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Volume 4 -- Supreme Reflections -- Piotr Rasputin

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Piotr Rasputin
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Piotr’s Reflections (AN: Takes place after issue 90)

Russians are famous for their tolerance of cold. It is a fame that is well-deserved. In Russia a temperature just a few degrees above zero is considered a heat wave. In that kind of weather men are out farming the fields or working the factories. They deal with frostbite the way most people deal with hangnails, but it isn’t just the weather that earns Russians their reputation.

In many circles being cold as a person is seen as a strength. The willingness to do anything that must be done regardless of what emotion or ethics tell you is admired and respected. While that may seem preferable in some circles, it is nothing to be proud of. I should know. I once walked those circles. I once bore that reputation. That is why they called me Colossus. I was this big, unwavering statue that always had the same look on his face. It may have earned me respect and praise from some, but I hated myself for being like that. I still hate myself for I let it do to me and those I cared about.

Piotr Rasputin, a newcomer to the Xavier Institute and the Western world in general, had a lot of old habits he needed to break. For the first time in his life, he had the opportunity to do all the right things for all the right reasons. He had been a slave to his circumstances for far too long. He had a long list of regrets and a great many sins he had to make up for. The oversized Russian was still in a particular mindset and breaking free from it was not easy by any measure.

Piotr had only a handful of coping skills when it came to dealing with this conflict. The one he practiced most was working out. He found that doing heavy lifting was a great way to slow his mind down. It forced him to focus on something other than his long line of mistakes and missteps. That was why he was so relieved to find out that the Xavier Institute had a fully stocked weight room complete with extra heavy weights for someone of his strength.

It was early in the morning. The sun hadn’t even come up yet and Piotr was restless. So without even changing out of his sleeping attire, he ventured down to the lower levels so he could work out. He was already working on his fifth set with the special bar-bells that Rogue used to match her strength. He had been pushing himself hard, utilizing his full metal form to maximize his workout. The burn from his efforts helped settle his restless mind if only to a point.

I’ve had a remarkable stroke of luck, crossing paths with the X-men and finding a place at their Xavier Institute. It’s not the first bit of luck I’ve had, but it is the first time I’ve taken advantage of it in the right kind of way. For too long, I’ve been granted opportunities and made the wrong decision even if it was for the right reasons.

Few blame me for such shortcomings because where I come from such opportunities are rare if not non-existent. There aren’t a lot of chances when you’re born on a failing farm in Siberia. There’s a reason why Stalin sent his enemies to this barren part of the world. It’s remote, isolated, and utterly confined. Who wouldn’t want to leave for the promise of a better life? That doesn’t make me feel any better about what I did. It just shows how rotten my luck was early on in my life.

My parents are the descendants of poor Russian peasants and low ranking communist officials from the Stalin era. My grandfather used to oversee slave labor in coal mines and my father was able to take the funds from his efforts to be part of a large collective farm in the area. He and my mother lived a pretty simple life, working the fields and producing for the motherland. All that changed when the Soviet Union collapsed. It brought all sorts of chaos to the region and I was born into that chaos.

As a boy, I had no concept of the kind of political and social upheaval that was going on. Siberia is one of those regions in Russia that never fully stabilized. Once the collective farms were broken up, my father was able to acquire the land and make it his own. However, his hold on the land was tenuous. It seemed he spent half his time working the fields and the other half trying to keep his home intact. It took a toll on him and my mother. We always had to have a bottle of vodka in the house otherwise nothing would get done.

I did what I was expected to do. I stayed reserved and did the work I was told to do. The work was almost a reprieve of sorts because it was difficult to corrupt with conflict. Thus began my reputation as being the Colossus embodying a cold, hardened Russian. Then my sister was born and a much of that changed.

Illyana Rasputin was the light of my world. While my parents were always stressed about the fragile nature of their lives, Illyana was a beacon of hope. She was always smiling, carrying with her a love and an innocence that could warm even the hardest of hearts. It certainly warmed mine. She made me laugh, smile, and everything in between while we were children. As such I was quite protective of her. She now claims I was excessively protective, but how could I not be? Her loving innocence was so precious and there was nothing I wouldn’t do to protect it.

