Land of the Silver Sun pt. II

Written by Darkstorm5000

Disclaimer: The X-Men and related characters in their various incarnations are the property of Marvel Comics and Marvel Enterprises.

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Part 4- Saved By Zero

Location: Tokyo, Japan- Shinjuku District

Most come to this section of Tokyo come here for one reason, and one reason only, the prospect of a wild night out. Which, can be a potentially luring draw for those foreign tourists, who will only be here for a limited amount of time. But in the case of two visitors, one just days away from establishing more permanent roots of his own here, have systematically cut a swath through the heart of Central Tokyo's 23 districts towards this area for an all-together different reason.

These two men have been methodically and unrelentingly making their way towards this Yakuza-controlled section of the city, leaving behind a trail of broken tables, broken chairs, and in a few case broken limbs and other body-parts in their wake, all in a search for answers.

"Okay fellas, this is how it's gonna work! You tell me who threw down some major Yen on that HYDRA hit tonight, and you get to keep your teeth!" Wolverine shouted to everyone within earshot in this moderately-sized bar, doing so for the benefit of those who hadn't already taken their leave. It should have become painfully obvious to all patrons that Wolverine wasn't there for a friendly social-call, not after he had overturned a couple of tables and smashed a few chairs in there to underscore his point.

Wolverine's voice now continued to reverberate throughout this seedy and dimly-lit drinking establishment located in the Shinjuku District. Which he had learned through word-of-mouth, and also through broken-jaw, from an individual over in the Ginza District was owned by one of the Yakuza's more powerful families. It served as one of many fronts for their illegal gambling operations located in the bar's expanded and extravagantly refurbished store-room in the back. And at times, was also used as a temporary transit-stop for women being trafficked into the country by the Yakuza, for far more illicit purposes.

After Wolverine made his announcement to those Yakuza members now gathering in there, he proceeded to swiftly hop over a lengthy bar counter to grab the local barkeep, firmly holding him pinned face-up against the long wooden-counter in front of him. While all of this was going on, Gambit had gone and taken a position leaning back up against the bar's counter down at its other end, as he calmly pulled a cigarette out of an interior pocket inside of his black and brown-trimmed leather trench coat and Wolverine continued on with his very hands-on interrogation.

"This is the last time I'm gonna ask! You either tell me what I wanna know, or I can let you spill your guts. Literally." Wolverine now threatened the barkeep, who had managed to remain stoically-silent and extremely uncooperative, despite Wolverine's physical attempts to coerce a response from him.

But that very quickly changed, when the barkeep heard and saw something that finally managed to frighten a reaction out of him.

Snikt!

Now, staring the barkeep right in his eyes and just a few inches away from his face, were three foot-long metal claws. Which,were capable of cutting through him just as easily as though he were not even standing there.

"(We are only low-level soldiers, we don't know anything. But, even if we did, I wouldn't--)" The barkeep was saying, when he was discourteously interrupted.

"(You're not singing the tune that I want to hear. Which, if memory serves me correct, didn't include any 'If's, And's, or But's' from you.)" Wolverine now snarled and replied to the barkeep in Japanese, as he stood dressed in his own sleeveless, black and bronze-trimmed leather uniform, with one set of his adamantium claws still trained directly on the barkeep.

But, instead of impaling the barkeep with the unforgiving blades protruding out of his hands, Wolverine indulged himself by simply punching him out with his other fist, before turning his attention over to the other Yakuza that were still standing around inside of the bar.

"So, who wants to be the next contestant on…" Wolverine was saying, when he suddenly paused and turned to look down at Gambit, who was still leaning up against the other end of the bar, "Say 'Gumbo', what do they call it over here? Japanese Idol?"

"You mean t'tell me you been over here all these months, and you ain't bothered t'pick up a TV Guide t'find out?" Gambit laughed a little and sarcastically replied, as he shrugged his shoulders in response to Wolverine's question, while reaching over across the counter to now help himself to a generously-poured shot of the bar's finest Suntory.

"I guess it kinda slipped offa my 'things-to-do' list." Wolverine replied in a tone that was equally as sarcastic, as he jumped back over across the bar counter and made his way back towards the room's center.

"Well, Gambit may not know anyt'ing when it comes t'what they call amateur-hour over here, but he do know when an amateur's tryin' t'get de drop on him. 'Specially, when I can hear dis gars comin' at me from a mile away." Gambit now remarked, as he felt a presence approaching from behind.

One of the Yakuza-thugs in the bar suddenly sprang up from behind the bar with a medium-sized dagger in hand and proceeded to aim it in Gambit's direction, attempting to stab him in the shoulder. But not to be taken out in such an inept manner, Gambit grabbed the thug's arm, quickly tossed him over his shoulder, and threw him about five feet out in front of him. Gambit sent the thug crashing out into one of the bar's tables, adding yet another mark to the growing list of damaged items in there.

Gambit then took the knife that he had just wrested away from his assailant, flipped it up into the air in front of him once, before promptly snatching it back into his grasp. Then, without missing a beat as he continued puffing on his cigarette, Gambit laid the knife on the bar's counter beside him and went back to coolly finish the drink that he had just poured for himself.

Meanwhile, having now gathered a wide assortment of weapons that included bats, chains, and knives in the interim, the remaining Yakuza in the bar had prepared themselves for a physical altercation with these two apparent troublemakers, who themselves were more than ready for another fight. Without another word being uttered, a brawl instantly broke out in the middle of the bar room.

With a gang of two, taking on a gang of more than twenty.

And in spite of those overwhelming odds, the result after not even five minutes worth of fighting was the same as it had been previously, when Wolverine and Gambit had found themselves in this almost identical situation earlier on in the evening.

"After doin' dis at four other places before we got here, I figured dat you'd be startin' t'tire yo'self out by now?" Gambit now said to Wolverine, as they now stood amidst a sea of mangled tables and chairs in the middle of the bar, along with injured Yakuza gangsters strewn about across the bar-room floor.

"Nah, I'm just gettin' warmed up. Guess havin' your insides ripped apart by a hollow-point'll do that for a fella." Wolverine avowed, as he stood and surveyed the bar to see if anyone in there besides him and Gambit were still conscious, "And now that I think I've made my point in here, I'm gonna ask again. Anyone o' you wanna volunteer and tell me about the joker who put the hit out on my fiancée? Or, do I have to completely turn this bitch out, and let the headbustin' keep on until I've cracked every skull, window, and wall in this joint before I convince someone that they wanna be helpful after all?"

"And he's tellin' de truth too." Gambit now sarcastically remarked to everyone else in the bar, as he went back over to the bar counter to pour himself yet another drink, carrying a broken-off wooden chair-leg with him in his hand, "Last place we was in didn't even have a front door left standin' by de time we got through. Didn't have one left standin' out back either, although we wasn't supposed t'know about dat one t'begin wit'."

While Gambit proceeded to take a sip from his glass, Wolverine in the meantime went back over and picked the barkeep up from the floor, whom he had punched out earlier. Having fingered him for being the Yakuza lieutenant in charge of this particular operation, Wolverine wanted to see if he had indeed changed his mind about providing him with the information that he had wanted? But, Wolverine was all-too prepared to beat those answers from the barkeep if he had to, as he now cocked his right-hand back in a manner threatening to once again hit the barkeep in the face, if he didn't talk.

That is, until Wolverine was stopped by an unexpected voice speaking out to him from a darkened corner in the bar room.

"There are far more efficient methods, with which to uncover the answers that you seek, Herr Logan."

"Kurt, dat you?" Gambit now asked aloud from the other side of the bar-room, as he looked over in the general direction where the comment had come from.

But even though the speaker did have a heavy German-accent, and was also able to conceal himself in dimly-lit spaces like Nightcrawler, Gambit knew something definitely didn't sound right to him.

"Nah, I know the Elf's scent and voice too well. Whoever this guy is, he ain't blue or fuzzy." Wolverine corroborated for Gambit, as his hyper-senses now allowed him to make out this shadowy-figure standing over in the corner, and he saw that this person was wearing a unique manner of lightweight body-armor that consisted of a very dark-bronze metallic plating, which was strategically placed over a gray mesh-material that covered much of his torso.

But beyond that, Wolverine marveled at the fact that this individual was able to slip up on both him and Gambit at the same time, without either of them noticing. Which was no mean feat, when one considered that there were few people in the world skilled enough to pull it off.

"Guy sho' knows how t'make an entrance, I'll give him dat." Gambit now commented from over at the bar-counter.

"Yeah, and he also knows a thing or two about maskin' his scent from me. And with everything that's already happened tonight, that sure as hell ain't endearin' me none to him." Wolverine growled, as he was unnerved by that fact and popped the adamantium claws out of his hands, now in full expectation of an attack from this mysterious individual.

