(AN: Takes place shortly after issue 13)
Nature is paradoxical force. It’s unpredictable, chaotic, and destructive. Yet at the same time it’s ordered, rational, and nurturing. It’s one of the few facets of life that nobody can take for granted even if they tried. One way or another, nature will impact the world and the lives of everybody on it.
Nature for me takes on a very different meaning. Ever since my powers manifested, I’ve had this profound connection with nature. I feel it in a way that no words can describe. I can manipulate it in a way that seems nothing short of miraculous at times. I liken it to reaching out and grasping the untouchable. It’s a feeling every mutant experiences with their powers to some degree. Whether it’s power of mind, body, or environment what we do gives us the ability to interact with a world so few have access to. Mine just happens to be the elements of weather.
It was by most peoples’ measure a dreary morning over the Xavier Institute. Much of the team was just starting to awaken and because of the clouds it didn’t feel like it was past seven already. For whatever reason, Ororo was restless and decided to get up early. For her, this overcast was anything but dreary. Mornings like this presented her with a unique opportunity that only someone of her abilities could experience.
After splashing some cold water on her face and changing into her uniform, Ororo took off from the balcony just outside her room on a stream of air. This powerful yet gentle wind carried her up into the dense clouds. As she rose she felt the cold air and light rain wash over her, fully eradicating any sleepiness that may have lingered. Her eyes shined in gentle white brilliance, clearly indicating her manipulation of the elements around her. The clouds literally parted for her, creating a peaceful bubble-shaped void for her to enter. Soon she was completely surrounded, bathed in a soft gray light that beamed in from the rising sun.
She eventually settled into a silent hover and assumed a meditative state. A steady stream of wind kept her perfectly suspended. The rushing air flowed effortlessly around her, ruffling her majestic white hair and surrounding her with the senses of the early morning dew. It was almost as if she became part of the cloud herself. Within it her mind settled and the world around her was vastly simplified. All the conflicts, concerns, and chaos of everything below were no longer a factor. This was her way of getting away from it all. The gentle winds of the clouds had a soothing influence on her. It allowed her to be alone with her thoughts and make sense of a life that had undergone so much change.
Life in general is akin to nature. There are times when it’s like a sunny day with a gentle breeze and there times when it’s like a category five hurricane destroying everything in it’s path. I’ve certainly had my share of storms…figuratively speaking. Life with my parents was always exciting. I must have seen every country in Africa by the time I was nine. A lot of it was hostile terrain, from arid deserts to rain forests. My parents did everything they could to protect me, but nature always seems to find a way to leave it’s mark.
Lucky for me, I’ve always been very in tuned with nature and it isn’t just because of my powers. One time when I was seven, my parents and I were touring a zoo in Cairo and being such an adventurous child, I wandered off and slipped into the lion cages. At the time I wasn’t afraid. My mother later told me it caused quite a stir. Half of the park’s security staff came rushing to the cage, but to their surprise I was perfectly fine. By whatever forces were acting that day, the lion grew fond of me. I remember him walking up, smelling me, and licking my face. I laughed with joy even as so many gasped in terror. It’s almost funny how that affair resolved itself. Some of the trainers tried to pull me away from the creature, but he got very defensive. It was as if I was his own cub and for a time, everyone was at a loss. Eventually, my mother coaxed me into leaving. I was reluctant, but did so anyways and the lion did not stop me. Although I do sense he was sad to see me leave.
Since that day I felt I always had nature on my side. I was in tune with the winds, the lands, and the life that it nurtured. I still feel that way, but there are times when the forces of nature strike me in a way that’s every bit as devastating as the most powerful of storms.
Ororo exhaled deeply, the winds around her becoming more intense for a moment as her thoughts drifted to unpleasant places. It was often the case that the weather around her adjusted to reflect her moods. When she was sad it rained. When she was happy the sun shined. When she was angry the winds raged. It had been that way since her powers first manifested and certain memories always had a knack for conjuring a certain rush of volatile winds.
There are a handful of times where nature went one way and I went the other. The time that will always haunt me the most is that fateful day in Morocco where the Earth itself turned against me. I can still feel the stale air of that day. I knew from the beginning that something about it felt wrong. Even if I was smart enough to make sense of it, there was no way to stop it. That fateful earthquake struck and my parents were at ground zero. My father yelled out to me. My mother yelled out to my father. I could hear them both, but I could not see them. I was trapped under a pile of rubble, helpless and powerless. I knew my parents were in pain. I could hear it in their voices. I was paralyzed by fear. I tried calling out for my parents, but they couldn’t hear me. Eventually, their voices grew silent. I never got a chance to reach them. I never got a chance to say goodbye.
