Disclaimer: The X Men are the property of Marvel Entertainment. This is a work of fanfiction, no copyright infringement intended.

Author's Note: Based on events in Giant Size X Men #1 by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum. References to events in Colossus: Bloodline.

Lake Baikal, Siberia.

It has been a good year for the Ust-Ordynski collective farm. The crop has been larger than expected. Wheat fills the fields like an amber sea, and those who toil in the fields are filled with a feeling of satisfaction, the knowledge of a job well done.

Piotr Rasputin pulled the blue cloth cap off his head, and ran a hand through his black hair, using the back of his hand to wipe sweat and grit from his forehead.

He stretched, trying to ease the ache in his lower back, the cramp from too many hours bent over his pitchfork. It was hard tedious work, following the collective's old combine harvester row by row, gathering any stalks of wheat that had fallen from the thresher into sheaves by hand.

It was wasteful to leave a single stalk behind. Each hand gathered sheaf was a mouthful of bread snatched away from the crows, saved for their hungry brothers and sisters across the land.

It was still hot, sweaty work, and if the wind changed, chaff from the thresher would fall thick as snow. He pulled his cap back on, and leaned on the pitchfork for a moment, looking out over the fields and wondering, hopefully, if they might be finished with the day's work while there was still time for a cooling dip in the lake.

And maybe Irina Borya would like to go for a swim...

The combine chugged its way toward him, and Piotr shook off the daydream and bent over again, using the tines of the pitchfork to poke at the stubble of cut wheat stalks, looking for another slender straw.

Over the engine noise, he could hear Pavel shouting his name, and Piotr looked up, questioningly.

"Piotr, look! Your sister---!"

"What is...NO!" Piotr looked behind him, and his eyes widened with horror. Illyana had toddled under the split rail fence that separated farmyard and field. She had found churned up ground in a tire track, and now sat with her plastic spade and bucket, happily digging a hole.

A runaway tractor bore down on her, speeding at full throttle toward the innocent two year old. Others had seen the danger, and were running, shouting, leaping the fence. Without hesitation, Piotr charged toward his baby sister. Running, legs pumping, feet pounding the uneven terrain.

Nothing in the world existed except Illyana and the tractor, and the need to get her out of harm's way.

He was already too late. Part of him knew it, but he couldn't stand by and watch his sister's slaughter. He reached her, and scooped her up, a sick feeling twisting the pit of his stomach as he turned to face the tractor. Instinctively tucking Illyana under one arm and turning to protect her, reaching out with one hand as if to halt the tractor.

He thought of Mikhail, and the look on his parents' faces when the men from the Baikonur Cosmodrome came. "I'm sorry, I tried, I'm sorry," he thought, and the tractor was on them.

He blinked, and saw that his outstretched arm was silver, mirror bright in the sunshine, and he was touching the grill of the, his hand punched through the grill, inside the engine itself. Tortured machinery screamed as a piston shattered against his forearm.

On reflex, he pulled his hand sideways, and the front of the tractor exploded. It sputtered, and stopped.

Illyana was crying.

Half the collective was now standing around them, staring.

His cousin Konstantin swore, and then said a word in English. "Mutant." Piotr looked at him sharply.

Anna Feodorovna inched closer, eyes wide and terrified, then snatched Illyana from his arms and backed up hurriedly to hide behind Arkady. Illyana began to shriek again.

Piotr's mouth fell open. Indignant, he wanted to protest that they knew him, that he was no monster. And then he looked at his metal hands, and at the tractor that he had ripped in half as though it were made of paper, and said nothing.

His mama and papa were coming, running from the cluster of farmhouses. Konstantin's twin sister Klara had gone to get them when the runaway tractor was spotted.

They stopped short, and stared at their transformed son. Piotr took a step forward, and whimpered, "'s still me," in a small voice, as those closest to him flinched back.

Nikolai and Alexandra Rasputin traded a glance, and reacted without noticeable hesitation. Alexandra moved to take Illyana, while Nikolai clapped his hands on his son's biceps. "You saved her! You threw yourself in front of the tractor, my brave son!" he drew Piotr down into a bear hug, and whispered, "Petya, try and turn back to normal."

Piotr swallowed, and nodded, concentrating. What if he couldn't go back? What if he was stuck like this? He felt a funny prickling sensation all over his skin...and it was skin again.

His father nodded with approval and relief. "Are you hurt?"