Thus started a trend of me being willing to compromise for the sake of my family. By the time I was a teenager, the situation with our farm was so grim it looked like we were going to lose everything. My father was in a drunken stupor half the time and my mother was so depressed she struggled to get out of bed at times. My older brother, Mikhail, tried to help out by joining the Russian Army. That did little, only buying the family some more time. I’m not sure what happened to Mikail because he seemed to be busy with his own affairs. His family was not a priority to him. I couldn’t wait for him. We needed money and since I was able-bodied, I went to work in the coal mines.

For a sixteen-year-old boy that is not an easy job, but I had to do it. I couldn’t allow my family to suffer. It was exceedingly dangerous. Russian mines are not known for their safety or their sophistication. For twelve hours at a time, I would chip away at endless mounds of rock in order to fill carts that had to be pushed up through endless shafts. The threat of cave ins was always there. I tried not to think about it. I thought only of making enough money to support my family.

Then I was granted my first opportunity. It came in the form of an accident that all miners fear every hour of every day that they work. One minute I was hammering away at an outcropping of coal. The next minute there was this terrible rumbling sound. It was as if hell itself was coming to claim us. All the lanterns went out. Every man who was close by began to yell out in terror. The tunnel was caving in and I was at ground zero.

I tried to stay calm and make my way to the elevator shaft. I didn’t even make it halfway. The entire tunnel completely collapsed, crushing me along with over a dozen of my fellow workers. They were killed almost instantly. For me, however, my life took a most unexpected turn.

The Russian let out a powerful grunt upon completing his latest set. Once he finished the last rep, he let the heavy bar bell fall to the floor. It hit with a loud thud, leaving a deep impression on the matted floor. It showed how heavy these weights were and how much strength it took to handle them. Even an overly fit human could not hope to even budge such a mass. For Piotr Rasputin, who by no means was an ordinary human, the strength required to lift such weight came easy. In his metal form he had the power and invulnerability of a true Colossus. It was a power that first manifested itself in what could have been his final moments.

For three whole days, the mine came to a near stand-still. Families of the missing workers gathered outside to hope and pray for their loved ones. Among them were my parents and sister. I imagine they were just as distraught as everyone else. The news they were getting was not promising. Miracles in a Russian coal mine are very difficult to come by. There was next to no hope of anyone making it out of that tunnel.

Then on the third day, every miner and family on the site witnessed something nobody expected. From the very ground they were standing on, a crack formed and a man came bursting through. That man was no ordinary man. That man wasn’t even a man just yet. He was a boy…a boy with metal skin and great strength. That boy was me.

I should have been crushed, buried with the rest of my comrades. But I was saved at the last moment by a talent I did not know I had. Just as the rocks came crashing down upon me, my mutant powers manifested. My skin turned metal and I was spared from the fate of the other miners. When it first happened I was in complete shock. I had no idea what was going on. I wasn’t even sure if I was still alive. I must have been stuck in that state for hours before I began to understand what was going on. I did not have time to make sense of it. As far as I was concerned it was a miracle and I wasn’t going to waste it. So with my newfound strength and invulnerability, I started punching my way through the hard rock and towards the surface.

There was little time for rest. There was even less time for fear. With no food or water, I had to escape. Inch by inch I clawed my way to the surface. It took me three days, but I finally made it. Once I emerged, I was greeted with many shocked and horrified faces. The only one who reacted in a positive manner was Illyana. She realized it was me before anyone else and she came running up to me, crying tears of joy. When she hugged me, it finally started sinking in. I returned to my natural form and I embraced her as well.

It took a bit longer for everybody else to make sense of what happened. Almost instantly my reputation as a Colossus was now more than just a nickname. The people looked at me as if I was a monster. Knowledge of mutants had not reached this remote part of Siberia as it had the rest of the world. While I was alive and well, my world would never be the same. What should have been a triumph quickly became a new nightmare.

