Yuma, municipal airport, Colorado, where nearby a certain plane crashed. The man in the control tower is in for surprise when a bruised and beaten Cyclops knocks against the window from outside. Can he help him? the controller asks confused. Does he need a first aid kit or something? No, Cyclops replies, he needs a plane. It’s a matter of life and death. Nervously, the man goes for the phone, stating Cyclops should stay right there. He’s going to call the police and he can tell them. Cyclops eyes begin to glow…
Wakanda, now. The Black Panther attacks, slicing through Ororo’s flesh. And yet, she finds it takes everything it takes within her power not to laugh. The Shadow King has taken her husband, twisted his mind and taken control over what is arguably the most powerful nation on Earth. Simultaneously, the Shadow King has possessed Cyclops, leader of the X-Men. He intends to use Cyclops to kill them all. And she wants to laugh… because she had lost all hoped and the Shadow King just gave it back to her.
The Panther briefly holds back. Her entire world is crumbling around her and soon she will breathe her last breath. What could she possibly have to smile about? Because, she replies, if the Black Panther were truly in control of that strike, she would be dead right now. T’Challa is fighting the Shadow King. And she will do no less.
She attacks with lightning and he hits her in the stomach. She realizes that, even on his worst day, he is still one of the single greatest hand-to-hand fighters on the planet. Whereas she is bleeding, bruised and tired. For all her bravado, this will be over very quickly. Luckily, she is willing to cheat…
She calls down rain and winds, minor distractions to him. Manipulating the air pressure in his inner ears, that is more effective. As he loses balance, she drops him to the ground. Part of her knows this is exactly what the Shadow King wants. More than power, more than ruling the world. He wants to see her suffer. The more she and T’Challa hurt each other, the more he enjoys it. This is entertainment to him, seeing her heart break. And if she dies at the end of the performance, all the better. But then it would end. At last. Her heart could rest.
She creates a snowstorm, wondering why it still beats at all. It has been broken so many times. She thinks of Kitty, of Jean… of the family and friends she has lost. The thought of losing him…
Enough! she tells herself. Enough self pity. Enough games. He may be the Shadow King. He may be the Black Panther. But what matters right now is who she is. She lets several lightning bolts strike around T’Challa. He moans out her name, assuring her it is he. That he is free. She has done it. She has beaten him. Please help him up. In response, Ororo kicks him in the face.
On the Astral Plane, the Shadow King screams in pain.
Storm has known T’Challa since she was a child. She knows his strengths. But more importantly, she knows his weaknesses. And the Black Panther does not ask for help.
She cradles his unconscious form, praying they will survive this. Startled, Nezhno asks her what she has done. She has beaten the man she loves, his king, half to death, she replies. And now they are going to break into his palace.
Ororo recalls when Charles Xavier brought her from Africa to upstate New York. The weather was terrible. She half expected all of New York to worship her on her arrival. Perhaps more than half. Instead, she was introduced to hate and fear on a level she couldn’t comprehend. That’s her normal now. So as she creates fog to sneak them into the city where every single Wakandan soldier is ready to kill them in horrible ways she almost relaxes. She breathes and smiles. Unwinnable is her element.
Her student on the other hand is about to explode. They are doomed, Nezhno, carrying the Panther, whines. Even worse than before. When the Wakandas see them, see what they have done to the king, they will lose their minds and slaughter them. They cannot win this, they… suddenly he interrupts his rant. Is she fixing her hair? The X-Men are all insane! he explodes. They thrive on this chaos. He doesn’t understand how they are even supposed to get inside the palace without bringing the entire military down on them. If they use their powers, they will be heard!
She orders him to breathe and shows him the hairpin she produced. He still has much to learn about her. One, never tell her she cannot win. And two? She was a thief long before she was a queen.
They infiltrate the place with the help of Storm’s fog and Nezhno asks where they are going. The other X-Men reported to her that he did not talk much while at the mansion. That has not been her experience today.
They stand in front of the Panther temple. That is where they are going. Nezhno lays down T’Challa on the altar of the panther god, the same altar before which Ororo was married. Nezhno kneels down, and soon they are joined by D’gassi and the military who order Storm to surrender.
She cannot, she replies. The king of Wakanda is incapacitated, and she is queen. This is her country. They are her people. And they are all in danger from a creature called the Shadow King. She kneels down, stating that not matter what they think of her, she would give her life to save them.
Is she surrendering? N’gassi wonders. A soldier replies she is too dangerous. He asks N’gassi to give the order.
Ororo prays to Bast, asking him to hear his child’s wife. And just like that she is gone.
The astral plane:
She finds herself in the spirit world, the realm of the panther god. The last time she was here was the first time she was here. On her wedding day. And even on that joyous occasion there was danger to be had here. Today? This could go very badly. Or it could go very, very badly.
You! the giant white Panther snarls. The pretend goddess! He is not pleased with her. Not at all.
She seem to anger gods quite a bit, Ororo thinks. She needs to work on that.
Ororo asks the panther god to listen and it orders her to be silent. It calls her arrogant and self-involved. She has not given herself fully to T’Challa. And now she brings her enemies down on its child. Making him slave to a monster. This is unacceptable!
Are you done? Ororo asks. Enraged, the panther god snarls. She dare speak to it that way? There is nothing she will not dare! Ororo shouts. She does not care what it thinks of her right now. What she cares about is saving the life of T’Challa, of her friends and all of Wakanda! Now, will it hear her out?
A little later, Ororo is back in reality. Hear me, she addresses the Wakandans. She is their queen now and forever. And then it happens, the sacred panthers surround Ororo and bow to her. One after the other, the soldiers sink to their knees and address her as queen. Storm orders them to rise.
She tells N’gassi to shut down all offensive capabilities of the military and put all diplomatic actions on hold while she is gone. If a single thing changes in status from yesterday, don’t trust it. She is leaving? N’gassi asks.
She adds they are to keep T’Challa unconscious until she returns. Sedate him, if need be. He must not wake. Where is she going? he asks. To end this once and for all, she promises and asks Nezhno to come along. Yes, my queen, he replies. X-Men work, she specifies. Yes, Storm, he amends.
No one is answering in San Francisco. They enter her plane. He doesn’t understand, Nezhno remarks. If Cyclops is still alive, they are still half a world away. Walk in the park, she replies. Has he had lunch? No. Good.
At the X-Men’s HQ, Pixie asks an annoyed Emma when Cyclops is returning. When he’s done, comes the reply. Pixie babbles and Emma suddenly screams. Is she having a seizure? Pixie asks.
Cyclops orders her to step away from Emma. Emma turns to her diamond form and orders Pixie to run. She betrayed him! Cyclops accuses her. She betrayed the X-Men; she turned them all against him. And she turned him against Jean! Now she pays! And he unleashes his optic blast against her.