|Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #152|| || |
Issue Date: December 1981
Story Title: The Hellfire Gambit
Staff: Chris Claremont (writer), Bob McLeod (penciler), Josef Rubinstein (inker), Don Warfield (colorist), Janice Chiang (letterer), Louise Jones (editor), Jim Shooter (editor in chief)
Pursued by Emma Frost (in Storm’s body), Storm (in Emma’s body) makes her escape from the Massachusetts Academy with Kitty Pryde. Kitty awakens and is frightened, thinking that Storm is Emma. She attempts an escape and Storm’s efforts to stop her result in the car going off the road and down an embankment. Kitty falls separately, protected by her phasing power, while the car explodes upon impact. Emma leaves, thinking them both dead. Kitty finds what she thinks to be the body of Emma Frost, lying just outside the fire from the car’s explosion. Though Kitty does not believe her at first, Storm manages to convince Kitty to help her, since she cannot take the risk of the other X-Men being in danger. Meanwhile, the other X-Men believe Storm has become the new White Queen at Shaw’s side. Guards take Wolverine from the room where they are being held captive. Storm and Kitty are picked up by Stevie Hunter and driven back to the mansion. After dropping them off and saying goodbye, Stevie is captured by Emma and Shaw. Within the mansion, Harry Leland seemingly kills Wolverine in the Danger Room, but it is merely the appearance of death, created by Amanda Sefton. Storm uses Emma’s psionic powers to help Kitty unlock mansion’s hanger’s hatch, as Kitty is able to phase through the earth to get to it. The two manage to get inside before Emma and Shaw, still patrolling the outdoors, attack them. Inside, Kitty finds Wolverine and they exchange information. Kitty frees the X-Men by phasing through their inhibitor collars. Shaw is thrown by Colossus through a hole in the wall that Shaw had created, into the lake. The X-Men and the members of the Hellfire Club battle until a freak storm appears. On his way back, Shaw is struck down by an extremely intense bolt of lightning. Storm forces a psionic rapport with Emma in order to control the storm and then uses the persona exchange gun to switch their bodies back. All this occurs far up in the sky. Emma falls and Storm saves her just before impact, a favor for which Emma shows her appreciation by proceeding to attack Storm. Her patience depleted, Storm goes wild and intends to kill Emma, but is stopped by Wolverine’s reasoning that Storm is the type of person to show others a different way of resolving such situations. Since both groups fear exposure, they agree not to involve the authorities. Emma explains that, until Shaw recovers, the X-Men have nothing to fear from the Hellfire Club but, inwardly, vows that someday the X-Men will all die.
Appearances can be deceiving. What appears to be Storm attacking a car driven by Emma Frost, the White Queen of the Hellfire Club, is actually quite the opposite; the two women switched bodies when Emma ambushed Ororo with a special weapon, a part of a Hellfire Club plot against the X-Men.
As Emma fires lightning bolts at the car, she thinks that finding their getaway car – after she’d been informed of Ororo and the girl’s escape – was no problem. Stopping it – especially without harming the occupants – is. Ororo is driving like a maniac and her control over her elemental powers is less than absolute. “The girl” is Kitty Pryde – the youngest, newest X-Man. Inside the car, she slowly wakes with a terrific headache, legacy of the psionic bolt that knocked her unconscious seconds before. One look reveals her situation: she believes she’s in the clutches of a ruthless, deadly foe. She acts accordingly, phasing through the body of the car in an instinctive bid for freedom. You! she yells, eyes wide with terror.
Kitten! What are you doing? Storm asks, under normal circumstances, a sensible, logical response. Tragically, these circumstances are far from normal. Half of her body now outside the vehicle, Kitty yells in surprise at their present speed. Come back here, before you – Storm continues, but yells Goddess! in surprise, as her attempt to grab Kitty’s leg results in her hand passing right through it. She’s made her entire body ephemeral, Storm recognizes.
