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Chapter 1


Written by Adrienne
Last updated: 01/02/2007 02:01:11 AM

Chapter 1

New York City


Collin McCarthy entered the main medical center of the XSE Headquarters. Usually the floors, examining tables and chairs were filled with injured men, but today, there was a single new patient who was the focus of his professional team.

"What's her status, Edwin," Collin asked, leaning over the computers which monitored their subject's vital signs.

"Negative. Still no DNA fusing. She's got probably," the young man, head medic, checked his watch, "fourteen hours left to go before we see any signs of proper functions."

"No leaks in the system, correct?" Collin raised his eyebrow as his stone grey eyes penetrated the lesser man in the room.

"No, sir. Nothing has gone beyond level two status," he replied, swallowing under the stress.

"I'm just waiting for this to reach the Lebeau." Collin turned and started to walk out the door, before muttering to himself, "And trust me, it will."

The steel skyscraper located in the central district of the city rose coolly and calmly out of the stone garden of evil's paradise . . . New York City. It belonged to a single man who was the center of crime, sex, politics and every man and woman's soul . . . . The Lebeau, supposed betrayer of the X-Men, he had long since been held responsible for purging the modern world of their memory. He had also purged his own mind of them, in particular, the memory of her. What good would it do for him now? The chance for that reality had long since past and love harbored no possibilities for him. Those possibilities were dead. He looked out of his penthouse wall-length glass windows to the city beyond -- he owned that city and his blood rushed with delight at that thought.

"Remy, my man," he heard his name being called out as a large, bulky form was illuminated through his antique Japanese cloth panels in the far corner of the hallway. Remy watched as Creed appeared, his arms open in the stiff air, "What?" Creed asked smartly.

"Don' you knock, mon ami?" Remy asked and quickly lit a cigarette, the single flame highlighting his chiseled cheeks, dark hair and Cajun smirk.

"Why knock, 'mon ami', when you are capable of tearin' down the door if you had to," Sabertooth laughed as he sank down into a black, leather sofa. "You won't believe what I heard today," he taunted.

"Monsieur Creed, if you don' wan' t'say what you need t'say, den get da hell outta mon space," Remy was all business and no patience for the likes of Creed.

"Okay, fine, but I don't suppose the XSE poking around the old X-Mansion ruins would interest you at all, huh?" He grabbed a remote control from the coffee table, flicked on the TV set and waited for Lebeau's response while he sang quietly, memories, like the corner of my X-mind.

"Shut up," Remy threw his cigarette at Creed, "and talk."

"My sources are workin' on it, finding out why they're digging their noses into all that rubble. Pretty sure they're out there for something or other." Creed shrugged it off.

"Why don' you take your ass out there an' check yourself, eh?" Remy smirked, his eyes red with the energy that floated through his body.

Creed tossed the remote to Remy and stood up, "Yeah, sure."

It was 2:34 a.m. when the intercom system woke Collin up.

"Hold yer fuckin' horses," he fumbled around in the dark for the light switch and the reply control to the intercom.

"What's the deal," he asked the as-of-yet unidentified person on the other end.

"Sir, sir?" There was static getting in the way of the transmitter.

"Edwin, is that you?" Collin rubbed his hand groggily across his sleep-tousled hair as he propped himself up on one elbow. "You there man?"

"Yes, the project," a slight pause ensued before Collin heard the rest, "she's active sir . . . sir, she's active!" The excitement was evident in his voice. "You gotta get down here, it's unbelievable . . . sooner than we thought!"

"End transmission," Collin canceled the line to avoid having to eliminate any unwanted listeners. He jumped out of be and threw on a pair of jeans over his boxers and grabbed a plain white T-shirt to cover his muscular,

war-toned chest. No time to be a lady's man.

A ten minute drive, fifteen minutes and five security clearance checks later he had found his way to the medic unit. A heard of ten men, some in white lab coats and others in military XSE uniforms had surrounded the tank

where their subject had been monitored since her DNA fused.

"Amazing," Collin was breathless for a second as he watched the young woman's body struggle to move about in a weightless water tank where she had been stabilized. He came to his senses, "Get her out of there Edwin, no time to waste."

"Sir, I was planning on running some more tests before I . . ." he never finished as Collin cut him off.

"Always a scientist, never a man," he moved to break the glass. "I'll do it myself."

As he pulled back his fist to break the glass that held what might be the XSE's last chance at challenging the Lebeau, memories of his first love came to mind. How he wished he could have saved her from the gun fire that erupted on the streets, gun fire that belonged to the Lebeau's forces, gun fire that made him the man he was today. At least he could give this woman another chance -- a chance that the Lebeau had taken away from her originally. He didn't flinch as the glass shattered around skin that was as tight as leather -- nor did he move when the water rushed past his thighs and calves, he waited and caught her limp form in his arms. Removing the oxygen mask, and being careful with the IVS that were still connected to her body, he was given his first opportunity to look closely at her beauty. He could see from one look just how possible it was for the Lebeau to love this one.

"Oh Rogue," Collin sighed, "forever a pawn in this game. Just like the rest of us."

The old X-Mansion ruins never stopped smelling like burnt wood and other things that Creed would rather his extreme senses could sort through. It had been twenty-five years since the massacre, since those pristine walls that Xavier had coated with his dream of Mutant-Human peace were splattered with blood and violence.

