The small X-Jet blazed across the sky with Storm at the controls. She tried to block out the playful bickering between Gambit and Rogue coming from behind her. In truth their banter was a welcomed distraction to Ororo Munroe, especially considering the important nature of their rescue mission.
Two weeks ago, Jean Grey, Beast, Kitty Pryde and Angel, had departed on a simple goodwill mission to the mutant safe haven of Genosha. It was originally supposed to be a two-day trip, but the four X-Men had never returned. Professor Charles Xavier had contacted his old friend and rival, Magneto, if the four had left the mutant nation and he had been assured that they had all left on the same shuttle. A grim feeling had fallen over the X-Mansion ever since then. Nobody wanted to admit it, but there were whispers from some of the more brash X-Men that the plane probably went down and everyone had perished. A meeting of all X-Men around the globe had been called soon after. The Professor explained that he could sense the missing X-Men's mental signatures, meaning that they were all alive, but he was having trouble tracking them. It was like they were being blocked somehow. Cyclops decided that the most logical course of action was to search for them along their flight plan and that was exactly what Storm was doing at that moment.
The X-Jet that Storm was piloting was one of a half dozen that were sent out to try to find the missing X-Men, and Storm was hoping that the others were having more luck than she was. Ororo had lost track of how long she had been flying over this wide stretch of forest, and she was seeing no sign of a downed aircraft.
Storm was about to check-in with the other parties, when something caught her eye a few miles on the horizon. It was a town. Storm's brow furrowed. She had examined maps of the area carefully before heading out, and now, checking the shuttle’s computer read-outs confirmed her suspicions. There was no registered town, or even any kind of settlement, for miles in these forest-covered hills. It simply should not be there. Ororo turned back towards Rogue and Gambit and was about to inform the two of the geographical anomaly, but paused as she felt the ship jerk slightly. It was almost like turbulence, but the air around them was clear and there was no discernible wind. In fact, the plane's flight tracking equipment wasn't even acknowledging the minor bump had even happened.
"Rogue. Remy. The strangest thing....," Storm said, but was quickly cut off.
The X-Jet that carried them shuddered roughly in the sky, and Gambit was thrown backwards, knocking the Cajun mutant unconscious. Storm tried to regain control, but the plane's power flickered on and off, until finally shutting off completely. The craft was dead in the air. Rogue had been trying bring Gambit back to consciousness and when that didn't work she tried her hardest to open the ship's doors so they could fly out. To her intense frustration, the door wouldn't budge without the ship's power. Storm had Rogue buckle in Gambit and ordered them to brace for impact. They could all feel their stomachs lurch as the X-Jet screamed toward the ground. Storm could see the thick canopy of trees they were going to slam into, and she did the only thing should could. Using her mutant powers to control the weather, she sent strong enough winds their way to slow their rapid descent.
The small aircraft crashed into the overgrowth of trees and then all went black.
Storm jerked awake. A loud hum dominated her hearing, drowning out a persistent, but almost completely drowned-out voice. Her vision was also blurred. Blinking rapidly to focus her eyes, Ororo found, to her astonishment, that she was looking out through a huge hole in the craft's front section. In all honesty, she couldn't fathom how she had survived such a crash, but that didn't matter at the moment. She looked back frantically to see a now conscious Gambit shouting out to her. Rogue, meanwhile, was clutching her leg in obvious pain. Finally, the hum in her ears broke and in one swift burst, Ororo could hear everything.
"Storm! Rogue's hurt. I think her leg is broken!" Gambit exclaimed.
Storm freed herself from the confines of her safety restraints and immediately set to work checking on her fellow X-Men. Quickly, the experienced female X-Man deduced that Rogue had a fracture in her right leg and she was almost certain Gambit had a slight concussion from the blow that had rendered him knocked-out just before the plane crashed.