"There won't be any need for that." The cloaked-figure replied, as he stepped out into the open to introduce himself, holding up a badge in his hand that had an insignia of a black eagle with its wings spread out and was completely encircled within a gold-colored background, "My name is Maverick, Agent of SHIELD. I've come here to help you."

"Uh-huh, sure thing 'bub'. And we should trust you becaauuusse…" Wolverine now posed to Maverick, with his claws still pointed out at him.

Wolverine was still very much skeptical of Maverick's assertion of being there to assist them, although he observed that Maverick did have a SHIELD emblem on the shoulder of his uniform, which matched the one on the badge in his hand.

"Because, I think that you could use all of the help you can get at the moment." Maverick replied, as he put his badge away, "I was sent here because it appears that HYDRA, Madame Hydra specifically, is attempting to secure a prominent position for herself within Japan's criminal underworld. Which in turn has made a rather valuable target out of you, your fiancée, and your friends', since I have learned that your lives have become her admission fee to join. And that is why have been trying to locate you for much of the night and this morning. But after all of you disappeared from the hospital, tracking you down has not been such an easy task."

"Which brings up a good point. How'd you manage to find us and dig up all that info anyways?" Wolverine continued inquiring, as he finally retracted his claws back into his hands.

"I asked." Maverick responded simply.

"That's the same thing we been doin'." Wolverine remarked.

"I asked, nicely." Maverick replied, now with a small smirk visible right below his bronze and black mask.

"I see your point." Wolverine whimsically acknowledged.

"And, I knew where to go to do the asking." Maverick continued.

Then, almost as if it were on cue, the door to the bar-room flung open. In walked a woman who had very short, jet-black hair and who was dressed in a midnight-colored, skin-tight full leather bodysuit. A woman who, as it would turn out, was not a stranger to some of those individuals currently inside of the bar.

"Yukio?" Gambit now muttered, as he nearly fell off of his barstool and did spill some of his drink onto the counter when his eyes made contact with her. Which was something to note, especially since it was rare to see Gambit surprised or caught off-guard by much of anything.

"I'm glad that you remembered, Lebeau-san." Yukio replied, although her tone conveyed a fair amount of hostility in her voice.

"You two know each other?" Wolverine now looked over and asked Gambit.

"Yeah, you could say dat." Gambit smilingly answered, as he nodded over in Yukio's direction, "De lady's a casual acquaintance of mine."

"You have a very strange definition of 'casual'. Particularly, since it was my gang and I who helped to provide you refuge the last time I saw you, when the Hand were looking to detach your head from the rest of your body some months ago." Yukio, who led 'The Wild Ones', Tokyo's own premiere gang of thieves now reminded Gambit, "I would think you to consider us to be something much closer than that. The two of us, especially."

"Well, you know, I s'ppose t'ieve's like us, we gotta stick together an' all." Gambit humorously said to her, continuing with his attempts to charm a smile out of Yukio, but only receiving an even colder response from her.

"When word got to me about two gaijin who were out to tear the Yakuza a new one tonight, I should have expected to find you in the middle of it. Seeing as you and trouble apparently have a close, working relationship." Yukio scathingly remarked to Gambit, as she stood with her arms folded over in front of her.

"C'mon, you turnin' my brown-eyes blue." Gambit now further quipped to Yukio, "So, what brings you 'round these parts anyways?"

"My people informed me that Agent Maverick was asking for our help in locating those two individuals who had declared war on the Yakuza. And, even though I have little love for the law, or for anyone who enforces it, I have even less for the likes of men such as The Silver Samurai and those in HYDRA." Yukio explained, as she and the Yakuza had generally been at odds with one another and had their fair share of disagreements over the years. Which more often than not, ended with someone or something from the other party getting blown apart, "So I decided to accompany him personally to seek you two out, since any enemy of the Yakuza is certainly a friend of mine. In most cases, anyways."

"Why don't you join us then, seein' as how we're about to go 'n put a major hurtin' on all of the above?" Wolverine smiled and offered Yukio.

"Thanks, but another time perhaps." Yukio cordially declined, as she turned towards the door and then looked back at Wolverine, shooting him a warm and friendly expression.

But before she left, Yukio turned and looked over at Gambit, giving him a shoulder that was cold enough to make it seem as though Iceman could have been standing right behind her. And with that, Yukio made her departure from the bar and was gone.

Like a thief in the night.

"So, what's de plan now?" Gambit asked Wolverine, as he stood up from the bar and finished his drink, while they and Maverick now followed Yukio's example by also heading outside to a sunrise that was less than an hour away.

"When I talked to Shiro after we got through with Harada, he said everyone had gone back to the penthouse to finish recoverin'. So, I figure we'll head there too and regroup with the gang, and then plan our next move." Wolverine replied, as he and Gambit were making their way across the street that ran in front of the bar, heading towards a gray Nissan Z sports-car parked by the curb.

Then, Wolverine stopped and suddenly turned back around to speak to Maverick.

"Say bub, you, uh, need a lift outta here?" Wolverine very uncharacteristically offered to this stranger, and wasn't quite sure himself as to why.

"Thanks, but I have someone coming for me. And, I suggest that you and your friends' be prepared, Madame Hydra is not likely to give up so easily. I'm sure that she fully intends to collect on that hefty bounty now placed on all of your heads'." Maverick replied, as he pulled the comm-device from his kevlar-belt and pushed a small button on the side of it.

"Thanks for the heads-up. Stay loose there, Rico." Wolverine told him, as he and Gambit ran and jumped into the convertible car, peeling out and leaving Maverick behind in this Shinjuku neighborhood right at the break of day.

As he went and stood in a darkened-alley near the bar to await the SHIELD air-transport that would arrive in minutes to come and take him back to their base, Maverick thought about the fact that Logan obviously hadn't recognized him, which was something that he had been preparing himself for.

Maverick thought back to a few years ago, when he had unexpectedly run across another one of his former teammates from their days with the CIA, Victor Creed. Like Logan, Creed also seemed to have no earthly idea who Maverick was, and barely seemed to be cognizant of his own identity.

No longer was Creed the charismatic and boisterous man that Maverick had once known, having now been reduced to nothing more than his codename.

A Sabretooth.

An animal.

Who appeared to be almost incapable of independent thought, and was content with simply allowing his brute strength and muscle to be hired out to others. Maverick even recalled reading a report a recently that mentioned Creed's name among a list of others, who were all somehow involved in activities with the mutant-terrorist Magneto.

But, Maverick figured that perhaps this was part of some form of divine karma or penance that each of them was now being forced to serve out, for all of their parts in helping Stryker to set up that damned Weapon-X program in the first place. Such as an old friend, for example, somehow managing to remember the nickname that he used to call Maverick by during their time with the ultra-covert Team-X, but no longer left with the ability to remember much of anything else about that time in which they had spent together.

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Location: Tokyo, Japan- Meguro District

As the first light of day broke, its new rays shone brightly and now shimmered through the penthouse windows of the Omonaru high-rise building in this affluent neighborhood. But, its radiance still couldn't compare with the beaming elation of two individuals, who were currently occupying one of its upper-level guest suites.

"Do you know what I have been thinking?" Peter Rasputin asked, as he now sat on the side of his low-riding bed and faced towards the window.

"Hmmm, that your girlfriend gets really turned on by life or death situations?" Kitty Pryde, who was all smiles at the moment, giggled and responded to her boyfriend's inquiry. She now stood in front of a full-length, floor mirror that rested upon a tall wooden easel-stand close to the window in his bedroom, as she was busily retying her Kimono robe while trying to also fix her hair.

"No, I was actually thinking about how nice it was to wake up with you beside me, in my arms." Peter sat and told her.

"Yeah, it was nice, wasn't it?" Kitty now stopped what she was doing, to turn around and acknowledge Peter's affectionate remark.

Just then, as Kitty had turned back to once again face the mirror and finish making herself look presentable, both she and Peter heard an unexpected knock at the bedroom's door.

"Peter?" Both he and Kitty heard a voice semi-call out through the paper-screened door, and they immediately recognized it as being Rogue's.

Peter, who was still in just his boxers, stood up and went over to a nearby chair to grab a blue and white cotton Yukata robe and put it on before going to answer the door, giving Kitty just enough time to finish with her own wardrobe readjustments.

"Is everything okay?" Peter asked, as he slid the door open and instantly slipped back into full contingency-mode, while he finished tying his robe together.

"Remy and Logan still aren't back, and Ah was wonderin' if you'd heard…" Rogue was saying to Peter, when she paused in mid-sentence after seeing that Kitty was in there with him.