His body moved into a hunter-like position as he stalked the XSE soldiers who had surrounded the area. What in the hell are they tryin' to protect, Creed thought to himself. There wasn't anything in there but ruins, they had made sure of that hadn't they? Oh well, he grabbed an unsuspecting officer from behind twisting his neck to a point where it broke, better make sure that's the case. From the east wing there was a way to enter, it's how they all managed to get the hell out of there towards the end. That's where he'd


Rogue . . . Rogue . . . can you open your eyes? Can you open your eyes . . . Rogue . . .

"Rogue, Chere? You in there mon amour?" The Cajun's voice slipped through the solid oak door to Rogue's room.

"Hold your horses, Cajun," she hurriedly pulled up the zipper to her sea-green Gucci dress she had splurged on for their day ahead. She would never let the Cajun-charmer know that she would even think of rushing for

him. Slipping into her strappy, heeled sandals, she called out to him in a sassy-ass tone, "If you're wantin' ta do this, then we're gonna be doin' it right, ya hear?"

"Oh I hear, Chere, I hear," Gambit called through the door in a loving tone. She smiled and opened it as he grabbed her the minute he saw her, enveloping her in his arms as he lifted her up, twirling her around, "I hear

the sound of a sweet voice, your voice Chere, your . . .

. . . Voice . . . Rogue . . . can you hear my voice? She's not responding . . . Rogue . . .

The light around her was like a thick fog and her eyes felt as heavy as glaciers. She didn't want to wake up, want to leave . . . but the light wouldn't let her stay . . . oh Remy . . . . .

"Re . . . Remy?" Rogue's voice was weak as she woke up from the deep slumber she had been in for hours.

"Hello, there," Collin leaned over the woman who was in her mid-twenties.

Her jade green eyes blinked heavily back at him as her rose pink lips formed a question. He put his finger gently above her lips and quietly told her to hush before the surroundings faded out as her eyelids closed.

If it weren't for her throbbing temples and sore throat she might not have believed she was alive. That and the pair of stone grey eyes that gazed down at her full of an impressionable amount of sympathy.

"Ah . . . don't want yoah sympathy . . ." her voice was hoarse as she coughed out the rest, " . . . sugah."

"None given," Collin smirked back calmly, " . . . 'sugah.'"

"Who are ya?" she questioned tentatively, taking in her environment.

"I'm Collin, head of the XSE, Rogue," he rested a hand reassuringly on her shoulder. The fabric of the medical gown crinkled gently from its weight. "It's 2029 and . . . " he was cut off by her sudden outburst.

"What have y'all gone and done," Rogue's eyes fill with tears which she angrily pushed away with her fingertips while her heart raced with anxiety.

Collin reached for her arm, his fingers starting to come in contact with her bare skin, "Rogue . . ." he started.

"Don't touch me!!" Rogue screamed and tried to dodge his skin.

"No, it's okay . . ." he grabbed her arm suddenly as she turned pale white with contact, "we were unable to reconstruct your mutant DNA."

She had no words, only tears, just when she thought she had already lost everything there was to possibly lose.

"You're not happy to have a second chance, Rogue?" Collin was slightly taken aback.

"What are ya, insane?!" The heart monitor between their two bodies started to increase with Rogue's anguish as Collin tried to push her back down on the bed. "Happy with all these crazy pieces of memories floatin' around in mah head? And . . ." she touched his hand with hers roughly, "now this?!"

"Well it wasn't my fuckin' idea to do this. Hell knows that many of my men would give anything to have some second chances," he paced as he said that. "They would be . . . happy . . . with even five minutes of what you

got." He collapsed in the chair next to Rogue and let loose a long breath. "Besides," he didn't look at her, "you get another chance to even the odds. Not many of us do. What's that old saying? Oh yes, 'revenge is sweet.' So

eat all the sweets you can . . . 'sugah'."

"What are ya talkin' 'bout?" Rogue questioned hesitantly.

"I'm talking about one man," he got up and leaned close down over her, his eyes directly focused on hers, " . . . Remy . . . Lebeau."

"Remy . . ." she broke Collin's gaze as air escaped her lungs and her throat caught as she tried to swallow.

"See Rogue, lots can be accomplished here. The XSE sees Lebeau as a political and corporate . . . ah, shall we say . . . 'risk' . . .and we need his strikeforce out of commission to secure the city. And then there's you . . . you can get the justice that so many of us have been searching for since the demise of Xavier's dream."

"Xavier's dream . . . Remy didn't . . ." She stared at Collin.

"Didn't what, Rogue? Butcher and murder your friends like the traitor he is?" Collin questioned. "All you need to do is get up and go look outside and tell me what you see. Cause all you're goin' to see, girl, is a city full of violence and decay under one name . . . Lebeau."

"That's enough!" Rogue's temper flared, "Now ya get one thin' straight," she paused for a breath, exhausted by the effort, "Ah was there when it all ended . . . dont'cha forget it suh." She closed her eyes at the pain that

had magnified in her brow. "Ya don't know diddly squat 'bout what went down." She sighed, "Ah don't even know foah sure what all happened."

