Here it is, the final chapter of X-Men Rising, Part One – 'Birds of a Feather'!

Well… after a few quick (su-u-u-u-ure) Author Notes, of course. Hehe.

Review responses:

Tigresblanco n' Shippo: Happy to oblige ya:winks:

Ishandahalf: Omg, tell me about it! I couldn't even check my hit count (which I like live for since it's early in the story to be expecting many reviews and it's been so long since I'm posted on the site that most people have forgotten about me) let alone, I couldn't post this here final chapter of Part One that's just been itching to make an appearance! Lol. The quickness of the pace and the meeting the characters like Gambit and the Carol thing are purposeful in that, I originally did this in script format, which well, means that there's a limited time frame to fit it all in. 'Cause let's face it, if you can't read a script in around two hours then filmed, it won't fit in two hours. Lol. The entire point of this first part is to set things in motion, as if it was the opening fifteen minutes or so of a movie. In prose form, it obviously takes up much more space and time for the reading, since I can describe so much more, use the words in place of what actual visuals would do for ambiance, flavor, mood, pacing, etc. On how much of Carol Rogue got… well, you're not the only one wondering. In no time at all, the Professor and the others are going to be addressing that issue. But, here's a hint… it all ties in to repercussions of Striker's attack on mutants! Okay, so that's not that much of a hint since it's in the story summary. Hehe. Oh, and if you liked what you've seen of Gambit so far… :giggles: …you're going to LOVE this chappy. Let the flirting begin. Appropriately, or not. Guess he didn't learn his lesson even after being tossed around as easily as swatting a fly (as you so wonderfully put it, hehe). But, then again, they don't call him Gambit without reason. :D And I'm so very glad you liked the Gambit pic. Of all the pics I've done while writing this, so far, that is by far my favorite. :D Thank you so much, ish!

Anamarie Chambers: I'm ecstatic that the action scenes are being enjoyed. Sometimes I think I am horrible at them, in prose, at least, but I know I'm better when writing in film/video script format, and like I told ish, this started out as a script, so the translation came out so much better on the concept of action than it usually does, I think. I need to remember that for later actiony-prose. Note to self: script action first, then fill in the prose! Hehe. I had so much fun with Gambit's introduction. I wanted him to explode onto the page (screen) like Nightcrawler does in X2 (though I first wrote this scene way before X2 came out… you can even check a previous evolution of this story on Redemption Remix—for proof of the date. Lol. I had an even cooler earlier version of his first presence in my first Movie-verse fic, with him pickpocketing people in the subway station and choosing poorly in a group of students on an outing. In that one, the lights all go out and the action is only revealed via the sparks and booms of Remy's charged cards and Jubilee's firework pafts. I might evolve that scene into use somewhere in here if I can, maybe a danger room session or something, because, dang did I enjoy writing that and thought it came out so cool! Ahem… enough gushing about my own stuff. Hehe. Next topic of your review… Remy's voice. Could you tell I was having a good time coming up with different ways to describe it? 'Cause boyo, did I ever! Lol. Thank you as well, for checking out the pic. I have some on that site for some of my original stories too (script and novel/short-story), I believe. Drawing helps me flesh out a story big time. So does acting out some of the scenes (vocally) as I write. Though I don't have enough paying work yet, I'm an actress, singer, writer, director, and minor artisan otherwise, and I can't tell you how those fields all feed each other to make performance in each arena much more lush and denser. Alas, work in those fields in my location is all but nil. So, unfortunately, I don't get that creative outlet as much as I'd like. But, I'm working on it. Hubby and I (musician, composer, pro lights/sound) are saving up to move to a location with more work opportunities in the entertainment and artistic fields we so love. And, I must say, that your comment about Remy not having control where Rogue is concerned made me laugh out loud for real. Seriously awesome comment, that! Hehe. But, be careful what you wish for… 'cause it's not all going to go as smoothly as the Mississippi's push. Hint: See the title of Part 02, located at the end of this chappie!