Rogue just stared at Kitty for a brief moment, and then looked back up at Peter right in front of her before speaking to him again.

"Sooo, Ah'm not interruptin' anything between you two, now am Ah?" Rogue now smirkingly asked of the pair, as she stood leaning up slightly against the wooden frame of the doorway, wearing a white and black Yukata robe of her own.

With Rogue's question now posed to them both, Peter looked back into the room at Kitty. The two then exchanged silently-coy gestures at one another, while Kitty now made her way over towards Peter and Rogue by the door.

"Nope. Nothing at all." Kitty non-chalantly replied to Rogue's inquiry, as she walked past Rogue and Peter out into the hallway, now struggling to contain the smile that had been so evident on her face moments ago, "I…think I'll go see if Jubilee's heard anything."

"She's probably still asleep." Rogue said, as she had pretty much gotten down the sleeping habits of her roommate by now.

"I don't think so, I can hear Walk Idiot Walk playing all the way up here." Kitty observed, as she continued on in the direction towards the not-so-faint sound of music, going past where her and Leyu's guest rooms' were both located.

"Yep, she's definitely up." Rogue laughed out loud, as she now shot a look up at Peter to let him know that she knew something more was going on with him and Kitty than they had let on, even if she didn't quite know what it was yet.

"You gon' have t'repeat dat, so Gambit can get de punch-line too."

With those words now uttered at them from out of the blue, Rogue and Peter turned to see Remy and Logan coming towards them from the opposite end of the hallway.

"Punch-line? Ah'm about ready to punch you out, Swamp-rat!" Rogue replied to Remy's wisecrack, as her fairly cheery demeanor quickly disappeared and she certainly didn't give Remy the warm reception that he had been expecting, "Ah've been up half the night worryin' about you two. Where've you been?"

"We just had to step out for a sec to shake down some lowlifes', and get some answers on who was behind siccin' that hit-chick on us, Darlin'." Logan said and tried to explain to Rogue.

"And, we back now from layin' de smack down on them, so you can stop wit' all de worryin', Cheré." Remy smiled and light-heartedly continued, while proceeding over to wrap his arms around Rogue in a tender embrace, as they usually did to greet one another.

"Yeah." Was all that Rogue said in response, as she pulled away from Remy and looked up into his red-on-black eyes with a pained expression on her face.

One could understand Rogue being upset at them for leaving the hospital without telling anyone, since given all of the craziness from earlier in the evening, it would be hard to blame her for being concerned about their safety and their whereabouts. But, Rogue was hurt and angry at them for a reason that cut far deeper than that.

It was because they hadn't thought to include her in their little side-adventure.

After everything that the three of them had been through together, both here and back at home, Rogue felt that they should have known how much she now absolutely lived for that kind of action. And, she had thought that by she would have at least earned that level of respect from Logan and Remy, with regards to her ability to handle herself in a fight. And even though none of these things had actually factored into Logan's rather spontaneous decision at the hospital, it was still Rogue's perception, and perception can more often than not wind up being a person's reality.

Without saying anything else to either of them, Rogue pulled her robe even more tightly around herself as she turned and stormed off down the hallway in the same direction that Kitty had just gone down, now heading towards her own guest room. With Remy in tow behind her, who now wondered how he had struck upon such a sour-streak of late, when it came to him and those of the opposite sex.

Meanwhile, Logan was left in the hallway with Peter by his bedroom doorway. And just as he was about to head off upstairs himself, so that he could inform Scott, Ororo, and the other adults on the penthouse's top-floor of what he and Remy had learned, Logan abruptly stopped dead in his tracks when he picked up a scent.

What made Logan come to a halt was that this other scent was one very familiar him, and the fact that it was somehow inexplicably all over Peter. Not a strange or new scent, but the exact opposite was actually true. And, considering whom it belonged to and just how strong it was, Logan had a pretty good idea of how it had gotten there. He just stood there for a moment and silently eyeballed Peter, looking the young man up and down in a visually scrutinizing manner, before he continued on towards the short staircase at the end of the hallway that led directly upstairs.

Peter, who had no idea why Logan was acting so strangely towards him, was just as unaware that Logan now intended to have a very long and a very serious talk with him on this particular subject, once everything got back to normal.

A short time later, following a concise debriefing, a consensus had been reached by the elder X-Men about their next plan of action. Rather than sit around and wait for HYDRA to strike again, they decided to instead suit up and go on the offensive themselves. The plan was to put an end to this by coordinating a joint-operation with SHIELD and the Japanese authorities to take this fight right back to HYDRA. And as everyone had gathered with the senior-student squad one floor below to outline their strategy, Rogue and Gambit were soon making their way back upstairs more than a half-hour later, curious as to what was keeping Logan?

"Scott said we're about ready to move out, we're just waitin' on you." Rogue said to Wolverine, as she entered the spacious top-floor living room wearing her black and green-trimmed leather uniform, and with Gambit coming in beside her.

"Okay." Wolverine looked back and replied in a fairly mellowed tone, as he stood there with both arms wrapped around Mariko, who herself was dressed in a basic chocolate-frost dress, and had a sheer and see-through, brown long-sleeved sweater worn over it.

The two were sharing an obviously romantic moment, even though, Mariko had just given her future husband a piece of her mind with regards to his disappearance last night at the hospital. Mariko wasn't upset so much by the fact that he had left, as she had gotten used to his rather nomadic tendencies by now. But, she did tell Logan that she would prefer that he take her feelings into consideration, and at the very least tell her when he was going off somewhere first, before deciding to just up and take off like that in the future.

But, just as Logan was about to head across the living room to join Rogue and Gambit so that they could depart, everybody in the room suddenly froze and stopped right where they were, when the sound of multiple explosions occurring simultaneously could be heard from downstairs and also outside, which rocked the entire building.

With Madame Hydra having pulled out all of the stops, she had sent an attack force that she believed more than capable of destroying all of the X-Men. And while the building that the X-men were staying in had been secured by local and national police forces, they were outgunned and were vastly outnumbered by this HYDRA death-squad totaling more than two hundred men and women.

"Cyke, what the hell's goin' on down there?" Wolverine asked, after he had taken his earpiece communicator out of his uniform pocket and put it on.

"Someone set off some kinda explosive inside of the building's elevator shaft." Cyclops replied to all of the X-Men over his comm-link, "I want everyone to fall back into defensive positions, it looks like we've got incoming."

And by incoming, Cyclops couldn't have been much more accurate.

What sounded like a supersonic boom ripping through the air, followed by the roar of a jet outside speeding towards them grew extremely loud, and did so in a very short amount of time. Without warning, one of the exterior windows on the top-floor totally and completely imploded inward along with its surrounding wall, sending shattered glass and concrete into the room towards Wolverine, Mariko, Gambit, and Rogue.

Once the initial dust had settled, the four now saw that standing in the resultant debris inside of the penthouse wearing a tight-green, and provocatively revealing, leather outfit was none other than masked villainess herself, Lady Hydra. Although to be accurate, she was actually hovering about a foot above the living room's floor with her posture at a slightly pivoted stance. She had one fist held out to her side down by her waist, which had the added effect of giving Lady Hydra the appearance of being every bit as dangerous and as powerful as she truly was.

"Well, well, it looks like my ducks've been lined up in a row for me, so I can knock them down all at once." Lady Hydra flashed them a sinister smile and said, after having flown through the window like a superhuman battering-ram.

"More like, the two of us are about to finish what we started last night!" Wolverine snarled back at her, as he popped his claws out of his hands and was more than ready for a rematch.

Meanwhile, Lady Hydra surveyed the room and prepared herself to complete the mission given to her by Madame Hydra, a mission that included her eliminating those individuals principally responsible for the collapse of the Jigoku Criminal Dynasty.

Which, were namely these four individuals who were currently in the room with her.

…….…………………………………………………..

In the meantime, the rest of the X-Men had become engaged in closed-quarters combat with a group of more than two-dozen of HYDRA soldiers' that had been drawn from Madame Hydra's elite Tiger Division. Soldiers', who had managed to slip past the building's security forces by journeying through the city's sewers and subterranean passageways and then up the building's stairs, all while the police were occupied with another much larger HYDRA attack-squad outside. And while the amount of force being used may have seemed to be a bit of overkill, Madame Hydra was taking no chance of there being another failure this time, not when she was so close to acquiring a power base sufficient enough to allow her to take complete control over HYDRA world-wide.