As “Miss Frost” lunges for her passenger, the car suddenly hydroplanes on the rain-slick highway and, before the wind rider’s horrified eyes, spins off the road. As it plunges down an embankment, Kitty falls fully from the car and rolls down the hill alone, remembering to stay intangible, however, and therefore safe. Meanwhile, in the sky, Emma screams her protest at the events unfolding below her, following the car as it falls. She thus gets caught in the ball of fire resulting from the car’s gas tank exploding. Within the flames, Emma wonders what she should do. She’s got to get away! A wind, she decides. She’ll summon a wind to blow herself to safety. Her need hyped by pain and terror, she reaches out with her mind and, in a split-second, warps local weather patterns sufficiently to generate a jet stream, a blast of super-fast air that scoops her up and whirls her helplessly away.
Meanwhile, in the nearby woods, Kitty believes that Storm was trying to rescue her from the White Queen, unaware of their body switch. Thus, she wonders what is wrong with Storm that, when the wind hit her a moment ago, she acted like she didn’t know what was happening. Uh-oh, her thoughts continue, she may have landed in one piece, but if she wants to stay that way, she’d better not relax her concentration ‘til she’s pulled herself free of the trees and rocks that her body has partially phased through. She wonders what would happen if she solidified inside something? Could she even do it? She thinks she’d rather not know.
OWW! HER HEAD! Raising her hand to her head, Kitty thinks that the last time she felt this awful was when a line drive in little league “beaned” her. Recalling the events that led up to this moment, she wonders what she is doing there in the woods, wherever there is exactly. Where was the White Queen taking her? And why, with the resources of the Hellfire Club at her command, transport Kitty herself, in a dinky little sports car?
Suddenly, there’s an explosion that grabs Kitty’s attention. The wind created by Emma has scattered burning gasoline all over the place and started a forest fire. There’s nothing Kitty can do to put it out. She thinks she’d better make tracks and climb to high ground, so she can signal Storm when she comes back. But, as she turns to leave, her eyes happen upon the body of the White Queen. Miss Frost! Kitty thinks she must have been thrown out of the car, too. She’s lying on the edge of the fire! If Kitty doesn’t pull her away from there – fast – she’ll probably die! So what? She probably deserves it. She’s a crook. She’d do anything to harm the X-Men. Why should Kitty risk her life for Emma? Yeah, but she’s supposed to be a hero. She’s supposed to be better than Emma. But, if she saves her, Emma could use her telepathic powers to take Kitty prisoner again and maybe capture Ororo as well. What should she do?! The fire’s getting worse. One way or the other, she’s got to decide – now!
Much later, a weary wind-rider returns to the X-Men’s mansion on Graymalkin Lane, outside the suburban New York City Township of Salem Center. As Emma enters Ororo’s attic through the skylight, she is in a foul mood. If there is a hades, Ororo, she says, throwing off her cape, she prays that Ororo rots in it forever. Appearing behind her, Sebastian Shaw, self-made billionaire and mutant villain of the first order, gathers that things did not go well. He refers to Emma as his pet. Upset, Emma responds: the car crashed. She . . . panicked, lost control of Ororo’s powers, was blown miles away by a rogue wind. When she returned the forest was a blazing inferno, the car melted slag. She searched for any sign of Ororo and the brat without success. Her body is gone. She’s trapped in Ororo’s!
As she spoke, Emma held the weapon that she used to make the body-switch. She now throws it onto a nearby wicker chair in frustration. Sebastian places his hand upon her shoulders, telling her it is not as bad as she thinks. She used that “persona exchange gun” to switch her consciousness with Storm’s. The device functioned perfectly. If she wishes, the process could be repeated with someone else. True, she’s no longer a telepath, but she still possesses beauty, youth, the power of a goddess. If she asks him, he thinks Ororo would make an exquisite White Queen. He kisses her.
