No Shelter

Written by Darkstorm5000

Disclaimer: X-Men Evolution, the X-Men, and other related characters in their various incarnations are the property of Marvel Entertainment Group and Film Roman Productions, are used without permission and not for profit.

………………………………………………………………

A/N: This story is set in the X-Men Evolution universe, taking place several weeks following the climactic defeat of Apocalypse. The X-Men once again find themselves on a crucial mission, this time to rescue Illyana Rasputin, the abducted younger sister of their newest ally…

………………………………………………………………

As the stealth-laden X-Jet rocketed at well beyond super-sonic speeds towards its current destination in the rural Nebraska countryside, Piotr Rasputin sat in its rear passenger cabin, quietly contemplating the turn of events that had finally brought him to this point where he was so close to finding his sister, and that had put him into such an alliance with the X-Men to accomplish this. Which, given the circumstances surrounding his initial meeting with them, was something that would have seemed inconceivable in the not too distant past.

And, while some would mistake the stoic silence that usually permeated around this giant of a man as an inability on his part to communicate, or even grasp, the nuances of complex personal relationships with others, the truth of the matter was actually quite the opposite.

Growing up as he had in the modern industrial city of Novosibirsk in western Siberia, Piotr quickly learned from an early age to remain very much cognizant of his surroundings, and to become even more proficient at reading those individuals who came into in his company. It was a gift that had often proven valuable to him during his days under the employ of the Russian Mafia, especially when entering into what were generally tense dealings with rival underworld comrades. This ability to 'read' them often gave Piotr an inkling as to when those other mobsters were likely to double-cross him and his cohorts, and had wound up saving their lives on more than a few occasions. It was also a convenient talent that came in handy for a young man, who had aspirations to build and further a career in the fine arts.

And like any craftsman, Piotr exercised this skill with an almost innate ease, as though it were something that just came second-nature to him. From his vantage here in the back of the X-Jet, Piotr visually zeroed in on Logan, the X-Men's unofficial team chaperone, who was seated across the aisle from him in the next row up. Piotr simply sat and watched this feral man before him, while Logan also did much the same. Although, Logan's attention was in turn focused on another even more recent addition to their extemporaneous cooperative, one Remy Lebeau.

With an artist's scrutiny, Logan had been observantly studying Remy since they, and the rest of the X-Men, had all boarded the X-Jet back in Bayville. For a natural-born cynic like Logan, who was all too happy to confirm that fact for anyone around him willing to challenge him on it, he had found it a bit too coincidental that Remy would suddenly turn up 1300 miles from his professed hometown of New Orleans, in a bar in upstate New York. Appearing at precisely the same time that he and Piotr were there, claiming to have suddenly come up with the information that the two men had been desperately seeking. Namely, a clue as to the location of where Piotr's younger sister Illyana Rasputin was being held. Still, it was a solid lead, which was something that Logan and Piotr had been hard-pressed to come by on their own. And, this information was coming from a man who seemed to be in the know, when it came to what it was that folks wanted or needed to know.

So Piotr, and Logan to a lesser extent, had decided to take a leap of faith with the enigmatic Cajun. The three of them returned back to Bayville to fill in the rest of the X-Men with what Remy had told them, before they all took off for an isolated and long abandoned orphanage in Nebraska. But, Logan remained continually vigilant in his suspicion of Remy, looking for any sign, for any mannerism at all relayed through Remy's body language, that this little trip wasn't on the up-and-up. Because, Logan had made it crystal clear to Remy that if he was playing another one of his manipulative games with them like he had before, that it would DEFINITELY be his last.

Which was something that Piotr was well aware of, as Logan had back at the bar asked Remy why they should trust him in the first place? Particularly, after reminding Remy about his having absconded off with Rogue a number of weeks prior, and subsequently getting her mixed up in his criminal past with the Thieves' Guild back down in New Orleans? It was a question that had not been directed at him, but due to his feelings that he and Remy shared something of a mutually-kindred background to a certain degree, it was one that Piotr had nonetheless been applying to his own set of circumstances.

Specifically, with where he and the X-Men's Kitty Pryde, who was currently seated beside Piotr here in the back of this aircraft, were concerned.

Following the banishment of En Sabah Nur, Piotr had returned back to Bayville with the X-Men to temporarily stay with them at the Xavier Institute, while they attempted aid him in his enduring search for his sister. It was during these subsequent weeks that Piotr and Kitty developed a very close friendship with one another. But, Piotr had also begun to feel his own undeniable attraction towards Kitty ever increasing and deepening as well. And, he knew that to continue to allow himself to harbor these kind of amorous feelings for a girl such as Kitty, to believe that they could be anything more than just friends was, at best, a fool's folly.

Their recent and current collaborations not withstanding, Piotr had to continually remind himself that he and Kitty were two individuals, who in the end, each came from vastly different worlds.

The wholesome All-American girl and the Russian thug.

Piotr thought to himself that he need only look as far as the acrimonious mistrust that Remy had managed to draw from Logan as confirmation of this. He had repeatedly speculated to himself on just how the X-Men would react to learning about his own less than immaculate past? Especially, if he were to earnestly pursue any kind of romantic relationship with Kitty?

Part of Piotr told him that he was simply over-reacting, allowing his own self-doubts to creep in and heighten these internal anxieties of his. But, another part of him, the realist in him, couldn't help but think about Kitty and about the fact that an eerily similar scenario had already happened between her and her teammates'. And, Piotr very much thought about how that had ultimately turned out.

