears she will never quit till she wins. She would do no less, Storm points out. Nor would ’Ro.
Perfect Storm returns to Wakanda and tells Minister W’kabi that the Ghost Panther had help from the X-Men and sooner or later the Ghost Panther and his new friends will come for her, unless they strike first. She orders W’kabi to release press reports that their aid units in Genosha have been attacked by terrorists. Wakanda has no desire to take military action in response, which is why their queen is reaching out for help to her late husband’s most trusted allies…