Wow… some long Review responses there, huh? Hehe. Not quite done with the Author's notes yet, so have patience. Gotta get just a couple nods in there. Read them if you can, because these people truly deserve their acknowledgements.

Thanks for the 'fave':
Hot-Salsa & Tigresblanco n' Shippo!

Thanks for the 'alert':
CelticHero, Kitsu Lebeau, Kylelara, Melissa Black 13, Prexistence, RgGoth & Tigresblanco n' Shippo!

Thanks for the 'hits':
Everyone! Even if ya just popped on for a gander and didn't read, seeing that hit-count up to 881 (when I typed this) just gave me the giddy flutters in my head and my tummy!

Special thanks to SLH for beta-reading the very first drafts of this in prose format… like over a year ago. ( :hides in shame: )
You are such an awesome peer and friend. I certainly hope you find a way to update those awesomely lovely X-Men stories of your own.

Everyone, PLEASE don't forget to check out the pics via the links (put . in place of (dot)) in the footnotes! Feel free to comment about them here and/or on the deviant art page I link ya too. :D

Okay, that's all for the Author's Notes. On with the real attraction!


Chapter Four

With Major Danvers in a fireman's hold, Logan took the lead. It hadn't gotten any brighter since they first peered into the pit after Sabretooth's fall, but at least they had rails on either side of the staircase that hugged the interior of the wall—an enormous spiral—to direct them. The center of the pit was like a coal cylinder, matte-inky black, smearing onto them and swallowing them whole. Even with heightened senses, Logan could barely see to reach the rails and the steps immediately ahead of him, let alone how much farther they had to go to reach the bottom. Whatever could possibly be lurking in there was the least of their concerns at the moment. Instead, their first priority consisted of outrunning a couple of squads of army soldiers.

Storm, Bobby, Rogue, and Kitty kept close behind Logan. Next came McCoy, still carrying the cuffed, unconscious male. Scott brought up the rear.

The first batch of soldiers teetered over the rim. Their steps on the grated stairs echoed at a deafening decibel. Scott blasted a warning shot. PHOOM! It grazed a soldier, spinning his torso up and back, his arm flailing out and behind him, his hand squeezing a trigger reactionary—RATATATATATATATAT!

Bobby threw up a small ice shield that a few rounds pinged off of. Kitty phased and a couple passed through her to bite and lodge into the wall. Mostly, though, everyone ducked. Everyone, except Scott, that was. To be sure he hadn't imagined what he had seen in the wash of light from his beam, he fired again. PHOOM! This time, they all saw it—saw them.

Purple. Blue. Clunky skeletal things glistening like wet bruises in the reflection of Scott's red optic blasts. Their red eyes seemed about to fire a beam of some kind. (1) (2)

"Shit! Get down!" Logan.

"Go! Go! Go!" Kitty yelled and scrambled forward into Rogue and Bobby. The three of them tripped and bumped down several stairs past Logan.

"Goddess!" Storm.

"Giants!" Nightcrawler.

"Stars and Garters!" Duh, Hank, of course. "They actually made them!"

"I don't think they're operational," Scott said. He didn't even flinch at the sight of them. A man half-numb with lingering grief. "They would have attacked already if they were."

"What are they?" Bobby.

PHOOM! Scott fired off another warning blast to keep the soldiers at bay. It gave them another moment to stare—awed, horrified, intrigued, and trembling—at the monstrosities. Scott's beam cut off an instant latter and the monstrosities were rubbed out by the fog of sooty darkness in a blink of his eyes, quick enough to doubt if there were ever really there.

"Get up," Logan said to the trio that had fallen ahead of him. "Keep moving."

Bobby and Kitty continued, but Rogue lifted herself afloat and ambled over the railing. "I'll distract the soldiers."

"Like hell you will," Logan snarled. "This isn't the Danger Room. Those are live rounds."

As Kurt and Storm passed by them, Rogue fingered a hole torn in her sleeve. She showed off a second one on her upper shoulder. And, yet still, she showed another at her abdomen, near her hip. She held up three impact-compressed bullets to Logan in offering.

