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Feature of the Month
For November, 1998
DISCLAIMER: The characters belong to Marvel. The world belongs to Marvel. The author belongs to Kielle.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Okay, this one's a little long. I tried very hard to get the characters right, and the legal issues and continuity. I apologize for anything that is unclear or blatantly wrong. All in all, though, by the end, it should all be clear.
SPECIAL THANKS: Abyss beta-read this. He did a heroic job, catching all of the points I tried to gloss over, all the legal issues that I didn't want to deal with and all the character points I forgot. I owe him a great huge mug of Guinness, I have to say. Abyss, thank you!!! This story worked out because of you!
Somebody please tell me that I'm dreaming
It's not so easy to stop from screaming
But words escape me when I try to speak
Tears they flow but why am I crying
After all I am not afraid of dying
Don't believe that there is never an end
As the guards march me out to the courtyard
Someone calls from a cell "God be with you"
If there's a God then why has he let me die?
As I walk all my life drifts before me
And though the end is near I'm not sorry
Catch my soul cos it's willing to fly away
Hallowed Be Thy Name -- Iron Maiden
Scott had been surprised by his wife's reaction to his decision. Jean's temper, however, was nothing compared to the wrath of She-Hulk, who smashed her way into the mansion early the next morning. The calm, composed Jennifer that they had known was completely subsumed by the fury of her alter-ego.
She stood in the entryway of the mansion, shedding the remains of their automated defenses onto the floor. Her chest heaved as she sucked in deep breaths. Her face, usually so serene, was no twisted into a mask of dreadful anger.
Scott tried to calm her down, but a threatening glare from her cowed even the fearless leader of the X-Men.
"You'd better have a damn good explanation -- no, scratch that. There's no explanation that you could come up with that would make this any better," she snarled.
The groggily battle-alert X-Men stared at her in stunned amazement. Even Logan seemed to shocked to move. Scott spread his hands defenselessly. "Jennifer, what are you talking about?"
"If you were just going to handle this on your own, why the hell did you even hire me?" the enraged lawyer demanded.
A worry began to worm its way up from Scott's gut. "What happened?"
"You don't know?" Jennifer stared at him in shock. "One of your friends broke Sara out of a maximum security prison and you don't even know?"
Scott's lips pressed into a thin white line. "No, I don't," he growled angrily under his breath, furious that his orders had been ignored. "Jean, I told you to keep an eye on them."
"I did," was the chillingly aloof response.
He rounded on her, feeling betrayed. "And...?"
"Maggot was right. If it had been me facing the chair, you would have stopped them," she told him, her expression defiant.
Scott's eyes widened. "Jean...you didn't..."
Her satisfied smile was the only hint of warmth on her face. "No, but I know who did."
Looking back now on the breakout, Jennifer was still amazed that of all the X-Men, it had been Sam Guthrie who had made the attempt. Though she still did not know him well, he was by all appearances the perfect all-American young man; honest, intelligent, law-abiding, polite -- Jennifer still did not understand it.
She had defended him as well, and had never encountered the sort of attitude that Sara had always thrown at her. He had been polite, apologetic and extremely cooperative. In other words, not her usual client.
Jennifer shook her head and fretted at the hem of her skirt. This whole case had been wrong from the beginning. The conclusion -- the awful, terrible deed taking place in less than ten minutes -- was the final insult, she hoped.
Part of her wished that Sara had gotten away with Guthrie. The justice system had failed her so badly; to the point where even Jennifer had been tempted to take matters into her own hands, despite the costs to herself. She had chosen not to because, as a lawyer, she knew that breaking out of prison was the worst thing for any accused. All the way up to the end, there was hope...
Oh who was she trying to fool?
Hiding two people like Sara and Sam would have been a job for any experienced covert operative, and neither of the two fugitives had been gifted with that experience. They had chosen a secure hiding spot, but one that had been far too obvious.
Sara was in a bad mood.
First, Sam had gotten all noble on her, risking his scrawny neck for her by breaking her out of prison -- a favor she had not asked for and would be damned if she felt indebted to him for. Of course, by her code, she did owe him, but she was not intending to let him know that.
The real problem, though, was his chosen bolt-hole. Sara had intended to repay Sam's completely-unsolicited-yet-somewhat-appreciated-rescue by getting as far away from him as possible as soon as they landed.
"Only Corncob drops us on a freaking island!" she hissed in exasperation.
"Thanks lots," she had snapped at him as soon as she had come to the conclusion that she was trapped.