Meanwhile, upstate, Kitty and Ororo are hiding in a large drainage pipe. Remember, Kitty tells her, if she tries to use her psi-powers, Kitty will run. She can stay here and starve or be eaten by wolves, Kitty doesn’t care. She won’t harm her, Ororo tells her, and calls her Kitten. Kitty protests the use of this nickname, saying she hasn’t the right to call her that. Ororo asks why Kitty will not believe her as to who she really is. Why should she, Kitty asks? Storm tries to convince her: she is Ororo. The White Queen ambushed her at the Massachusetts Academy and used a special gun to switch their . . . minds. Emma inhabits her body, Ororo is in Emma’s.
Prove it, Kitty demands, wearing a stern look. Ask me any question, Storm suggests, things only she – Ororo – would know. Emma’s a telepath, Kitty points out. She reads thoughts. She could have learned the answers a year ago when Storm was her prisoner or she could pull ‘em from Kitty’s head right now. Wearing a look of frustration, Storm says very well then, she can’t establish her bonafides. She asks Kitty to help her in spite of that! Fat chance, Kitty responds. Kitty, Storm begins, the Hellfire Club are planning an all-out assault on the X-Men tonight – it may already be underway. If Kitty doesn’t cooperate with her, Kitty’s friends may be hurt or killed or worse. Can she afford to take that risk?
Kitty asks how she can be sure? Little one, Storm says, in this life nothing is sure. A-all right, Kitty decides, she’s made her point. She’ll . . . untie her. As Kitty’s eyes widen in shock, the woman before her brings her arms around in front of herself. They are already untied. No need, Storm says. She was slipping out of tighter bonds that this before Kitty was born. Ororo taught me that knot, Kitty thinks. She said it was foolproof for anyone but her, yet Miss Frost untied it easily! Maybe . . . she is telling the truth. Kitty decides to go along with her – but she won’t trust her. As far as Kitty’s concerned, she’s guilty until proven innocent.
In their mansion, Kitty’s fellow X-Men – their powers neutralized by inhibitor manacles – take stock of their situation. They are all lined up seated on and around a couch, guarded by Harry Leland of the Hellfire Club and several of that organization’s guards. As it has been hours since the X-Men were defeated, Colossus wonders why they are being kept there?! Who knows, Colossus? Wolverine answers. Maybe they were busy gettin’ rid o’ the sentinels they thrashed. Nightcrawler points out that they would not have been beaten at all if it had not been for Storm. Why did she turn on them?
Why not ask the lady herself, Nightcrawler? Leland asks. Just then, Sebastian and Emma enter the room. Storm! Peter shouts. She’s dressed as the White Queen! Nightcrawler doesn’t believe it! Why, Nightcrawler? Emma asks, playing the part. The path of righteousness and virtue was becoming a frightful bore. She merely decided the time was ripe to learn how the other half lives. And you know what, she likes it!
That’s a crock, lady – Wolverine blurts, but is stopped short as Leland grabs him by the throat. Leland tells Wolverine that he’s got a big mouth. It’s time someone taught him proper manners. And Harry Leland is just the man to do – whouLFFF! This time Leland’s words are the ones being cut short as Wolverine knees him in the crotch. Wolverine asks who else will help Leland, calling him “Tubbo.” Wolverine gets his answer in the form of Cole, the Hellfire Club guard that grabs him off of Leland and throws him into the wall. It’s been a while since we met beneath the Hellfire Club, fella, Cole says. Wolverine cut up him an’ his men pretty good. They might a’ died. But they didn’t. Now they got powers an’ strength to match his own, an’ tonight they’re gonna use ‘em to pay him back for what he did. With interest. Cole and another guard lift Wolverine up from the floor.
Professor X pleads with his captors, saying that they must put an end to this -- in the name of humanity. What an odd request, Shaw responds, especially since it concerns Wolverine who knows nothing of humanity. Forget him, Shaw tells the X-Men. Wolverine’s fate is sealed. As for the rest of them, as soon as his Technos have finished looting Xavier’s data banks, they’ll all be transported to a Hellfire Club installation, where the X-Men will be their guests for the rest of their natural lives. Gloat away, Herr Shaw, Nightcrawler thinks. Shaw may think them helpless, but they are not. They possess an asset he is completely unaware of – his lady friend, Amanda.
