Night in Wakanda. A shaman sits at a fire. He senses someone approach and cries out: “I can feel you there, my child.” He asks the other person to come out. Suddenly, he senses the other’s anger and then he cries out as he is brutally attacked. He shouts and screams and bleeds and dies.
The tunnels under Manhattan:
Her name is Ororo Iqadi T’Challa. She’s been a thief, a goddess, an X-Man and a queen. And yet, somehow, she always ends up in a sewer under New York City. These are Storm’s thoughts, as she and Cyclops are looking for any mutants still living here. As she lights the way ahead with some lightning, Storm asks Cyclops to tell her again why Frost isn’t with them. Emma said she doesn’t do sewers. That it was more Ororo’s area of expertise. Her words, not his. Wryly, Storm tells him to remind her to thank Emma for that recommendation.
But, of course, she does know these tunnels well, she thinks. They hold memories, mostly bad. What seems a lifetime ago, she became leader of the Morlocks, mutants who dwelled beneath the world of man. She was not elected, the Mrolocks’ method of choosing a leader is much more… violent.
She beat the former leader, Callisto, in a fight to the death. Under Storm’s “leadership,” the Morlocks were hunted to near extinction. Her utter failure stings still.
Cyclops requested she join him to extend an invitation to all mutants for refuge in San Francisco. She should have led the Morlocks there herself. Instead, she was a world away.
Is she in Wakanda? Scott interrupts her reverie. Excuse me? she asks confused. It’s a simple question, Scott remarks. Is she here or is she in Wakanda right now? Because he can’t afford any more mutant casualties… especially not one that’s royalty.
Is her position a problem for him? she asks coldly. Absolutely not, comes the reply. It has potential to be good for mutantkind, but he needs to know that when she’s here, she’s an X-Man. He can’t have her distracted. Because they both know, if she’s no here, not focused… she’s dead.
Is that it then? Ororo asks annoyed. She can’t be more? She can’t be an X-Man and a wife? Wife is one thing, Scott shoots back. Queen of Wakanda is another. When his son was born, he tried to hold on too tightly to the X-Men. He tried to be a leader and a father. She made him see that he couldn’t. He had to commit to one or the other. Her in Wakanda, Wolverine with the Avengers… he sees the value, but how many missions has Logan missed? How many has she missed? Would her presence have made a difference?
The temperature drops to match her anger as she shouts that he’s talking about Kitty! No, he amends. What happened with Kitty… nothing could have changed that.
Storm calms down. But one day she’ll have to make a decision… is she an X-Man or a Queen? He knows how Storm would have answered. He’s not sure how the Black Panther’s wife will. Suddenly, her phone beeps. She should probably answer that, Scott states.
The Black Panther’s counselor N’Gassi is on the phone, telling her she is needed in Wakanda. Ororo states she told him she has duties here… What duty is greater than that of the queen of Wakanda? comes the reply. The king is away and there has been a death.
She ends the call. Scott tells her to go. He can handle things with the Morlocks. You see to your kingdom. I’ll see to mine, he tells her.
Ororo flies over New York, and considers using the entire might of the Wakandan military to destroy a certain somebody. But, as angry as she is with Scott, she is more angry that part of her agrees with him. So much has changed with her, Scott, the X-Men, the world… does she even know who she is anymore?
She lands at a river where her high-tech flightcraft is hidden and returns to Wakanda, still musing that she is torn between both Wakanda and mutantkind.
She is welcomed back by N’Gassi, who informs her that King T’Challa was called away unexpectedly to the Wakandan embassy in England. He specifically requested she see to the matter. A death, he said, Ororo repeats. Surely the king and queen do not see to every…
N’Gassi apologizes and clarifies this was a murder. And while common in America, murder is nearly unheard of here. But more importantly, the murderer is known to her.
On a security camera, she sees the murderer in his cell. Nezhno Abidemi, a mutant. Her mutant, to be specific. He was born there in Wakanda and, on Storm’s advice to T’Challa, he was sent to the Xavier Institute. She was his teacher. He possesses strength that rivals Colossus’, and a spirit to match. And now he is being held for murder. Another failure.
N’Gassi explains the victim was a shaman named B’Chaku. He was an advisor to the king. B’Chaku was a mystic. He could look into a man’s soul and read its truth. The king found this useful.
