Although Michael Forrester had prosecuted numerous cases involving mutants during his six years as assistant district attorney, the current Stryker trial was the first in which the defendant was human. He found himself fighting an uphill battle against his own office as the DA worried about re-election and the public relations people wrung their collective hands, thinking about the ramifications of trying to convict a well loved evangelist.
The question of whether the accused was human, mutant, superhuman, or inhuman was inconsequential in Michael's estimation. A murderer was a murderer, and in this instance, there was no doubt that Stryker fell into that category, even though he had brazenly pleaded not-guilty at the arraignment.
Adjusting the cuffs of his suit, Michael approached the witness stand. "Sir, please state your name for the record."
"My name is Officer Thomas Pyfer," he replied, leaning into the microphone.
"You're a member of the NYPD?"
"Yes, sir. I've been with the fifteenth precinct for five years now."
"You were recently injured, were you not?" Michael asked, casually clasping his hands behind his back.
The opposing counsel stood. "Objection. Relevancy."
Michael sighed. "Your Honor, if Miss Elder would allow me the courtesy of actually questioning my witness, I'll establish relevancy."
"Officer Pyfer, were you recently injured?"
"Yes, I was," he answered, straightening his posture and speaking to the jury. "On November 30th of last year I was shot in the chest while attempting to protect a young girl from an assailant."
"Were you able to identify this assailant, Officer Pyfer?"
"Not by name, no."
"He was a Purifier."
"Objection," Tracy Elder interjected. "Your Honor, this is conjecture on the part of the witness. I sincerely doubt that he identified his assailant as a 'Purifier' at the time of the incident." Beside her, Stryker sat as he always did, silent and contemplative, his hands held together almost in prayer.
"Withdrawn," Michael said quickly. "Let me phrase this another way, Officer. When you first saw this man, did you have any idea who or what he was?"
"When did you first become aware that he may have had connections with the Purifiers?"
"Not until after I was shot," he admitted. "I was told by the man who brought me to the hospital. Later, my partner told me what had happened in Madison Square Garden that night. He also showed me some magazine articles and photographs. I recognized the man who shot me as one of the Reverend Stryker's security people." He looked at Tracy. "They call themselves the Purifiers."
"Thank you, Officer. Can you please tell the court what happened that night? Beginning with when you first noticed something was amiss."
The policeman cleared his throat. "I had finished my shift and was taking the train home, as I usually do. Within a minute of passing the Charles Street station, I heard several people yelling in the car behind mine, and I immediately went to investigate."
"When you stepped into the car in question, what did you see?"
"Three passengers were seated. The cause of their distress was a girl who was laying on the floor. They said she had come through the wall of the moving train."
"Did you believe them?"
"No," he said, shaking his head. "Who would?"
"What did you do then?"
"I asked her if she was okay. She looked scared, and she was breathing heavily, as if she had been running. She told me that men were chasing her, and trying to kill her."
"How did you respond to that?"
"I didn't have a chance. Two men dressed as Purifiers shot their way through the roof of the train. They were heavily armed. I pushed the girl behind me and went for my gun," he said, his voice trembling slightly. "That's when the first one shot me." He touched his hand to his breastbone. "Here. He meant to kill me."
"Objection. The witness isn't qualified to make that kind of judgement."
"Overruled. Continue, Mr. Forrester."
"Thank you, your Honor." He stood next to the witness stand, leaning against the edge. "Officer Pyfer, I realize that this is very difficult for you; but I need you to tell the court everything you remember about what happened after you were shot."
Pyfer took a deep breath. "I was passing in and out of consciousness, but I remember that the little girl had pulled me onto her lap, and was trying to stop the bleeding with her hands. I could hear the man who shot me threatening her." He looked at the jury. "He said that my death would appear to be at her hands. I was trying to move...to protect her somehow, but I must have passed out instead. The next thing I remember I was outside, being taken to the hospital. The girl was still there, but she was with an older man. He told me that the men on the train were assassins in the employ of the Reverend William Stryker."
Michael nodded, crossing his fingers mentally. He did not want to ask the next question, but if he didn't Elder would, and the damage would be tenfold. "Officer Pyfer, this man who took you to the hospital - the man who saved your life after you had been seriously wounded - do you know who he was?"
"Yes. He said he was Magneto." There were several gasps of surprise; a collective murmer filling the court. Magneto's involvement with the events at Madison Square Garden had been established early on, but this information put his presence in a new, somewhat bewildering, light.
Michael raised his voice over the loud crack of the judge's gavel and the buzz of fading conversation behind him. "Officer, is it your sworn testimony that you were purposefully and brutally shot in the chest while defending a little girl from assassins hired by the defendant?"