"What do you mean," Collin asked quietly as he sat looking intently at her, running his fingers through his hair in that quick, frustrated gesture of his.

"It's . . . it's complicated . . ." Rogue was about to go on, but the door burst open as the room filled with three men in high ranking XSE uniforms.

"Collin! Why weren't we notified that she's active?!" The leader of the three men addressed Collin with a stern look.

"Well, Howdy, sugah, to ya too," Rogue filled the silence with a smart-ass reply.

God, you gotta love that woman's spice, Collin thought and seriously considered finishing up Rogue's statement with a punch to the Major's face.

"Major Johnson, may I introduce you to . . ." Collin started , continuing the smart ass air that Rogue had begun.

"I damn well know who she is Commander! I financed this project," Johnson yelled out.

"Oh, so ah have ya to thank for this fine revival of sorts?" Rogue asked angrily and started to weakly get out of bed, her fists balled up ready to throw a punch at at least the major's gut. The minute her feet unstably touched the ground Collin grabbed her and plunked her back in bed. She glared at him, he winked. "Oh y'all get yoahs later, sugah," she shook her fist at him, but he laughed it off.

"What is so damn funny?" Johnson turned around and stalked the two with the question.

"Nothing," they said in unison.

"I don't believe this," he ranted as he turned to leave the room, the other two officers at his heals. "Wouldn't want to have to put you on the front line again, commander," he threatened before finally leaving.

"What goose flew up his . . ." she started, but Collin's eyes wouldn't let hers leave his gaze.

"This is a dangerous matter . . ." Collin said.

"Yoah one ta talk," Rogue gained in on the mood. "So what now? Am ah gonna haveta lay here all dang day in bed? Or do ah get briefed on what's goin' on in NYC in 2029?"

Her face was sad, her eyes shifted to the white sheets her fingers were playing with.

Collin had been gone from the medic unit while Edwin ran some final tests on Rogue. He had to get his thoughts straight, calm the rage that had come up from the surprise of her defending the Lebeau to him. Cant'

let the history get in the way of the present or the future, he said to himself as he walked into the medic room where Rogue was sitting on an examining table smiling at a blushing Edwin.

"All finished here?" Collin jingled his car keys to let them know they were in a bit of a hurry.

"She checked out okay, but I'd like to check her status a few more times during the week before . . ." Edwin explained, rambling on.

"Yeah, I hear ya," he offered Rogue his hand and she gingerly jumped down to stand by him. "I'll return her to you, on say, Wednesday? Meanwhile . . ." he turned to smile at the former X-Man, "you ready?"

"Sure thing," she walked with him out into the corridor. "I've yet to see the rest of this place, let alone the world outside." They stepped into a sleek elevator that cleared 10 underground levels in one second.

"You nervous?" Collin looked up at the ceiling of the elevator smiling at a camera that he knew was monitoring their every word. "I mean," he shoved his bulky hands into the pockets of the leather jacket he wore, "I would be, if I were in your situation."

"Ah guess so, sugah," she leaned forward from the elevator's wall just as the door opened.

"What are you more nervous about? The city or Lebeau?" Collin pushed, but backed off when Rogue returned his question with a stern glare. "I haven't forgotten your statements . . . just so you know . . . and I'll be digging at you for more . . . . later when you're up to it."

"Go figure," Rogue sighed as they stepped outside into a city that had swept away most natural life forms, like grass and trees and flowers that were rare enough when Rogue was alive, to the point of absolute obliteration.

She blinked in surprise, "Mah gawd . . ."

"You're telling me," Collin said under his breath and moved towards a red car. "This one's mine."

"A Porsche, sugah?" Rogue wasn't sure whether she should laugh or cry at the absurdity of it all.

"Yeah, we still got 'em, that okay with you?" He opened the door for her to slide into.

"Fine by me," she shrugged and relaxed back into the seat. The other side opened and Collin squeezed his form into the driver's side. Rogue was amazed that his body was even able to make it into such a small sports car.

"So we off ta yoah place, like ya said?"


And that was that.

Sitting in his new, but modest apartment, Rogue blinked at Collin who felt like he was going to pull out his hair in frustration.

"So let me get this straight . . ." Rogue tried to keep a serious face at Collin's behavior, but couldn't resist herself. She fluffed the pillow supporting her back on the sofa in which she sat. She hadn't lost her spunk,

and she wasn't about to spare him any, "Ah've been brought back by tha XSE in tha year 2029, after tha death, er death of tha X-Men, er my er whatever . . . deaths . . . ta help yoah people fight 'the Lebeau' who is runnin' tha city inta tha ground and Ah'm supposed ta do so 'cause Ah'm goin' ta want ta get revenge on Remy foah a crime Ah'm not even sure he committed?" She rested her chin in her hands and sighed, "Sounds like ah get ta do yoah dirty work foah y'all."

"I'm curious as to why you keep questioning Lebeau's innocence," Collin folded his arms and braced his legs in a stubborn defiance.

"And ah told ya that he wasn't there . . . not when . . ." her voice grew quiet as pieces of memories attacked her, " . . . when it all started."

"But you admit he parted with the X-Men and was well associated with . . ."