"Apparently, Miss Marvel there is bullet-proof too."

He smacked them out of her hand. "But how long will you be?" To the passing McCoy, it seemed belittling, cruel, like kicking an arrogant, ignorant child off her pedestal.

PHOOM! Another distraction shot. Scott had caught up. "What's the hold up?"

"Thinks she's Jean or something."

Rogue took immediate offense. So did Scott. But he hid it well in the dark. She couldn't even hear evidence of the tightness in his jaw when he said, "Nobody lags behind. We leave together."

Kitty's hands oozed up from below and latched onto Scott's legs. They watched in surprise as bullets harmlessly ripped through him. Logan grunted with two ripe hits. His hands instinctively capped the stomach wounds and, as such, he dropped Danvers. Rogue caught her, barely, before she tumbled over the rails and into the syrupy oblivion below. The bullets either completely missed Rogue and Danvers, or like Rogue suggested, she—and Rogue by proxy—was invulnerable.

Kitty's head surfaced enough to say, "We found the elevator. Storm sent me to fetch you." She smiled, private joke like. "Going down."

Scott had sunk ankle deep already when Logan found he was being lifted. His eyes rolled back in his head from the pain the abrupt movement caused on his now-healing punctured stomach and Rogue smirked—smart-ass—for getting the upper hand on him. Her smile only grew as she flew them down. She was enjoying Danvers' powers almost too much.

In moments, the entire team stepped onto the clangy freight elevator with its metal mesh floors, walls, and doors.

"Going up," Kitty said brightly as she activated the elevator.

"Going home," Bobby sighed in weary relief.

The threatening footfalls of the soldiers echoed more and more dimly as they rose up the elevator shaft. So did the gunfire pings.

Creeaaak…Ping! Fump-fump! Thud. The seatbelt buckle finally lost its struggle with the bulky man's girth. A piece snapped off, flung into the tray in it's upright position against the back of the seat that pressed against his knees, to finally settle on the carpeted floor between his feet. He shifted, gaining comfort, but didn't wake.

"This is humiliating," Cortez grumbled. He was in the aisle seat, to the left of the man that popped his seatbelt in his sleep. The passengers around them were openly staring.

"It's boring," Quicksilver said from the window seat. He was on the other side of the larger-than-a-line-backer man his father had sent them to retrieve. Thrrrmp-thrrmp-thrrmp-thrrmp-thrrmp… The speedy drumming of Quicksilver's fingers on the armrest gave credence to his nickname in equal measure as his hair did. Well, his hair was more white than silver, really.

"At least he stopped snoring, Fabian," Pietro offered. He was trying to make the best of their awkward, cramped situation on the public airplane.

Of course, with that said, the sleeping man's snores returned.

Cortez groaned. "You just had to say something, didn't you, Pietro?" He elbowed the snoring man. "Cain, you dumb meathead. Wake up."

The low rumble of the engines was a reassuring presence to them. A half-hour into the flight and they were starting to relax. McCoy returned up front from his second check on the restrained passengers, ahem, prisoners. It kept him busy among these strangers, his rescuers.

"They are still unconscious," McCoy reported. Settling back in his seat, he asked of Rogue, "If you don't mind my inquiring—"

"Memories, personality, powers, energy, and sometimes physical traits," Rogue said before he even completed the question. It was tiring to always explain it to people. "I get them all, absorb them, and they get a nap."

"John didn't," Bobby said. Was that suspicion, accusation braided into his tone?

"When they do lose consciousness, how long does it usually last? How long do you retain their abilities?" Hank was like a kid with a new toy. He looked like he wanted to take her apart; figure out how all her pieces worked, and put her back together.

"The guy's faking it," Logan said, ceasing the conversation. He flicked a distrusting look at Doctor McCoy. Despite the cordial nature he sensed from furry man, Logan didn't much like the eagerness he was so openly displaying. It harkened too close to wanting to dissect her. Not really, but enough. Regardless, he was more wary of the flaming card guy. Something about his presence really chafed him.