"Nyet," Piotr said, looking at his hands, and sneaking a glance at his fellow fieldworkers. Some still looked at him with fear in their eyes, but there was also relief and shame. The latter crowded around him now, slapping him on the back and calling him a hero. Konstantin teasing him loudly about his luck, to discover a mutant power right when he most needed one.

Piotr glared at Konstantin, for repeating the word mutant again, but said nothing. Konstantin could be a jerk, but he had to be the man of his family since Aunt Maasha died and Mad Uncle Vlad ran off, so Konstantin had to take care of Klara and Dmitriy. Allowances had to be made for his behavior.

"But what are we going to do about the tractor, Nikolai?" someone called out.

Everyone turned to solemnly study the wreckage. A tractor was a very important piece of equipment on a collective farm. Piotr had almost completely smashed this one. The prospect of going without a tractor while the request for a replacement filtered through the bureaucracy...

"Perhaps it can be fixed," Pavel said thoughtfully, picking up a shattered gearwheel.

His father gave Piotr another pat on the shoulder. "Piotr, go home with your mama and help her with Illyana. Let's see what can be done."

Illyana had worked herself into a frenzy, the hysterical shrieks finally calming to exhausted, hiccuping sobs. Piotr reached for her, timidly, afraid that she would be afraid of him now, but Illyana clung to him and buried her face in his neck.

Piotr carried her to their modest house in the village. Mama clucked and ran for the kitchen, to tend the pot bubbling furiously on the stove. Piotr settled Illyana on the sofa, and put her toy spade and bucket on the floor out of the way.

He dug in a pocket of his pants and found his kerchief, fairly clean, and dried her tears, lightly pinching her button nose with a command to blow. Illyana did, and he wiped her nose gently, folding the kerchief and stuffing it back in his pocket.

"Were you afraid, little one? It is all right, you are safe," he crooned to her. "It is all right."

Illyana snuggled closer to him on the sofa, climbing into his lap. "Tractor was bad? Piotr spank it," she asked, lower lip trembling.

He had to swallow a laugh. "Da, the tractor was very bad." Illyana was starting to smile, so in tones of great seriousness, he added, "Papa is sending the tractor to the barn without any petrol for its supper. It has been a very bad tractor, to chase Illyana like that."

Illyana giggled, and he tapped her very gently on the tip of her nose with his little finger. "And Illyana was not so good a little girl. Leaving the yard while Mama was busy and wandering into the field." The pout came back. Piotr sighed. "I know. You had noone to play with. But we have rules so that noone gets hurt, Illyana."

He left things at that. Mama and Papa would punish her, to ensure that she understood and that there would be no repeat performance.

The little girl's eyelids grew heavy. It was past time for her nap, and the traumatic experience had exhausted her. She was soon sound asleep. Piotr lifted her easily, and carried her to the small bedroom across from Mama and Papa's room. He lay Illyana down on her bed and took off her shoes, sitting her up again despite a sleepy protest to untie the babushka from her golden head. He went back for her spade and bucket, and set them on the toy chest in the corner.

Then Piotr went to the kitchen to see what his Mama wanted him to do next.

The kitchen was hot, the stove and oven had been on all day as Mama did the week's baking while cooking dinner. "The soup did not burn," she told him, bustling about picking up used pans and bowls and piling them in the sink. "Are you hungry, Piotr? There's soup, and warm bread."

Piotr shook his head, and watched her putter around for a moment. "Mama...I'm a mutant." He wanted to say the words out loud. It wasn't quite real to him yet, what had happened. He had to use the English word, mutant, like Konstantin. There was no Russian word for the different ones, the ones with strange powers or who looked more like animals than people. They were something in Pravda articles, happening in far off lands.

Few mutants were born in Russia.

Or if they were, you heard nothing about them. And wasn't that an unsettling thought?

"Da, Piotr, I suppose you are," his mother agreed calmly, and then looked up to see the tears in Piotr's eyes. "Nyet, nyet, Petya. You are our son, and a mutant as well. It is a gift, I think, not a curse. If you had not changed so, you and Illyana the White Wolf's teeth, I could not bear that!"

"They were afraid of me, Mama. Of me! I think...some of them...thought I was going to hurt Illyana."

Alexandra Rasputin shook her head wearily, and reached up to lay her hands on her son's cheeks. "so young..." she sighed. "People are afraid, Petya, of anything different. Their blood was up already, thinking they were too late and Illyana was doomed. And suddenly you were there, doing impossible things. A metal man, grabbing his sister from the very jaws of death and shattering the tractor's engine with a single blow. Little Petya? Gentle Piotr Nikolievitch? Tcha!" She patted his cheek, and let her hands slip to his shoulders. Her eyes widened and she frowned, in a comic mask of fear and suspicion. "We did not know he could do such things. What else might he do?"

