Risen: Part 18
Disclaimer: Marvel characters belong to Marvel and are
permission for no monetary gain. Non Marvel characters belong to
Acknowledgements go to Andy, my beta-reader, and Peter, my editor.
The lines in little * * (italics) in the first scene is taken from God
Loves, Man Kills.
As always, ~ ~, denotes telepathy.
Scott has about a half dozen origin stories. I'm mushing them
"Mr. Summers," Michael inquired, "what
did the X-Men do after leaving the Stryker Building?"
"We followed Stryker to his rally at Madison Square Garden,"
Scott answered. "When we arrived we discovered that he was still
using Xavier to power the machine he had created, this time turning it
against the general population."
"What were the effects of this machine against the public?"
"It was designed to identify both latent and active mutants by
their brainwaves," Scott explained, "and it resulted in mild
to severe headaches and hemorrhaging for those affected. Several
bystanders collapsed on the street. We attempted to help them; but
realized the only way to stop their agony, and ours, was to destroy
"Where was Magneto during this?" Michael asked as he walked
slowly back to the prosecutorial table, leaning casually against it.
"He had torn the roof off of the arena and was confronting Stryker
directly." Scott shifted in his chair, his long fingers
fiddling with his cufflinks. "The X-Men and I entered the
complex through a back door; and were immediately stopped by a group of
twelve Purifiers, all equipped with semi-automatic weapons."
"Their purpose was to prevent you from reaching Xavier?"
"Was there a confrontation?"
"Yes. There was a brief fight, we subdued and unarmed them,
and then continued our search for Xavier. We found him behind the
stage, strapped to Stryker's contraption, which we destroyed,"
Scott said, refusing to think about how close his strategy for disarming
Charles had come to killing the man. "After we had freed
Xavier, we made our way onstage. The Reverend had just pushed Anne
Rutherford off of the podium."
"Your Honor," Michael began, picking up a videotape and
handing it to the bailiff, "with your permission, the State would
like to play a portion of the news footage already entered into
"Thank you, your Honor." Michael turned to the jury as he took
a remote from within his jacket. "Ladies and gentlemen, I
could have the witness recount what you are about to view; but I believe
it is of the utmost importance that you see it exactly as it
The lights in the courtroom dimmed, and on the television that had been
pulled opposite the jury, the X-Men appeared, looking exhausted and
determined, quietly facing Stryker as he railed at the masses.
*You're a lucky man*, they watched Cyclops say as he stepped up to the
podium, Colossus and Shadowcat standing behind him. *Thanks to
you, and people like you, mutants live in fear every day of our lives.
And sometimes, those lives are very short. Less than a week ago,
two children in Connecticut were murdered, Stryker, condemned solely for
an accident of birth. Would you do that to someone because of the
color of their skin, or their beliefs?*
On the screen, Stryker raised his hand, lecturing. *I do nothing,
Cyclops. I am an instrument of the Lord. And whatever a man's
color or beliefs, he is still human. Those children, and you
X-Men, are not!*
*Says who?* Cyclops asked, his voice measured and calm. *You?
What makes your link with heaven any stronger than mine? We have
unique gifts, but no more so, and no more special, than those granted a
physician or physicist, or philosopher or athlete. It could be due
to an accident of nature or divine providence, who's to say? Are
arbitrary labels more important than the way we live our lives, what
we're supposed to be more important than what we actually are? For
all you know, we could be the real human race...and the rest of you, the
Several in the jury stiffened as they watched Stryker scream into the
microphone, pointing at Nightcrawler. *Human? You dare call
*More human than you!* Shadowcat faced the Reverend now, breathing
heavy, her small fists clenched. *Nightcrawler's generous and kind
and decent! He had every reason to be bitter, every excuse to
become as much of a demon inside and out. But he decided he'd
rather learn to laugh instead! I hope I can be half the person he
is. And if I have to choose between caring for my friend and
believing in your God....then I choose my friend.*
At the defense table, Stryker watched himself, emotionless, as he pulled
a revolver from his suit and aimed it at the girl, her teammates coming
to stand beside her. *Let those blasphemous words, girl...*, he
choked, *be your epitaph.* The loud crack of a gunshot rang
through the courtroom, and the televised Stryker dropped to his knees,
clutching at his shoulder, his fingers bloody, and then the screen went
"You were very eloquent, Mr. Summers," Michael said as the
lights came back on. "Very persuasive. But the
defendant didn't even waver, did he?"
"No," Scott replied. "I don't think he was even
"Objection," Tracy cut in. "Your Honor, my client
*responded* to the threats made by Mr. Summers and his ilk --"
"Threats? *Ilk*?" Michael rolled his eyes.