Piotr kept coming back to a secret personnel file that belonged to Magneto, which he had come across and read shortly before leaving the Acolytes for good. He had discovered it while searching for any information in Magneto's computer database that might pertain to his sister and her whereabouts. In it, Magneto had written a summarization of a status update that he had received from his son regarding Lance Alvers, the Brotherhood member also known as Avalanche.

The way that Pietro had relayed it to his father, was that Alvers had actually quit the Brotherhood following a verbal disagreement with his teammates'. At the time, Pietro, reported to his father that he had thought the cause of their argument to have been trivial at best, particularly given their history and the atmosphere of general discord that seemed to radiate from within the Brotherhood House. And that he, Fred, Tabitha, and Todd, had been fully expecting Lance to return that same night, once everyone had gotten a chance to cool down.

But, things didn't quite happen that way.

In fact, they soon learned that Lance had gone to live at the Xavier Institute, in a bid to actually become a member of the X-Men. Magneto's personal memo had then gone on to say that, in spite of his efforts, Lance wasn't accepted whole-heartedly by his new peers, certainly not in the way that he had been expecting at any rate. And, that the earth-quaking teen soon found himself back at the Brotherhood House, after Xavier had finally become fed up with a trouble-making hood like Lance, and that he had kicked him out of the Institute when the first opportunity presented itself. Magneto even noted the irony of this entire situation in his memo:

"…find it ironic that, for all of their talk about wanting to build a better and more harmonious world, Xavier and his children appear to have had a bit of difficulty when the time came for them to put action behind those sanctimonious words of theirs. The X-Men still see their own people through the eyes of our would-be homo-sapien oppressors, purely in anachronistic terms of us being either 'good' or 'evil' mutants. So much so, that they themselves were unable to truly and fully accept Avalanche into their own exclusive little world, even after he went so far as to attempt to conform himself to that misguided dream of theirs.

Yes, ironic indeed…"

Which, is why Piotr thought that he must be out of his mind to even entertain the idea of him becoming a permanent presence among the X-Men. That if someone like Alvers, who was certainly involved in questionable activities with the Brotherhood, could not redeem himself in their eyes, then there was no chance in hell for a former mob-enforcer to fare any better. Especially, if they were to find out in greater detail about some of those things that he had done in his past, which were far more criminal and violent in their nature. Things, which Piotr was deeply remorseful for, and was as equally ashamed of.

"Alright guys, get ready. We'll be touching down in a couple minutes." Scott suddenly announced to the rest of the team from up in the plane's cockpit. Which, was where he was seated behind the controls of the X-Jet right beside Ororo, and had to talk over both the dull roar from the plane's powerful afterburner engines, along with the chit-chat currently flowing throughout the cabin behind him.

"It won't be long now. We're gonna have Illyana back in no time, just like I promised you." Kitty said as she turned her smiling visage over towards Piotr, her petite hand caressingly moving up onto the armrest that lay in between them, slowly sliding over on top of Piotr's exponentially larger hand, all in a supportive affirmation of her statement to him about Illyana.

"Of course! And had you not been there to encourage me over these many weeks, I might have completely lost faith that a day such as this would ever come." Piotr happily replied, looking down into Kitty's sparkling baby blues, his tone reflecting the genuine appreciation that he had for all of the concern that Kitty had shown towards him lately, as he held her hand in his with the delicate grasp of a surgeon.

In Piotr's mind, all one need do is simply hear Kitty's unwavering enthusiasm, see her accompanying cheery smile, and they too would become a true believer in whatever sentiments that she may have been persuasively delivering at the moment. Piotr thought that such an ability to inspire, even if it were for the benefit of only a single individual, was truly a special thing.

And, so convincing were Kitty's occasional pep-talks, such as the one that the pair had shared a few weeks prior when Piotr found himself at an emotional low-point over the quandary regarding his missing sister, that afterwards Kitty had emboldened confidence enough in Piotr that he felt as though he could conquer the world single-handedly.

Which, went a ways towards explaining why Piotr did what he did next.

Standing up from his seat and without saying another word, Piotr immediately turned and walked back towards rear of the plane's cargo cabin-area.

"Hey Petey, like, what are you doing?" Kitty curiously asked him now, voicing the sentiment that the others on the plane were also wondering when they saw Piotr walking back towards the hindmost section of the plane, as the X-Jet was currently in the midst of its standard docking descent procedure.

"As the saying goes, Katya…I will see you on the other side." Piotr replied with a half-joking, half-serious smirk on his face, if there were such a thing possible.

This was right before Piotr hit a nearby switch, which controlled the plane's rear cargo-bay ramp. After lowering itself open, Piotr then took a huge leap from the X-Jet's loading ramp and calmly plummeted at a rapidly increasing rate of speed towards the unforgiving earth below.

While everyone else left behind, Kitty included, struggled to understand why such a usually reserved and level-headed individual like Piotr would do something as rash and seemingly impulsive as this. Those left onboard then managed to quickly regain their bearings from the slight decompression effect of this rear-exit being opened, as the plane continued with its landing approach into the rural Nebraska countryside, and the X-Men prepared to soon exit the plane to face Illyana's mysterious captor or captors, along with their now departed ally.

………………………………………………………

Free-falling through the air at this tremendous velocity was a sensation unlike anything that Piotr Rasputin could describe. Although, his perspective quickly changed once he consciously transitioned his body from one of flesh-and-blood to living organic-steel. Piotr's solid-armored form, resembling a gleaming human wrecking ball, hurtled itself down towards the ground below. While it might have seemed that Piotr had done all of this for purely dramatic effect, and that was in small part true, the fact of the matter was that he was determined that nothing would keep him separated from his sister for a second longer than could be helped.