Piotr looked down at his metal skin. His stoic expression remained constant with a countless range of emotions raging just beneath the surface. This power that made him so strong and durable had saved his life. At the same time it made his world infinitely more complicated. Had he perished in that mine, it would have made everything a lot easier. It would have also been very harsh on Illyana. She was still his world and after his powers manifested, his dedication to her took on a new level of importance.

I foolishly tried to go back to the life I had. Even a Russian farm boy should be smart enough to realize that nothing could be the same again. When I returned to the mine I was looked upon with fear and hatred. They didn’t know what I was so they wanted nothing to do with me. For a while the mine operators allowed me to work because my durability and strength proved useful. They soon had to let me go because of pressure and fear from the other workers. You know your life has reached a low point when you are fired from a Russian coal mine. With that job, I lost the only means I had to keep my family farm afloat.

As if losing my job wasn’t enough, my father’s drinking finally caught up with him. He contracted liver disease and became seriously ill. My mother soon followed him, her excessive smoking habit taking a toll as well. A few days after we lost the farm, my father died in his sleep. Two weeks later, my mother died as well. It left only me to care for Illyana. She was quite hurt by the loss of our parents and I took it upon myself to make sure she would be able to smile again.

Since there was nothing left for us in Siberia, I took Illyana and moved to Volgograd where Mikail was stationed. When I caught up with him he was a different man. He seemed…disconnected. He looked at least fifteen years older than his real age and he was in a questionable state of mind. I did not ask too many questions. I only asked for his help and he gave it to me. He was now a low ranking Colonel who spent most of his time behind a desk on a military base drinking vodka and filling out paperwork. His pay was not exceptionally great, but it was enough to put a roof over Illyana’s head and keep food on her plate.

But I wanted more for her. She was still so distant after the loss of our parents. She deserved better in life and I wanted to give it to her. Since Mikail clearly wasn’t going to do so, I took it upon myself to make enough money to send her to school. Hopefully one day, she could leave this destitute life and make something of herself. Unfortunately, work was hard to come by in post-Communist Russia. It still is to this day. Even if you are lucky enough to find work, the pay is low and the conditions are terrible. The best I could find was a job in a factory making machine parts. Since nobody here knew I was a mutant, I was able to get back to a simpler life. I thought I would be able to hide what I am and live a quiet life with my sister. Once again, I set a new standard for foolishness with such fanciful thinking.

Piotr took a deep breath and retracted his metal skin. Now in his normal fleshly tone, he looked like a normal young man. He gazed over towards one of the many mirrors surrounding the weight room and saw his sweaty form. While his appearance changed, his expression did not. That hardened look that so defined him lingered. It was the only look he could manage when he was angry or frustrated. This was how he was conditioned. It was nothing to be proud of, but it was difficult to escape. In a harsh environment where the slightest weakness could lead to utter destruction, he couldn’t help but be stern and stoic even when frustration overwhelmed him.

Work in the factory was hard and tedious. It did not help that the pay was just as bad as the coal mine. It’s easy to get frustrated with that kind of work. You start questioning your worth. To put so much sweat into a task and see little come of it tests even the strongest of souls. Being frustrated and desperate, it was not easy keeping to myself. Sooner or later, my true form would come out.

It finally happened when I was 18. I was working a heavy machine press, which even for a seasoned worker is a dangerous task. I was being hounded by the factory manager as well. He was upset with everybody because we had fallen behind in our production. He was running us hard and I tried to keep up. I went so fast I got my arm caught in the press. As soon as this happened, I reverted to my metal skin. Just as it had with the mine, it shocked everyone around me and silenced the manager. But it wasn’t so much my metal skin that surprised him. It was the fact that in doing so, I broke the press.

The man was enraged. His anger usurped his surprise and despite my appearance, he stormed towards me and started yelling every kind of Russian obscenity. He told me how this machine was worth more than ten men of my strength and how I will be working this debt off for the next decade. I held my ground at first. Then he had to throw in that if I did not work off this debt, he would come after my family. That was a mistake both for him and for me because I reacted strongly. I grabbed the man by the neck, held him up as if he were light as a feathered pillow, and squeezed him to the point where his face turned blue. I told him that I did not care who he was or how much power he thought he had. If he threatened my family, he would have to go through me.