Meanwhile, on Graymalkin Lane, a Saab Turbo, driven by Kitty’s dance teacher – and her and Ororo’s friend – Stevie Hunter, cruises slowly past the mansion’s driveway. The gate’s closed and locked, Stevie observes. There’s no sign of anyone about. Laying low in the passenger seat, Storm assures Stevie that there are people in the mansion, take her word for it. She’s picking up on thought patterns – a squad of mercenaries. Keep going, she tells Stevie, they’re being watched.
As they continue to drive, Kitty phases her head out the door of the car, and reports that she can’t see anything. Storm screams Kitty! from inside. Grasping the waistband of Kitty’s shorts in one hand, as if she had just pulled her back in, Storm reprimands her young friend: is she insane, phasing through the door like that?! Why not simply announce their presence at the top of her lungs or shoot off flares?! They’re outnumbered and outgunned. Their only hope is to take them completely by surprise. Kitty is sorry; she didn’t think. No, she didn’t, Storm agrees. She’s an X-Man. If she wants to survive then she’d better start acting like one. Almost smiling, Kitty thinks, whew! That’s a Storm riff if she ever heard one. No one can be that good of an actress. She’s beginning to believe her.
A mile down the road, on the fringes of Xavier’s sprawling estate, Stevie cuts cross-country towards the lake. Stop here, Stevie, Storm commands, this is as far as she goes. Storm thanks her for answering her call for help and for driving upstate to pick them up. When a voice pops into your head and says “come-a-runnin’, it’s kind of hard to ignore it, Stevie responds. Now, standing outside the car, Storm tells her that if she’s heard no word from the X-Men by sunrise, to contact Charles’s associate, Moira MacTaggart, and tell her everything Storm’s told Stevie. Moria will handle things from that point on. Stevie hopes it wont come to that. So does Storm. Kitty says her goodbye as well, hugging Stevie and thanking her for standing by them. Frankly, Stevie says, Kitty’s life scares the beans out of her. But they’re friends and she stands by those she loves, no matter what.
Looking on, Storm notices that Kitty’s feelings are as strong for Stevie as they are for her. Stevie is an extraordinary person. She’s proud to call Stevie her friend. Yet, she’s still jealous of that bond between them. As she takes Kitty’s hand and leads her away, her thoughts continue: possessing Emma Frost’s telepathic talent – and being able to sense Stevie and Kitty’s thoughts and emotions – only makes things worse. It’s unfair to Stevie, unworthy of her, yet she can’t help herself. She’s come to think of Kitty as her own child. She resents having to share her.
Stevie watches them disappear into the fog that enshrouds the woods but, as she turns to leave, her car is lifted up and tossed aside by Sebastian Shaw. What th -- ?! Her car! Stevie falls to the ground, as the vehicle is no longer there for her to lean against. Surprise, surprise – whom have we here? Sebastian asks. Standing beside him, and looking down on Stevie, Emma answers his question. Then, to the woman below her, she points out that Stevie is a long way from home. If she knows what’s good for her, she suggests Stevie tell them what she’s doing there.
In the mansion’s Danger Room, Wolverine is taking a beating by Harry Leland, Cole and another guard. As the guard holds him, Cole punches him across the face, telling Wolverine that they’ve been rebuilt in his image with bionic limbs capable of punching through armor plate. His bones may be laced with adamantium, makin’ him virtually unbreakable, but even he – hey! Wolverine, though his hands are bound behind his back, flips the guard behind him over his shoulders and into Cole, telling the man that he talks too much. Heading in Leland’s direction, Wolverine tells him that he doesn’t need claws to ice him. Leland explains that he does not need assistance to deal with Wolverine – or has he forgotten that Leland’s mutant power gives him absolute power over the mass of both things – and people! Wolverine struggles to stand up as Leland tells him that with each passing second, his mass doubles. Beg for mercy, and perhaps Leland will spare him. Wolverine slowly fades, but tells Leland he . . . can . . . go . . . to . . . hunnnnn— He passes out on the floor.