"He's been awake at least since we got on the elevator," Logan explained further. 'Don't say too much around him,' was left unsaid.

Those not flying the plane turned to see the cocky grin lifting the corners of the man-in-question's mouth. He peaked between his cinnamon-and-marmalade bangs. Those ruby-on-onyx eyes sparkled with mischief.

"Tired of staring at de back of my eyelids, anyway," he said and sat up straighter. He rolled his shoulders, then his head. He straightened and bent and straightened again his legs. He raised his arms up high and arched—stretching as best he could in the chair and giving all those who might be interested a fine show of his sculpted abs in the process.

"Getting stiff, too," he added with a wink to Rogue.

"You're all class, ain't ya," Logan asked with a bit of a growl.

"Not yours, non," the man drawled lazily. Yet, it still managed to be biting, and the Wolverine was more than willing to bite back. But, before he could…

"You can remove the woman's restraints," Xavier said in temperance over the comm. speakers. They had regained communications soon after take off and had already gone over preliminary debriefing. More in-depth explanation and analysis would wait for their return. "Major Danvers is of no threat, is she Logan?"

Logan grunted and removed her restraints. "She's good people, far as I remember."

"She called the military in on us," Bobby complained. The memory of his brother ratting them out was still raw. He hadn't spoken with his family once since that incident.

"Y' were breaking and entering a military installation," said the sticky smoke and bourbon voice of their too-observant-for-their-own-good captive.

Click-click! He dangled the cuffs off a gloved finger. He had picked the locks on his cuffs and freed himself. It was strikingly apparent that he could have done so at any time.

"A little somet'ing I would know about, n'est-ce pas?"

Skint! By the time Logan's brandished claws stopped at the stranger's throat, said stranger had his Bo/staff telescoped to its full length, its tri-pointed tip insinuated at Logan's groin.

"Calm down, Logan," Xavier said over the speakers, "He won't be doing anything rash while in mid-flight, will you, Mister….?"

"Gambit, on a pinch." He hung the cuffs off one of Logan's claws. "And if de belle femmes be into that kind of kink—" He retracted the Bo/staff and pocketed it in one easy move that blended fluidly with his two strides towards Rogue. "—then it's Remy LeBeau."

"I could freeze his mouth shut," Bobby offered.

"Nah, it'd just melt. Better if I suck him dry."

"If that's your biggest threat, chére, then Remy give up." He held his hands up, ready to be cuffed again…by her. "Punish as y' see fit."

With an enduring stroke of his devilishly enchanting eyes, he lapped at all that fine bare skin he clearly imagined was waiting just for him beneath her uniform. The moment those smoldering embers of his connected with her maple browns, she was swathed with the sensation of being lathered with molasses. He swallowed audibly and licked his lips, already tasting her.

"Might be worth it, non?"

Kitty looked at him queerly. "Weren't you holding her hostage just a little while ago? And stop if I'm wrong, but didn't she kick your ass?"

"Kitty, language," Storm chastised from the pilot's seat.

A shrug, non-committal, then, "Remy like 'em feisty." He scooped up Kitty's hand and placed a gallant kiss atop it. "All kinds, really."

"She's jailbait, you know," Bobby interjected.

"Ain't been caught yet," Remy said. He flicked a glance at the cuffs in Logan's hand. "Well, not kept, leastways." He sat—sauced pralines sidling ice cream—on Kitty's armrest. "'Sides, availability's not the point." He propped his feet on Rogue's armrest, daring her to shy her gloved hand away. "All femmes deserve the effort."

"Settle down back there," Scott said. "We're getting ready to land."

"Welcome back," Xavier said over the speakers. "I'll have Piotr ready quarters for our guests."

"Our guests, as you keep calling them, could've destroyed millions of dollars of equipment!"

"Forge, are they damaged?"

