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Sequoia
Swennes



Risen: Part 17

Disclaimer:  Marvel characters belong to Marvel and are used without
permission for no monetary gain.

Acknowledgements Go to Andy, my beta reader, and Peter, my editor.  Super
guys both :)

Previous chapters can be found at
http://members.tripod.com/~Athene_2/rindex.html  


Matt Murdock shouldered his way through the throng of reporters that clogged the steps of the courthouse, his mind filtering through the barrage of smells and sounds and movement that surrounded him, searching for any hint of danger amid the commotion.  "Be alert," he muttered to Scott.  "I doubt we'll have any trouble; but if the press knows who you are and why you're here, you can bet Stryker's more fanatical supporters do.  If I find out that the defense purposefully leaked it at the last minute...."

Scott carefully scanned the crowd; his body, used to countless confrontations, automatically tensed.  Beside him, Matt stopped and turned, taking hold of the closest microphone.

"Any public statement at this time would violate the terms of my client's arrangement with the court," he announced loudly.  "Future interviews may be granted, but *only* to those who do not block our access to the building." He smiled as a path suddenly appeared before them, the shouted questions growing more insistent.  "Works like a charm."

"Parker's here," Scott said in a low voice, glimpsing the Daily Bugle photographer as they reached the top of the steps.  He paused.  "And Reed Richards."

Matt raised an eyebrow, picking up the faint hum of the Fantastic Four's hover car down at the street, the reporters growing more frenzied at the surprise appearance of a celebrity and rushing to train their cameras and microphones on him, Matt and Scott forgotten for the moment.

"Ladies, gentlemen, may I please have your attention?" Reed asked, waiting patiently for them to quiet, his hands clasped behind his back.  "I will make my statement and then answer any questions," he began genially.  "I had planned to call a press conference later in the week to disclose news of the temporary leave of absence the Fantastic Four shall be taking from the city; but I learned of your presence here this morning and felt compelled to combine my own announcement with an brief statement from the team concerning this situation.

"We find anti-mutant prejudice, which is so prevalent in our country now, to be as abhorrent as all other forms of bias and hatred; but this trial is not about human mutant relations, or politics, or setting an example.  It is about one man, his actions, and the law; and there is no doubt in our minds that justice will be done."



"I'll call you from Madison and let you know when I'll be back in the area," Amanda promised.  "I wish I could stay longer."

Kurt pulled her to him and kissed her deeply.  "So do I.  Still, this unexpected visit was rather...stimulating."

"That it was," she murmured, kissing him again.  "I'm going to be late."

"They can wait."

"No they can't," she laughed.  "I'll be back before you even miss me."

"Impossible," he protested, but he let her go and picked up her carry-on. "Which gate?"

"D-3," she said, taking his arm as they weaved their way through the packed terminal.  "I hope you're not late for court.  I didn't think it would be this crowded."

"I have plenty of time," he assured her, slowing as they passed a line of passengers waiting to board a flight to San Francisco.  "Natalie?"

She turned, clearly startled.  "Kurt.  Hi."

"Amanda, this is Natalie Ryan, a neighbor of ours in Salem," he began. "Natalie, this is Amanda Sefton, my girlfriend.  You didn't mention you were taking a trip, Nat."

"Oh, it was a last minute decision," she explained, tucking her long dark hair behind her ears.  "Just working out some last things with my ex."  She smiled.  "It's a pleasure, Amanda.  Kurt's told me so much about you."

"He hasn't *mentioned* you," she replied icily.

"I must have."

"You haven't."

"Well, I've got to be going," Natalie interjected uncomfortably, her line beginning to move. "I'll see you around, Kurt."

Amanda waited until the other woman was out of ear shot and then turned to her lover.  "I don't like her."

"Are you jealous?" he asked, more than a little pleased by the notion.

"I'm serious, Kurt.  There's something very...off about her."

He frowned.  "What do you mean?"

"I'm not sure."  She shook her head, frustrated.  "How long have you known her?"