As two of the more powerful and most experienced members' of the team, Storm and Cyclops were more than ready, willing, and able to deal with these armed intruders. The both of them hurled small bolts of lightning and short bursts of optic energy at the HYDRA soldiers', who were in turn exchanging gunfire with them. Storm and Cyclops had taken it upon themselves to attempt to lure as many of these soldiers' as they could down one of this sub-floor's corridors and away from the other X-Men. And while they were for the most part successful, there were still a few armed HYDRA troops that remained behind, intent on finishing off the rest of the X-Men's numbers close by.

Backed into one of the bedroom suites' Nightcrawler, who had been identified to them as being one of the more dangerous members amongst the X-Men, decided to make his stand there against a handful of HYDRA mercenaries here by himself. He used his athletic prowess in conjunction with his mutant power to teleport and stay one step ahead of them.

Employing his quick chain-teleport technique, Nightcrawler popped in and out all around the room, punching and kicking out a half-dozen men in roughly the same number of seconds, while managing to avoid the lethal projectiles being shot at him. But, a couple more HYDRA troops had managed to enter the room while Nightcrawler was otherwise occupied, and were now preparing to take him down while he had his back turned to them and wasn't looking. Luckily for Nightcrawler though, he had someone else that was watching his back for him.

Nightcrawler swiftly spun back around, when he heard the almost humming sound of energy being discharged and striking a target. Recognizing the familiar sound and the glowing ruby-red light aura that had hit these soldiers' from behind, Nightcrawler immediately went to thank his teammate.

"Nice shooting, and timing, Cyclops." Nightcrawler said to the X-Men's first in command, as he stood dressed in his black leather uniform that was trimmed in midnight-blue.

"Thanks, but it wasn't him. Not directly anyways." A definitely female voice said in response. Once the soldiers' had been knocked unconscious by the low intensity stun-blast, they fell forward to reveal who it actually was that had hit them from behind.

"Alison?" Nightcrawler asked in a very surprised tone, as he saw her standing there in the bedroom's doorway, her eyes radiantly aglow with what appeared to be a saturating orangish-red candescence.

"Yep, it's me." Dazzler replied, as she stood before Nightcrawler dressed in a black and powder-blue trimmed leather uniform, which was sleeveless and had the mid-riff area exposed.

It was an X-Men uniform that Jubilee had put together for Alison, more for fun than anything. Mainly, it had been designed for Alison to have something to wear while she was working out back home at the mansion, and neither she nor Jubilee had any real expectations that Alison would ever have to put it on in an actual combat situation. But always being of a constantly-prepared and prudent mind, Scott had brought Alison's uniform along with them to Japan.

Just in case.

"Although, I'm sure Scott'll appreciate the praise and all, I do have to take a little credit for the assist here too. This's just one of the things the two of us came up with during all that extra time we spent training together in the Danger Room." Dazzler finished explaining to Nightcrawler, after having shown off her vastly improved skills for him, "Scott showed me how to use my light laser-blast so that I could create an optic-blast almost like his."

"Then, I thank you both. Now, let me go see if I can locate a few reinforcements for us, Fraulein." Nightcrawler smilingly replied as he looked over towards the window, an instant before he teleported over right next to it, and then disappeared from out of the room all together.

But once he was outside and down below on street-level, Nightcrawler immediately realized that the help he had been in search of might be short in coming. The combination of Japan's National Police Agency, The Clan Yashida's bodyguards, and Sunfire's own government operatives currently had their hands full, as HYDRA had initiated a massive ground and air offensive against them in the interim.

While these numerous HYDRA mercenaries, who were garbed in green, yellow, and red had the law enforcement and security officers pinned down by their machine gunfire in an old-fashioned shootout with a hi-tech twist, their aerial compatriots' rocketed by overhead. They were piloting, what appeared to be, jet-propulsed mechanized hang-gliders' equipped with large caliber rounds, which were also being aimed and fired down onto the police below. Nightcrawler observed that anyone unlucky enough to have been out on the street when the fighting broke out, whether civilian or law enforcement, had now taken cover wherever cover could be found. Which, Nightcrawler also wisely did himself, as a car parked close by was detonated by a HYDRA rocket-propelled grenade fired from a shoulder-mounted launcher.

Everyone not with a gun in their hands hid behind cars, police armored-vehicles, or building walls, all with the exception of one now frightened and understandably confused little girl, who couldn't have been any more than six or seven years old. She had wandered away from her mother and father before the fighting had started, and Nightcrawler now bore witness as this little girl darted across the street in a desperate search for her parents, and was about to unsuspectingly run headlong into the crossfire of oncoming bullets that was being traded between the two sides.

………………………………………………

While the streets of Tokyo's Meguro District had quickly come to resemble a battlefield, the penthouse-levels of the Omonaru building up above had also escalated into a war-zone all of its own. Particularly, with regards to the top-floor, where a brawl of the first-order had now broken out in earnest.

"Let it be known Gambit don't discriminate none, and dat he always more than willin' t'cut de deck and deal out t'de femmes!" Gambit loudly declared, as he hurled two fistfuls of bio-kinetically charged playing cards from out of his trench coat, sending them across the large living room right at Lady Hydra to help get this fight underway.

But to Gambit's chagrin, Lady Hydra easily dodged the cards that he had thrown at her by hovering around the room, maneuvering and contorting her body in mid-air to avoid their connection. As Gambit now pulled out his reinforced metal-staff and extended it in anticipation of employing a new battle tactic against her, Wolverine jumped out in front of his teammate to make his move own against the would-be assassin, running and launching himself through the air at her.

Having seen the night before just how deadly Wolverine could be with those razor-sharp claws of his that were now extended, Lady Hydra concentrated her efforts on making sure to avoid them as well. A task, which she was able to accomplish by relying on her own lightning-fast reflexes.

After pulling off an impressive series of front and side-somersaults, which were timeously carried out in tandem with a few rear back hand-plants that let her stay just out of the reach of Wolverine's slashing blades, Lady Hydra was able to bide her time and wait until she saw an opening to go on the offensive herself.

Using her incredible aerial speed and agility, Lady Hydra nimbly slipped right by Wolverine in the middle of his continuing attempts to land a cutting blow against her, marvelously gliding underneath his swiping attacks mere inches above the floor. Now employing her own exorbitant super-strength, Lady Hydra firmly grabbed Wolverine around one of his legs and picked him up off of the floor, as she continued to hover a few inches right above it. She then tossed Wolverine through the air with tremendous force and right in Gambit's direction, now sending both X-Men violently-crashing into a wall on the far side of the living room, and seemingly knocking them out of the fight for the time being at least.

"Now, to the main objective of my mission, Ms. Yashida. Your execution." Lady Hydra said, as she flew straight upward and did a front flip in mid-air, before landing easily on her feet to now look right at Logan's beautiful and graceful fiancée.

"No, you better just back off!" Rogue shouted back at her, as she jumped over in between Lady Hydra and Mariko.

Rogue now pulled her shortened katana blade from out of the scabbard strapped to her back, the very same sword that Gambit had given to her as a gift when they were last here in Japan. But, as Rogue drew her sword and held it out in front of her with both hands in a combat-ready stance, Lady Hydra was able to quickly snatch it from Rogue's hands with little effort, looking down at the weapon to examine it for a moment.

Right before she used her inordinate strength to completely bend the sword out of shape in one of her leather-gloved hands.

"Out of my way little girl!" Lady Hydra hissed, as she tossed the sword off to the side, and then swiftly backhanded Rogue like a rag-doll over into some furniture located in the center of the living room, overturning a lounging chair and small wooden end-table as a result, all the while Lady Hydra continued her slow and persistent march towards Mariko.

But, while all of this had been going on, Mariko had gone over and taken a more traditional Samurai's sword off of one of the walls, which had adorned the room as an ornate decoration, and she now prepared to use the lengthy-blade to defend herself. It was the first time this family heirloom would be used in such a capacity in generations, dating back to its last use in battle right before the Imperial Japanese Army and modern weaponry rose to prominence in the country, forever replacing both these swords and the Samurai class who had employed them.

"Honestly, do you think that thing'll stop me from snapping your neck like a twig?" Lady Hydra smiled and asked, as she snapped her fingers to accentuate her remark.

"Perhaps not, but it certainly won't be from a lack of effort on my part." Mariko solemnly replied, as she stood there steadily with the longsword in both of her hands.

"Well then, here's an 'A' for effort from yours truly, M'iko!" Wolverine yelled out, as he had shaken off any wooziness that he may have been experiencing after being tossed across the room by Lady Hydra, and now had finally managed to sneak up from behind to get the drop on her.

True to his words, Wolverine used every bit of strength that he could muster to almost simultaneously plunge both sets of his claws into the back and into the side of Lady Hydra, as he proceeded to lift her up a few inches off of the floor into the air with them. Now, Lady Hydra was left to experience a wicked sensation of her own, one which she hadn't felt in some years.