"--it is ludicrous to suggest that he wasn't listening."
"Mr. Summers," Michael asked, "what is your *personal*
opinion of the defendant?"
Scott paused. "I think Reverend Stryker is a sad and empty
man," he began slowly. "But he is also very angry, very
bitter, and very hateful. I think he is taking advantage of the
growing prejudice against mutants to satisfy his sociopathic desires;
but I don't think he would hesitate to kill any normal human who opposed
him either. I think we *all* have to be afraid of this man, what
he has done, and what he could do if the crimes he has already committed
"Thank you, Mr. Summers," Michael said quickly, before Tracy
could object. "I have no further questions for you at this
Hartman rapped his gavel and stood, his black robes sweeping around him.
"Court is recessed for 20 minutes," he announced.
"The defense may cross-examine the witness when we return."
When he had turned fifteen, Scott had petitioned to be allowed to attend
the local public school instead of the orphanage's own makeshift
classes, designed for those children too troublesome to go anywhere
else. The administration had balked at his idea, fearing that his
obvious and unusual handicap would bring them unwanted attention; but
Scott had persisted relentlessly, knowing that if he didn't get
something else, something *more*, he would never survive.
Eventually the board of directors had conceded, given him bus fare and a
stern warning, and enrolled him in John Adams High, where he learned
advanced geometry and trig, American history, and how to hide his pain
from an entirely new group of people as they ridiculed him.
And then there was Larry Mitchell. He hadn't been one of those
teachers that could be found on afterschool specials, who would reach
out to the outcasts, full of concern and understanding, giving them
meaningful advice and support while the sound of badly played violins
welled in the background. He had seemed to take Scott's presence
in his physical education class as a personal affront, growing ever more
frustrated by the cold indifference the boy showed to even the cruelest
remarks made by the other students; until, one day, as Scott was taking
a drink from the water fountain after class, Mitchell had picked up a
basketball and thrown it at the back of his head, smashing Scott's nose
and teeth against the metal of the spigot.
"Are you going to ignore that too?" Mitchell had demanded,
watching as Scott silently pulled up his ragged teeshirt and wiped the
worst of the blood away. "I hit you in the *head* with a
*basketball*. I broke your *nose*."
"I know," Scott had replied quietly, turning to leave; but
Mitchell had stopped him, pushing him against a locker and pinning him
there, growing infuriated by the boy's total lack of resistance.
"What I just did was *wrong*, Summers," Mitchell had told him
through clenched teeth. "When you let people get away with
wronging you, you're giving them permission to do it to you again, or
worse, to someone else. You have to *fight back* when you see an
injustice, because if you don't, no one else will. And for God's
sake," he had finished, looking with disgust at Scott's almost
skeletal frame, "*eat something*."
It had taken a long time for those words to sink in - too long Scott
sometimes thought - but once they had he had been consumed by them, even
moreso than by the dream. The dream was what he fought for.
The memory of Mitchell's words was what drove him to fight - and to
testify against Stryker, even if it meant estranging himself from
He stepped down from the witness box and crossed to the gallery, Jean
throwing her arms around his neck. "My hero," she
laughed, but her green eyes were filled with solemn awe; and he kissed
her forehead, astonished as always by the faith she placed in him.
"You did good, Scotty," Logan said as Kurt, Sean, and Moira
joined them. "This might just work."
"Scott?" Matt interrupted, beckoning to his client.
"All right." Scott turned to Jean, briefly tightening
his arm around her slender shoulders. "Have dinner with me
"Absolutely," she said, and kissed him lightly.
"Now go see what Matt needs."
"It's nice to see you two happy again, Jean," Sean commented
when Scott had gone, joining Matt and Michael in one of the small rooms
that bordered the judge's chambers, "and you so at ease."
"Very nice," Logan agreed, slow and deliberate, making her
keenly aware of the frustration and anger he felt toward her recent
behavior. She ignored him, not wanting to give him the
satisfaction of a response; but then everything seemed to close in and
spin away all at once, reality splintering with a sound like thunder
turned inside out, and she was someplace
She was cold, so very *cold*, her teeth and bones and lungs ached and
ached, they would shatter if she moved; but she had to move, it was
coming, it would be here soon, to take her *there*, she had to hide it
mustn't find her she had to hide; she scuttled backward across the
frozen rock of the floor, stricken, the manacle that bound her ankle
pulling, scraping, dark blood oozing from beneath it; she realized she
was naked, her skin as gray and cold and lifeless as the walls of her
prison; and then it was too late it was here it was here oh God under
her skin in her mind nowhere and everywhere and she began to scream and
She was in the courtroom again, dizzy, Kurt's strong arms around her
waist, guiding her into a chair, Logan's worried eyes all that she could
see. "Have you eaten today?" Moira was demanding as she knelt
in front of her, taking her pulse. She shook her head weakly and
tried to breathe. It couldn't be real. It was imagination,
*--would appear that Reverend Stryker's views are so extreme that even
Presidental hopeful Senator Robert Kelly, most noted for authoring the
failed Mutant Registration Act, has publicly decried the embattled
clergyman's methods, calling for an end to the violence, most likely
because it threatens his own more moderate views on mutant issues.