"Ah said that yes, he did part . . . much to my dismay. But he just wanted some time away, Collin. It was family business, guild business, that's all. I don't doubt that . . . . ."

"Well, we do, Rogue," he sighed. "Though I wish, for your sake, that wasn't the case," he kneeled down in front of her, resting his hands on her knees. Her back slouched against his sofa and he hoped he hadn't pushed her

too far, "Rogue, we need your help."

"Sugah . . ." she started, "somethin' just doesn't feel right 'bout all this. Dont'cha feel it?" She grabbed the piece of paper with the XSE emblem on it that detailed a mission that she and Collin were supposed to complete

-- compliments of the Corporate headquarters. They had wasted no time in including her in their affairs.

"Rogue, we have two choices," he took her by the hand and lead her to look out at the city below his apartment windows. "Either we let this city crash and burn with your questionable doubts about Remy Lebeau, or you trust the XSE and the current reality, the closest thing you've got to Xavier's

dream right now."

She didn't have the heart to tell him she didn't always trust Xavier or his dream. She gave it some thought,

"Nuthin' fatal is goin' to go down, right?"

"No, I just have to get in, get a disk, and get out." He stated firmly.

"What do ya need then, Collin?" She asked sadly.

"A distraction, " he grasped her hands softly in his, "for Remy. And you're the best one I can think of."

Collin and Rogue sat at the kitchen table eating pizza and going over the details for the night to come. It was 1:14 in the morning, the mood had lightened dramatically and Rogue was starting to warm up to her new


"Really glad they still make this stuff," Rogue laughed as cheese melted over her fingers.

"You're telling me," Collin slammed half a slice into his mouth at once.

"That is so disgustin'," Rogue gawked.

"Yeah," Collin said, his mouth full of food, "and?"

"And if ya weren't so darn cute, ya might not be able ta get away with that!" Rogue laughed.

"You've got . . ." Collin laughed, pointing at her chin.

"Whut?" Rogue blinked still laughing too.

"Here . . ." Collin reached over and started to rub off the sauce from her small chin with his finger. Rogue leaned closer, trying to make it easier, but he didn't think, he just reacted to her move. His lips pressed

roughly and soundly against hers. At first she was still shocked by the feel of someone elses skin against hers without the consequences, but then she sighed and let go. Just as it started, it ended with Rogue pulling abruptly away from him.

"No," She put the back of her hand against her lips and looked away, "Collin, ah, ah just cain't . . ." She sighed, ". . . not yet."

"Yeah, sure, not yet," he knew what she had to discover before he even had a glimmer of hope. He looked away and then refocused, "so let's go over this once more."

Rogue sighed and started to repeat the instructions, "At 11:00 p.m, tomorrow, you and I are to enter 'the Lebeau's' main headquarters." She stopped and hit the paper, "What is with this 'the Lebeau' thing?" She lifted

the paper and looked up quickly at Collin muttering, "Makin' him into some untouchable," she went on, clearing her throat before Collin could interrupt, "where I am to . . ."

"I'm sorry," Collin blurted out, and he felt like an ass for doing so.

"Whut?" Rogue was taken off guard. "Collin . . ." she smiled at him, watching his steel grey eyes smolder to a faint ash, "it's okay, sugah. It's not like Ah'm taken . . ." her heart pounded slowly and sadly, "or anything. Ya don't find it odd that a corporation has interest in the 'welfare' of a city against another man who is also head of some very powerful corporations?" Rogue looked at Collin, questioning.

"You're worried about it being from a corporation . . . don't . . . it all comes down to funding Rogue, that's all. Besides there are others out there that the XSE pinpoints beyond Lebeau's. The XSE corporate branch's higher ethic codes are supported by this city, they set the standards. Besides, they brought you back, didn't they?" He questioned.

"Yeah," Rogue paused, "they did."

"Remy, somethin' odd is happenin' at the X-Mansion," Creed singsonged into the cell phone, "and I'm not just wastin' your air-time, either."

"Y'betta be telling' me that they are off the grounds," Remy warned. Unlike Creed, the X-Mansion still asked for an amount of respect and peace from the outside world. No one was gonna go in and dig up the past if he could help it.

"Well, no one is movin' if that helps," Creed laughed.

"You break necks, mon ami?" Remy wanted to break Creed's neck. That was all he needed, the XSE fire added to the fire he was receiving from another group known as The Quadrant. His corporation was under fire from many different angles and he had a score to settle in an all or nothing game. And I have the winning hand, he thought.

"Lebeau," Creed glanced around the dark grounds as he walked back to the east wing talking on the phone, "Cerebro has been activated."

"Cerebro? What the . . ." Remy started by Creed wasn't finished.

"Yeah, and get this, there's data available . . . when I got there they were deleting things."

"Deletin' what, don' waste time man! What were they deletin'?!" Remy paced around his desk to get to his jacket and grab his staff.

"Don't know Gumbo, couldn't read the stuff. You might want to get down here and translate, eh?" And with that he hung up.