Upstairs, the X-Men and their captors have been watching Wolverine’s last stand on television monitors. As the X-Men look on in shock, Leland says that the little man was something of a disappointment. He’d hoped to prolong his agony for days. Let his death be a lesson to them: step out of line, and they’ll suffer the same fate. Wolverine – dead?! Colossus asks in stunned surprise. Sleep well, tovarisch, Colossus thinks, he will be avenged. While the X-Men reel in shock and disbelief, Amanda Sefton allows herself the slightest smile and continues to trace tiny mystic sigils in the air – her movements masked by the bodies of her fellow prisoners – while whispering ancient words of power. As far as she is concerned, all is going according to plan.
A mile away, Kitty, the lower half of her body phased into the earth, reports to Storm that the hangar is empty, no guards anywhere. But, the surface entrance is locked. She can disrupt the circuits by phasing through them, but that’ll probably set off all sorts of alarms. Storm, mentally considers the fact that she could unlock the door, but she has no way of reaching it. Kitty can reach it, but she lacks Storm’s skill as a thief. If there was only a way of seeing through her eyes . . . perhaps there is!
Hesitantly, she brushes her fingers across Kitty’s forehead, reaching out with her mind. Kitty feels an immediate savage wrench within herself and her world turns topsy-turvy, inside out. What is Storm doing? Get away from me! Kitty screams. Storm apologizes. She didn’t mean to hurt Kitty. She was trying to establish a psionic rapport between the two of them. Like Professor Xavier does when he wants to teach her stuff? Kitty asks. She understands, but Xavier knows what he’s doing. Storm almost fried Kitty’s brain!
Again, Ororo tries, this time remembering how Jean Grey had described the process long ago: “You totally relax, letting your thoughts gradually drift together, like the ebb and flow of a tide. Never push, never force things to happen. Let the process evolve naturally. You’d be surprised at how easy it is.” Kitty phases through the earth and into the hangar, thinking that she’s not happy with this – she doesn’t like the idea of anyone poking about inside her head – but the longer she’s with Miss Frost the more sure she becomes that she’s really Ororo. And Ororo she’d trust with her soul! Hearing this wayward thought, Ororo blinks tears from her eyes and gets to work. The job is a killer for both of them. Kitty worries about making a mistake and triggering the alarms while Ororo is terrified of inadvertently – through ignorance or clumsiness – injuring, even destroying, Kitty’s mind.
As Kitty works below, Storm holds her hand to a forehead shaded by a large hat. This requires total concentration, she thinks, but she’s used to that kind of stress. The same sort of absolute control and focus is necessary when she manipulates the weather. Thus, she does not notice as two figures approach her from behind: Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw. Arms upraised, Emma pardons herself for disturbing the young lady (who she does not yet recognize), but she does believe that the woman is trespassing. Emma creates a wind to blow Storm off her feat and into Shaw’s hands. Lightning flashes in the sky, and Storm mentally notes that a huge storm is brewing – doesn’t Emma realize it?! Emma, however, is too distracted by discovering that Ororo is alive, therefore meaning that she can still get her old body back.
Excellent, Shaw agrees, but if Storm survived the wreck, it stands to reason that her brat did, too. Where is Kitty Pryde? What--?!? The ground beneath their feet lifts up, as Kitty has managed to unlock the hangar door. Jumping through, Storm yells for Kitty to seal the hatch, as Shaw and the White Queen are right behind her. Kitty hits the Emergency Close button and the hatch slams shut before the two Hellfire Club members can pursue. Return to the mansion, Emma, Shaw commands, and she should take the unconscious Miss Hunter with her. Warn the others. He’ll deal with this problem. Before she goes, he asks her to strike him with a lightning bolt. His mutant metabolism will absorb its kinetic energy, which should give him more than sufficient strength to rip the hatch out of the ground.