The popular Senator, who suffered a great loss earlier this month when
close advisor Roger Whitman was killed in a boating accident on the
Chesapeake Bay, is now rumored to be dating British bombshell Bet--*
Charles frowned and clicked off the television, tossing the remote
aside, lethargy overshadowed by a strong distaste for gossip. He
forced himself to swing his legs over the side of the bed and walk to
the bathroom, vaguely disgusted that he had allowed himself to waste so
much of the day in depressed avoidance.
He removed his pajamas and placed them neatly into the hamper as the
water heated, took a clean washcloth from beneath the sink and stepped
into the shower, the heat relaxing the aching muscles in his shoulders
and neck as he soaped his body, wishing it were this easy to wash away
mistakes and guilt, arrogance and anger.
~Jean?~ It had been so long since she had linked with him that an
irrational panic welled within him; her thoughts, so often troubled and
shielded, now seemed to spill forth a broken and blurred canvas of
emotion. ~What's happened? Is it Scott?~
There was silence on her end. ~Answer me, Jean~ he ordered.
~Has Stryker done something?~
~No~ she choked. ~I just...needed you. I'm so very sorry to
bother you with trivialities~
She severed their connection with such force that it sent a jolt of
white-hot pain ricocheting through his mind, and he grabbed at the towel
bar to keep from being driven to his knees, finding that he was unable
to stop his tears as easily.
"I'd like to remind Mr. Summers that he is still under oath,"
Judge Hartman instructed, "and the defense will remember that they
are prohibited from asking the witness any questions regarding the X-Men
that do not directly pertain to this case. Miss Elder, you may
"Thank you, your Honor," she said smoothly, facing Scott, her
arms crossed against her chest. "Mr. Summers, why should we
believe a word you say? By your own admission, you're a liar -
you've hidden your true identity every single day for nine years.
Is that the action of an honest man?"
"It's the action of a man legitimately fearing for his safety
because of people like the defendant," Scott replied.
"And I'm not hiding any more."
"But you are a mutant?"
"You are a mutant, and you are speaking out against a man who is
seeking to enlighten the world as to the evil of your kind," she
said, shaking her head. "I have to question the purity of
"Your logic is flawed," Scott answered calmly.
"White abolitionists spoke out against white slave owners --"
"I don't need a history lesson from you, Mr. Summers."
"And my client is not the one on trial," Matt interjected.
"Perhaps he should be."
Michael sighed audibly and stood. "Objection, your
"Sustained. Miss Elder, you may question the witness's
character - you may not dissolve into petty remarks.
"Yes, your Honor." Tracy turned back to Scott, resting
her elbow on the edge of the witness box. "The fact is that
you are a mutant who belongs to a mutant organization, which may have
been founded with the consent of the United States government, but which
is currently operating well outside of the law. We have only your
word as to the existence of this 'machine' you speak of --"
"Objection," Michael said loudly. "The FBI was able
to gather enough evidence against the defendant in this regard to launch
an investigation. Miss Elder knows this and is deliberately misleading
"As of this time, the federal investigation the prosecution refers
to has brought no formal charges against my client," Tracy
explained. "They may never do so. It is unjust to use
their *possible* findings as proof of guilt in this case."
"Objection overruled, Mr. Forrester."
"Mr. Summers, do you consider yourself superior to my client?
After all, he is only human."
"No," Scott replied, refusing to be baited. "My
mother was human. My father is. I have loved human women,
had human friends, and aided humans against mutants who wished them
harm. I judge people by their actions and their character, not by
the make-up of their DNA."
"How noble of you," she scoffed. "Mr. Summers,
since I am not permitted to inquire about your activities regarding the
X-Men, I would like to question you about your personal involvement with
a man known as Jack Winters." She smiled as he froze.
"You do remember Jack Winters, don't you Mr. Summers?"
"Essex - it's Wisdom." Pete tucked the telephone under
his chin, freeing his hands. "I've found what you've been
There was a dull static on the other end of the line; and Pete picked up
a shirt, folding it as small as possible before shoving it into his
suitcase, eager to get out of this city, this country. When
Nathaniel finally spoke, his voice was brisk and detached.