"Since March.  She's been to the mansion a few times, we've gone out for coffee and to a play with some of the others," he said.  "She can be flaky sometimes, but she's hardly sinister."

"I hope not."  They reached her gate and she hugged him tightly.  "Be careful, hero of mine.  I don't want to see you get hurt."



The whispered rumors of a stranger in the Alley had preceded Sunder despite his efforts at quieting them; and when he reached Callisto's chambers he found her strapping on her weaponry, livid with rage.

"Who is he?" she hissed.  "Why are you allowing him to roam freely?"

"He's a mutant, Cal.  Tommy invited him an' says no one's to touch but her."

"You don't take your orders from *Tommy*."

"I know, Cal.  There's somethin' funny about him.  Wanted to ask you first, 's all."

She threw herself back into her chair.  "Bring him here," she commanded. "Alone."



"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"

"I do."  Scott lowered his hand and looked out over the courtroom, the sight of his friends and colleagues doing little to steady his nerves.  What if he failed them?

"You may be seated."

At the prosecutorial table, Michael Forrester stood, consulting with Matt briefly before turning to Scott.  "Will you please state your name and occupation for the record please?"

"Scott Summers," he said.  "I'm a pilot."

"You lead something of a double life, do you not, Mr. Summers?"

Scott suddenly found himself unable to speak, discovering that he could not give up the separation that existed between Scott Summers and Cyclops so easily, fearing that if that line was crossed he would no longer have the strength he felt as Cyclops, the confidence, and he would be left as he was before, insignificant and alone.

~Scott, we believe in *you*. ~ Jean said, her mind brushing delicately against his, soothing him.  ~*You* are the one who leads us and inspires us. Not a name.~

"Mr. Summers?"

"Yes," he said slowly.  "I am a mutant.  I have been a member of the X-Men since the team's inception nine years ago; and while on duty I use the name Cyclops."

Michael turned to Judge Hartman.  "Your Honor, the prosecution would like to remind the court that Mr. Summers is appearing as part of an ongoing federal investigation into the Stryker Crusade; and, per his arrangement with the FBI, he is not required to answer any questions concerning the X-Men that do not pertain directly to Reverend Stryker."

He nodded.  "Continue."

"Mr. Summers," Michael asked, "where and when did you first encounter the defendant?"

"On November 29th of last year, Professor Charles Xavier - who is a close associate of the X-Men - participated in a live, televised debate with Reverend Stryker at the ABC news studios," Scott explained, choosing his words carefully.  "I accompanied him, as did a fellow X-Man, Storm."

"Did you speak with the defendant at that time?"

"No, we left as soon as the interview ended."

"Before the defendant?"

"I believe so."

Michael stepped back, reaching for a file that Matt had held up, frowning as he opened it.  "Mr. Summers, I have here a police report that states that Charles Xavier's automobile was involved in a serious accident at the corner of 72nd Street and Central Park Drive, shortly after leaving the television studio.  The car, known to have been carrying Xavier, yourself, and 'Storm', was completely destroyed, and three bodies were found inside, burned beyond recognition."

"Objection," Tracy Elder said hotly.  "A traffic accident has absolutely nothing to do with the charges against my client."

"Your Honor, we are trying to establish the defendant's character.  I assure you, this is relevant."

"Objection overruled."

"Thank you."  He turned back to Scott.  "*Were* you in the automobile at the time of the accident?"

"Yes," Scott said, "but it wasn't an accident."

"Oh?" Michael said, feigning surprise.  "What was it then?"

"An attack," Scott said firmly.  "The car was hit by some kind of explosive device, causing us to crash.  The Professor was knocked unconscious.  Storm and I attempted to pull him from the wreckage, and I was shot with what must have been some kind of tranquilizer gun."

"You lost consciousness?"

"Yes."

"When you regained consciousness, where did you find yourself?"

"In a laboratory of some sort, attached to a machine, next to Storm.  The Professor was also there."  He swallowed hard, the memory painful.  "They had put him into a sensory deprivation tank and were torturing him by feeding the pain they inflicted upon us into him.  I don't know how they did it," he added, the guilt of lying overshadowed by his need to protect Charles.