It’s a mile from the hangar complex to the main house. Last Christmas, while being chased by a demon, Kitty covered the distance in record time. Tonight, she moves faster. Phasing through a wall behind a Hellfire Club guard’s back, Kitty notes mentally that the psionic rapport she shared with Storm has faded away, just like Ororo said it would. They’re each on their own now. Storm stayed behind to try and slow Shaw down. Kitty hopes she is okay. She’d better be careful herself. The guards have been alerted, they’re looking for her and Storm, Kitty notices. She wonders where they’re holding the X-Men, as a gloved hand appears behind her from around a corner.
C’mere, Kid, the voice the hand belongs to says, as the hand covers her mouth. ULLMPFF! Kitty manages. Shush, short-stuff, it’s me, says Wolverine. Kitty yells his name in surprise, she’d heard a guard say he was dead. Funny, Wolverine heard some bozo make the same crack about her. Kitty hugs him; she’s so glad to see him. Likewise, Wolverine agrees. Unknown to everyone, Amanda – a sorceress of no mean ability – cast a spell during the fight in the Danger Room, which gave Wolverine the appearance of death. Ignorant of her ability, the Hellfire Club has yet to realize anything’s wrong. They’re gettin’ set to ship the X-Men out, Wolverine tells his young companion. They’ve got no time for anything fancy, so she should listen up.
A minute later, Kitty phases through all of the captive X-Men, disrupting the electromagnetic locks of their inhibitor collars and releasing them. Colossus yells her name in pleased surprise and promises to have Cyclops free of his mask in a moment. Kitty asks if they missed her. Desperately, Katzchen, Nightcrawler answers. Nearby, Leland tells them to enjoy their moment, for it won’t last long. All he needs to do is increase their mass enough to make it impossible for them to move. That ploy might be effective against his friends, Colossus explains, but in his armored form, he will not be held easily. With but a though, Colossus transmutes his body from flesh and blood to super-strong organic steel . . . and – easily snapping his bonds – strikes!
Leland ends up on his back. Before he can recover, Nightcrawler teleports on top of him. Leland may increase Kurt’s mass all he wants. Of course, considering where he is, that might not be the brightest of moves. On the other hand, he isn’t the brightest of people. Punching his across the face, Nightcrawler tell him it’s for Wolverine, calling him swine. Freed by Colossus, Cyclops dons a ruby quartz visor hidden in his belt. Together, he and Colossus make short work of their guards. Suddenly, Wolverine appears, launching himself at Cole. His retractable, razor sharp claws easily cut the guard’s rifle to pieces. Both the guard and the X-Men, though experiencing different emotions, are surprised to see Wolverine alive. The force of Wolverine’s attack throws him momentarily off balance, giving Cole an opening, which he uses to strike his foe across the face with half of the rifle.
Not easily deterred, Wolverine grabs Cole by the throat and presses him up against the wall, his other hand’s claws extracted. Go ahead, crazy-man! Gut me! Cole says. Wolverine will be doin’ him a mercy! All him an’ his partners lived for was seein’ him dead! If they can’t have that, it’s better to die! Why? Wolverine asks. Because he cut him months ago?! At the time, Cole was trying to kill him, remember? Yeah! Cole does, and because of what Wolverine did, The Hellfire Club made them freaks! Part human – but mostly machine!
Is that all?! Wolverine wonders. Man, he’s pathetic! So what if he’s bionic?! There are worse fates! He’s alive! A thinkin’, breathin’, feelin’ human being. Or at least he’s supposed to be. Wolverine takes his hand away and Cole slumps to the floor. Wolverine continues: artificial parts, mechanical limbs, can’t take that essential humanity away. Just as flesh and blood can’t give it to him. Wolverine could grant his wish, but he won’t. Cole isn’t worth the effort.