Nothing.

And he intended to tear, without mercy, through whoever or whomever was currently holding her. Landing with a heavy micro-seismic tremor, Colossus hit the ground running and sprinted over in the direction towards this dilapidated farmhouse, which Gambit had told them was where Illyana had been spirited off to so many months ago. Meanwhile, the X-Jet touched down and the X-Men stepped off of it via the front passenger ramp, just in time to see Colossus in his mad-dash off in the distance.

"Maybe someone should carefully explain to the Iron Giant what 'keep your hands and arms inside moving vehicle at all times', actually means?" Nightcrawler smiled and jokingly said, as he exited the plane first, followed by Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey, and Rogue.

"Not funny, Kurt. He's got a lot of stuff goin' on inside. I mean, if you really knew, you'd know why he's acting the way he is." Shadowcat replied, slightly chastising Nightcrawler for his remark, and referring to the fact that she had been the only person whom Piotr had been comfortable enough with to reveal the full extent of his hidden inner-turmoil.

"Big guy's always been a mystery to me. Hardly ever said anythin' to me the whole time we was together. You know, before." Gambit chimed in next about his former Acolyte teammate, as he too disembarked from the X-Jet.

"Well, I guess he's just selective that way!" Shadowcat turned and snidely snapped back to Gambit, loudly displaying her own personal dislike of him, and somewhat mirroring Logan's own temperament towards Gambit.

Meanwhile, the man himself reached into the inner-lined pocket of his brown trench-coat, smoothly pulling out a few cards from the deck that he had used to silently keep himself occupied during the plane ride over here. Which, Rogue had sat from her seat and watched Gambit do with something that went far beyond just a passing curiosity.

Shadowcat's animosity towards Gambit mostly stemmed from this very noticeable effect that he had on her teammate, and very close friend, whenever he was around. As evidenced by Rogue having hardly said anything to anyone, ever since Gambit had arrived back in Bayville with Wolverine and Colossus. Kitty knew that Rogue's unusually awkward behavior had to do with, whatever it was, that had gone on between the pair in New Orleans, before she and the other X-Men had finally managed to locate them at the Assassin's remote mansion strong-hold on the city's outskirts.

The exact details of which Rogue had never fully gone into with any of them, not even with her best-friend or her adoptive brother.

Over across this stretch of unkempt land, Colossus bolted undeterred towards a run-down and fairly dilapidated late 19th century farmhouse off in the distance. Which, had served as the one-time manor of this countryside estate, before having been converted into the State Home for Foundlings for orphaned youths some decades later.

But, while the orphanage appeared to be long abandoned, looks can very often be deceiving. As demonstrated by several strange figures emerging from a hidden underground bunker a few yards away inside of the estate's fenced-edge, placing themselves obstructively on the path in front of Colossus that lay between him and the house behind them.

Colossus sprinted right towards those who would dare attempt to deter him from reaching sister, doing so without any hesitation on his part. Their leader, who was outfitted in an odd looking, egg-shaped battlesuit, and had been vaguely identified to them by Gambit as the former mutant-henchman of Magneto's known only as Nanny, responded by commanding her cybernetic army of Orphan-Maker robots to attack this solid-steel intruder.

Dispensing with an array of very advanced, and highly dangerous weapons, her Orphan-Maker soldiers unleashed a swath of rapid-energy fire at Colossus that burst at a frightening rate from the plasma-charged rifles in their hands. Easily dodging this intensely-powered ammunition, Colossus quickly and ferociously engaged the constructs before him by charging headlong into the Orphan-Makers like a rhino that had been cut loose in a china shop, tossing them to and fro and pitching them like ragdolls high up into the air above.

And since this was exactly the kind of scrap that Wolverine lived for, he immediately popped his claws out and was ready for action as he led the back-up charge a few paces ahead of the rest of the X-Men, who had all been trailing across this expanse behind Colossus. It was a battle of which they would get all that they could handle and more, as Nanny watched the erupting fight from a safe distance and used a control-comm device built into her suit to order in a new and fresh battalion of her Orphan-Makers'. She hoped that with them joining into the fray from another nearby underground entrance, that this strategy would hopefully overwhelm the X-Men through their sheer numbers.

But, Nanny wasn't the only battlefield-tactician present. And, he too was already contemplating his own on-the-spot reassessment of these odds that were being stacked up against them.

"Shadowcat, hold up for a minute." Cyclops said, as he and Shadowcat stopped in their tracks, while Jean and Storm flew overhead towards the make-shift battlefield ahead, the two of them stunning a good number of their robotic foes with a powerful lightning bolt/TK combo that they unleashed against them.

"What's up?" Shadowcat replied, albeit anxiously, as she more than anything at that moment wanted to rush over and help her friends. But, she also knew that if Scott was telling her to pause and wait alongside him, then it had to be for a good reason.

"I want you to use this fight as a diversion to slip past those hi-tech goons. See if you can't find Illyana in that house behind them, which they seem so determined to protect." Cyclops looked over at Shadowcat and replied, confirming her hunch as he gave her his orders, "Make sure to check the place from top to bottom. And, keep an eye out for any hidden surprises that they might have waiting for you in there."

"You think you guys can keep them busy long enough to give me time to do all that?" Shadowcat asked, looking up into Scott's ruby-red visor, and then turning to look over at the chaotic scene before them.

"Oh, I think we've got things covered here." Cyclops replied, as a wry smirk came to the face of the X-Men's field-leader. An instant before a devastating optic blast tore through the post-dawn morning air and blew apart two of the Orphan-Maker robots, both of whom had just been momentarily disabled by Rogue's well-targeted circular throwing blades.