"Who is 'they'?"

"Reverend Stryker and a man he called Phillip.  I believe he was a doctor."

"You recognized the defendant immediately?"

"Yes."

"What did you do?"

"We were restrained...we couldn't *do* much of anything," Scott said.  "We did ask him why he was doing this to us, when we had done nothing to him."

"What did he say?" Michael asked softly, looking over his shoulder at Stryker, who seemed to be on the verge of losing his supernaturally calm exterior, his eyes blazing, clasped hands trembling.

"He said, and I quote, 'Because you exist.  And that existence is an affront to the Lord'."

"Was that all?"

"No.  He told us how he came to feel that way."

Stryker was visibly agitated now, his counsel trying to prevent him from speaking.  "Objection," Tracy interjected.  "I object to the witness fabricating stories damaging to my client."

"You haven't *heard* the testimony yet, how can you possibly object?" Michael asked incredulously.  Judge Hartman raised an eyebrow.

"I agree with Mr. Forrester," he said.  "Explain yourself, Miss Elder."

"It's very simple, your Honor.  This witness imagines himself to be something of a hero, and my client the villain who confesses all his dastardly deeds to him, like a movie cliche.  It's utterly ridiculous."

"It may be ridiculous," Scott commented, "but you'd be surprised at how often it happens."  There were stifled laughs from the gallery and Matt shook his head sternly, biting back a smile.

"The witness will refrain from addressing opposing counsel," the judge said, turning to Scott.  "Can any of what the defendant allegedly told you be verified by independent sources?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then the prosecution may continue."

"Thank you," Michael said.  "Please tell us everything Reverend Stryker told you, Mr. Summers."

"He said that it began thirty years ago, when he was a professional soldier in the United States Army Rangers," Scott began quietly.  "He was married, his wife pregnant.  On a trip to visit his family in Arizona, he lost
control of the car and crashed.  His wife went into labor and he delivered his son." He paused, not taking his eyes from Stryker's.  "He told us that the child was a monster, an abomination, that he had to kill him; and when his wife asked for her baby, he broke her neck, put both their bodies into the car, and lit a match."



"I love it when you sketch me," Kitty confessed.  "It makes me feel beautiful."

Peter looked up from his paper and smiled.  "You are beautiful, Katya."

"Hardly," she blushed.  "But thanks."

"You are," he insisted.  He turned his drawing pad around.  "See?"

"Nope," she said obstinately.  "Very pretty; but nothing like me."

"You dare insult my talent?" he asked, mocking indignation.  She giggled and darted out of his reach as he grabbed for her.

"I'm not insulting your talent, I'm wondering if you need glasses."

"My eyesight is perfect," he said, lunging forward and catching her about the waist.  "And so are you."

He bent and kissed her, and she wrapped her arms around his neck, feeling small and perfect in his embrace.  She moved her hips against him, almost unconsciously, trying to get closer, wanting more but unsure of how to make it happen; and then he broke away, his hands on her shoulders, keeping her at a distance.  "Katya...we cannot do this."

"Why not?" she demanded, ashamed to find she felt like crying.  "And don't you dare tell me I'm too young.  I'm *not*.  I'm smart and responsible and mature and I risk my life almost every day, fighting; and no one's going to
tell me I'm not ready for sex --"

"You are *fifteen*."

"Practically sixteen."

He sighed.  "Nothing would make me happier than to make love to you; but I do not want you to do something you will regret."

"I won't regret it, Peter.  I know I won't.  I love you."

There was a knock at the door and he looked up, his resentment at the interruption softening when he saw it was his sister.  "What is it, Illyana?"

"They're reporting on the trial from outside the courthouse," she explained. "Thought you might want to watch.  We've seen Dr. MacTaggert and Mr. Cassidy so far  - Roberto thinks he saw the Wasp, but no one believes him."

"I wish I had been allowed to go," Kitty lamented.  "What Scott's doing is just so...amazing.  The Professor should be giving him a medal, not kicking him out."