Pain.

As Lady Hydra cried out in agony from Wolverine's ferocious attack, she came to quickly understand that despite her possessing nigh-invulnerability, it was still not enough to keep her body from being injured by blades forged of pure adamantium, the indestructible substance which Madame Hydra had informed her that Wolverine's claws and skeleton had been endowed with. And that realization only served to enrage her, as she turned and punched Wolverine directly in the face as hard as she could, sending a resounding reverberation throughout the entire room that either cracked or shattered the majority of its windows.

Lady Hydra's unbelievably-forceful blow managed to knock Wolverine down hard to the floor and freed her from the unforgiving impalement of his claws, but her right-hand now also felt a slight tinge of numbness from striking a jaw that was also laced with adamantium. She now knew that she would have to finish Wolverine first, as he without question posed the greatest danger to her.

"Your bones may be unbreakable, but let's see how the rest of you deals with not getting any oxygen after I crush your windpipe!" An infuriated Lady Hydra now shouted, as she quickly made her way over to Wolverine, who was still laying on the floor. Lady Hydra's back and side were still bleeding from his puncturing attack, although just like Wolverine's healing factor, her own accelerated metabolism was now doing its best to cope with such a serious injury.

Lady Hydra came and stood over a barely-conscious Wolverine, and then ruthlessly drove the reinforced spiked-heels of her boots down into his forearms. Breaking the surface of his skin, Lady Hydra dug her stiletto-boots deep into Wolverine's flesh, doing so in a precise area just above each of his wrists that gave her enough leverage to prevent him from further using his claws against her in a threatening manner.

Even though Wolverine wouldn't dare give Lady Hydra the satisfaction of physically displaying just how much pain he was currently in, Mariko now saw what was being done to him and knew that he was being hurt immensely by this mad-woman. Without having to even think about it, Mariko instinctively ran over to attack her beloved's assailant with the sword that she had grabbed ahold of earlier, ignoring whatever fear that she may have been feeling at that moment.

But true to Lady Hydra's words, the sword's blow had absolutely no effect, as Mariko connected with it across her shoulder blades.

Lady Hydra looked back out of the corner of her eye and slapped Mariko away with the same amount of effort a person would use to swat a fly, sending Logan's fiancée along with the now slightly-bent blade crashing into another nearby wall. And now, Lady Hydra was left to finish off Wolverine, as she knelt down and soon had her hands tightened into a vice-like grip around his throat. All while Mariko, Gambit, and Rogue were left lying unconscious on the floor in various areas of the living room, which was well on its way to being demolished by these individuals at a fairly astounding rate.

Well, it appeared that at least Mariko and Gambit were still pretty much unconscious at any rate.

"Unnnhhh…" Rogue groggily slurred out, as her head lifted up off of the floor and she started to stir once again, having been struck in the sternum by Lady Hydra with enough force to temporarily knock the wind out of her.

Rogue turned over and sat up on the floor, her side aching horribly as though something had possibly been broken, only to now see across the room that the HYDRA villainess had her hands wrapped Wolverine's neck in a vicious attempt to choke the life out of him. Rogue also saw that her sword, which had held such sentimental value to her for obvious reasons, was now lying on the floor close by and was left in the shape of crooked 'U'. She began to wonder just how they were going to stop someone who was as powerful as Lady Hydra apparently was, especially since the other X-Men were otherwise occupied with those HYDRA thugs whom she could also hear shooting up the place downstairs, and now that she herself was without a weapon.

Then it hit Rogue.

While she may have been left without a weapon, she certainly wasn't weaponless. And upon that realization, Rogue prepared herself to take a gamble on the fact that the one weapon still left at her disposal would hopefully be enough to stop Lady Hydra.

Picking herself up from the floor, as she began to slowly limp across the living room towards where Lady Hydra and Logan were, racing through Rogue's mind were thoughts about the great many things that she had learned during her time as a student at Professor Xavier's School for the Gifted. While his goal had been to instill in all of his students' academic knowledge, which would carry them through the rest of their lives long after they had left his school, there were still some life lessons that Professor Xavier had imparted upon his pupils' that simply couldn't be taught from a book. Such as making decisions that, while not necessarily being of the greatest benefit to the one who was making them, could certainly be so to others.

And it was his lessons to them about self-sacrifice that Rogue now drew upon, which was evidenced by her removing the black leather-gloves from both of her hands that were part of her X-uniform, and served to help block the involuntary leeching effects of her mutant powers. Rogue forced herself to confront her own deep-rooted fears about using her mutant powers against another person, and she now made a decision, a choice, to use them for the welfare of her friends.

……………………………………………………………

As multiple battles raged on both inside and out in the Meguro District of Tokyo, a few of the X-Men were having an intense feeling of deja-vu from it all, particularly from the fact that armed soldiers had once again come and unexpectedly kicked their door in. But, one big difference this time around was that these agents of HYDRA weren't there to take them prisoner, and fully intended on killing them all wholesale instead. The other big difference was that now those students, who had been forced to flee their home for fear of their safety when Colonel Stryker's men had come calling in Westchester, were no longer afraid.

Now, they were X-Men, and they were positively resolute to make sure that these HYDRA soldiers understood that fact beyond any shadow of a doubt.

"While Lady Hydra takes care of the main target, to us falls the honor of finishing the rest." One member of HYDRA's elite Tiger-Division said, as he and his partner were part of a larger sweep that had split up into two-person teams and were thoroughly going through the second floor of this spacious and multi-roomed penthouse.

As they entered into one of the sitting rooms on this floor, these two soldiers were quickly greeted by, what they thought, to be a most unusual creature.

"What is that?" The other masked HYDRA mercenary asked, as they now saw a purple reptilian-creature in the middle of the room, slowing flapping its wings to keep itself aloft in the air right in front of them.

"I'd say, an easy target." The first mercenary said, as a smile was clearly visible on the part of his masked face that was left uncovered, and he now aimed his semi-automatic rifle up at Lockheed.

But, while these two were completely focused on the flying dragon before them, they failed to notice a ghost of a girl who was now materializing behind them and coming up through the floor.

"Well, there's about to be one less of…whatever that thing is." The other soldier said, as he chambered and loaded his weapon as well, and then trained it also on Lockheed.

"No. There's not." Shadowcat said to them both in a calm, yet unusually stern voice, as she phased up into the room behind them wearing her black and pink-trimmed leather uniform, an instant before she thrust both of her hands into the backs of their necks.

While Shadowcat's intangibility powers could have the effect of shorting out electronic equipment, like TV's or laptops when she phased through them, she could also replicate a similar reaction in a human being. Such as, phasing her hand into the brain stem of a person at just the right spot and holding it just long enough to disrupt the neural communication between it and the rest of their body, effectively short-circuiting them. As these two HYDRA soldiers could now attest to.

Once they woke back up, of course.

"Good job, boy! Mama's gonna find you a real special treat, once we get through dealing with all these bad men." Shadowcat smiled and told Lockheed, as he had remembered exactly what he was supposed to do in their bait-and-phase strategy, which was one of the maneuvers the two had practiced for hours on end in the Danger Room together.

"Cooo…" Was the only sound Lockheed made in response to Shadowcat's compliment, as he flew over and landed on her shoulder, while she knelt down and picked up the soldiers' weapons, intentionally phased them together into a single, unusable mass.

Then, this Cat-and-Dragon pair sunk back down and disappeared into the floor together, preparing to go and set-up another set of unsuspecting HYDRA soldiers with their ruse.

Elsewhere, another X-Man was also engaged in an evasive maneuver against the invading HYDRA-mercs similar to theirs'. Although unlike Shadowcat and Lockheed's ploy, she had chosen to play a much simpler game of hide-and-seek with these armed men.

"You know, it's just sooo totally 'nox of you guys to come up here, just to crash 'n trash Mariko's place like this." Jubilee said, letting her Southern-California drawl saturate her words as she jumped out from behind some furniture into the center of another room. Jubilee was now dressed in her black and yellow-trimmed X-Men uniform with matching leather-duster and called out to the two teams of HYDRA soldiers' that had just passed by out in the hallway.

The men quickly turned back around to head into the room, their guns all drawn and now pointed at Jubilee. But, as seemed to be the order of the day these four soldiers had, just like their other HYDRA compatriots, unwittingly walked right into a trap laid out for them. An ensnarement that was initiated by Jubilee luring them into the room, and who now flashed a moderate-level plasma paff at them from her hands to temporarily blind them.

Then the ambush was finished off by Colossus, who sprang out from another part of the room wearing his own black and carmine-trimmed leather uniform, armoring up as he ran over to furiously knock these soldiers' senseless and out cold.