"There's a group of mutants living under the city, most horribly
disfigured and whatnot. Call themselves the Morlocks, like
something out of Wells," Pete explained, walking to the window of
his dimly lit motel room and pulling the ugly polyester drapes aside.
"I spoke with their leader, woman by the name of Callisto.
She says one of her people was with your boy when he died; but insists
it was an accident. I've arranged a meeting for you."
"Tuesday, dusk. I'll fax you the details along with the
photographs and notes I've taken, and you can wire payment to my
account. It's been a pleasure doing business with you,
Essex cleared his throat. "These...persons you
mentioned...who would be willing to do what you are not...."
"Interested?" Pete asked, sitting down on the edge of the bed
and digging through his briefcase, coming up with a tattered address
book. "720-555-1642," he told him. "Ask for
"Yes," Scott said. "I remember Jack." He
had been told to expect this, had prepared for this, but it had still
Tracy walked back to the defense table and picked up a large sheet of
paper and a newspaper, holding the paper so that the jury could see.
"This is Mr. Winters' 'rap sheet' if you will. Driving under
the influence. Possession of a controlled substance.
Trafficking of a controlled substance. Terroristic threats.
Destruction of private property. Destruction of public property.
Possession of an illegal firearm. Breaking and entering. Grand
larceny. Burglary. Sexual assualt. Aggravated assault.
Assault with a deadly weapon." She paused dramatically.
"He is now serving a life sentence for first degree murder.
Two years ago he shot a father of three in the head for allegedly
insulting him. It's quite a list, isn't it, Mr. Summers?"
"If you judged Mr. Winters by his 'actions and character', would
you find him to be a good, decent man?"
"Of course not," he said sharply. "Jack Winters is
"Apparently he was not evil enough to stop you from befriending
him, or helping him with at least one criminal venture," Tracy
retorted. She handed the newspaper to the jury, the yellowed
picture on the front page clearly showing an optic blast ripping through
the sky towards a falling crane. "Did you overlook his violent
nature because he was a mutant?"
He could lie, ignore the suffocating weight and shame he felt whenever
he thought of Jack, tell this woman what she expected to hear; but when
he opened his mouth he found that he couldn't. "Yes. I
"So you *do* judge people on the basis of their DNA," Tracy
said, sounding almost dismayed that her line of questioning had been
"No," he clarified, swallowing hard. "I did.
Once. And I learned from my mistake. I was eighteen when I
met Jack Winters. I was homeless and alone; and he was the first
mutant I had ever encountered. I thought I could trust him.
I thought he would look out for me, because I was like him. I was
weak, and I let him bully me into helping him." He nodded
towards the newspaper the jury was studying. "Things went
wrong. *I* was wrong."
"So basically your excuse is that you were young and stupid?"
"But you're a smarter - wiser - man now, are you?"
He looked at Jean, startled to see her so pale. "I'd like to
"Interesting," Tracy said. "Why is it that you are
able to essentially agree to disagree with the terrorist Magneto, as you
testified earlier, while calling Reverend Stryker a 'very hateful' man
with 'sociopathic desires'? Both claim to only desire the survival
of their race. What makes them different?"
"The brutal murder of innocent children?" Scott ventured
"Their DNA," she said smugly, taking her seat. "I'm
finished with this witness, your honor."
When she arrived at the apartment on Stockton Street she found him
waiting for her, sprawled naked across the couch and still damp from
showering, a frenetic bundle of muscle and disheveled hair that watched
her fixedly as she reset the security alarms. "Hey,
Natalie," he drawled, taking a swig of his beer as she walked past
him to the kitchen.
"Don't call me that," she told him coldly, tired of the name
and the tedious, unsophisticated woman she became when she wore it; and
she slipped out of her dress and unhooked the small revolver strapped to
her thigh, setting it on the counter as she looked around for something
to eat. "Did Whitman give you any trouble?"
"Didn't even see me coming," he sulked. "Had to
keep it neat so I got him from behind while he was checking the
engines." He laughed, almost shrilly, and she cringed as she
reached for a half-empty box of triscuits. She was still confident
that she would come out on top if their partnership ended badly; but
these were not the kind of odds she liked. She would *need* all
the luck in the world against a man who never missed.
"How're things on your end?" he called. "Tired of
playing hide and seek?"
"It won't be too much longer," she said, bringing her crackers
into the living room and perching on the arm of the couch. "Nightcrawler
believes I'm harmless. His witch doesn't trust me, but she's gone.
I'm under the telepaths' radar, and the others don't think of me at
all." She smiled. "When I make my move, they won't even
To be Continued...