He smiled a little, in spite of himself. "The mutants of America are always fighting each other. Perhaps they expected another to appear and attack me? Why, we might trample the wheat!"

"Da," she laughed. "But you will see. Tomorrow it will be just another thing they know about you, Piotr is tall and dark-haired with blue eyes, he can become a metal giant, he draws well, and would rather drink beer than vodka..."

Piotr smiled bravely, but he wasn't that young. He knew there would still be people in the village that hated and feared him, now that everyone knew that he was a mutant.

Just like when Mad Uncle Vlad started hearing voices after his wife died. People were kind to his cousins' faces, but Piotr heard what they said behind their backs.

And at eighteen, Konstantin and Klara still lived as brother and sister. No man would marry a crazy man's daughter. No man would let his daughter marry a crazy man's son.

And who would marry a mutant? Piotr felt a sudden bleak despair. He was sixteen, it was time to start thinking about taking a wife and building his own house, starting a family. Would the girls who cooed and giggled over his broad shoulders and sapphire eyes now spit at him in disgust?

He thought of Anna trying to rescue his baby sister from him, and muttered an excuse to his mother, retreating to his bedroom in the loft.

He moved around aimlessly, straightening up the old table by the window where he sat to draw, a meager collection of sketchbooks and colored pencils assembled by saving his pocket money for the holiday visits to Uncle Ivan and Aunt Tatiana in Vladivostok, where they had specialty shops. He'd been saving up again, for a blank canvas and some tubes of oil paint.

He moved to his dresser, and fiddled with his comb and brush and bottle of lavender water, then looked up into the mirror for a long moment. Studying his reflection. He looked no different than the boy who'd gotten out of bed before sunrise that morning.

"Maybe it doesn't matter if no girl wants me," he told his reflection in the looking glass softly. "maybe I will be arrested for breaking the tractor. Or for being a mutant. Maybe it would be better if I swam out into the middle of the lake, changed, and let the weight of my metal body carry me down to the lakebed. Change again, and drown myself."

A sudden spark of curiosity broke the bleak mood that had settled on him like a shadow. He glanced at the door, listening for sounds of his mother downstairs.

Could he become the metal man again? Or was it something that would only happen when there was danger?

He stared into the looking glass, trying to make it happen again.

He concentrated, and felt the shift within, something inside him deeper than blood and bone twisted...and he became the metal man again. He seemed larger. Taller, and his body had a muscular bulk even heavier than his usual well-defined physique.

In the mirror, he had the same polished-silver appearance he had seen on his arms and hands in the field. His eyes were pure white. So were his teeth, and the inside of his mouth...but his tongue was silver too. He tapped lightly at the flat dark plate of his hair...he had expected something like wire instead. Upon examination the fine hair on his arms and chest was simply gone. No eyebrows or lashes either.

He ran his hands over his skin, wondering at the curious numbness of it. Rubbing his arm from elbow to wrist felt oddly like he was wearing a leather glove, and running his hand over the sleeve of a thick sweater. He felt the pressure and movement, but no delicacy of touch. It was strange.

He paused, and looked nervously at the door again. Waited, breathlessly, to see if he heard anything. But there was no step on the stairs, and he dropped his pants to have a look. Ah. This living statue body he wore was anatomically correct. He patted and prodded experimentally, but found that even this most-sensitive skin was also numbed.

He thought about what they had learned about evolution in school, and decided it might be an advantage, with grim humor. If he was kicked there, instead of doubling over with agony he'd barely notice...while his attacker nursed a broken toe.

He changed back, and comforted himself with a few quick strokes, reassuring himself with the delicious sensation of skin sliding on skin that this secret nighttime pleasure wouldn't be denied him.

For a moment he was tempted to stretch out on his bed and bring himself to satisfaction. Forbidden and decadent to touch himself so when he should rightfully be at school, or working in the fields. Guilt helped him resist the temptation, guilt and the fear of being caught in the act.

He did sit back on the bed, and worried. Breaking the tractor might cause a delay in the harvest. If there were storms, they could lose some of the crop. The collective wouldn't meet their quota...and worse...people would go hungry. Because of him.

Eventually, he went downstairs for his supper. He wasn't hungry, but he knew his Mama was worried. Better to come down and eat than sulk in his room.