Shadowcat responded to Cyclops' assertion with a simple nod, as he turned and took off towards the others to join them. Shadowcat then used her mutant phasing-ability to begin her slow descent into the ground below, preparing to hopefully make her way over to the rustic farmhouse undetected. As she started to sink down into the earth below, Kitty gave her friends' one final glance, and in particular shot Colossus a parting gaze.

What Shadowcat saw was a man who seemed to generally be of a gentle heart and artistic demeanor, yet thanks to circumstance, had been transformed into an armored maestro to this symphony of destruction, about to lead himself and the other X-Men through the second movement of this orchestration of violence.

Colossus, relentless and ruthlessly efficient in his efforts against their cybernetic opponents, fought like a mad-man possessed. He pummeled and ripped the robots' limb from body and head from body, while yet another squad of Orphan-Makers appeared from the hidden underground bunker not too far from the battlefield.

They now came to replace their broken and beaten brethren who had already been quickly laid asunder by, what was turning out to be, a quite formidable force to be reckoned with.

……………………………………………………

Using a small GPS sensor built into her wristwatch, which was specifically designed to function in attunement with her unique phasing ability, Shadowcat diligently traversed her way underground over towards the farmhouse, astutely bypassing the raging battle up above as she did. And while she fully intended to follow the directions given to her by Cyclops, Shadowcat decided to reverse things a bit by starting off her search of the mysterious structure from the bottom, and then working her way up.

Quietly making her entrance down into the subterranean bunker that the Orphan-Maker robots had emerged from, Shadowcat immediately and cautiously took stock of this new and unfamiliar environment now surrounding her. And, she conscientiously made sure that she stayed out of sight from the remaining robot battalions down here, who were all standing at silent attention on numerous raising platforms throughout the underground bunker. They appeared to be currently inert, apparently awaiting Nanny's command and for her to remotely activate them for action.

Briskly making her way past them unnoticed over to, and then rounding a nearby corner, Shadowcat now began her search for Illyana in earnest. She next came across an empty and fairly unsuspecting-looking corridor, which caused Shadowcat to suddenly halt when she felt that something just wasn't right about this scene. Something, which made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up, as her seasoned intuition told her to be wary about proceeding forward. And as she would rapidly discover, Kitty's instincts proved her to be right on the mark.

Having become quite knowledgeable on the topic of 'Bad-guy logic 101' in her years since joining the X-Men, Shadowcat knew that an overly-inviting passageway was a surefire sign that she was about to walk right into a trap. So, she wasn't too much surprised when a large and very sharp mechanical guillotine-blade dropped down from the ceiling right above her, followed by a concealed-door built into the floor that dropped open directly ahead and into a spiked pitfall down below. Both of which, Shadowcat was easily able to avoid thanks to her training, and did so with a gymnast's precision.

What was a new twist, however, and managed to throw Shadowcat off a bit was the vertigo-effect that she experienced next, after she was taken unawares and hit by some sort of visually-disorientating holographic device in the next section of the corridor. Immediately recognizing what was happening, Kitty closed her eyes to regain some of her body's own balance and equilibrium, which left her sight temporarily hindered as a result.

But, after Scott had been abducted by and forced to fight Mystique in a blind alley down in Mexico City awhile back, Professor Xavier and Logan thought it a good idea that all of the X-Men be taught the ability to compensate for a loss of sight caused either by injury, or by other environmental factors. Which each of them did learn, and they even wound up becoming proficiently able to defend themselves, if need be, were this particular situation to ever arise.

Left in a momentary state of total darkness, Shadowcat carefully listened for any sounds, no matter how small, which would indicate a new booby-trap or ensnarement being activated, as she slowly continued to make her way down the corridor. Shadowcat warily used one of the passageway's metallic walls as a guide, and would every so often peak one eye open to see if she had proceeded far enough to be out of the device's range.

Eventually, following a number of cautiously-taken steps, Shadowcat found herself standing before a huge steel door at the corridor's end. Feeling that she may have reached her intended destination, Shadowcat then prepared herself to physically phase through the metal door, while mentally preparing herself to walk face-first into whatever dangerous or dire situation may be awaiting her on the other side.

After taking a deep-breath and her first guarded step through, what Kitty found on the other side of this doorway was a far-cry from any of those imagined, and quite disturbing, scenarios that she had been emotionally readying herself for. But, rather than finding herself in the middle of some god-awful prison cell like she had been expecting, Kitty instead now stood in, what looked like, the mother of all entertainment galleries.

"Whoa, who are you?" Was the first thing that Shadowcat was met with, as she stepped in through the door and into the luxurious room.

Asking her this question was a younger boy who was seated on a sofa in the spacious rec-room. He was sitting and watching television alongside five other children, all of them ranging in ages roughly from about 7 to about 12 or 13 years old.

"Shadowcat, here to the rescue." Kitty smiled and spryly replied, as she walked towards the group sitting there in front of a 72-inch plasma screen television, while she visually inspected the room.

The reason for her surveying the room was to make sure that there weren't any more surprises waiting to go off, like the ones that she had just dealt with in the hallway outside. But, it was also to afford Kitty the opportunity to take in the astounding amount of extravagance around her, which had been provided to this rec-room in the form of every video-game console, toy, movie, and other entertaining amenities known to man. And, it also seemed to apply to the adjacent sleeping-quarters as well, judging by what Kitty was able to see of them from her current vantage point.