"No," Peter disagreed.  "Scott is being very foolish.  This could be disastrous."

"We're trying to change the world, Piotr," Illyana reminded him.  "You can't do that if you never take a chance."



Stunned silence filled the courtroom, all eyes fixed on Stryker who stood, his fists clenched at his sides.  "You *lie*," he seethed, ignoring his lawyer's attempts to quiet him and the loud, rapid banging of the judge's gavel.

"Miss Elder, your client will control himself or he will be removed from the courtroom."

"Yes, your Honor," she replied, furious, pulling Stryker back down into his seat, urgently conferring with him.

"Please go on, Mr. Summers."

"He said that he felt lucky that his wife and son had been burned so badly that they were no longer recognizable, because it meant no one would ever discover his shame," Scott continued, leaning forward as he spoke, "but he couldn't forget what had happened.  After he was discharged from the Army for excessive fighting and drinking he happened upon a magazine article written by Charles Xavier.  He said that it was then that he knew God had chosen him to rid the world of all those made in the image of Satan - mutants like the two children brutally murdered in Westport Connecticut last year, like his son."

"Like the X-Men?"

"Yes."

"And how exactly did he learn of the X-Men, and their association with Xavier?"

"Xavier founded the original X-Men team under the auspices of the federal government," Scott explained.  "FBI Agent Fred Duncan was our liaison. Stryker told me that one of his most devoted followers, an official in the bureau, gave him all the information they had on us.  After reading the files, he said he became convinced that Charles was the Antichrist; and he tracked our movements until he found an opportunity to attack us."

"I want to go back for a moment, to the attack on your automobile, and the three bodies found within the wreckage," Michael said thoughtfully.  "Do you have any idea who they were?"

"No; but I am certain that they were placed there to convince our fellow X-Men that we were dead."

"Did it work?"

He looked at Logan.  "No.  They came looking for us."

"Where did they find you?"

"With Storm, moments from being thrown into the Stryker Building's incinerator," Scott answered flatly.  "The Reverend thought he had killed us.  We were revived by Magneto."

"Objection.  The witness has no way of knowing what my client was thinking."

"I'll rephrase," Michael conceded.  "Mr. Summers, do you believe that the defendant believed you were dead?"

"Yes."

"And Magneto's actions came after he saved Officer Pyfer's life?"

"Yes."

"Interesting."  Michael turned, looking at the jury.  "Haven't the X-Men fought Magneto on a number of occasions?"

"Yes.  We disagree vehemently with his methods and philosophy."

"And yet he saved you that night?  After he had saved a human?"

"Yes."  He paused.  "Magneto has committed horrible crimes, no one here disputes that.  I would *never* defend his past actions - they hurt too many people, including ones I care about deeply.  But I no longer believe he is the soulless demon the defense is portraying him as."

"He is not typical of all mutants, is he?"

"He isn't even typical of the majority."

"So the defense's position that Anne Rutherford, whom they allege was a mutant, deserved to die because she was undoubtedly as purely evil as Magneto does not carry much weight with you?"

"None," Scott replied.  "Magneto is an individual.  His belief that all humans are as evil as Reverend Stryker is every bit as reprehensible and false to me as the Reverend's blanket views on mutants."

"Objection," Tracy said.  "The witness is stating opinion.  Again."

"No one said he wasn't," Michael retorted.

"Objection sustained," Hartman declared.  "Mr. Forrester, please make sure your questions deal with fact, and not opinion."

"Your Honor, with all due respect, the defense made this entire trial about opinion when they chose to ignore the *fact* that Anne Rutherford was a human being," Michael pointed out.  "It is a *fact* that the defendant murdered her - it is their *opinion* that it shouldn't matter."

"Objection!"

"Withdrawn," Michael grumbled, scowling at Tracy.

Judge Hartman rapped his gavel twice.  "Mr. Forrester, you're in danger of being found in contempt."

"I apologize, your Honor," he said stiffly.  "It won't happen again."