Ororo remarks that she knows Nezhno. He spends nearly every waking hour meditating. He goes to great lengths to maintaining calm and order, for good reason. He’s risked his life to save others. He is a hero. This is not within him.
The act was caught on camera, comes the surprising reply. They watch the tape’s replay. How Nezhno sees the shaman, looks up at the camera and then murders the old man. Enough! Ororo cries.
N’Gassi remarks that Nezhno has been isolated since his return. Given his heritage, perhaps it made him snap. His heritage, Storm repeats coldly. He means that Nezhno’s mother dared fall in love with someone not Wakandan. A crime to be sure.
Realizing his faux pas, the advisor tries to apologize. Storm orders the technician to rewind the tape to twenty two fifteen. Pause and enlarge the image.
Storm muses that she truly barely knows Nezhno. Yet something about the image, Nezhno smirking and winking at the camera before proceeding to murder the old man, strikes her as wrong. She decides to see Nezhno.
Within his cell, the young mutant announces calmly that they should execute him. It was a mistake for him to come back to Wakanda after the X-Men disbanded. He is an outsider. He is dangerous. He never should have come back.
Did he do it? Ororo asks simply. Nezhno stammers. From his meditation, he knew the anger deep inside of him. He knew part of him resented all of them for the way they treated him. The way his mother shunned him. They all knew he was an outsider but the soul reader knew better than any how tainted he was. His anger blinded him. They were all looking at him, all of them. He couldn’t ’think of anything else. And then it was like a nightmare, It did not end until the shaman was dead.
Storm orders him to wink at her. What’s a wink? the boy asks puzzled.
Storm gives the order to open the cell. N’Gassi begins to refuse. Storm stresses that it’s his queen who is ordering him to do it.
He obeys reluctantly. Storm naively believes she will be obeyed in word and spirit. A mistake.
As she and Nezhno step outside, a contingent of armed soldiers awaits them and orders them to stand down. Nezhno is immediately willing to surrender, while Storm coldly asks what the meaning of this is. Is the captain aware of who he is addressing?
The captain orders his men to put dampeners on the boy. He’s a confessed murderer, with irrefutably evidence of guilt, he informs Storm. This is not her America where the guilty run free, he adds with contempt. The boy is an outsider like her. She does not belong in Wakanda. Her gene filth will bring ruin to them all. Then, he strikes her with his weapon.
Nezhno protests that treatment but is held back by other soldiers. The Captain orders power dampeners to be brought for Storm but too late as lightning flashes in the sky and gusts of wind blow away Nezhno’s captors.
The captain finds that he cannot breath. He breathes when she allows it, a furious Storm announces. The air in his lungs obeys her every whim. He would be wise to do the same. What is the meaning of this?
He moans that he was given orders to detain her. By whom? she demands. By me! comes the voice of her husband, accompanied by his Dora Milaje. But Ororo senses something wrong and feels cold.
The Black Panther takes off his mask. When she calls him my love, he tells her she has lost the right to address him as such. Again she tries to talk but he turns towards the crowd that has gathered and addresses them, telling them their king stands before them in shame. He brought a plague upon their homeland. The same plague that killed his father, King T’Chaka. The mutant called Nezhno has reminded him of this threat. T’Challa allowed him stay within Wakandan borders and now he is responsible for “murder.”
Nezhno drops to his knees and asks for forgiveness. Storm tells T’Challa to speak to her now, not his people. He wishes him to talk to her? he snarls. He will open himself to her and tell her something he would never admit to anyone. He was wrong! Their childhood flirtation was not love. It was a youthful indiscretion. This was never meant to be. But for her to bring her madness down on his kingdom… He trusted her and her X-Men to help Nezhno, teach him. The only thing they taught him was violence and now they’ve brought that violence here. She was Wakanda’s queen, but she never stopped being an X-Man.
Again he addresses the crowd, announcing that he has been deceived by his queen. This union was a mistake which he intends to rectify.
Then he turns around and winks at Ororo and she realizes that the nightmare has only just begun. Suddenly, her psyche is torn from her and on the astral plane she faces the one responsible for all this – Amahl Farouk – the Shadow King. With the exception of Charles Xavier, the most powerful telepath on the planet. He is now in control of one of the most powerful men in the world and a nation whose might has few rivals. Professor Xavier is gone. Psylocke is gone. Emma Frost is a world away. As Kitty would say, she has a bad feeling about this.
How he’s missed her, Farouk purrs and suggests they play…