"I am so sorry, my friends. I do not know what happened. One minute everything was fine, and the next I had lost all power," Storm explained, making a makeshift splint out of materials gathered from the forest as well as from inside the plane, "But thank heavens that we are all alive."
"I can't speak for Rogue, Chere, but I think you handled yourself pretty well up there. Maybe not as well as Gambit, but nobody's perfect," Gambit said with a smile.
"Oh!" Rogue snapped, "You couldn't have done any better, Cajun, and you know it!"
"Just before we went down, I thought I saw a town. It is a few miles on our trajectory, but the strange thing is that it did not register on any of our maps or on the computer. But I swear to you I saw it. I will go and investigate and hopefully bring back medical personnel and some nourishment," Ororo announced. Rogue had wanted to go too, but Gambit and Storm finally convinced the fiery Southern belle that she needed to rest her leg.
"Do not worry. I will be back as soon as possible," Storm reassured them before flying off through the forest.
"Now don't you worry one bit, Chere. Gambit is gonna take good care of you. Maybe play a little doctor, if you ask me nice," Storm could hear Gambit's flirting with Rogue as she left earshot.
She couldn't help but laugh when Rogue yelled after her to "Please, hurry!" She always appreciated Gambit's ability to turn what could have been a tragic situation into an opportunity to flirt with Rogue.
The journey to the town was a relatively short one. What could have been half of a day by foot was made far shorter due to her secondary mutant ability of flight. Finally, Ororo touched down at the outskirts of town where she found a road and next to it a sign welcoming visitors. She had planned to walk into town, when she realized how she would look to the probable simple townsfolk. Not only did she have a tall, attention-grabbing mohawk, but she was dressed from head to toe in her skintight X-Men uniform. It wasn't like she was ashamed of any of it, especially her gravity-defying Mohawk, but if her goal was to keep a low profile, she would have a hard time of it looking the way she did. Before she had a chance to ponder how she would fit into the small town, Storm heard the sound of a car coming her way. She decided to hide in the forest for now as not to startle the motorist.
To Storm's surprise a softop, silver Porsche whipped past her along the forest road at breakneck speed. In that split instant as the car sped past her, the lowered roof allowed the African mutant to catch a quick glimpse of the driver and his passenger. The driver was a handsome man in his forties wearing a well-tailored black suit and, next to him, his passenger looked to be a rather voluptuous woman who was...
Ororo shook her head as the car continued on, the occupants oblivious to her presence. Storm took a moment to process what she had just seen. The woman had been pressing her curvaceous figure against the driver's. She had been resting her head on his shoulder with her shiny copper mane flowing behind her in the wind. Most of the girl's face had been hidden behind a large pair of Jackie-O style sunglasses, but the smile the redhead had worn as she clung to her male companion so dotingly was haunting. Ororo could think of no other word than the girl's appearance than serene.
A stray thought crept into Storm's mind as she made her way out of the forest. She barely noticed it with the woman, but something just didn't seem right about what was happening in that car. An uneasy feeling was growing in the pit of Ororo's stomach when she recalled the woman's arm reaching over the man's lap and then her elbow seemed to move up and down in a slow, repetitive motion. The car was moving so fast that she doubted she actually saw this, but the man did have a wide, lecherous grin that sent shivers down the tall mutant's mind.
Ororo's beautiful blue eyes brightened at the sight of the town became clearer and clearer with each step she took. She could even begin to make out some of the exquisite details of the very modern-looking buildings that screamed opulence. Trying to push the possible lewd scene from the car out of her mind, other factors to her situation began to concern the inquisitive female X-Man. Why was one the most expensive cars on the planet being driven to a town that didn't even appear on any map or database? What was the nature of this apparently non-existent town she was coming to and did it have anything to do with her missing teammates? And finally, given the secretive nature of this place, would they even offer help to Rogue and Gambit? This last issue was the most pressing in Ororo's mind due to their injuries.
She continued to mull all of this over when she passed a large wooden sign inviting visitors to Stepford.