"Well, it's about time! I was beginning to wonder how long it would take before someone showed up to come take me home?" The older brunette boy, who had first spoken to Kitty, now acrimoniously remarked to her.

"Excuse me? It's not like we were exactly able to just go and map-quest the location of this place." Kitty replied, as calmly as she could, fully realizing that these kids had been through quite a trying ordeal, "Besides, we didn't even know there was more than one of you here."

"You mean, my parents'…they didn't send you?" The boy again asked, this time standing up from the sofa and putting his hands into the front pockets of the chino-slacks that he had on.

"'fraid not. But we're gonna get you all out of here just the same…um, what is your name, anyways?" Kitty curiously asked of him.

"Julian. Julian Keller." Julian revealed to her, albeit in a tone that now sounded a bit more dejected from hearing the revelation that it was not his family who had been responsible for effecting this impromptu rescue.

Kitty then went and spoke to each of the other children in the room, who introduced themselves to her as Andrea Margulies, Laurie Collins, and sisters Jessie and Sarah Vale, and all of them expressing a deep desire to be able to go back home. But there was one other little girl, who had been sitting on the floor cross-legged and off from the others while they watched TV. She continued to remain silent, even now after seeing this newcomer surprisingly walk into the room through the door.

"And, what's your name sweetie?" Kitty now turned and said to the youngest-looking of the kids in there. Kitty then waited for a few brief and silent moments, but received no response from the girl, save a slightly confused look on her face.

"Talking to her we have tried, but she does not say anything back." Andrea replied, her British accent very much apparent through her own comment to Kitty.

Now getting a chance to look more closely at the girl, Kitty immediately recognized the adorable blonde girl's face from that of the unfinished sketch of Piotr's that she had seen one night a few weeks ago in his room, and whom Piotr had identified to her as being that of his sister Illyana. Kitty then began to wonder if there was something wrong, or if something had been done to Illyana, as the reason why she had not responded to her question.

Then, it suddenly hit Kitty.

"(Are you Illyana Rasputin?)" Kitty asked the girl, but this time did so in her native Russian tongue, one of the many languages that she and the other X-Men had been telepathically taught by the Professor.

"(Yes! Who are you? How do you know my name?)" Illyana now enthusiastically replied, her face and bright-blue eyes instantly lighting up at being able to communicate with another living soul in the only language that she knew, which was for the first time in a very long time.

"(My name is Kitty. Your brother Piotr told me about you.)" Kitty smiled and said to Illyana, as she knelt down on one knee and continued her conversation with the increasingly vibrant younger girl.

Meanwhile, all of the other kids that had been held captive with Illyana silently looked on as the two girls spoke in words that they could not understand, getting a good idea of what it had been like for Illyana all of these months and being unable to verbally express herself to them.

"(Piotr! Where is he? Where is my big brother?)" Illyana now looked up at the kind stranger talking with her and asked.

"(He is outside with my friends. They are fighting with the bad people who have been keeping you here, so that I could have a chance to come down here and bring you back.)" Kitty explained to Illyana.

"(Then you must take me to him! It has been oh-so long since I have seen Piotr, and I do not wish for him to get hurt by the Easter-egg lady.)" Illyana said, as she jumped to her feet and grabbed a hold of Kitty's hand, gesturing for the stranger who claimed to know who she was, to take her to let her see her brother that instant.

Kitty obligingly did as requested, first making sure that Illyana and the other kids all had their shoes and coats on, before leading them over to the large steel door that she had just phased through a few moments before. While they were preparing to make their great escape, Kitty first briefly thought to herself about how Illyana had referred to Nanny as the 'Easter-egg-lady'. And, how to a young child looking at the egg-shaped battle armor that Nanny had on, with its lights that flashed in various colors alongside its other external circuitry components, that she really did look like a giant decorated egg walking around out there.

Kitty also thought to herself that, even though this makeshift prison had been filled with every indulgence that someone their age could want, that it was still a prison in the end, no matter how pretty or beautiful it may have been made to look. And within just a few minutes, Julian, Jessie, Sarah, Andrea, and Illyana had linked hands with Kitty and were all ready, more than ready actually, to leave this place for good so that they could return to the homes and to the families that they had missed so much.

By the time Kitty managed to phase back to surface, having found an alternate and much safer route this time for herself and the literal human chain of people that she had with her, most of the action topside was already over and done with. So much so, that a SHIELD transport vehicle had by now been called in and were in the process of taking Nanny back into custody, along with beginning to catalog the broken and scattered remnants of her robotic army.

But, while Scott and a few of the X-Men were busy giving Agent Hill the details of what had happened, Piotr had now powered down from his armored state and was no longer pre-occupied with laying waste to his foes. Which was why he was able to immediately see his sister, as she emerged with Kitty and the others up to the surface level across this uncultivated field between them, which was a part of this country estate.

"Piotr! Piotr!" Illyana cried out, when she saw her brother standing over with a number of other unfamiliar individuals, all of them dressed in what were funny-looking outfits to her.

"Illyana Nikolaevna …" Piotr gaspingly replied, as he had imagined and replayed this scene probably a hundred thousand times in his mind, and was tempted to pinch himself to make sure that it was real.

That, his sister had at long last been brought back to him.

The two siblings rushed across the short expanse of land that lay between them and quickly found each other, as Illyana jumped and threw her comparatively pint-sized frame up into Piotr's enormous arms, sobbing heavily as she was reunited with her big-brother for the first time in the better part of a year. Even Kitty, who was standing a few yards from them alongside the other freshly-rescued kids, couldn't help but get a little misty-eyed at this tearful, yet extremely happy occasion.