It was three thirty a.m. when the Cajun pulled up, on a now antique Harley, at what were once the front gates to the Xavier Institute. He hadn't been there for over ten years, and he wouldn't have given coming back a

second thought until Cerebro's activation. When they had left, Cerebro was totaled. He hopped the brick wall for old times sake and hit the grass which was soaked with midnight's dew. "Home sweet . . ." he didn't finish the sentimental thought. The ruins were a gigantic mess except for half of the second level, which had part of it still standing on shaken foundations. But underneath the collapsed floors and roof the underground training and tunnel areas were still intact -- useless, but intact.

"Remy, 'bout time," Creed walked towards him in the moonlight. There wasn't a star in the sky to give any wanderer direction towards home.

Remy handed him a cigar, "I wasn't in any rush, mon ami."

"Figured," Creed took a puff of his cigar. "Shoulda brought Karma along, Remy. We coulda used her in case somethin' gruesome is waitin' down there."

"Only thing gruesome enough to drag my main medic out here for, is you," Remy laughed. "Besides, you took care of tha guards, ain't nuthin' else alive out here." He flung the smoke down and started walking across the vast acreage. "Karma is a busy girl . . ."

"Too busy," Creed stated as they swung themselves through the opening on the east wing to the underground tunnels and training area of the X-Mansion.

It was dark as Creed joked, "Check this out," he flicked a switch and florescent light filled their dark decent.

Remy gave a long whistle, "I'm impressed."

"Someone sure has been busy, eh?" Creed smirked and flexed his claws.

They started walking down the tunnel, the walls alien with cold steel. Remy's leather jacket fanned out at the pace he was keeping while the metal boots to his uniform made a slight echoing on the floor as he walked, just

like they always did.

"Mon dieu," he addressed the air with a sense of sacrilege and walked towards a functioning Cerebro.

"Better than what I said," Creed continued, "I said holy . . ." but he was talking to himself.

"I can't believe this," the second cigarette that Remy had unconsciously lit fell uselessly from his mouth to the floor, slowly burning out. He pushed a few buttons rapidly and moved to do some more when his foot slammed into something soft. Remy shut his eyes in annoyance and anger and was about to say something to Creed when the silence was filled.

"Oops," Creed said from behind him. "Let me move that for you," he dragged the corpse away. "Poor guy musta crawled there before he died, or else I would've made sure the area was clear," it was all a big joke to Creed.

"This is all Xavier's files, integrated into Cerebro, salvaged . . ." he watched as numbers and alien language flew by, " . . . but barely." Remy shook his head, "It's all incomplete data."

"Yeah, but what kind of data, kid?" Creed tapped the screen.

"DNA data," Remy shook his head, "useless, most of the major strands missing . . . except with . . .no . . . " His face grew white and Creed couldn't even remember the last time that had happened. But then again, Creed thought back . . .

"Gumbo, what sucked you dry of Mama Cajun's spice?" Creed waved his hand in front of the screen and was annoyed when Remy whacked it away with his staff.

"This no' funny . . . they had no right, N'Right At All!" He yelled and slammed his fist into Cerebro's main board, not bothering to step back when sparks started to fly.

"Woah, woah, cool it Cajun boy. You might need this thing later," Creed said but Remy had already stalked off into the nothingness of the Xavier Institute.

"10:30 p.m.," Rogue said from behind the bathroom door, "almost distraction time."

"And if you don't hurry, we're going to miss 'distraction time'. You do realize that, don't you?" Collin said quietly, knocking gently on the door. He paused to slide his hand down the smooth wood, thinking things to himself that his own mother would have smacked him for.

"Hold your horses," Rogue struggled with the zipper and looked in the mirror when all of a sudden her mind, overwhelmed by a sudden flash of memories, caused her to fall. It was that day . . . I was going to go with

him, but . . .

Just as she could see it all so quickly her attention had to turn elsewhere as Collin kicked in the door, his plasma rifle drawn, "Rogue!"

"Whut!?" Rogue rubbed her neck and looked up at him from the floor, startled.

"You screamed, I thought something was wrong," Collin helped her up.

"In the bathroom?" Rogue questioned and acknowledged that there was no way in or out of that room except through the door which Collin had not only kicked in but also had been pacing outside of for nearly twenty-five minutes.

"You could've slipped, or something," he sheepishly grinned at her.

"Yeah, right, the only thing that is wrong is this damn zipper," she tugged at it, her arm straining blindly behind her back. It was only then that Collin realized exactly how Rogue looked, she was quite . . . noticeable. A tight, black mini dress with spaghetti straps and cut off at a little above mid-thigh showed off well toned muscular thighs and calves sheathed behind black thigh high stockings. The material clung to her body as tightly as his eyes did, as they flowed over her gracious hips and cute feet enclosed in small black heels. He wanted to reach out and touch the small tendrils of hair that had collapsed over her neck from where it had

been pulled back.

"Here," he started to zip up the dress for her, "let me help."

"Thanks, sugah," she turned around and smiled, reminding him of the heart that wasn't his.

"So," she stood back and extended her arms, "whaddaya think?"

Collin cleared his throat and refocused his mind, "I think you're very . . .uh, distracting."

She laughed and so did he.

"Rogue," he took her hands and lead her out onto the balcony where a night wind cooled his sense, "I know you've had an awful lot to absorb in a little amount of time."

"Hun, ah don't think Ah've absorbed much yet," she breathed silently, turning her face into the wind.

"That's what I'm worried about. That and those unanswered questions," he said.