An ominous round of thunder echoed from the clouds. The rain, which had only been a slight drizzle to begin with, fell more steadily. As it poured over her face, it mixed with her tears. The memory of her parents was a very painful part of her life. Few events could so deeply affect a child. One day she was part of a loving family. In the span of a few minutes all that is taken away from her. It was a great turning point in her life and one that would lead her down a new path.
It’s uncanny…I’m a grown woman and that day still strikes me at 27 as hard as it did when I was 10. I’m not even sure if it was just one day. I was trapped under that rubble for so long I could have been there a full week for all I know. The whole time I was cut off and isolated from the world…isolated from the very nature I embraced. It was like being buried alive and to this day I can’t stand small places. I tremble just walking into my closet with the door closing behind me. Professor Xavier diagnosed it as full on claustrophobia. It almost seems laughable that someone who can manipulate the winds would be so terrified of something so menial. In a ways it reminds me that I’m another fallible human being no matter what abilities I wield.
I almost wish these abilities kicked in sooner. Life after my parents was a long road of sorrow. Looking back on it, I know now it could have been a lot worse. It could have been a lot better as well. A friend of my father’s was nice enough to give me a home at a missionary. It was a nice place…warm beds, good food, and caring people. It was probably the best place for any child who had recently endured such tragedy. Yet I still struggled to cope. It was only when my powers manifested that I found a new sense of peace.
I thought it was a gift from the heavens. I would run off from the missionary, conjure up winds, and create rains to wash away my sorrow. It was like magic and therapy all rolled into one. It’s a shame the missionaries didn’t see it as such. They were terrified. They thought I was possessed by a demon of sorts. That’s why they tried to tie me to a table and perform an exorcism. It was not a pleasant experience and it may very well have turned me off Western religion entirely.
Looking back on it I can’t say I blame them for what they did. They had no idea what they were dealing with and even I couldn’t explain it at the time. To me, it was just magic. They worked off the only knowledge they had and we both paid the price. I don’t regret running away, but I do regret not going back to at least explain myself for what happened. The summer before I graduated college, I flew back to Africa and looked for the missionary. It has long since dissolved, replaced by a new fleet of apartment buildings. Perhaps my recent exposure as an X-man will reveal the truth to those involved. I guess I’ll never know.
All I do know is my life would have been very different had I not been forced to leave. It would certainly be a lot less complicated because I wouldn’t have turned to a life of crime.
The thunder waned and the rains weakened. Yet the air around Ororo was still volatile. It grew cold and stale. Some of the rain even froze to form sleet and snow. It was another eerie reflection of her mood as she recalled a time in her life when her humanity and spirit were tested in a number of profound ways.
I still haven’t brought it up with the rest of my students. I haven’t even talked about it with Hank that much. How can I? How do you tell anybody that you were once a lowly thief, walking the streets in ragged clothes picking the pockets of naïve tourists? Everybody at the institute is so understanding. It doesn’t bother them that I was a thief because to them it was survival. I was young, orphaned, and had no money. If only it were that simple.
Had I been just another pickpocket this wouldn’t be such a sensitive issue. Ironically enough, it’s where my thieving led me that is so difficult to discuss. The Professor knows some of the details. Nobody outside a select few knows them all. Some of the things I did went beyond pick-pocketing. Some were more…ambitious in nature. It helped that my powers gave me an edge few people in my position have. It also got me into a lot more trouble and for a time, I could have walked a very dark path.
Sometimes I wonder what it was that kept me from going that far. Why is it that so many others give into greed and dishonesty? What did I do different? I saw plenty of other teenage girls in my position who got into crime and never broke out. Their lives were ruined. They didn’t just become thieves. They became thugs, deviants, and rebels. The line between right and wrong just disappeared. There was no black and white. Everything is gray. And when everything is gray, it’s hard to see anybody’s true colors.
For whatever reason, I never lost sight of that thin moral line. I stole to survive. I didn’t give into the temptation of greed. It was a good thing too because if I had, I never would have given Charles Xavier a second thought the day our paths crossed. He was the one who got me out of a life of crime before I had ventured too deep. He was the one that helped me gain control of my life once more. Without him, I never would have become Storm. I would have remained Ororo Munroe, an orphaned thief with no future.
Her mood settled as a more peaceful serenity came over her. The stale air grew warm again and the light rain turned into a gentle mist. Even with a stream of wind blowing under her so she could stay airborne, the rest of her surroundings became more tranquil. Being alone with her thoughts often meant confronting unpleasant facts of her life, but in confronting them she gained perspective. It was that perspective that helped set her mind at ease during even the hardest of times.