Forge wiped his hands on a rag that he shoved in his back pocket. The motion jiggled the individual cuffs—each with a blinking red light—on each of his wrists. The set had twins that were fit around his ankles, tucked beneath his jeans. He looked up to the duo by the broken section of the rim railing.

"This one," Forge said as he pointed to the metal and resin behemoth harnessed to the docking platform on which he stood, "Has a faint scorch mark on the shoulder rigging. A few others took hits from a few bullets. Superficial stuff, all of it, really. Replace a few armor plates, and they should be back up to par."

"See, Mr. Trask, your precious machines are fine. I, on the other hand, have lost a couple of my primary specimens and now have a very messy lab."

"Mutants are mutants. They're disposable. Leakage issues will be a chore, sure, but it's Major Danvers' disappearance, on the other hand, that will incite a bureaucratic nightmare. Washington is going to be all over this." He grit his teeth. "Damn your research, Essex! That's why they came here." His eyes narrowed. "You're just lucky the Sentinels weren't rigged up yet. That technology is top secret. Hell, Congress vetoed the project last year thanks to the stink that turncoat Senator Kelly made."

"Actually, it is you—" Essex tapped his cane against Trask's chest (3). "—who is lucky."

The chrome headstock of the cane was a seamlessly molded sinister face that, frightening as it was, was less hackles-rising than the scientist's cold detachment.

Trask flinched at its touch. Ice up his spine.

"We may share this facility," Essex continued, but it is still my research center. The cost of those machines is minimal compared to my genetic library. Irreplaceable, it is."

"Don't act like you aren't benefiting from this arrangement," Trask complained. "A lot of delicate resources conveniently rolled over to you when Stryker went under."

"It only makes sense that a scientist take over where Stryker left off." Essex tightly gripped the headstock, the tiny red diamond on the forehead peaking between his knuckles, and ground the tip against the floor. "Such work left solely in the hands of politicians and the military is irresponsible and dangerous. Perhaps, even insane."

"I'll be sure to share your high opinion of his policies," Trask threatened.

"I already have. How do you think I got this position?"

"Just keep a better hold on your mutants," Trask spat. "We wouldn't be in this mess if it weren't for that Dr. McCoy. Slimy miscreant slipped in under our noses like Forge did. They should all be as obvious as you made him."

Trask turned to leave, disgusted with it all. To a passing soldier, he grumbled, "And clean up this place. It's a disgrace. It's all a disgrace."

"Don't touch a thing," Essex told the soldier as he approached the rubble from the blown hydraulic doors. "Invaluable treasure often lurks in even the dirtiest of places."

Essex pushed a piece of the debris aside with the tip of his cane. Sure enough, a small spot of blood was there. And just askance of that, two entwined strands of hair, one brown and one white. What more could he discover with a microscope and some tweezers?

He glanced at the hidden security cameras. Wouldn't be hard for him match some of it to a face, a face to a name, a name to his generous hospitality…

"Get me some latex gloves," he requested with a tap of his cane.

Tap! Tap! Tap!

As if Xavier needed the action to know someone was there, the person continued her rude, incessant tapping. He'd known they were there before he'd even opened the Cerebro's doors after he severed the communication connection to the Blackbird. Refusing to be pushed around, Xavier took his usual time to completely disengage Cerebro and remove the helmet.

"Marrow, giving me a headache will in no way ingratiate me to meet with you any more quickly," Xavier said as he turned his wheelchair around and started rolling along the platform towards the entryway, and apparently, the small group of misfits congregated there.

Marrow tapped the dagger-like bone on the doorframe twice more for good measure.

"Enough, Sarah," Callisto told her vicious looking companion.

Both were mutants for sure, and though Callisto would not likely ever be described as beautiful or pretty in any manner, she wasn't grotesque and unfit for daylight public life like she claimed. The teenager Sarah, or Marrow, as she preferred to be called, however, was a sight to be seen. Bones randomly grew out at odd angles all over her body, including her face. If one looked closely enough, they could peer what would have been a very pretty face had it not been for the marring of the bone protrusions. At some point in their growth, she would break them off or pull them out and brandish them as weapons. In fact, the very bone she tapped against the doorframe was once sticking out of her arm. It was a painful mutation, and Marrow made the best of it by living up to her intimidating, menacing appearance with an equally jagged personality.