Just then, the wall explodes. Sebastian Shaw appears through the rubble that he has caused, complimenting Wolverine’s recent statement as eloquent. Shall he carve it on his tombstone? You can try, Shaw, comes Wolverine’s response. Vamoose, ‘crawler! Wolverine commands, as the teleporter is no match for Shaw. Nightcrawler complies.
Flying in and striking Colossus with twin lightning bolts, Emma tells Wolverine that he is no match for Shaw either. He’ll snap Wolverine’s bones like rotten twigs. Cyclops dodges clumsily out of the way of the lightning, falling to the floor. From there, he uses an optic blast to show Shaw off-balance, knowing that if they attack him directly, the harder they hit him, the stronger he gets. Shaw lands in Colossus’s arms. The armored Russian then throws the villain through the opening in the wall and far off into the nearby lake. With luck, Cyclops hopes, Shaw should burn off a fair chunk of his power just by swimming back to shore.
And he’ll be out of our hair long enough for us to deal with his compatriots, Nightcrawler says, finishing the thought. He teleports in front of Emma, whom he still believes to be Storm, impacting her about the waist. He asks for her surrender, not wishing to harm her. A pity that the feeling isn’t mutual! Emma responds, striking Kurt with a point blank shot of lightning. He screams in pain and falls to the floor. Suddenly, a wind seems to come out of nowhere, smashing through the house like an elemental battering ram, sweeping both combatants and bystanders off their feet. With the unnatural winds comes rain – a torrential monsoon – and lightning – massive bolts that gouge rough scars in the lawn, splinter aged oaks . . . and strike down a man. SHAW! Emma screams. No! It isn’t possible! He’s down. He isn’t moving. No power on Earth could do that.
Reaching the room, Storm assesses the situation: as she feared, the White Queen’s indiscriminate use of Storm’s abilities has triggered a wild weather effect. The bolt that struck Shaw filled him with more raw energy that his system could assimilate. The overload has either stunned or slain him. Rushing over to Emma, Storm grabs a hold of the woman. Her thoughts continue: if this storm isn’t brought under control – quickly – we’ll be the next to fall! She can sense Frost’s terror. Emma’s trying to reassert her mastery over the elements, but she’s out of her depth, she doesn’t really know how! Storm places a hand upon Emma’s forehead, who immediately protests. Storm explains that she must, telling Emma to stop fighting her and let Storm into her mind. She has been one with the winds since she was born – Emma should let Storm guide her!
The two women rise up together into the air. Despite herself, the White Queen cannot help resisting, but Ororo will not be denied, as she ruthlessly, brutally forces the psionic rapport. A spear of fire punches through both women’s brains, accompanied by a sickening sense of disorientation as a gust of wind swirls them high into the sky. Thunder rumbles across the land, lightning explodes before their eyes, rain chills them to the marrow . . . but slowly, gradually, Ororo reduces the tempest to a semblance of normalcy.
That battle over . . . another begins. Ororo has the personal exchange module – existence and location picked from the White Queen’s thoughts during their scuffle in the forest. She means to use it. The White Queen means to stop her at any cost. Colossus points to the sky. They’re over the lake – look! The Frost woman is falling! His friends. He cannot reach her. Finally, Wolverine sheds some light on recent events, telling the others what Kitty explained to him. He correctly surmises that Ororo is fighting to reverse the process, but that leaves the question of who exactly is falling from the sky in the Frost body.
For tense, terrible seconds the outcome is in doubt, but just before the woman hits the lake, whoever is in Storm’s body swoops down and grabs the other by the hand. She then lifts the Frost body up and flies it over to dry land. Their bodies have been changed back, it seems, as the woman in Storm’s body addresses the other as Miss Frost. Part of her wanted to let Emma drop but, instead, she sets her on dry land, all safe and sound. By morning, the storm she inadvertently created will be no more than a memory. And so, wind-rider, will you! Emma says, launching a telepathic assault. Storm may wield her powers with consummate skill – but so does she! Emma knows Storm’s mind as well as her own. Once, oh majesty of evil, that may have been so – but no longer! Storm announces, taking Emma out with a fierce bolt of lightning. Emma made Storm her slave, her unwitting puppet – she used Storm – but from this instant . . . she is FREE!