"They're starting to bother you, too, huh?" She asked searching the sky for a star. There were none to be seen, just like the night before when she had come out onto the balcony to think about things.

"But, why now?" Rogue turned to him.

"Because one of my men told me the Quadrant was on the move, and I'm wondering why," he didn't explain much for Rogue.

"The Quadrant? Who are they?" Rogue couldn't remember such a group when she had been with Xavier.

"They showed up after you all disappeared, started buying out stocks, banks, merging their current operations into one big corporate mecca of sorts. Then after seven years or so of that, they disappeared. No one really heard or saw much of them after that until about five years ago when they reinvested their interests in NYC," he explained.

"Just like you all . . ." Rogue said with consideration.

"What do you mean?" Collin asked.

"They're interested in the city," she explained, "So, anyone else?

There's the XSE, Remy and now 'The Quadrant'. And y'all want at least a big chunk of the city, and I'm supposin' each other as well?"

"That's . . ." he nodded, " . . . that's 'bout right. The Corporate branch wants us to get that chip tonight to see if Lebeau is planning anything in conjuncture with The Quadrant. We couldn't fight his forces with theirs. We'd be overwhelmed and the city would be lost. They've been putting some pressure on your favorite X-Man, Remy, and we think he's going to give out."

"Remy isn't one to cut a deal all fast-like. Especially when it's his interests at stake. Besides, what's yoah interest in this Collin?" Rogue was curious. She'd heard all about the XSE and every one elses interests, all but Collin's own.

"No one has really asked me that before," he went to the railing and grabbed two fo the metal bars separating him from ten stories of loose air and a concrete bottom. "I guess, I just want my people, this city to have better. To have all the violence end, much like what Xavier wanted. Though our tactics are very different than yours used to be."

"As long as y'all are flyin' with tha angels, than yoah on the right track," Rogue smiled and moved toward him.

But Collin pulled away, "I haven't been flying with the angels, Rogue," he paused thinking, "I've been obeying them . . . for better or for worse."

Remy sat in his leather, desk chair in the dark, his fingers idly turning a small disk around, over again and over again in a meditative action. His mind was filled with thoughts of not only the Quadrant, but Cerebro as well.

"Hell," he muttered out loud and flung the disk down on the desk. The information it contained left him with little or no options. An alliance was necessary, but was it possible? Hell, the other side didn't even know what

was at risk, and would they even believe him?

"Remy?" A soft female voice surprised Lebeau as the door to his office opened up slowly, the outside light illuminating the darkest of corners.

"Karma," Remy greeted.

"What are you doing in here," she questioned, looking around.

"No need t'sign ole Remy up for the white jacket and padded walls, Karma," Remy teased, "I healthy, me."

"Uh huh, bout as healthy as a three legged cat being chased by a hound dog." She laughed. Karma was a sweet woman, a damn brilliant one at that. She had medical knowledge that would make most greedy men drop to their knees in daydreams of profit.

"Have you seen Creed around," She asked fidgeting with the doorknob.

"Got a date with tha animal?" Remy smirked.

"It's not like that," Karma stuttered in embarrassment, "I mean . . ."

"I jus' jokin' wit you, chere." Remy picked up the disk from his desk and put it in his coat pocket. He grabbed his lighter and near empty carton of cigarettes and started walking out the door. Karma stepped aside in the


"Are you entertaining tonight?" She asked, looking him up and down.

A mischievous gleam occupied the Cajun's eyes, "I'm expectin' company, if thas wha' y'mean, chere."

"I don't know if that is what I mean," Karma glared at Remy. That gleam meant trouble, secrets, lies and heartbreak -- she was all to familiar with the game herself.

"Pah, n'need t'worry 'bout Remy, neh? He the king of . . ." Remy was about to finish, but Karma added another ending for him.

" . . . of thieves," and with that she winked at him and walked towards the elevator.

"Ha," Remy laughed, shook his head, and ran after her.

Karma and Remy were sitting at a back table in one of the hottest nightclubs that NYC could possibly house . . . and of course it was Remy's place. Just another financial provider for the affirmed Monsieur Lebeau, was the way the public and private sector looked at it. Money was what kept things turning.

As Creed arrived and joined them at the table, Remy looked at his watch,

"It's 10:45, 'bout time y'got yer hairy ass in here."

"Hey, I was doing your dirty work, remember?" Creed banged his fist on the table.

"What sort of dirty work," Karma asked both men at the table.

Remy nervously rubbed the back of his neck looking around the club at dancers, minglers and anyone else who would serve as a diversion. Creed swallowed hard, "Oh, nothing your pretty mind should worry about, girl," he offered.

"He's jus' sweet on you, Karma," Remy laughed and watched as Creed was about to explode before Karma tamed him with a smile that simmered the heat at the table.

"So when are they going to get here?" Creed impatiently pulled over the candle, from its location at the center of the table, to him where he played with its flame.

"Soon," Remy slowly blew smoke from his cigarette out of his nose, "very soon."

"Well Karma and I are going to go look through some files downstairs," they sild out of the both, Karma winking at Remy while Creed waved bye, "See ya 'round, Kid."