Two others rounded out the rag-tag group of visitors. A male, Masque, had pasty, bulbous, wrinkled features. His power allowed him to shape a person's skin like it was putty; yet he was unable do make his own appearance any more palatable. His bitter streak at that left a wake of many temporarily disfigured profiles. Callisto's remaining compatriot, Plague, was old and frail looking. However, if a person got on her bad side he could find himself hacking up handfuls of black mucus and his body riddled with a slew of weeping sores.

"You really should call ahead, Callisto. I am a busy man and I doubt Storm will be available this evening."

"We'll wait," Callisto said.

"Better yet," Marrow's gravelly voice said as she advanced on Xavier, " We'll give her a reason to make time for us."

The Blackbird landed in the Institute hanger under the basketball court. The boarding ramp opened and let out Kitty and Bobby.

They froze, statue still.

Close behind them, Logan and Rogue escorted/carried Danvers, LeBeau and McCoy. The sight that greeted them had Logan easing out his blades. Nightcrawler teleported out to join them and was just as spooked. As Storm and Scott departed the jet, they saw what caused the odd reactions. A menacing set of rag-tags flanked their expected greeters, Xavier and Colossus.

Despite the weary concern of his X-Men, Xavier cordially suggested, "Kitty, Rogue, Bobby, could you bring Ms. Danvers to the med-lab and assist Colossus with getting her, Dr. McCoy, and Mister LeBeau situated for the night."

Callisto looked over the youngsters and the strangers and nodded her assent.

"Like being sent to the kids table at Christmas," Kitty murmured as they left.

Storm didn't wait for them to be gone before she asked, "What are you doing, Callisto?"

"We're graciously accepting the help you gloated about, Weather Witch," Callisto taunted sarcastically. She turned Xavier's face to show off Marrow's handiwork. A thin line of blood marked a superficial cut on his cheek. "Caliban's missing and you're going to find him."

"Nice friends you got, Storm," Logan said.

Instantly put off, Marrow stalked around Logan. "We are not her friends. We are the Morlocks, Upworlder."

"They are from a community of mutants who reside in 'The Alley,'" Storm explained. "It's a section of tunnels connecting the subway with Central Park."

"Storm has been our liaison to them for some time now," Xavier said. "Callisto has refused the offer to join us here on several occasions."

"They believe their mutations are too grotesque to blend into society," Storm said.

"Pretty people like you wouldn't understand," Marrow said as she trailed her bone, dagger-like, weapon threateningly along Logan's shoulder.

"Back off, kid." Logan brushed her bone-dagger aside with his blades.

"Even your claws are pretty and shiny," Marrow scoffed viciously before moving for a closer look at Kurt. "You, though… Someone like you might understand."

"That's enough, Sarah," Storm chastised. It did no good.

"Marrow," Callisto warned. Marrow backed off to Callisto's side. "Caliban didn't just go on a vacation, Storm. Someone took him."

"I don't doubt that," Storm said. "I only fault how you ask for help. You didn't have to use threats."

"How long has he been missing?" Scott asked, striking to the point of the matter.

"Two days," Callisto supplied. "Leech, one of our youngest, was with him at the time. Caliban wouldn't have just up and left him alone like that."

Marrow stalked a slow, slow line to Storm. "That big round room is like Caliban's powers, right?" Menacing. "You can track mutants with it?" Threatening. "Maybe even incite fear in others like him too?" Knowing. "You will find him for us with it."

"I can't, but Xavier can," Storm corrected. "I already explained that to you."

"You told them about Cerebro?" Scott asked. Memories plagued him still. Plagued most of them still. "After what happened last year with—"

"To be trusted, you must trust as well," Storm advised. She glanced at Nightcrawler, the one who re-educated her of such things as trust and faith. To Callisto, she said, "We will find him, Callisto, and we will bring him back."