Coming to America was quite an experience. I don’t think even Charles Xavier knew how difficult it would be when he first offered to help. I managed to cross his path when he was beginning to entertain the idea of an institute. It figures a man who cheated death would look to do something with the life he regained. I happened to be his proving ground and because of that I endured the whole trial-and-error aspect of his methods.
The Professor’s heart was in the right place, but even he admits he had no idea how to go about helping mutants like me. He started by getting me off the streets and into America. It’s amazing the kind of leverage a man can exert on the US embassy when he has money and a fresh lease on life. I’ve still never asked him how he got me a visa and I honestly don’t care to know. He’s hinted at times it wasn’t entirely honest. I tend to chalk it up to refining his means of helping unfortunate mutants.
Seeing as how he is a professor and educate at heart, he believed the first step towards helping me was giving me an education. Since there was no Xavier Institute at this time, he sent me to a private school in Louisiana where I finished secondary school. From there I went to LouisianaStateUniversity near New Orleans. They happened to have an exchange student program that I qualified for so I went from thief to college student in the span of a week. If I could do it all over again, I probably would have asked Charles to help me prepare a bit more for the coming culture shock.
New Orleans was nothing like Africa. College was nothing like the schooling I got at the missionary either. I might as well have been an alien from another planet. I didn’t just struggle with class. I struggled with even the most basic tasks such as getting textbooks, standing in line at the food court, and asking for help in the middle of class. I still cringe every time I first learned the hard way that raising one’s hand was obligatory before speaking.
Then there was the city itself. I learned some decent English from my father and at the missionary, but I was not equipped for southern American twists let alone the vast Cajun aspect. The first year was a real nightmare and every time the Professor came to visit I would complain to him that this place didn’t feel right and I didn’t belong. Somehow, he convinced me to stick with it. I honestly don’t know how he did it. For all I know he implanted telepathic thoughts of confidence to keep me from completely losing my mind. But whatever he did, it worked…although he does admit he could have handled it better.
It’s hard to hold any grudges against Charles Xavier. He did so much to help me, getting me off the streets and into college. He was going through the same learning experience as me, only he was learning the ideas and methods that would later become the tenants of the X-men. He probably learned a lot faster than I did because I spent more years in college than most regular students. There are a number of reasons for this…some personal and some menial.
I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I must have changed majors three times. First I studied horticulture. Then I spent some time in culture studies. I thought that would be right up my alley, but apparently just being from another culture doesn’t make you an expert in other cultures. When I decided to study teaching, it was almost completely by mistake. To this day I consider it the best mistake of my life.
Ororo found herself smiling as she shifted from her meditative state, allowing her arms and legs to stretch within the misty clouds still surrounding her. As she loosened up, the clouds parted and some morning sun shone through. It surrounded her in a gentle warmth, almost as if nature itself was embracing her. It was a feeling she never got tired of and one that took on greater meaning as she moved from impressionable youth to mature adult.
Professor Xavier always says things happen for a reason. Perhaps my earlier struggles in Louisiana were part of that reason. Being awkward, different, and foreign didn’t earn me a lot of friends. However, I never cut myself off. That simply isn’t who I am. I met many colorful characters along the way. Some became friends. A select few became more than that. It may have helped that many men found me attractive. My thieving background seemed to attract the wrong kind of people as well. Ironically, it’s through them that I fostered the desire to teach.
I met so many deviants, degenerates, and thugs in New Orleans. The city has a long history of attracting secretive crime syndicates and because of my background, they reached out to me. However, I refused to walk that path again. And for those who tempted me, I urged them to get off that path as well. I didn’t get through to everybody, but there were some who truly related to me. I proved to them I wasn’t weak. I showed them my powers and I told them my story. To them I seemed like a goddess or something. It’s a laughable notion, thinking a former thief could be a goddess of sorts, but it was that impact that made a difference. It gave me the kind of fulfillment I had not known before and I knew then and there that teaching was for me.
Charles Xavier was certainly thrilled. By then he was already developing his institute and I had my place on the team whenever I was ready. Now that I’m here, I don’t just teach. I’m part of something that makes a genuine difference in the world. It all comes back to my ties with nature. Just as the forces of nature help nurture the lands, I help nurture young mutants and the chaotic society they live in. For everything I am and everything I’ve ever aspired to, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect fit.
The clouds around her continued to part and the rising sun further dissipated the rains. It was still a little foggy over the landscape, but around Ororo the scenery was perfect. Feeling refreshed and energized for a new day, she turned around and started descending towards the mansion. As she neared the backyard area she discovered that she wasn’t the only early riser. Hank McCoy was standing just outside the back entrance with a cup of hot coffee in his hand and a smile on her face.