"Yes it is."
"And is it also your sworn testimony that your life was saved by the mutant Magneto, whom the defendant has called 'a supremely dangerous animal with no regard for human life'?"
"Yes it is."
"Thank you, Officer," Michael smiled. "I have no further questions."
Jean finished programming the correct codes into the main computer and settled back into her chair as Cerebro descended to cover her head, already humming as it calibrated itself to her psyche. The routine psi-scan was quick, painless, and almost imperceptible; when it was finished it disengaged itself and she stood, tucking her hair behind her ears as she picked up the hard copy of the results it had automatically printed out.
"If you came to watch, you're too late," she said, sensing Charles behind her. It was the first time she had spoken to him directly since his falling out with Scott, her anger only now subsiding enough to allow her to worry about him, and what had caused him to make such a rash decision.
"I wanted to see the results immediately," he explained, taking off his jacket. "If you don't mind."
She shrugged and handed him the papers. "If it means I won't be accused of changing the results, go ahead."
"Thank you," he said, taking them and sitting down. "I don't mean to be mistrustful, but--"
"You don't know me any more," she finished for him. "And after last week, and Scott...I don't think I know you either." She paused, studying him intently. "Why don't you just make it right, Charles? It isn't too late."
He ignored her, turning his attention to the documents he held. "Your telepathic reflexes and control appear stellar," he said, raising his eyebrows at her audible sigh of relief. "You didn't think they would be?"
"I think I expected the worst," she admitted, pulling on a loose thread on her sleeve. "Does it say anything else?"
He frowned. "There is something here," he said, and she leaned over his shoulder to get a better look.
"What is it?"
"Very subtle organic abnormalities within the frontal lobe and along the lateral fissure."
"They weren't there when Moira examined me on Muir," she said, a sinking feeling inside.
He squeezed her hand reassuringly, their hostility temporarily forgotten. "I doubt it's anything serious, Jean; but I'll run it by Henry, just in case."
"Hank! Over here! There's someone I want you to meet."
Hank waved across the moderately crowded staff-only cafeteria to Dr. Tappan, a close aquaintance from anaesthesiology. "One moment, Phillip," a called back, piling his tray high with sandwiches and coffee before making his way to the table. Phillip clapped him on the back as he set the food down.
"Dr. Henry McCoy, I'd like you to meet Dr. Cecelia Reyes," he said, indicating the young Puerto Rican woman who sat beside him. "Cecelia's our newest intern."
"It's a pleasure to meet you," Hank said warmly. She regarded him warily, but shook the proffered hand.
"I've heard a lot about you, Dr. McCoy," she told him. "You're a very respected man."
"You flatter me, milady," he grinned, baring his sharp incisors as he sat and poured sugar into his coffee, pretending not to notice how she backed away ever so slightly. "What is your area of interest, Dr. Reyes?"
"Virology", she replied curtly, finishing off her own sandwich. She looked at her watch. "If you'll excuse me, gentlemen?"
"Sure," Phillip said. "I'll see you around."
"Thanks for lunch, Phillip." She nodded politely at Hank and left, her braids swinging over her shoulder.
"Was it my imagination, or did she dislike me immensely?" Hank asked, beginning to eat.
"Hard to tell," Phillip shrugged. "Cecelia's a odd one. Brutally smart though. And she's not hard on the eyes."
"No," Hank agreed. "She certainly is not."
As soon as the passengers had exited the plane, Scott made his own way into the terminal, heading straight for the Brooklyn Brew Pub. Matt was already seated at the bar, slowly sipping a pint of Guiness. "There's been a slight change of plans," he said as Scott sat down beside him. "They want you to begin testifying on Thursday."
"Thursday?" Scott asked, surprised. "I haven't even spoken directly with the DA's office yet."
"It seems the FBI is breathing down their necks to wrap this up so they can get their hands on Stryker," Matt explained. "They won't reveal what they have on him, but they way they're acting it's explosive. You're to meet with the FBI to sign the immunity papers tomorrow morning; and I would feel better if we went over your testimony again before you take the stand."
"Will you be questioning me in court?" Scott asked, beginning to wonder for the first time if he really *was* doing the right thing. His conviction had already seriously damaged his relationship with the Professor, and he didn't think he could bear losing anyone else.
Matt shook his head. "That's the ADA's territory. I'll be there to assist and make sure you're treated fairly. Having second thoughts?"
"I can't say I blame you," Matt replied, finishing his beer and leaving a tip on the bar. "Just make sure they're gone by Thursday."