Meanwhile, as Piotr held Illyana tightly and promised to her never again would he allow anything to happen to her, Scott now stood off from the SHIELD transport and gazingly stared at the rundown farmhouse that stood off in the short distance.

"What's the matter?" Jean asked Scott, as she walked over to him while he maintained his lone vigil of the house, gently clasping her hands up onto his right shoulder, and knowing from his very tense demeanor that there was definitely something troubling him.

"I…don't know. Something's been bugging me about this place ever since we got here. Something, that I just can't seem to put my finger on." Scott shook his head and replied, feeling that there was definitely something familiar about this place, like a clouded memory in the back of his mind that had been wrapped up in an even hazier fog.

Scott then used the binocular features built into his battle-visor to zoom in on the farmhouse, which at one-time had served as a former state-run orphanage, to get a more discriminating look at it. As he did, Scott saw that a small detachment of SHIELD agents were loading up with their gear and preparing to head over to begin a more thorough probe of the property, the house, and the hidden sub-levels below it.

Deciding that he also wanted to go and get a better look of things himself, so as to satisfy his own nagging curiosity, Scott told Jean that he would be back in a moment, as he too started off in the direction towards the house. Then, from out of nowhere--

KRAK-BOOMM!!!

After taking only a few steps, Scott froze in his tracks when this entire area around the estate was rocked by a violent explosion from within the house. Which, ripped through the classically-designed home and blew the entire structure sky-high, forcing the X-Men and SHIELD agents to hastily take cover from the shower of falling brick and burning debris that followed. Within the SHIELD transport, Agent Hill immediately rushed over and demanded answers from Nanny, whose protective body-suit by now had been completely immobilized, about what the hell had just happened?

All Agent Hill got, though, was Nanny's ranting on about the lord of the manor, and about how she would fulfill her responsibility to him by protecting all of her children. Those present to hear her ramblings were all left to assume that Nanny had been referring to Magneto, although the X-Men weren't really too concerned about the bizarre ravings of this obviously disturbed individual. They decided instead to pack things in and call it a day, so that they could get the freed kids' out of there. They left SHIELD behind to finish sifting through what little was left of this place, over in the resultant smoking crater where the main house had stood only moments before.

Boarding the X-Jet and then preparing for takeoff, the X-Men were unaware that they had been watched this entire time by another, unknown party. A very interested individual, who had been observing them from a far-off remote location through an intricate network of hidden cameras, which had been positioned at various spots around this vast property.

He was an onlooker who, while frowning upon the disruption that this necessitated destruction of the house, its various sub-levels, and surrounding property had caused to his ongoing research, still possessed acumen and foresight enough to realize that there was a distinct upside to the day's turn of events.

Which, he was certain to keep in mind in those weeks, months, and years yet to come…

……………………………………………………………

After having been freed from that now demolished Nebraska orphanage, Nanny's former hostages were then brought back to the Xavier Institute in Bayville for a temporary layover, which included a routine checkup in its state of the heart medlab. It was during this routine examination that the reason why Nanny and Magneto had most likely shown such interest in this particular group of teens and pre-teens was revealed to Professor Xavier and to Dr. Henry McCoy.

But by later on in that evening, those kids had all left and had each been taken back home to be with their families, with the exception of Illyana. With her brother already there with her in Bayville, Illyana had remained here at the Institute and was currently sitting in Professor Xavier's study with him. She was now on the receiving-end of a telepathic crash-course, meant to help her quickly bridge her English language-barrier.

Much, like Magneto had provided for Piotr after he had first brought the young man out of his homeland of Russia.

Having decided to leave them and allow the Professor to fully concentrate on his efforts with Illyana, Piotr Rasputin now stood out on the Institute's spacious rear balcony-deck. He was sans his red, black and gold uniform that he had been wearing earlier in the day, in favor of a more low-key tan pullover sweater and jeans. For this young man from Russia, it had been an emotionally draining day, but one that he most assuredly would not trade for anything in the world. As he stood out there, Piotr contemplatively reflected on those events that had transpired this day, which in the end had brought his sister, his 'Little Snowflake', back to him. And as he did, it also gave Piotr a moment of solitude to consider and evaluate a number of other things about his life.

Foremost among those thoughts now weighing heavily on Piotr's mind was where, and in what direction, that he wanted his life to go from here? As he mulled over these ideas, Piotr watched the setting sun off on the horizon and admired this scene on display before him. Which, was a near staple to the creative diet of many an artist at heart, and one that he appreciated in a way that only someone of such an aesthetic discipline truly could.

Breathing in the now cooler nighttime air, Piotr could also sense that autumn was just around the corner and would be arriving soon, in spite of the relative warmth of these recent late-summer days. It was an almost innate skill that Piotr had picked up from his father and had developed when he was a little boy still living on their collective farm near Lake Baikal, before the family moved to Novosibirsk following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"Penny for your thoughts?"

Piotr was suddenly snapped out of his introspective musings by this question, turning around to see that it was Remy who had just addressed it to him.

"Has the going value on the street for them dropped down that low?" Piotr replied, in a half-joking manner, as he then turned away from Remy to once more face the last bits of reddish-light shining at them from off on the darkening horizon.

"Just a figure of speech, mon ami." Remy smirkingly said, as he walked over next to Piotr and leaned forward against the railed-edge of the cobblestone balcony, pulling a cigarette from out of his trench-coat in the process. Remy then used the kinetic energy that his body naturally generated to light it, doing so with a quick spark-like flash from one of his fingertips pressed up against the cigarette's end.