Once I got this message across, I let him go. The men around me were now even more fearful. I was a monster once more and there was nothing I could do about it. I scorned myself to no end as I walked out of that factory for the last time. I thought I was done for. Now Illyana and I lost what little support we had left. I failed her and I was ashamed. At that point I was praying for a miracle. I would have accepted anything at that point to help me and my sister. That’s a dangerous state of mind to be in because there are always those who would take advantage of you. I was no exception.

As it turns out, that factory manager had been paying protection money to a Russian mafia family. One of their collectors had been in the factory at the time, picking up his monthly payment. When he saw me, he was probably the only one who wasn’t scared. Where most everyone else saw a monster, this man saw an opportunity.

Before the factory was even out of my sight, he came running up to me. He presented himself as a recruiter and a collector for the Rossovich family, one of the most feared and respected families in the Russian mob. He said he could get me a job. Whereas most would know better than to work for the Russian Mafia, he threw money into the mix…a lot of money. He claimed I could make thousands if not more by using the skills I had just demonstrated with the manager. I was skeptical, but for Illyana’s sake I listened. For her, I was willing to make a deal with the devil himself.

Piotr held his head low, his stern demeanor finally faltering. There was no shame in confronting one’s own mistakes. It was easy for anyone of even menial strength to confront the small mistakes. It was much harder to confront those that were so egregious that even a man of his stature would falter in their wake. One mistake would lead to others and with each wrong move, he ventured further down a dark and dangerous path. It was a path that came very close to consuming him.

I met that devil the next day. As soon as I dropped Illyana off at school, the recruiter met me in a very nice German made car. He then drove me two hours outside the city until we reached a very nice and very ominous looking estate surrounded by gates and men armed with AK-47s. It looked like a mansion and a fortress. Me being a mere 18-year-old boy, I was quite unnerved. However, I could not afford to show any weakness. The Russian Mob was notorious in how it dealt with weakness. I was not going to be another victim. I couldn’t. Illyana needed me.

Once we arrived, the man led me past what had to be at least fifteen armed men into the heart of this mansion. It was quite fancy, full of art and jewels the likes of which a Russian peasant can only dream about. There was also something very dark about this environment. It was nothing like the Xavier Institute. At one point it started feeling like a dungeon. I resisted the urge to ask questions or have second thoughts. I needed to see where this went. I would find out when I came face to face with the devil himself, Arkady Rossovich. The rest of the world knew him as Omega Red.

When I first saw him he had just finished choking a man with those horrific metal tentacles of his. The stench of blood and mangled flesh hung heavily in the air. I continued to hold back all my fears and concerns, putting on my Colossus appearance for the sake of appearing strong. I do not know what was discussed between the recruiter and Omega Red initially. They spoke English and at the time I did not. When this monster of a man confronted me, he was not impressed at first. Then I showed him my powers and he was suddenly very intrigued.

What he and the Omega family offered me was overwhelming for any desperate boy of my age. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a stack of money, and placed it on a table. It was without a doubt the most money I had ever seen at this point. Omega Red told me that this money is but pennies compared to the Omega family fortune. He went on about how there was nothing he wouldn’t do to protect and strengthen this family. In order to do this he was willing to offer me a very lucrative job in exchange for my services and my powers.

It was nothing fancy. I was to become a top-level Omega courier. It is essentially the same as a delivery boy, only the deliveries I make involve cargo of the greatest importance. If Omega Red wanted something delivered, I was to be the unstoppable Colossus and move heaven and earth itself to get it into his hands. It would require me to be strong, ruthless, and powerful in the Omega family tradition. They were going to train me to be the very best at what they did. It would mean becoming more like the monster that so many feared.

I should have hesitated more than I did. The payoff was simply too great to ignore. Not only would they give me more money than I could ever spend, they would see to it that Illyana would be taken care of. She would get to go to the best schools, have every opportunity she desired, and never want for anything again. Being 18 and desperate, I accepted this offer. Like any deal with the devil, it would come back to haunt me.