Wisdom flexed his fingers defensively as he followed Sunder, Morlocks seeming to melt out of the shadows, trailing them through the tunnels.  "In here," the giant said abruptly, pulling aside a large metal partition and stepping inside.

Tommy gave him a small, nervous smile and squeezed his arm.  "Callisto isn't so bad, George.  I'll wait for you."

"No, my dear, you'd best run along.  I shall find you when I have finished," he told her.  He hesitated and then leaned over to kiss her forehead.  "You are a lovely young woman, Thomasina.  Remember that."  She blushed and he hurried after Sunder, the door sliding closed behind them, a knife pressing against his throat.

"Let's begin by finding out who you really are, 'Lord'," Callisto growled, growing apprehensive as she felt her captive's lack of hostility.  "Explain yourself!"

"Bloody hell, woman, I came here to tell you who I am," he replied calmly. "Let's say you let me go, we sit down, and have a nice chat with no weapons."

"I'm supposed to take your word that you're not armed?"

"There's a revolver under my jacket," he admitted.  "I'm not carrying anything else."

She took it roughly and tucked it into her own belt, then patted him down. "What are your powers?"

"I shoot heat out of my fingertips.  What about you?"

"You can go, Sunder," she said, giving Pete a dirty look, her short black hair falling over her good eye.  "Keep the others away from here. Especially Tommy."

"Are you sure, Cal?"

"Yes."  She waited until he had gone to sheath her blade.  "Who are you?"

"Isn't this better?" Pete inquired politely, taking a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket.  "Smoke?"

"No."  She didn't like this man.  At all.  "I'm not going to ask you again, upworlder.  *Who are you*?"

"Name's Wisdom," he said as he lit a cigarette for himself.  "March 18th - a ten year old British boy died in the men's loo at a subway station over on 3rd.  I have a picture," he added, pulling a small photograph of Adam from his suit and handing it to her.  "There was evidence that the boy did not die alone; and his father - name of Dr. Nathaniel Essex - hired me to find out who was with him.  My investigation led me here.  There was no mistaking the stench."

"You're an assassin?"

"No," he chuckled.  "I'm a more of a negotiator."

"What are you trying to negotiate?" she asked, moving past him, her hands on her hips as she considered his words.

"A meeting."  Pete raised an eyebrow.  "Do you know who killed the boy?"

"How do you know it was murder?"

"It wasn't?"

"Be quiet, upworlder," Callisto reproached.  "Let me think."

Pete shrugged and took another drag on his cigarette.  "Essex wants to meet with whoever saw his son last.  Find out what really happened, get some closure."

"That's all?"

"As far as I know.  Look," he continued.  "He's human.  Early 50's.  Brittle and depressed.  I don't think you'll have a problem defending youself.  I'm more worried about *his* protection."

"It wasn't murder," she said after a moment.  "It was an accident.  One of my people surprised the boy, and he fell.  You can tell your man that."

"I will; but I guarantee it won't be the last you hear from him....he's an important man...would hate it if he used his influence to bring the police down here...."

"One meeting," she spat.  "He comes alone."

"Three armed bodyguards."

"One unarmed."

"Two with minimal weaponry."

"Fine."

"Fine.  Next tuesday good for you?"

She nodded reluctantly.  "I'll leave escorts at the northwest entrance to the tunnels at twilight."

"Tommy was right," Pete smirked.  "You're not so bad."

"Tommy is an idiot," Callisto said sharply, "but she is one of my people. You could've sought me out directly but you chose to play on her ignorance and with her feelings, and that's unforgivable."

"Tommy gave me a chance to get to you without blood and severed bits becoming a factor," he retorted.  "I needed her."

"I don't want your excuses, upworlder.  Just know that if I ever see you again I will tear your insides out and make you eat them."  She handed him his gun, and the photograph.  "You have your meeting.  Now leave."

 Continued...

 

Other Stories By Sequoia

 


Risen
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15]
[16] [17] [18]

When A Man Loves A Woman

Monile

Shadows In A Mirror

Torn


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