"Man, do we know how to hook up the tightest hustles, or what?" Jubilee gleefully remarked, as Colossus thunderously slammed the last of the HYDRA soldiers' over his head and forcefully down onto the floor.

"Yes, but you did not have to put yourself in such danger to do it. I could just as easily have taken care of them myself." Colossus turned and said to Jubilee, his voice retaining a slightly steely-tone to it thanks to his current armored-state.

"No way! I'm an X-Man too, and I can pull my pounds just like everyone else. Don't make me haveta go 'Kitty' all over you about it!" Jubilee laughed and replied while teasing Colossus, reminding him of his girlfriend's very 'un-timid' manner of getting her point across to others, particularly when the subject had anything to do with traditional gender roles.

"That…won't be necessary." Colossus smiled and told Jubilee, doing so in a tone befitting of his often dry-sense of humor. Just then, Colossus and Jubilee were joined in the room by a third person, but not one who was wearing a green uniform.

Although, her choice of attire still managed to draw their attention anyhow.

"That's some pretty fresh gear you got goin' on there." Jubilee now commented, as Leyu Yoshida walked into the room. Whom, neither had seen since the fighting had started, and who the X-Men had assumed had gone somewhere to take cover.

Leyu now came into the room wearing a red, long-sleeved leather top with a Japanese flag-emblem on the shoulder, which buckled horizontally across the front, and she had on a pair of tight black-leather pants with it. An outfit, while remaining unique all on its own, wasn't all that dissimilar from the one her brother Sunfire and his teammate Honey Lemon had on at the hospital the night before.

"There is something that I haven't told you. Like you, I too am a part of a team." Leyu started, as she stood and finished buckling the last of the straps to her uniform-top and across the leather black gloves on her hands, "I am known to them as Sunpyre, and we are a part of a special covert national defense-force the government has codenamed Big Her--"

But, Leyu was suddenly interrupted, when a deafening explosion went off outside. She, Jubilee, and Colossus all rushed over to a window in the room, looking out to see that a rocket-propelled grenade had just blown up a parked car on the street. A furious battle was now being waged down there between HYDRA and members' of the National Police Agency's recently arrived, and heavily-armed, Special Assault Team, Tokyo's own version of SWAT.

After a mechanized HYDRA hang-glider buzzed by right them close to the building's exterior, the trio also happened to take notice that Nightcrawler was down on the street as well, and was now caught in the middle of this rapidly-escalating conflict.

"I must go down there and help them." Sunpyre said, as she turned and took a few steps back from the window.

Jubilee and Colossus turned back towards the room's interior and saw that the it was now beginning to brightly glow all around Sunpyre, as she held both hands out in front of her. Sunpyre activated her own mutant power in earnest, using the heat pouring out from her body to burn a hole right through the window and the surrounding wall with a concentrated energy-beam.

Then suddenly, like a match being struck, Sunpyre's entire body was covered in an intense and all-consuming solar-flame. She used her mutant ability to levitate herself into the air, right before she shot of the room like a flaming bullet being sent through the large opening where the window had been just seconds before.

"You go girl!" Jubilee encouragingly exclaimed, as Sunpyre blew right past her and Colossus and continued on outside to give aid to her brother Sunfire, who himself had been vastly outnumbered up above the fighting on the street by HYDRA's air-squadron, "She, like, sure knows how to make an exit. Literally!"

"And, I think that I will also go down there myself, so that I can lend Nightcrawler a hand." Colossus now told Jubilee, as he looked down onto the battle taking place below.

"Okay, but you got a pretty long walk downstairs, since these snake-guys took out the elevator." Jubilee commented, as she also observed what was going on down on the street.

"I believe that I can come up with a much faster route than that." Colossus replied, as he flashed Jubilee a steely-smirk, an instant before he went and stood in front of the hole in the wall, looked down, and then jumped out from it.

Jubilee watched in slight astonishment, as the armored Russian traveled down to the ground at a harrowing rate of speed, angling himself to perform a dive-bomb into a parked HYDRA-LAV (Land Assault Vehicle), taking out its massive gun-turret and most rest of it at the same time.

"Show-off." Jubilee remarked with a slight grin, after she observed Colossus hit his intended target and completely demolish it upon impact from her vantage point a number of floors up above.

……………………………………………………………

"It's a shame that you won't be around to watch me finish off your friends and bride-to-be. But, at least you'll have some company to soon join you." Lady Hydra venomously stated to Wolverine, as she stood over him with her boots jammed down into his wrists and her hands clenched firmly around his neck, continuing with her strangling efforts against him.

"Not if Ah have anything to say about it!"

Having muttered her own declaration against Lady Hydra, Rogue limped her way across the room, and without giving her any warning, leapt onto the back of the HYDRA villainess. Rogue wrapped her own bare hands around the uncovered regions of Lady Hydra's neck, cinching a firm grip at her throat and intentionally making direct skin-to-skin contact with her.

"You've GOT to be kidding me? You're gonna have to do a lot better than that, little girl." Lady Hydra remarked, as she thought it a bad joke on Rogue's part that she would even have the sheer audacity jump onto her back, and then try to stop her by using her own choke-hold ploy against her.

"Don't worry, Ah intend to!" Rogue sharply replied, as she closed her eyes and prayed, while waiting for that old, familiar feeling to kick in.

Rogue's powers were such that they gave her the mutant ability to temporarily drain the memories, along with the very life essence of another person, absorbing them into herself. And in the case of another mutant, Rogue would in addition take on their particular mutant gift for a short period of time.

Determined to keep Lady Hydra from further hurting her friends', in spite of whatever personal impact that it might have on her, Rogue now held on for dear life and for the lives' of those friends. Once Lady Hydra began to feel a tugging, almost excruciating sensation on the insides of her skull, as though they were being torn asunder and then yanked out, she tried to throw Rogue off of her.

"What are you doing, you little bitch!" Lady Hydra shouted, as she released her grip around Logan's throat and tried, in vain, to shake free of the passenger now clamped onto her from behind.

"Showin' a real bitch just how it's done!" Rogue loudly responded, her tone filled with just as much candor in it, "Logan and Mariko're just like family to me, and Ah'll die before Ah let you hurt either of them!"

Having read through the dossier where she was briefed about the X-Men and their various powers', Lady Hydra had obviously made note of Wolverine's deadly claws, the metal one, the one who could control weather, the one who shot energy beams from his eyes, and the teleporter. But, thinking that Rogue's powers didn't pose much of a threat to her, and that her own impervious powers would grant her immunity from their effects, Lady Hydra had until now simply ignored Rogue's efforts and had maintained her own focus on the task at hand, which was trying to squeeze the life out of Logan.

But, by the time Lady Hydra came to realize the folly in her decision, it would already be too late for her to take any corrective measures to remedy that mistake. Lady Hydra now began to feel extremely dizzy and Rogue herself also began to feel light-headed, since this was the longest that she had ever intentionally held onto another person and used her mutant draining powers on them.

In just a few brief moments, both Lady Hydra and Rogue blacked out completely and fell into a collective heap together on the floor, both of them now rendered completely unconscious.

……………………………………………………………

Bamf!

This sound was one accompanied by the familiar sensation of being pulled out of a vacuum, along with the even more familiar stench of smoke and brimstone, as Nightcrawler completed one of his teleportation-jumps down on this battle-ravaged street in Tokyo's Meguro District. And, while it may have become a commonplace occurrence for him to instantaneously jump from one place to another in this manner, it was a wholly new experience for his pint-sized passenger, whom Nightcrawler had ported out to grab from the immediate harm that she had inadvertently found herself in.

"(Again, Again!)" The little girl excitedly shouted, after she and Nightcrawler had just finished a chain-teleport to avoid the bullets that were flying by in both directions on the street, and after he had just given her the ultimate piggy-back ride.

"(Perhaps, once all of this excitement has died down, Liebchen.)" Nightcrawler smiled and replied, as he looked back at the little girl that he was carrying around on his back and spoke to her in her native Japanese. But now that they had found a safe place on the side of one of the buildings' to fall back to, Nightcrawler was more than content with keeping her there out of harm's way for the time-being.

Nightcrawler and his tiny new companion stood and gazed out onto the battle taking place, which by now had already kicked up about ten notches past high-gear, and they suddenly saw the armored X-Man Colossus seemingly come from out of nowhere and crash down into a parked HYDRA-LAV like a solid-steel wrecking ball. But, almost even more spectacular than that, was what the pair witnessed next.

"GoGo Tomago!"