The Russian mutant hardened once more, turning his attention back to the heavy weights in front of him. He took on his metal form again and with a determined grunt, he grabbed the bar bell and began another set. This time the pace was quicker and more fervent, the frustration driving him to push harder and with reckless abandon. It was the only way to slow down his mind and his conscious. It would have worked nicely if he hadn’t learned this technique from the very people he now so deeply despised.

“The fish…rots…from the head!” grunted Piotr through each rep, “The soul…rots…through the heart!

It’s an old saying in Russia. Generations of corruption and degradation have destroyed the moral fiber of many. Nowhere is this more apparent than the Russian mob. Omega Red was an expert at getting people to leave their conscious at the door when they came to work for him.

I was in a somewhat privileged position. Because of my powers, he took me under his wing and gave me the kind of training reserved only for the most worthy. He enlisted help from several former Spetznaz operatives and ran me through the rigorous training that so few were equipped to handle. It was not the kind of training to make a man into a warrior. It was the kind of training that made a man into a cold-blooded killing machine. I was pushed, beaten, starved, and abused every step of the way. This hardened me into a mindset that was every bit as durable as my metal form. I had to be nothing short of stone cold in order to do what I was tasked with doing.

In addition to the rigors, I was also taught the advanced fighting techniques of Russian Special Forces. It allowed me to compliment my strength with skill. They even found time to teach me English, which was the language of business and the language I would have to know in order to conduct myself in the Omega family business. By the time I was 19 I was already going on my first missions, transporting goods and materials in the name of the Omega family. All the while, Illyana lived the benefits of this blood-soaked money.

As soon as I joined Omega Red, I was given a generous sum of money to get Illyana into a better life. With it and some Omega family connections, I got her enrolled in a well-regarded boarding school in Moscow. It was a great environment where she could learn and excel. It seemed worth the cost of my soul at the time. I didn’t tell her what I was doing. I just told her I had a promising new job. Mikhail was the only one who didn’t believe me. I suspect he knew and that’s why I cut ties with him. I honestly don’t know where he even is now. He could be dead for all I know. That’s how far working for Omega Red took me away from who I was.

My first few tasks as they called them were the hardest. Omega Red did not ease me into the job. The very first thing I had to transport was a very rare and very illegal experimental element from China. I had to get it from Shanghai to Moscow within a few days and deal with any obstacles that got in my path. Those obstacles included three men from a rival syndicate who tried to gun me down and a car bomb I encountered in Vladivostok. Each time, my metal skin saved me. Each time, I was struck with an overwhelming fear. But because I was working for Illyana’s sake, I was able to set it all aside and remain the cold and stoic Colossus that would later become so feared.

My success certainly made Omega Red happy. After a few successful tasks, he actually became fond of me and that is beyond rare for a man of his nature. He is fond only of those that help him expand his power and I most certainly contributed in that regard, even if that was not my intention. Omega Red went onto reward me with more money and more resources. In one task I could make more than 50 lifetimes of hard labor. I admit the money was quite alluring.

Even more so were the comforts that the Russian Mafia provided. I was able to live in a very nice apartment in downtown Moscow. I was able to acquire my own wealth, something that had not been possible with previous jobs. Then there were the women. Omega Red was quite fond of acquiring the company of beautiful women to serve himself and his allies. He often reserved some of the best for me. Whenever I would bring him a particularly important package, he would smile and direct me to a bedroom in his mansion where three beautiful women were tasked with catering to my every whim for an entire night. It’s was not an easy reward to turn down. When you are doing something you know to be wrong, sometimes it helps to drown your doubts in pleasure. I could have walked the path of a traditional Russian thug. But unlike Omega Red, I had Illyana keeping me in check. Providing her with all the comforts she deserved still took precedent though.

I would visit her every week. She seemed to do well at the boarding school and was well regarded by others. However, she was growing up and becoming quite smart. I may have been able to fool the Russian mob with my Colossus persona, but I could not fool Illyana. She knew I was doing something I didn’t like doing. She saw how it affected me. She worried about me and even scorned me. It hurt seeing that innocent face of hers look at me with such conflict. No matter how much Omega Red provided for me, I could not escape Illyana’s scrutiny.