The club was packed when Collin and Rogue walked in. Though no one would recognize him as a member of the XSE at this particular location, so he hoped, he still dressed in a dark trenchcoat to remain inconspicuous, and compared to some of the club-goers it was working a little too well. Rogue kept herself in the background, wearing a dark black cloak that, if taken off, would have the exact opposite effect due to her garments underneath.

That damn dress, Collin thought to himself, frustrated.

"Dammit to hell," Collin looked around, his trained eyes focusing immediately on the armed guards who surrounded the club. He blocked out all other distractions such as dancers and waitresses, concentrating on the task at hand.

"What's tha matter," Rogue was nervous, as well she should be, but her mind, ever focused, was clear enough to pick up on Collin's frustration.

"He's posted more guards than what we were told to expect," Collin looked at her and then motioned them back against the wall away from the rainbow assortments of lights that flickered about recklessly to a dangerous beat of music. "It's like he was expecting us, or at least someone to cause a little trouble." He grabbed his portable intercom and patched in to another man that they were supposed to rendezvous with. "C-com 13, you there asshole?"

Collin was gruff.

"Yeah, and who are you calling an asshole," they had been through hell and back again, and both men knew that the other had the best of intentions with those harsh words.

"You, of course," Collin noted that Rogue was scanning the room, and he knew exactly who for. He guessed that the kid was in a bit of shock with how much her "reality" had changed from "yesterday" to today. "What's going on C-13?"

"The disk was unavailable," the intercom quietly explained. High-tech gadgets were the in-thing for XSE scientists to fool with, second only to DNA and genetics. No one could trace their channel or overhear the conversation without a 59A chip to intercept. "We think it's on the Lebeau," the voice provided.

Rogue and Collin both looked at the intercom and then cursed together by accident.

"I take it that you didn't plan on approaching anything other than the disk itself? You're losing your touch, Collin," the man teased.

"Yeah yeah, I'll have your hide for this. Over and out." Collin slid the small gadget back into his tight jean's pocket and scanned the room.

"He's over in the right corner, back center table," Rogue said quietly, a little too quietly. "He's so . . ." Rogue blinked at Remy, who looked like he still did back when they were together, still in his late twenties, ". .

.so, young!"

"That's what happens when you are immortal," Collin wiped some sweat from his brow.

"Immortal? But . . ." She started, but she could tell Collin had decided to leave it at that. "Wha' are we goin' ta do, Collin? Ah was goin' ta distract tha guards which would distract Remy, but tha's all gone ta hell, sugah. If ah walked up ta him now, it would cause . . . oh hell, ah don't fancy anything it'd cause," she bit her lip.

"I thought you told me he was innocent and that you trust him," Collin mocked her in a suppressed way. It wasn't that he didn't want to give her the benefit of the doubt, or that the thought of Lebeau being an innocent

might answer questions, but there was too much bitterness . . . and jealousy, behind it all. It'd be a damn hell to have to break her heart and kill the bastard, though the XSE had been trying to accomplish that for a longwhile . . . before Rogue came back. Still, there was no time to waste, they needed that disk and the information it contained. He pulled out his weapon and started to charge it, damn shame.

"What are ya doin'?!" Rogue was horrified as Collin shrugged her off and started to make his way, stealthily and silently across the club towards where Lebeau sat. It was amazing what a war-trained mind could accomplish, masking its intentions and bodily actions from innocent minds who were withdrawn from the

surreal experiences that Collin was so accustomed to. He was ten feet away from where the disk was held by its owner when all hell broke lose, and for once, it wasn't Collin's fault. People were scattering, running everywhere as Lebeau's guards turned to fire at the entryway to the club. Someone, or something, was fucking up Collin's night even more than it had been.

"Rogue!" Collin yelled through the maze of people, and smiled as he saw her artfully dodge various bodies and make her way towards him.Just then a burly man, in a panic, made the mistake of thinking to use Rogue as a shield from flying bullets. The minute he grabbed her around the waist and started to hull her off, Collin was on his ass. But he didn't make it to within even five feet of Rogue before she did the handy-work for him.

Taking the man off guard, with skilled training from years past, she elbowed him in the face, stunning him, then did a round-house kick to his jaw, knocking the man down to the floor, unconscious. She dragged him off the floor, away from running feet and deadly fire, "Y'all will be safer there, sugah," she looked up and spotted the perpetrators then took off running again, past the maddened crowd, and reached Collin.

"Oh, you're good," Collin whistled, and gave a sultry grin.

"Uh huh, ah know, but we've got problems. Do twenty men in black an' red army gear with gold circle emblems mean anythin' to ya? Oh and they have really big guns, too," she added humor to the mess.

"Quadrant," Collin growled. "Fuck!" He shouted and shoved off another frightened patron who tried to hide behind him. "Where's Lebeau?" Collin scanned the crowd.

Rogue looked around in the madness, moving dangerously into the center of the action where the whole thing was going down. Collin was right behind her as she saw Remy charge up a deck of cards and fling several of them, non-stop, at the intruders. She gasped and grabbed Collin to the floor as a charged card went whizzing over their heads.

"Theah he is," she stated flatly.

"Things have changed," he added an extra charge extension to his weapon to get double impact.

"Nah, really," Rogue stated sarcastically as they moved forward.