"Hmmph, I assumed as much. Comrade." Piotr turned while briefly cracking a smile and told Remy, before once again looking back out across the spacious rear-courtyard and garden of the Institute, "As for my thoughts, they have focused on Illyana and where the two of us will be going from here?"

"Figured you two'd be headin' back home to Russia pretty soon?" Remy speculatively said to Piotr.

"There is nothing back there, for either of us now. Before I came out here I had informed Professor Xavier of my intentions, and he of course offered both his home and a position on his X-Men to me." Piotr revealed, "But, I declined. While I made it clear to him that I will always remain available anytime that he or the X-Men have need of my help, I told him that the time has now come for me to find my own way."

"I understand where you're comin' from. Couldn't really see myself stickin' around here too long and playin' the role of full-time hero either." Remy grinningly told Piotr, "Just a bit too far outta dis ol' thief's nature."

"Perhaps, for men like us, the road to redemption is one that must navigated along an all-together alternate path?" Piotr concluded, with a bit of his own philosophic perspective on life thrown in.

"Ain't really the type to be lookin' for redemption, though. Just livin' day to day, from one hustle to the next pinch, dat's good enough for me." Remy replied, imparting his own unique outlook on his place in the world.

"Speaking of which, I imagine that you will soon be departing to return back to New Orleans?" Piotr now asked, remembering Remy's prior bragging about his love of his hometown back when they were both still Acolytes.

"Nope. Not any time soon at all." Remy answered, although his response was somewhat short and unusually curt in its tone.

"Why is that?" Piotr asked, picking up on the fact that Remy was never the type to clam up on any subject, particularly this one.

"Guess you could say my relocating here is on more of a permanent basis. Make a long-story real short, had a thing dat went down between me and some fellas from another family back home. Who, decided to jump me one night and wound up cornering me in a fight. When it was all said and done, one of 'em didn't walk away from it. Simple as dat." Remy briefly reminisced and explained, his attitude relaying the sense of unavoidable fate that seemed to have surrounded the situation he was describing, "Lawyer-friend of my Daddy's said they could easily prove it was justifiable and in self-defense. But just the same, they all thought it best I leave town before the shit really hit the fan, and a full-on family-feud broke out between both sides."

"So, that is why you came back to New York?" Piotr remarked, who along with Logan, was rather shocked when Remy first sought them out, showing up so far from his usual stomping grounds.

"The Big Apple seemed about the best place, outside of New Orleans, for me to set up shop and start things over." Remy commented, "Besides, in a city where a guy can get his own publicity shots in the local paper on a daily basis, just from crawlin' up the side of a buildin' in his red 'n blue long-johns, I figured I should be able to operate up here without too much hassle."

"You know, when I mentioned to Xavier my desire to one day study art, he offered to put in a good word for me with the acceptance board at the Empire State Institute of Fine Arts. Perhaps, I should take him up on that after all?" Piotr further revealed, as Remy's talk of settling down in nearby New York City, had now gotten him thinking along those same lines too.

"Why not, since he's offerin'?" Remy remarked, having recalled seeing Piotr sketching during those moments when he and the rest of the Acolytes had free-time to themselves around their base, and had noticed his artistic aptitude, "Besides, dat's what life's all about. Makin' the right contacts, and then learnin' to use 'em to your advantage."

"I suppose, that there is some truth in that." Piotr surmised aloud, "It seems that all of us, in one fashion or another, are continually looking for a new connection in and to this world."

Then, following Piotr's markedly profound articulation, a moment of silence fell over the two men, without any audible sounds coming from either for the next few minutes. Save the subdued puffs from the cigarette in Remy's hand, as he breathed the smoke from it in and out. Then, Piotr finally spoke again.

"It occurs to me that I have not taken the opportunity to properly thank you, for helping me to find my sister. It is a debt that I cannot even begin to repay." Piotr now turned and sincerely said to Remy.

"Don't t'ink nothin' of it. Just glad to be able to help get a family back together. Even, if I can't seem to do it in the case of yours truly." Remy replied, as he dropped his finished cigarette and put it out on the ground with the heel of his boot.

"Speaking of which, how is it that you knew Logan and I were trying to locate her in the first place?" Piotr now curiously asked of him.

"When I first caught wind about two fellas in the area, who were tearin' their way through the local network of informants for the lowdown on a missin' girl, and that their descriptions matched the two of you to a tee, I decided to check into it." Remy recounted for Piotr, "I remembered readin' somethin' awhile back in one of Mags' computer files about dat orphanage in Nebraska. And, a special note he made to himself about a reliable caretaker residin' there, who specialized in youth supervision. Seemed kinda odd, but not anything I'd given too much thought to at the time."

"Wait, I searched through all of Magneto's files, but I saw nothing of this mentioned in any of them." Piotr quickly recalled.

"Guess sometimes you just gotta know where to look?" Remy replied, and did so with a furtive smirk.

Piotr then looked right into Remy's red on black eyes, unflinching as he carefully scrutinized his words and body mannerisms, all in an attempt to 'read' whether Remy was telling him the truth or not? And as always, going back to that day when he had first met this Louisiana-native, Piotr found himself unable to pick up on any discernible signs to help him draw a conclusion, one way or the other.

Piotr had long found it peculiar that Remy was one of the only people that he had ever encountered, with whom he had trouble in gauging their true intentions towards him. And, Piotr wondered to himself if Logan had also experienced a similar difficulty in this regard?