Papa came in, when Piotr was done with his meal and was encouraging Illyana to eat instead of patiently dredging every bit of carrot from her bowl and piling them up on a slice of bread to make a soggy sandwich.

"I've been on the telephone," Papa explained, placing a loving hand on the top of Illyana's golden head, and then ruffling Piotr's dark hair, before sitting down at the table. "with your Uncle Ivan in Vladivostok."

Ivan Mishchenko, Aunt Tatya's husband, was a mid-level Party official. Someone who might be able to help.

"He's going to see about getting us a new tractor. A new, new tractor! Not the spare from another collective, or something that's been sitting in a warehouse since the Great Patriotic War," Nikolai Rasputin grinned. "Arkady says maybe we should have you punch some of the trucks."

Piotr grinned back, and finally relaxed. If dour old Arkady was joking about it, maybe it would be all right after all.

He was nervous again, the next morning, going to school. At harvest, they had a few hours of school in the morning, before fieldwork.

The others were nervous as well, and he did get some spooked looks. Noone spat or threw anything at him, and their teacher, Arkady's wife Ludmilla, went over the history of mutation again before the day's lessons, reminding everyone that it was something some people were born with, and couldn't be helped. She asked how Piotr's power could be used to benefit the collective, and there was some lively discussion.

But after school, when everyone went home to drop off their books and have breakfast before reporting for work, there was a strange dark sedan parked in front of the Rasputin house.

Konstantin nudged Piotr. "Look. The KGB came for you."

Piotr's stomach turned over.

Klara smacked her brother. "They're going to train Piotr to be Russia's superhero. Like the American Captain in the Great War."

"Petya?" Konstantin sneered. "Do you remember the time we visited Aunt Tatya and Uncle Ivan, when we were playing hide and seek with Cousin Larissa and Petya fell down that coal cellar? He was still crying when Mikhail carried him to their flat!"

Klara smacked him again. "He was seven! Don't listen to this ass, Piotr. But that car is much nicer than the one Uncle Ivan drives, they must be important men talking to your parents. You shouldn't keep them waiting."

Piotr squared his shoulders and stepped up onto the porch, opening the door. Mama and Papa sat in the front parlor with two strange men. An older bald man in a wheelchair. He wore a dark grey suit with a fine silk tie, and looked like one of the men who worked with Uncle Ivan in the city, if not for the wheelchair.

Beside him sat a younger man, grim-faced and wearing red sunglasses indoors. Piotr swallowed as conversation stopped, and the man with the red shades was the first to turn and stare at him. The man in the wheelchair gave him such a hard, measuring look that Piotr began to believe Konstantin had been right, that they were KGB and here to take him wherever Russia's mutants went.

"Ah, here he is now. Piotr, this is Professor Charles Xavier. He has an interesting proposition for you," Papa said, motioning for Piotr to come in and sit down.

"Yes, sir?" Piotr said, sitting down between his parents. Mama took one of his hands in hers, and squeezed it.

"Your parents tell me your mutation manifested yesterday. When your sister was in danger, your body became armored, as if you were made of an organic steel. You acted selflessly to protect her. Perhaps you have heard of the Avengers or the Fantastic Four? I am putting together a team of superheroes. All mutants. International, although we would be based in New York state."

Piotr's eyes widened. Him, a hero? He looked at his parents uncertainly. "You want me to go with you, to America?" That was so very far away, far away from home and from everything and everyone he knew. "But if I possess such power, as you say...does it not belong to the state?"

Professor Xavier shook his head. "Power such as yours belongs to the world, Peter. To be used for the good of all. And believe me--your powers are needed."

To each according to his need, from each according to his ability, yes. It was selfish, was it not, to stay here and use his power to break rocks and cut down trees, clear land of thorny brush. Those were the best uses of his power that his classmates had come up with in the discussion.

There were evil mutants, and monsters, and alien invaders out there. And ordinary, innocent people suffering. If he could help...protect a hero...than surely he must.

"You say this is to be an international team, Professor. Where are the other members recruited from?" Mama asked.

"Germany. Canada. Ireland. Africa. And Japan. Mister Summers here," and Piotr looked at the silent bespectacled man in surprise, "is from Nebraska. And I have a candidate from the Apache tribe of Native American Indians that I hope will join us."

"If I go with him...I will learn how to deal with my mutant powers, I will be given the opportunity to help people. And I will see America," Piotr said slowly. "Th-there is wisdom in the Professor's words, Papa...but I am happy here." He had to clear his throat as his voice broke. "Tell me, Mama, Papa, what should I do?"