"We're grabbing Lebeau and getting out of here," he said, "all bets are off. He's got the disk, we need the disk, and it looks as though the Quadrant," he had to stop while he kicked one of the soldiers in the face, cracking the man's chin and then moving forward to knock him out with one swift fist, before he could finish, "wants the disk, too. We were fed the wrong information, Rogue. Remy wasn't expecting us, either. He was expecting them!"

"Collin!" Rogue tried to warn him, as she dodged a fist herself, and went crashing into a table. "Look out!" she yelled on her way down to the floor, her head banging angrily against the wood. She watched as he was knocked off balance, the plasma rifle kicked out of his hand and sent skidding across the floor, while five men surrounded him.

"Remy," she pushed herself up, looking around, where Remy was having success blending in with the never-ending mob of people that were continuing to flow out of the surrounding area. Four floors, endless space which provided a place where thousands of people could go to have a good time, unfortunately didn't provide for a successful emergency exit in a mad rush. She moved into the flow of people, she didn't really have to direct herself as her body was swept along . . . jus' a few more feet an' ah got him, she pulled the hood of her cape up around her face and reached out, straining the muscles of her arm, and desperately pushed her hand and upper body through the crowd, where she snagged a jacket and gave a yank. She stared at red, energy filled eyes for a second and the world seemed to stop for a moment before they were both pushed off towards the side by Collin.

"Come on," he pointed his plasma rifle at Remy, who held up his hands and dropped the cards he was holding.

"Nice of ya ta join us, Collin," Rogue said, trying not to let a flood of emotions well up.

"Mes amis, I'm t'inking y'wan' t'get out of here as much as I do, vous comprenez? Oui?" Remy offered and shrugged as Collin's retrieved plasma riffle moved closer to his forehead. "Though I'm no one t'argue wit big

guns, neh?"

They moved towards the door as Remy's guards fell and defenses were slowly lost. Outside the club, they ran into an alleyway and watched as back windows were smashed, glass showering onto concrete like fine diamonds, and ropes flew through. Any minute, they would be followed by armed men ready to take out whoever they came in contact with.

"Uh," Collin blinked, "let's go this way," he grabbed the two behind him and made a sharp turn left, running through another building, disrupting a restaurant kitchen.

"Oh, this is just great Collin," Rogue slid on the slick kitchen tile floor as they prepared to run through the dining area.

"Mes amis, I'm t'inking this wasn't a well t'ought out plan," Remy grabbed a breadstick as he ran past the angry chef, following his fleeing companions, "neh?"

"I've noticed you haven't separated from this little party, Lebeau,"

Collin noted sourly as his lungs grabbed at the air to keep his running-pace possible.

"Neh, makin' sure da lady here," he pointed unknowingly at Rogue, "doesn't trip an' fall in dose heels of hers, eh?" He grinned.

They ran past horrified diners and out onto the street where they followed the empty concrete down a block or two as Collin honed into the rendezvous, "C-13, we're on 4th and Cherry, get your ass out here," a squeal of tires shot through the air as Collin finished and yelled, "now!"Doors to a Limo sprang open and the three jumped into the car as best they could. Practically rolling into the seats, they gasped for air as the Limo sped down unknown, desolate streets. The window, that seperated the passengers from the driver, opened up and a man in his forties glanced at them in the rear-view mirror.

"Well, this is certainly unexpected," he looked anxiously at the Lebeau.

"We were set up," he said.

"Yeah, I noticed," the man known only as C-13 said. And with that the window raised up again. The back seat with the three occupants was dead quiet, except for the gasps of air their lungs were craving for. Collin frowned and tried not to watch as Rogue slunk over to the far seat across from him, turning her head, surprisingly enough, away from Remy Lebeau. He cleared his throat and then hunted for another weapon to keep on hand. He made it a point to let Lebeau see exactly what he had with him, while he stated the facts,

"You have only a few options. It seems as though we were your only out tonight. And we were both set up. But I have a good feeling, we both have a lot to learn, with things being very different on each side."

"I t'ink I agree," Remy, serious, lit a cigarette and stared at the woman who sat across from him, and who was quite noticeably avoiding him. He continued to look at the woman and noticed that this other man, whom she had addressed as Collin, seemed to be irritated that he was doing so. "Merci, chere," he said.

Rogue didn't look at him, but stated out loud, trying to downplay her southern accent, "for what?"

"For yankin' moi out of harms way, ne c'est pas?" he said. But Rogue didn't reply. So he laughed and turned to Collin, trying to lighten the mood. "She a real quiet one."

"Yeah," Collin stated flatly.

"What's y'name, chere?" Remy had barely gotten the question out before the Limo screeched to a halt. It was in that moment that Rogue's choice of whether to give herself away or not was decided by the one element she hadn't counted on . . . fate. As the Limo halted itself she was thrown forward into the seat towards Remy where she landed practically in his lap, her cloak thrown back, exposing her for him to see. Remy's face paled considerabley and he looked as though he had somehow just lost a sure bet.

Collin had yet to notice as he yelled at C-13, "Jesus Christ, take it easy would you? This isn't the Costal Wars, so stop," his voice trailed off as he saw Lebeau and Rogue staring at each other in equal horror, ". . .

reliving . . . it."


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