"Say, one of my 'connections' in the City's lined me up with a decent piece of prime real-estate over in Manhattan. Nothin' real fancy, but an apartment at a nice price and in a quiet neighborhood, which ain't dat easy to come across. Plus, it's in a good location for folks wantin' to bring up their kid-sister in a safe place, and go to school there themselves." Remy hintingly brought up to Piotr, "Building's owner is even lookin' for a part-time handy-man, to help keep the place up in exchange for stayin' there rent-free. We could share the place, you, me, an' petite, if you're interested?"

"That…sounds very generous, thank you." Piotr replied, accepting this offer from Remy.

"And who knows? Hangin' around wit' you and all that talk about redemption, maybe one day you'll have this old thief goin' totally legit and walkin' alongside the angels yet!" Remy remarked with a laugh, before another party abruptly interjected herself into this conversation.

"Like, what's this junk I'm hearing from Illyana about you getting ready to go away somewhere?!"

With that charged outburst, both men spun around to see Kitty standing there, arms folded over in front of her as she wore a most perturbed expression on her face. Who, by now had also changed out of her uniform, and was wearing a casual outfit consisting of a maroon, short-waist polo-top and dark-colored capris.

"I t'ink I'll be takin' dat as my cue to give you two some privacy." Remy said, excusing himself to exit this balcony area. And, as he walked past Kitty, she shot a glare at Remy that was icy enough to make even Bobby jealous.

While Remy continued on into the mansion, Kitty then stepped forward out onto the balcony, until she was standing in almost the identical same spot as the Cajun had been moments before right beside Piotr.

"So, you want to tell me what, exactly, is going on?" Kitty, with arms still folded and her facial-expression unchanged, stared out across the rear lawn and garden and asked Piotr. Although, her tone relayed more of a demanding nature to it, than that of a mild inquiry.

"I think that the time has come for me and Illyana to leave." Piotr said to her matter-of-factly, confirming for Kitty what Illyana had just told her a little while ago during their first, and very lengthy, non-Russian conversation.

"You can't leave. You…don't have to leave." Kitty replied, her glare now softening considerably as she turned and looked up at Piotr.

"I have imposed on all of you long enough, and I should go and find a place for Illyana." Piotr further told Kitty.

"That's ridiculous! There's, like, a gazillion spare-rooms here since we rebuilt the Institute. More than enough for the both of you." Kitty responded, hoping to assuage Piotr's concerns.

"Perhaps I am not properly explaining myself. What I meant, is that Illyana has been through so much in her young life, forced to grow up faster than any child should have to. I owe it to her to provide her with a place, a home, that she can have the opportunity to regain some of her lost youth, her stolen innocence. From what Gospodin Xavier has told me, I know that one day in the near future that Illyana's place will be here at this Institute. But for now, what she needs is stability and a degree of normality, and for us to have the chance to once again become a family." Piotr told Kitty, wanting to clarify his desire in limiting Illyana's further and unnecessary exposure to anymore super-powered madmen. At least, as much as was possible in the kind of world that they lived in anyways.

Kitty then stood there looking at this gentle, mountain of a man before her, whom she had come to know fairly well over these last weeks together. She knew that Piotr was speaking to her straight and completely from his heart, and that she had no right to question this decision that he was making for the sake of his sister's well-being.

"I understand. But, I'm still going to miss you both like crazy. Just promise that you'll at least write or call once in a while, to keep in touch and let me know how things're going with you two?" Kitty said, and finally cracked a half-smile while speaking to Piotr. With whom she had apparently and obviously grown quite attached to, as evidenced by her still fairly dejected demeanor.

"That will not be necessary. I expect that we will still seeing each other quite regularly. And, that Illyana will be looking forward to regular visits with you as well." Piotr told Kitty, which served to only baffle her at hearing his words.

"As much as I hate to say this, I just don't see how that's going to work? I mean, I've got senior-year coming up, on top of all of the usual craziness that goes on around here at the Institute. Plus, I don't think the Prof is going to approve of me making weekend jaunts to Siberia on the Blackbird. I mean, I could probably get away with it once or twice by saying my trips to Russia are for educational research on a foreign country and culture, but I think he'd catch on pretty soon." Kitty told Piotr, with a slight amount of humor thrown in to offset the rather depressing aspect of their conversation.

But, Kitty was surprised to see and hear Piotr respond with a hearty laugh, which was not the kind of reaction that she had been expecting from him given this situation.

"Katya, who said anything about anyone going to Russia?" Piotr raised an eyebrow and laughingly queried her.

"Then…where ARE you guys moving to?" Kitty asked, now even more confused as to what Piotr's plans were.

"Remy has offered to share an apartment with us in Manhattan, and I have taken him up on his offer." Piotr revealed to Kitty, which caused her cheerfully-sprite smile to now return with a vengeance.

"Well, you can tell Remy that he just scored some major brownie-points with me in my book." Kitty happily said to Piotr, as she quickly spun around so that she could head back inside.

Kitty was rushing off to go in and tell Illyana the good news, about her and her brother going to live close by over in Manhattan. It was due to Illyana having expressed to Kitty a few moments ago her considerable worry about whether the two of them would ever get to see the other again, if the younger girl had to move back home to Russia?

But, just as Kitty reached the balcony doorway, she was quickly halted by a query from Illyana's older brother, who was now the one slightly-confused.

"Katya, I have no idea what it is that you are talking about?" Piotr told Kitty, as he was unfamiliar with her colloquialism concerning 'brownie-points', and with Remy somehow having scored them.

"Trust me, he will." Kitty giggled and replied to Piotr, as she then turned back around and hurried on down the corridor, on her way back to the rec-room where she had left Illyana…