Now speeding by in front of them was, what they assumed was probably a person, but appeared as nothing more than a black, red, and gold high-speed blur that barreled down the street past them and slammed right into another parked HYDRA–LAV nearby. The HYDRA heavy-gunner that had been stationed at the top of the armored-vehicle was stopped from continuing his random-targeting on the street, while at the same this vehicle was also totally obliterated by this member of Japan's premiere super-hero team, who then continued on down the street unimpeded.

Just then, Nightcrawler and the young girl once again looked up skyward, this time when the roar of approaching aircraft could be heard. They now saw a half-dozen twin-rotor helicopters flying in overhead, which were part of SHIELD's Kanto regional forces that had been scrambled in to aid in this fight against a HYDRA assault squad, and whom Maverick was now leading in that effort.

SHIELD's arrival meant that HYDRA would now have to contend with the one organization, who was their most formidable adversary. But HYDRA wasn't ready to give up just yet, not without a fight. This fact was well displayed by one of their numerous mechanized hang-gliders managing to hit one of the SHIELD transport helicopters with deadly-accuracy, as a well targeted mini-missile struck this particular helicopter while it had been in a downward descent. This caused the SHIELD dual-rotored chopper to tumble and careen straight down into the street, killing or injuring most of the agents that were still harnessed to it by thick and heavy fixed long-ropes when it crashed, and who had been attempting to abseil out of both sides of their helicopter to cable themselves down to join the battle taking place.

"I suggest that we hit them as fast and as hard as we can, before they have the opportunity to beat us to the punch!" Maverick said into the miniature microphone of his ear-piece comm-device, instructing the SHIELD agents under his command not to hesitate an instant in ingratiating themselves into this armed counter-offensive.

Although, Maverick himself didn't even have to think about it.

This war-hardened soldier dropped down from his transport chopper and hit the ground running, firing a lengthy volley of semi-automatic rounds from his modified AR-15 rifle at the HYDRA foot-soldiers, who had all taken up positions near the LAV's that were parked up and down the street. All the while, more SHIELD reinforcements continued arriving, as they came down from much larger and higher-flying cargo transport planes flying over. These agents were zooming through the air via rocket-fueled packs strapped to their backs, and with the assorted rifles and other heavy weaponry in their possession, they engaged the HYDRA jet-powered gliders that, until now, had pretty-much maintained aerial supremacy over this conflict zone.

And just like that, in what seemed to only be just a matter of minutes, the tide of battle had turned. And HYDRA's forces, the ones who were still able to move, were now falling back into a full retreat with SHIELD in tenacious pursuit behind them. With the extremely dangerous situation of the previous moments appearing to have also departed with them, the citizenry who had bunkered themselves down during this violent disturbance, were now free to come out and inspect the considerable damage left in its wake.

"(Now, can we go again?)" The little girl happily asked of Nightcrawler, as they walked out onto the edge of the sidewalk on the street together.

While the little girl, who remained clinging to Nightcrawler's back and shoulders, unabashedly expressed her desire to have another ride by way of his teleportation powers, he now stood and took particular notice of the devastation left before them.

"(Noriko! Noriko!)"

Nightcrawler quickly looked up to see now running at him from across the street was a man, who was obviously this little girl Noriko's father. And while Kurt was no glory-hound by any stretch of the imagination, part of him did expect to at least hear some degree of thanks from Noriko's father, for his rather courageous actions in the face of such great danger.

Boy, was he in for a big surprise…

"(Get away from her you…whatever you are, get away from my daughter!)" Noriko's father came over and shouted at him, as he reached out to grab his daughter and yank her away from Nightcrawler, "(There's no telling what diseases you might catch from him!)"

With his short and angry diatribe now finished, Noriko's father jerked his daughter along with him as they hurriedly made their way up the sidewalk of this battle-ravaged street. But, as she managed to barely keep in step with her father's furious pace, Noriko was able to turn back around towards Nightcrawler, flashing him a smile as their eyes met for one last time. Meeting him this day would be an experience that she would never forget, and she would continue to carry memories of this man, who had shown such bravery by risking his own safety for her, with her for years to come.

In fact, Noriko would remind Kurt of it, when the day arrived where she'd finally be able to gladly return the favor to him.

………………………………………………..……………

While the fighting had come to an end on the street, the same could be pretty much said for the upper-penthouse levels of the exclusive Omonaru building nearby. But, while HYDRA's forces outside were now on the run from SHIELD, those who had ventured inside had wound up being soundly defeated by the X-Men, and none of them feeling that sting more so than their field-commander, Lady Hydra.

"Unnnhh…the hell?" Logan now muttered, as he sat up on the living room floor of the penthouse, regaining consciousness with his throat and wrists feeling extremely raw and bruised, to say the least. He looked around to scan the room, seeing that it was almost a complete wreck, and then he saw something else.

Just a few feet away, Logan observed Remy standing there with his metal quarterstaff extended in hand, and a melancholy expression stamped onto his face.

"What's the matter ,'Gumbo'? Didn't we win?" Logan asked Remy, as he struggled up to his feet.

"Yeah, we won." Remy replied, although from his rather dejected tone, you would have thought the exact opposite to be the case.

Having had blacked out temporarily when Lady Hydra was attempting to strangle the life from him, Logan vaguely remembered hearing someone come up from behind to grab Lady Hydra and get her off of him, and he had assumed it to be one of the X-Men from downstairs coming up to help them. But, as Logan regained his full bearings, he noticed that Remy was standing there with his hands and face supportively propped up on his quarterstaff, leaning against it while looking right down with a very glum expression painted on his face. And when he followed Remy's gaze and looked down himself, that's when Logan finally realized why.

"What happened?" Logan anxiously asked, as soon as he saw Rogue lying on the floor, with Mariko kneeling on the floor behind her to cradle her head in her lap.

"I do not know precisely. When I came to, I saw Rogue and this other woman struggling together. Then, they both began to scream simultaneously. It was unlike anything I have ever heard before, as if their spirits' were being ripped in half." Mariko recounted, as she slowly and comfortingly stroked her hand through Rogue's hair, while remembering to be ever mindful of not making direct skin-to-skin contact with her, especially after what she had just seen, "Then suddenly, they collapsed together onto the floor here."

Logan then noticed that not too far away, Lady Hydra was also laying on the floor unconscious. Her skin, particularly the parts visible around her green facial mask, had now taken on a very pale complexion, and Logan's heightened hearing detected that she sounded as though she were barely breathing. Ignoring the deep temptation to pop his claws out and finish the job, Logan instead turned his attention back to Rogue, kneeling down beside her and Mariko.

"Come on, Rogue-darlin'. You gotta snap outta this." Logan encouragingly said to her, but didn't receive any form of a verbal response from Rogue.

"Okay, you guy's can bust out the champagne, and even share some this time with us under-aged…" Jubilee was triumphantly boasting, as she, Kitty, and Alison made their way upstairs to the penthouse's top floor, but was struck speechless once she entered the living room.

Having just beaten the last of the invading HYDRA mercenaries, whom Scott and Ororo were now securing in anticipation of SHIELD coming to pick them up, they were all in a celebratory mood. Until, they caught sight of the scene now before them.

"Oh God, what happened up here?" Kitty now inquired, as she, Lockheed, and the others rushed over to where Logan, Mariko, and Gambit were, once they saw Rogue unconscious on the floor.

"Rogue just saved us all, 'Short-stuff'." Logan looked up and told Kitty in a simple and matter-of-fact tone, which only he we was capable of using to truly relay the gravity of that statement. And in doing so, making any further words on the subject unnecessary.

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Epilogue

Nearly 72 hours after the battle in Tokyo, where SHIELD had routed those HYDRA forces loyal to Madame Hydra and had defeated her top lieutenant Lady Hydra, Madame Hydra herself was still nowhere to be found, having managed to elude capture herself when her Yokohama headquarters was raided and shut down by Agent Jessica Drew and her SHIELD strike-team. But while Madame Hydra, who was also known as Viper, may have been a woman who was temporarily without a base of operations, she was never a woman without a plan…

Location: Tokyo, Japan- Tokyo Detention Facility

Being that it was the middle of the night, most of the detainees in Tokyo's largest jail were asleep after lock-down procedures had been instituted. But, as had been the order over the past few days, one inmate was about to once again receive another unexpected late-night visitor.

"(Who, are you?)" Keniuchio Harada asked, as he now felt a presence with him in the darkened cell. He immediately sat up on his bed wearing his dark-blue inmate's jumpsuit, and he noticed that whoever had come in to join him, had done so without opening the large steel door of his solitary-confinement cell.

"(A friend, one who hopes that a mutually beneficial agreement can be brokered between us. I have use for a man, such as yourself.)" A female voice replied, as Harada was now able to make out a shadowed figure standing a few feet away, which he also noticed to be definitely female in the jail cell with him, and who was dressed in a tight, olive-green leather outfit.