Even with this burden, I did not stop. I couldn’t. I had no other options. The Omega Family was the only way I could support myself and my sister. The only way I could cope was to be Colossus when I needed to do a task while holding onto that precious bit of innocence that Illyana was always nurturing. It kept me going. It kept my mind open to new opportunities that could one day take me away from this life.

One of those opportunities came when I first crossed the X-men. They happened upon me by chance while investigating a string of sentinel thefts. The Russian Mafia was not involved, but just being in their presence offered a slim ray of hope. Like Illyana, they saw that I was no mere thug. They saw a man who hadn’t lost his spirit. I could not accept their help at the time since I was too entrenched in the Omega Family. However, their presence marked a turning point. Shortly after I met the X-men, a new obstacle emerged that could not be fixed by money.

Piotr kept doing more and more reps. His muscles were burning and the veins in his neck were bulging beneath his metal shell. No sweat could form on his skin while in this state. Instead, the metal that surrounded his body became hot. He soon became so hot that sparks started flying from his hands. The friction between the metal of the bar bell and the metal of his grip was making for a volatile workout. It wasn’t so much exercise as it was a test of endurance.

“Errrrrrrrrr! UNGH!” seethed the oversized Russian through more violent reps.

With a few more labored grunts, Piotr’s stamina finally gave out. He dropped the bar bell back on the matted floor, leaving another deep indentation. Now out of breath and panting heavily, the young man keeled over a bit and fought to regain his composure.

I shouldn’t have been nearly as surprised as I was when it happened. The possibility was certainly there. I was just too naïve to acknowledge it. Illyana was a mutant. She was like me in the sense that she was different to a point where others started calling her a monster.

This certainly changed things for her. She had just turned 15 and was showing this bizarre energy that was nothing like my metal skin. She would emit light as brilliant as the sun and in an instant, she would disappear from one place and appear somewhere else. Sometimes it was quite far. I remember one night she disappeared from her own bed and ended up on a rooftop several blocks away. It was scary for her and it made life at the boarding school much more difficult.

The staff was not equipped to deal with her. All those other children who used to call themselves her friends turned their backs on her. They looked at her as if she were a freak. The only reason they did not try and hurt her was because they knew she was my sister. Fear of what I would do or what the Omega Family would do kept her safe, but it did not help her cope any more effectively.

She managed to gain only a moderate amount of control over her powers. This did not change the fact that she now felt out of place and scared. She no longer felt at home in her own country and she looked to me to do something about it. So I did. I cut my ties with the Russian Mafia. It was to be a lifting of a great burden on my soul. However, leaving the Omega Family is not easy.

Omega Red was not pleased with my decision. He did not want to see his favorite courier leave him. My loyalty and success was my only saving grace. His fondness for me is what allowed me to leave. That still didn’t stop him from making me participate in one final task though. He had me act as a key player in that fateful deal with Sebastian Shaw. This deal was a disaster, not just because Shaw betrayed us but because I had to fight the X-men in the process. These were people I considered turning to in order to help Illyana. I foolishly decided to finish my work with Omega Red. In doing so I only set myself up to make a deal with another devil…one who in many ways is even worse.

Still panting heavily, Piotr rose up and stared bitterly at his reflection in the mirror again. This time he was tempted to smash it with his own fists. Such an outburst wouldn’t change the truth. No matter how much he punished himself with these heated workouts, he was still going to be that foolish young man who made a grave mistake not once but on two occasions.

The first mistake was bad enough. Becoming an errand boy for the Russian Mafia put him and Illyana in a dangerous position. On top of that, it corrupted him in a way that he was certainly not proud of. He should have been a better man. He should have learned his lesson. Instead, he put himself in Illyana in even more danger. He placed his trust in a man who once came so very close to destroying this entire world.

I did it again. I reached out to yet another madman. This time it was Magneto, a man who even Omega Red thought was a devious soul. I believed once again that I had no choice. By fighting the X-men in the battle with Shaw, I thought I destroyed any right I had to reach out to them for help. Magneto was the only other option. No one else knew besides Charles Xavier knew more about helping unstable mutants.