"Do as your heart tells you, my son. It will not betray you."

"My heart tells me to stay, Papa. By my conscience tells me otherwise. I must go, Papa."

There were tears in his Mama's eyes. "Then it is right that you do."

Piotr swallowed. "Then the answer is yes, Professor. I will join your team. Um, when do we leave?"

Professor Xavier smiled sadly. "I'm afraid time is of the essence. You have time to pack your things and say goodbye. We must leave as soon as possible."

Piotr's heart sank. He'd hoped to have at least a week, to ready himself for the changes, to see his friends again, and revisit favorite places. But maybe it was better to go quickly, a clean break.

Illyana was sitting on the stairs, listening, and braiding her doll's hair. She swung the doll by a foot as he approached, hitting him, and glared. "You're going away!" she accused him.

"I need to go, Snowflake. You remember we talked about me leaving home? That I might go to University in Moscow...or marry and build my own house soon."

She frowned at him uncertainly. "But you didn't. I don't want you to go. Mikhail went away."

Piotr's breath caught. Illyana had never known their eldest brother, but all her young life she had heard stories about the cosmonaut's heroic death.

"Mikhail went away, and Mama had me. I got to be a big sister now? I don't want a new baby, I want you!"

"Oh, Illyana. I'm going to learn how to be a be metal, like when I saved you from the tractor. But I'm coming back. I promise. Going away doesn't mean you're never coming back...and I think Mama and Papa are too old for new babies. You are our little one, and always will be."

"You're coming back?"

"I promise. And I will write to you, I will send them with letters to Mama and Papa, and they can read them to you, and I will draw many pictures to show you the places I go and what I do there. So you will not miss me so much." He smiled as he thought of the perfect bait. "I'll send you presents too."

She brightened, the prospect of getting her very own mail and presents evidently worth losing the company of her older brother. "Noone else has toys from America," she agreed, pleased. "The Disney bear?"

He smiled gently. Bootlegged copies of Disney Sunday Movies shown on American television were aired in the community hall, and Illyana had been enraptured by something called Winnie The Pooh.

"I will try to find the bear. And perhaps the tigger," he promised.

It hit him then, that he was leaving, and he didn't know how long it would be before he came back. He picked Illyana up and hugged her, planting a light kiss on her forehead, and set her down again before going upstairs to pack.

He was sixteen.

Sixteen year old boys did not cry of homesickness before they had even left the house. He turned his attention to the thoughts of America, getting to see New York and meet mutants from other countries. It was going to be a grand adventure.

He packed his things in his duffle bag...he didn't have much. A few changes of clothes, his pencils and sketchpads.

They were waiting when he came downstairs. Mama was weeping. He hugged her, and kissed her tear-salt cheek. He hugged Papa as well, and solemnly shook his hand, and then shouldered his bag and followed Professor Xavier and Mister Summers out to their car. He was about to offer to help Summers move Xavier's chair from the porch...when it lifted by itself and floated neatly to the ground.

Mutants, right.

He paused, and looked back. Mama, Papa and Illyana had followed them out to the porch, waving. He raised a hand in farewell.

"Dosvidanya, Piotr. Our love goes with you," Papa called.

"Do not worry, Mama. I will write you. Dosvidanya, Papa...I will make you proud."

"We are already proud, my son," Mama called.

To Piotr's surprise, they did not drive to the nearest city with an airport. Only a few miles from the village, where empty fields lay fallow, a strange sleek aircraft waited on an unused road.

Piotr stared. "I have never seen a plane like this. It is American? I like the lines of it, sharp and sleek, like a bird of prey."

That won him a smile from the grim Mister Summers, and the first words he'd spoken. "Close enough. We call it a Blackbird. It's the X Men's private jet."

Piotr frowned. It seemed rather wasteful to have a jet for one's own personal use. Still, Xavier was travelling around the world to recruit for this new team. And from what he knew of the American X Men, the team was always travelling around their country fighting monsters and mutants. So perhaps it was necessary after all, not some rich man's toy.

They boarded, Piotr was amazed to see Summers drive the car right inside the back of the plane through a large hatch. Professor Xavier asked him if he had ever flown before, and Piotr admitted that he had not. Xavier encouraged him to take a window seat.

The Professor had taken a seat across from Piotr. Summers came and took the wheelchair, stowing it in a special rack in the hold next to the car. Piotr was a bit nervous about flying at first, but Xavier made small talk about the collective, his family, the school for mutants he was going to, and the mutants he was going to meet there.