Storm sails into the sky, shredding the White Queen’s clothing that she had still been wearing. Ororo? Kitty asks, and then tells Xavier that she is frightened, as Storm does not look human. She’s like . . . a real goddess. Crouching over Shaw, Cyclops asks for a hand. Shaw’s power saved him from being burned, but he’s barely breathing. Swooping back down from the sky, Ororo narrows in on Emma, taking her by the throat. As a child, she swore never again to kill. But tonight, she’ll break that vow. Emma has committed a heinous, unforgivable crime. In stealing her body, she perverted a trust as old as the earth itself! She will pay for that in – BLOOD!
Rushing toward the two women, Wolverine yells the word NO! Stand aside, Ororo commands him. And watch her destroy herself? Not flamin’ likely! Anyone can kill, princess. It’s easy, he knows. What takes courage an’ strength – what separates the humans from the animals – is not killin’. Some people are warriors darlin’ – born to kill. That’s him. And some exist to show us there’s a better way. That’s her. There’s so much beauty in her. It’d be a shame to spoil it for the likes of Emma. Let go.
Emma rushes over to Shaw’s unconscious body as the X-Men stand and look on. Storm has a blanket wrapped around her naked body. It is strange, hearing such philosophy from Wolverine’s lips, she states. But his point is well taken. Kitty asks if she should call the police. No, Storm answers, they cannot expose the Hellfire Club without exposing themselves. But neither can the Hellfire Club expose them. In their mutual fear of discovery lies mutual . . . safety. Is that not so, Emma?
Emma will keep silent. Ororo has her word. The inner circle – the secret, evil heart of the Hellfire Club is nothing without Shaw. Until he recovers – if he recovers – the X-Men have nothing to fear from them. And Kitty Pryde? Storm asks. She wants the brat? To the victors go the spoils. However, in her thoughts, Emma swears, with all her heart and soul, that, though they’ve lost this battle, the war between them shall not end until the X-Men are both dead and damned!
Colossus, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Professor X, Sprite, Storm, Wolverine (all X-Men)
Black Bishop, Black King, White Queen (all Hellfire Club Inner Circle)
Cole & unnamed guards (Hellfire Club guard)
Sprite, Storm (all X-Men)
Storm in White Queen’s body
The first flashback recalls the events of the previous issue, Uncanny X-Men #151.
When referring to Storm being the White Queen’s prisoner, Kitty is speaking about the events of X-Men (1st Series) #129-131.
Cole, the Hellfire Club guard, when talking to Wolverine, refers to the events of X-Men (1st Series) #133. Wolverine violently attacked several guards in an attempt to rescue the other X-Men. Cole shot Wolverine dead center and thought him dead, but found out quickly otherwise.
Wolverine and Harry Leland first encountered each other in X-Men (1st Series) #132. Leland used his mutant power to increase Wolverine’s mass. However, the floor yielded before Wolverine did and he busted through to the sewers beneath the Hellfire Club. In X-Men (1st Series) #134, the two met again. That time, Leland made the mistake of increasing Wolverine’s mass as he fell through the air toward him, bringing Wolverine crashing down into himself.
The demon Kitty fought is one of the N’Garai, which the X-Men fought originally in X-Men (1st Series) #96. The N’Garai came out of a cairn on the land near the mansion, which was destroyed by Storm in issue #96. It was believed that this took care of the problem; however, Kitty was attacked by one of them while she was alone at the mansion in Uncanny X-Men #143.
This Issue has been reprinted in:
Essential X-Men Vol. 3 (Trade Paperback)
Classic X-Men #56
Issue Summary written by: Christopher Ivey