Omega Red helped broker a deal. He got me in touch with Magneto and we worked out a deal. I would bring Illyana to Genosha and he would grant us special asylum. He and his vast mutant resources would give Illyana the help she needed to control and manage her powers. She didn’t like the idea and at times I sense she hated me for even coming up with it. I refused to listen to her. I kept telling myself I was doing the right thing by helping her. Once again, I was proven so very wrong.

To finalize this deal I had to do one more of my ill-fated tasks. I had to smuggle a special psionic tracking device from Russia to Genosha. It was an uneventful and simple task, at least in the beginning. Omega Red’s people help me acquire it and Magneto did the rest. I did not even contemplate what Magneto would use this device for. I did not care. All that mattered to me was helping my sister, even if she still hated me for doing so. That arrogance almost destroyed the world.

With this device, Magneto would seek out and unwittingly unleash the Cambrian. This creature came very close to doing what his giant asteroid plot failed to do. I had to watch as this monster grew before my very eyes and threaten to overrun the world. It would have been the ultimate burden. Even my strong shoulders never could have taken it. My only saving grace was the X-men. They were the ones that made up for my mistake. They were the ones that set everything right again. Not only did they destroy the Cambrian, but they introduced me to the Seftons and a man named Shaman. These people were able to do what Magneto and the Omega Family could not. They were able to help Illyana.

It is uncanny how everything came together. Even after all my transgressions, the X-men pulled me and Illyana out of a very difficult position. I am forever indebted to them and to Charles Xavier. As such, I seek to repay this and my many other debts. I am now part of the X-men and for once I feel I’m doing the right thing. At the same time I am still very angry with myself.

Why did it take me so long to make the right decision? Why did I not listen to Illyana? Why did I keep compromising what I knew was right with what I thought to be necessary? I should be stronger than that. I can lift a tank over my head with ease, but I cannot bear the weight of making the harder decisions when they need to be made. Now that Illyana is with the Seftons and getting the help she needs, I have no excuses. I must bear these burdens on my own. The X-men have given me a chance at redemption. For Illyana, my family, and my soul I will not let it go to waste. I cannot. Even a Colossus can fall if it bears too much weight than can be handled.

Having caught his breath and regained his composure, Piotr regained his poise. It was ironic that someone as strong as him had so much difficulty standing on his own accord. That was the burden of having walked such a dark path while keeping his conscious along for the ride. Illyana wouldn’t let him forget and the result was a conflicted soul. That brought him back to his very reason for lifting weights this early in the morning. The lingering burn in his muscles reminded him that there was still much work to be done on his part. He had a long ways to go on his path to redemption.

The Russian mutant kept breathing deep while stretching his muscles. His mind was still tired and the day hadn’t even begun yet. He was just about ready to drag himself back up to his room when the door to the weight room opened and Logan stepped in.

“So this is what was causin’ all those freakin’ thuds,” said the feral mutant, who was dressed in a pair of tattered jeans and a dirty shirt.

“Oh…comrade, Logan,” said Piotr sheepishly, “I apologize. Did I wake you?”

“Do I look like the kind of guy who gets much sleep to begin with?” he quipped, “You ain’t the only one who blows off steam down here this early.”

“I see,” said the Russian, rubbing the back of his head awkwardly, “So I am not in trouble, yes?”

“Trouble? Bub, between the fucked up issues I gotta deal with and the ones you’re clearly dealing with (which I don’t even wanna begin to talk about mind you), there ain’t no punishment for trying to cope. So long as you don’t take up drinking and start stealing my booze, you’re a saint for all I care.”

Piotr actually laughed at the feral mutant’s offbeat words. He didn’t laugh much. He came from a world where humor was uncommon to say the least. There was a strange bit of comfort to be had knowing that he wasn’t the only one with these burdens. In fact, compared to the rest of the X-men he may not even have it the worst. It only reinforced the idea that this was where he belonged. This was where he could be his own person and bear these burdens as he should.

“Thank you, Logan. I appreciate your honest assessment,” said Piotr with a smile.

“Whatever Ruskie,” said Logan as he walked off, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna see how much damage I can do to the Danger Room before Chuck goes bankrupt.”

Next Issue: General Grimshaw

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