"And with your permission, Piotr, I would like to telepathically teach you to speak English fluently. We are, after all, based in America, and sharing a common language will make things a great deal easier for you to adapt to your new environs, it will help to lessen the culture shock."

"That does sound like it would be helpful," Piotr agreed, and waited expectantly. After a few moments, he asked "What should..." and stopped. He gave the Professor a delighted grin, and carefully tasted the new shapes of the words forming as he spoke. "I can speak English. I am speaking and understanding English!"

They continued to converse in his new language, until it no longer sounded strange to his ears.

The Blackbird flew very fast. It was only a few hours before they landed in a hellishly hot region called Arizona.

This time, Professor Xavier went off alone in the car to speak to the prospective team member. Piotr stayed with Summers at the small airport, and helped him refuel the plane for the last leg of the journey across the continent.

After that, Summers bought them sandwiches from a cafe attached to the airport. American ham and cheese tasted no different, but the bread was soft and white and spongy. Piotr didn't like it as much as the black or rye or wholemeal loaves Mama baked at home. The crisp salty potato chips were good, and he liked the icy cold sweet fizzy cola drink.

After they ate, he ventured to ask, "Should not the Professor have returned by now?"

Summers smiled again, a brief flashing smile. "Not necessarily. This mutant...John Proudstar..." he trailed off. "I don't suppose you learned much American history. He's an Apache Indian, a Native American. He...doesn't have a reason to trust white may take the Professor a while to convince him to join up."

"Ah. I understand, I think. It is strange, is it not, how people always seem to find something to hate and fear about one who is different from them," Piotr bit his lip. "Even at home, where all men are said to be brothers, and equal. When we would visit my cousin in Vladivostok, her city friends would call us stupid hayseed farmers when they thought we could not hear. And when I turned to friends, who have known me all our lives...they were afraid. Because I wasn't Piotr Nikolievitch any more, I was the mutant in their midst."

"It's the darker side of human nature, to be afraid, and turn that fear into anger. Something we can hopefully rise above, as a race."

Eventually Professor Xavier returned, with Proudstar in tow. He just snorted and looked them over when Xavier introduced them. Something in his eyes reminded Piotr of Konstantin. The rest of the trip was quiet. Piotr pondered this new development silently, looking out the window at the clouds passing by.

It was hard enough being so far from home. He'd hoped to make friends in this new place. The Professor was nice enough, and Summers was polite, if distant. But the international aspect of the new team brought problems he hadn't thought of, too excited by the prospect of travel and learning. But if they were all from other countries...if they let the differences between them stand in their way... Proudstar's sullen silence was a dark omen for this experience.

The Blackbird landed on the grounds of a great house. Piotr's eyes widened at the building, larger than any private house he had ever seen. The grounds attached to the manor house were gardened and wooded, and there was a lake. Not as large as Lake Baikal, of course, but no cattle pond either. He could see a boat, out on the water, taking advantage of the fine weather.

They went inside, Piotr hanging back uncertainly, clutching the straps of his duffle bag, as they walked through a marble tiled foyer into an elegantly appointed drawing room. And Piotr got his first look at his new teammates.

He was the youngest. Some were a few years older than him, some much older. He half listened to Professor Xavier go through the introductions as he studied the people he would be living with and learning from.

The German, Kurt Wagner, first caught his attention. His was the most visible mutation, blue fur, pointed ears, and a whip-like spade-tipped tail, like a creature from a child's storybook.

The African girl, Ororo Munroe. He stared at her, feeling his mouth go dry and something fluttering in his stomach. Snow white hair framed a delicately featured, fox-sharp face, and the coffee with cream coloring of her skin made her blue eyes all the more striking. The loose gold and green robes she wore clung to her curves when she moved.

Shiro Yoshida was the stern-looking Japanese man who had been arguing with the short, stocky Canadian known only as Logan. The two looked close to blows when the four of them had entered the drawing room, Yoshida had been pointedly ignoring him since.

Sean Cassidy of Ireland, a man in his early forties with silver beginning to thread the carrot-red of his hair, merely looked amused. "I signed for a delivery while you were gone, Professor. Sure and I'm thinking it's our costumes come from the tailor," Cassidy said when the introductions were done. "I put them out in our rooms."

"Excellent. Our new arrivals can get settled, and you can change into your working costumes for our first briefing."

Summers led them upstairs, and Piotr was shown to a room that was larger than the first floor of his parents' house. He set his duffle on the foot of the bed, and opened the box that also rested there, taking out a mass of yellow and red cloth.

To Be Continued.