Upon seeing her lover, Ororo smiled back. That was another unexpected turn in her life that came along with joining the X-men. She had companionship with her team, a growing rapport with her students, a mentor in Charles Xavier, and a man she could be intimate with. It was always a pleasure seeing that admiring grin on his face. Like her, Hank McCoy had a strong connection with nature. It was a connection of a different kind, but every bit as meaningful. It was from these connections that their relationship blossomed.
I almost feel spoiled at times. Whereas most girls who just graduated college are struggling to break into their careers, I had a job waiting for me right after I graduated. Not only that, I had a new boyfriend waiting in the wings.
Hank McCoy is the kind of man you don’t find on the streets pickpocketing strangers and stealing cars. He’s the kind of man who works diligently at whatever he sets his mind to, always acting with care and concern for everyone and everything around him. When I first met him I thought he was charismatic intellectual. I swear I always had to have a dictionary on hand for some of the words he used. Since most of our exchanges were email, I never saw his appearance and didn’t have a chance to be surprised at his appearance. He once told me that his brilliance often got lost in the commotion over his looks. I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with that until after I got to know the man behind the fur. He was a perfect mix of primal nature and human brilliance. How could I not be attracted to him?
Our relationship has flourished without being rushed. We aren’t pressing each other to be more serious than we have to. That may be a good and a bad thing because I’ve had some difficult love affairs over the years. I always found myself getting together with the kind of people who needed more nurturing than love. Hank has already had plenty of that and we need only the love aspect. There are still many secrets to my life that I haven’t told him about. He fully admits he has his secrets as well that he’s not ready to share. We try to be careful while not holding back. It’s not easy at times, but it’s worth the effort.
Ororo continued to ride the brisk streams of air down towards the mansion. She landed gracefully a few feet from Hank, lightly ruffling his fur in the process. Setting aside his coffee, he greeted her with a gentlemen-like gesture.
“I’m glad to see I’m not the only early riser,” he said, “Is work making sleep too much a chore for you too?”
“Not necessarily,” she shrugged, “There are just some mornings where I suddenly become a morning person. Conditions like this make it hard to resist.”
“So you find a certain adjuration to the crisp morning dew and the warmth of the morning sun as well?” said Hank in an almost poetic-like manner.
“In more ways than one,” Ororo smiled, “It’s a great time to fly up into the clouds and relax. It’s without a doubt my second most favorite way of energizing myself for the challenges ahead.”
“If only everyone could enjoy such ceremonious forms of invigorating one’s spirit. It seems the best us denizens can do is a strong dose of caffeine,” he remarked, “But if a trip to the clouds is your second favorite, what might I ask is your first?”
“You’re a smart man, Mr. McCoy. I think you can surmise the conclusion. If you need a clue, perhaps this will help.”
Ororo’s playful tone quickly grew intimate as she pulled Hank into a deep kiss within a romantic embrace. She didn’t have his knack for articulating things in such a refined manner, but what she lacked in vocabulary she more than made up for in heart. Hank needed none of his intellectual brilliance to understand her point. It was as clear to him as the soft gusts of wind that still surrounded Ororo.
The African woman had come full circle. Just as much as she connected with nature, she connected with her more human elements. The passion between her and her lover and the many other passions that drove her throughout her life were all part of a process that was still unfolding. She had come a long way. Joining the X-men was by far the most pivotal decision she ever made. It took her off one path and sent her down another…one she planned on seeing through to the very end.
So here I am…a former thief and orphan who now teaches up and coming mutants while playing hero on the side. My path is just one that many other mutants are just beginning to walk. I have so much to offer. I can teach them, guide them, and inspire them. All the while I continue to use the gifts I’ve been given to make the world a better place for humans and mutants alike.
Wherever my endeavors may lead me, I’ll keep drawing strength from the forces of nature. Time moves on, society changes, and people grow. Yet the sun always rises and the winds always blow. All life is bound by the same connection with nature. Some may say we’ll always be at the mercy of nature, whether it be the chaos of the weather or the destructive potential of human nature. I don’t believe that for one second. I believe our nature is a strength and not an obstacle.
Shortly before my father died, he told me an old African proverb. It stated the sun will shine on those who stand before it shines on those who kneel under them. As an X-man and a mutant, I stand tall before the challenges that lay before me. I have no intention of letting the winds push me and every intention of letting them guide me. For the first time in my life I’m certain of my place. This is who I am. This is where I belong. I’ll fight as well as nurture. It’s not just in my nature. It’s in my heart.
Next Issue: Rogue
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