McCoy was of great use with getting Major Danvers hooked up to all the medical monitoring equipment. It was becoming more and more worrisome that she had yet to wake up.

A tiny crackly fizzle, a flick, and a spark; they could smell the cigarette smoke.

"I would request that you refrain from smoking in here," McCoy told Gambit.

"Guess I'll be heading outside, then," Remy replied, flashing that mischievous grin of his, and started for the exit.

"It is permissible in your room," Colossus informed him. He didn't get the point of Gambit's remark.

"Thanks, but no thanks. Now that I'm out of Essex's range, N'awlins be calling this ragin' Cajun home."

"You're not going anywhere, swamp rat," said Rogue. The don't-even-bother-trying retort smoothly rolled off her southern tongue, almost like an endearment.

"The professor can't be serious about giving him a room," Kitty piped in.

Colossus seemed confused. "Why not?"

"He attacked us, that's why," Bobby explained.

"He's sort of our prisoner," Kitty added. It was a mixture of adventurous excitement and awkward hesitancy.

One of Hank's eyebrows shot up above his glasses. "You have cells? I thought this was a school."

"Classrooms, yes; cells, no," Colossus answered.

Kitty snickered conspiratorially. "Does detention count?"

Hank frowned good-naturedly at her.

"Did Nightcrawler not attack the President?" Colossus said it as if it were so simple, so clear.

"That was that guy?" Remy sounded impressed, humored.

"And weren't you involved in Magneto's attempt to mutate the delegates at the U.N. summit, Rogue?"

Gambit whistled appreciatively, a different sort of 'whoa, Mama' than was usual for him.

"That's not the same, and you know it. I wasn't given a choice. Neither was Kurt." Rogue spun to Remy. "And why are you looking like the cat that got the canary?"

"Birds of a feather, chére."

"'The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown, but longed for still, and his tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedom.' Maya Angelou," Hank quoted, drawing attention back to him. Clarifying for the plebeians, he added, "He also had no choice."

Hank, through the windows of his own glasses, and Remy, through a different sort of singular veiled scope of his own, shared a glance, a connection of understanding the other's facet of a precious stone. Hank had polished his own opinion of Remy while behind Essex's cell door.

Remy broke the too revealing, penetrating look first. He pulled out a deck of playing cards and began shuffling, molasses nonchalance. He let Hank be the one to say it.

"You rescued him as much as you rescued me."

End Part One – 'Birds of a Feather'
Keep a look out for X-Men Rising, Part 02: "Fox in a Henhouse."
Edited/rewritten April 19, 2005
Edited/rewritten April 27, 2006
Footnotes (links to pics, please check them out and comment ):

(1) www(dot)deviantart(dot)com/deviation/31776199/
"Sentinel Pit" made from scratch by me in Photoshop. I used a pic of a sculpted design of a Sentinel reported to be one of Singer's plans had he continued on the movies. See (2) for this referenced pic.
Accompaniment to the text:
PHOOM! This time, they all saw it—saw them.
Purple. Blue. Clunky skeletal things glistening like wet bruises in the reflection of Scott's red optic blasts. Their red eyes seemed about to fire a beam of some kind.

(2) www(dot)moviesonline(dot)ca/movie-gallery/albums/userpics/Xmen3-Sentient01(dot)JPG
See (1). It's the sculpture design I based the sentinels from my pic (1) on.

(3) www(dot)deviantart(dot)com/deviation/32410309
"Sinister Cane" made from scratch by me in Photoshop.
Accompaniment to the text:
The chrome headstock of the cane was a seamlessly molded sinister face that, frightening as it was, was less hackles-rising than the scientist's cold detachment.
Trask flinched at its touch. Ice up his spine.

Essex tightly gripped the headstock, the tiny red diamond on the forehead peaking between his knuckles, and ground the tip against the floor.

"…Perhaps, even insane."

Thank you for indulging.