Tomatoes and spinach, oranges, green beans, kale, romaine, potatoes, apples, and peppers. Milk and eggs, butter, juice, cheese, chicken, pork chops, roast beef, and tofu. Pasta and bread, rolls, jelly, peanut butter, almond butter, cereal - cereal that happened to be about five feet above her head. Jean anchored the shopping cart telekinetically and stood on the rung that spanned the wheels, stretching her arm up to reach the boxes and still falling short.
"Wouldn't it be easier to use your powers?" Jason asked, watching her with amusement. Startled, Jean's feet slipped and the cart shot forward, sending her flying backwards. He chivalrously caught her.
"Don't touch me," she spat, eyes flashing as she twisted out of his grasp. "You're still stalking me?"
"I'm merely grocery shopping," he chuckled innocently. "I had no idea you'd be here."
"Oh, please." She grabbed the cart and headed for the checkout. "You're damn lucky there are people around."
"Again," he said, helping her unload the cart, "why don't you just use your powers?"
She slapped his hand away with a magazine. "We're in a play," she told the staring cashier, then turned back to her adversary. "Jason, I could stop your heart with a thought; but you've never inspired charity in me." She looked at him more closely, noticing the fading yellow and green bruise that covered the side of his nose and his cheekbone. "What happened to your face?"
"I was unjustly assaulted."
"By your lover." He watched in delight as all color drained out of her face, her smattering of freckles very visible against the unnaturally pale skin.
"When?" she asked, her voice deadened. She knew he was speaking the truth, but everything inside her was screaming that Scott wouldn't have gone behind her back like that, wouldn't have lied to her.
"Last week. You didn't know?"
"No," she said. "I didn't know."
~I should have listened to Mum~ Pete mused. ~I should have been an actor~ He cleared his throat in a Lord-like manner and turned to his companion on the park bench, taking her hands in his. "Oh, Thomasina," he began, "your presence has made these last days so pleasant. Our parting tomorrow shall be like a knife in my heart."
"Are you sure you can't stay longer?" She was flattered and a bit taken aback by his choice of words, never having inspired that kind of feeling in anyone.
"No, I can not." He paused and tore himself from her, turning away theatrically. "If only because....I have lied to you."
"You lied?" she asked, visibly crushed. "What did you lie about?"
"This is very difficult," he confessed. "When first we met, I told you I had never before seen a mutant. That was the lie. I have seen a mutant." He hesitated melodramatically. "I *am* a mutant."
She could have wept with joy. "Oh, George!"
"Hate me if you must," he was saying, "but --"
"I don't hate you!" she cried, throwing her arms around him. She looked around furtively, making sure that no one else was within hearing distance. "I'm a mutant too."
"You?" he demanded, floored. "I never would have guessed!"
"My whole family is," she explained. "That's why I wouldn't let you see them, but now, if you're one of us...."
"I'd be honored to meet them," he said, feeling a touch of genuine guilt for what he was doing to her. "Truly honored."
When Scott arrived home from work he found Jean waiting for him on the sofa, the expression on her face inscrutable. "I let myself in," she said, looking like a fallen angel in her silky white negligee, a drink in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other. "I hope you don't mind."
"Not at all." He took off his tie as he crossed the room, bending over to kiss her hello. "Is anything wrong?"
She shook her head. "Nothing I can't handle." *Alone* she wanted to add, but refrained. As betrayed as she felt she knew that his motives had been pure; and she couldn't confront him when it would only draw him back into this nightmare. "Do you want a drink?"
"That would be wonderful," he sighed, collapsing down beside her. "I'm testifying against Stryker this Thursday and I can't help thinking, what if Charles is right? What if I destroy everything that we've worked so hard to build?""
She ground her cigarette out in the ashtray and poured him a drink, the subtle scent of cloves on her skin. "What exactly have we built, Scott?" she asked. "Honestly - what have the years of hit and run fighting, of hiding, gotten us? There has to be a better way."
"Which is why I'm doing this," he said, kicking his shoes off. "Still, it's frightening."
"Scott Summers, if you are anything, it's brave," she told him. "You can do this. I know you can."
He kissed her again. "Thank you."
"And don't worry about Charles," she reassured him. "He'll come to his senses eventually."
"That's what I keep telling myself. Let's go out," he suggested. "They're having a Robert Mitchum festival over at the theater."
"I don't feel like it tonight," she said, curling closer to him. "Let's stay in."
"Are you sure you're okay?" he asked, his brow furrowed with concern. "You're...distant."
"I'm just tired," she lied. "It's nothing for you to worry about. "
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