"(At this point, considering that my options are severely limited, anything would be an improvement upon my current state of affairs. What is it that you propose?)" Harada inquired of her, as he stood up from his bunk and immediately recognized this woman to be Madame Hydra, whose reputation was perhaps as notorious as his own, if not more so.

"(Your freedom, in exchange for your formidable services as a skilled mercenary and assassin.)" Viper explained to him.

"(And how do you intend to get me out of here?)" Harada stood and asked her, pointing to the computerized power-inhibitor still strapped onto his right arm.

"(The same way that I came in.)" Viper replied, as she crossed her gloved-arms over in front of her and looked up at him, "(Do we have a deal?)"

"(We do. I am now in your debt." Harada said to Viper, as she walked over towards him.

"(Do not worry, you will be given more than ample opportunity to repay me. For now, we have an empire to regain, my Samurai.)" Viper responded with a sinister smirk.

"(And from your words, it appears that your ambition may indeed rival my own.)" The much taller Harada looked down and remarked to her.

"(Yes, if you desire the entire world as I do.)" Viper smiled and replied, as she put both of her arms around Harada's massively, well-proportioned torso.

"(What is our next destination, the Tokyo Underground?)" Harada asked her, having tremendous knowledge of the network used by those individuals within the city who wished to keep a low-profile, since he had been instrumental in helping to create it in the first place.

"(For tonight, just long enough to allow us to tie up a few loose ends. But, we will soon be departing from Japan entirely, for awhile.)" Viper informed him, as she turned the circular disc on the top of a ring on her hand, a sophisticated device that had originally been designed by one of the premier technological organizations in the world known as Advanced Idea Mechanics, or AIM for short.

As The Silver Samurai and Viper stood huddled together, they were both enveloped in a mysterious, brightly-glowing aura of pure energy that now surrounded them. And right before they disappeared into thin-air together, Viper had a few final parting words for her new partner in crime.

"(Tell me, have you ever heard of a place called Madripoor…)"

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Location: Agarashima, Japan- Yashida Ancestral Compound

Roughly 200 miles to the north of Tokyo, in one of Japan's moderately mountainous regions, sits the ancestral residence of one of the country's most revered families. And it is here that a number of important national and international dignitaries have gathered, including the Emperor and Empress of Japan to be counted amongst them, for the marriage of the Clan Yashida's Head to her official consort.

Less than half an hour ago, Mariko Yashida and John Logan had exchanged their sacred vows in a traditional Shinto wedding ceremony, declaring their devotion to one another and their commitment to building a new life together in front of all of their friends and family. And with the formal ceremony having concluded a short time ago, Logan and Mariko had changed out of the traditional Kimono-style wardrobe prescribed that they wear during the nuptial rites. Now, they were dressed in more customarily Western wedding attire, and Logan and Mariko made their way towards their own wedding reception each in a tuxedo and bridal gown, set to greet and thank their guests' for their attendance.

Now, able to officially do so as husband and wife.

"You sure you know what you've just gotten yourself into?" Logan smirked and teasingly remarked to Mariko right beside him, as they walked hand-in-hand down a corridor that led to the grand hall within the compound, speaking to one another while they still had a few brief seconds alone to themselves, "With who I am and what I do, danger's always gonna be a part of my life. And anyone who wants to be a part of my life is bound to catch some of the broadside from that."

"In case you have not noticed, my beloved, being a part of my family is not without difficulties all of its own. So with that said, I believe that I am more than capable of handling anything that you are able to dish out. " Mariko laughed and just as humorously replied, as they stopped and stood right outside of the hall's entrance while their arrival was being formally announced to the guests' inside, the happy couple exchanging a quick and private kiss before they entered.

Once inside, Mariko and Logan spent roughly the next hour shaking hands and receiving congratulations from everyone on their new life together. Which was followed by numerous speeches also being made on their behalf, and culminated in the principal activity for any newlywed couple, the cutting of the wedding cake.

After a considerable amount of time had passed, the guests' were eventually left to mingle in a more informal fashion together, as Logan came over to a somewhat secluded corner in the hall and spoke to Remy.

"So, how's that side o' yours doin', Cajun?" Logan came up and amicably asked Remy, who underneath his royal-blue and black Kimono, still had his right rib-cage heavily taped from the fight that they had been involved in a few days ago.

"It's comin' along. And from now on, Remy Lebeau just gonna have t'find somewhere else safer than here t'go on vacation, since it seems like I got a nasty habit of takin' a broken-rib or two back home as a souvenir." Remy chuckled in response, as he mockingly touched the right side of his sternum in a gingerly fashion.

"Say, where's Rogue at? I didn't see her over with the rest o' the bridesmaids', all gigglin' their heads off about somethin'?" Logan inquired, referring to the fact that Leyu, Rogue, Jubilee, and Kitty had shared duties and each served in a capacity that was roughly the equivalent of bridesmaids' for Mariko during the actual wedding ceremony, while Kurt had been at Logan's side as his best man.

"She said she was gonna go outside and catch herself a breath of fresh air." Remy revealed, as he gestured over towards an exit close by that led outside.

Heading over to the exit and walking through it to the compound's spacious and intricately-designed garden area outdoors, Logan soon saw Rogue standing out there, still in her red and gold Kimono and she had a golden, butterfly-shaped comb in her hair used to pin it up, which was worn in a fashion similar to her other co-bridesmaids'.

"Hey, darlin'." Logan said aloud, as he stepped down into the lengthy and slightly sunken garden to announce his presence to her.

"Hey yourself." Rogue smiled and replied, as she turned back around to face Logan, "Ah woulda figured you and Mariko'd be busy planning y'all's adventurous honeymoon right about now?"

"I think we've had more than enough excitement for awhile. Later tonight, we're headin' off to stay at a place M'iko's family's got outside of Osaka, which is pretty low-key and a nice place for just the two of us to relax together after everything we been through over the last couple days." Logan cheerfully replied, as he walked over and stopped a few feet away from Rogue, "I just wanted to come out here tell you that you and the other girls' looked great today, and that we appreciate you all volunteerin' to fill in as her ceremonial-assistants' today."

"It was an honor, and Ah know Ah was more than glad to do it." Rogue told him, as the sun was just starting to show hints of setting off in the horizon behind her.

Then, their conversation came to a momentary pause, and Logan seemed to search for just the right words before speaking again.

"I also wanted to come and say thank you, for everything you did back in Tokyo. I can't tell you how grateful I am for you puttin' yourself out on the line like that for me, and especially for Mariko, and I'll never forget it." Logan now told her, with tremendous appreciation in his voice.

"C'mon, it's nothin'. It's what we X-Men do, and Ah know you would've done the same thing for me. Matter of fact, you have done the same thing for me." Rogue replied, referring to the not too distant past when a certain gentleman scaled up the outside of New York's Statue of Liberty, nearly sacrificing himself on that night just to rescue her from certain death.

"I hear ya, Darlin'." Logan poignantly replied, as he looked at Rogue again for a brief moment and smiled, before turning back around to head inside to the reception and rejoin his new wife.

In a matter of moments Logan was gone, and Rogue was once again left alone out in the compound's gardens. She thought to herself just how very happy she was about Logan and Mariko getting married, and how she was glad to have gotten the chance to return a favor owed to him in such a meaningful fashion, giving the greatest wedding gift that she could think of to the man who had taught her so much.

But, as the old saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.

As the evening air began to carry a slight chill in it, Rogue wrapped her arms around herself. Then, she began to float a couple of feet upward into the air, hovering and slowly twirling around with a bird's-eye view of the garden. Rogue now closed her eyes, and could hear a faint voice screaming at her from the recesses of her own mind. It was the voice of a woman, who was now just as much a part of Rogue, as she was herself.

Rogue was now reminded that some actions, despite being motivated by even the noblest of intentions, can have long and far-reaching consequences. Ultimately, time would be the judge of just how successfully Rogue learned to handle these new powers and responsibility that had been bestowed upon, this new burden for her to now bear…

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A/N: I just wanted to take a sec and thank everyone for sticking through this story with me and for putting up with the, at times, lengthy intervals between updates. I've appreciated everyone who've taken the time to read and review the various fics' tied into this storyline. But, after giving it some deep and some very serious thought, I've decided to make this chapter the final one of this current story-arc.

The main reason is that I've pretty much accomplished what I originally set out to do with this story (and then some), and I have a few other story ideas that I'd like to focus on and hopefully have out down the line. So again, I want to thank everybody for their support, it's been an awesome ride. And I hope to be hearing from some of you soon, if you don't hear from me first.