The doctor -- Myra or something -- seemed like the sort of person that Sara could get along with if they ever got to know each other. Though painfully nice and hospitable on the surface, there was a hard-eyed rebel in her somewhere. Marrow had seen it when, upon hearing the story of the two fugitives, she had instantly shooed them inside with a few nasty
remarks about the immorality of America's capital punishment system.
Sara paced throughout the clinically sterile corridors of the island compound, feeling as trapped now as she had been back in prison. At least, though, here she was not so soul-shakingly alone.
"He rescued me," she thought in wonder. "Broke me out, even though it meant pissing away his future as an X-Man. I can't believe it..."
Sara yanked herself out of her dreamy reverie. The fact remained that he had forestalled any hope of her committing the first selfless act of her life, and even if he was not aware of it, she could not let him off the hook so easily.
Marrow tapped a small bone club in the flat of her left palm. The collar was gone and so the disfigurement was back. She had mixed feelings about it. One the one hand, she hated any kind of restraint. On the other, though, well.... She still had never really seen herself without the sickly white protrusions jutting from her skin (there weren't a lot of full-length mirrors in prison) -- and it did not matter to her, she quickly amended the thought -- but Sam had not looked at her that way since the escape.
"Well, of course he's looking at you differently," she thought in exasperation. "You look like a damned corpse. Doesn't really turn most guys on." She shook her head and wandered on.
"Or is it," she wondered. "That I'm seeing him differently? Or, more specifically, am I seeing differently how he's seeing me?"
Sara pushed those questions aside. It was not important. Sam was out of her reach. The thought always rode along with the memory of his body next to hers as they had flown over the Atlantic, and knowing how fleeting that time had been always brought an obscure pain to her gut.
She eventually came across a central control room in her wanderings. Monitor screens arrayed along the wall showed images taken from all over the island.
Asleep at the panel she found Sam.
He was adorable, curled up on the panel as he was. He reminded her, sometimes, of Angel, with his blond hair and flawless face. The blue eyes, too -- now lidded -- sparkled with a clarity that she had seen many times in her dreams.
Marrow paused for a moment and just watched him.
'He was probably standing watch over me,' she realized. 'Keeping an eye out for the Federalies in case they showed up.'
"You're going to get a neck cramp," she said aloud. She went over to him and gently sat him up straight.
"Wha...?" he slurred, blinking awake.
Sara rolled her eyes. "Some watchman you are, falling asleep like that. Come on, back to your room."
Sam shook his head stubbornly, turning back to the controls. He wiped sleep from his eyes and tried to focus on the screens before him. "Got to keep an eye out."
"Don't make me club you like a baby seal," she warned. "Even you have to sleep sometime, Corncob."
Sam yawned and shook his head, fighting off his exhaustion. Sara, who was not impeded by the burdens of tact, hauled him out of his chair and propelled him out of the room.
Sam wisely offered no further protest. He shuffled along ahead of her like a zombie, head hanging low. Sara sauntered along behind him, admiring his rear profile all the way.
"Don't expect me to keep mothering you, Farmboy. I've got better things to do," she told him, taking his jacket and hanging it in the closet.
When she turned around, she discovered that the worn-out hero had already collapsed onto the bed and fallen asleep.
"Great," she murmured.
Sara rolled her eyes and walked over to him, trying very hard to edit the word "adorable" from her vocabulary as she gazed on him. It was simply unacceptable to her to keep staring at him like a doe-eyed girl.
She untied his shoes and pulled them off and maneuvered him under the blankets. He did not even stir from the movement. She smiled just the slightest bit and settled on the edge of the bed, enjoying the quiet moment.
She knew why he was so tired. He had flown her across the Atlantic, and while she had been able to doze along the way, he obviously had not. She did not know how long it had been since he had actually slept, but she was certain that it had been too long.
'And, most likely, he hasn't even napped since we arrived. The idiot,' she thought fondly.
Sara smoothed his soft hair away from his face, content for the moment to just sit here while he slept. There was no future for "them," she knew that. She was no girl waiting for her Knight in Shining Armor. Not her -- she was too tough, too cynical.
But, she had to admit, that if she were waiting for someone like that, Sam would be her first choice.
Sara took his hand in hers and held it. She had never known a more decent man, and that he cared at all was something that would carry her through no matter what happened.
Sam sat bolt upright in bed, his ears filled with a distant commotion. There were...voices...people...nearby... His dream-lulled brain slowly pieced together where he was and what he was hearing.
Sara, who had apparently fallen asleep next to him, sat up slowly. "What is it?"
"Trouble, Ah think," Sam replied, untangling himself from the blankets and slipping out of bed.
Sara was instantly in a fighting crouch, bone-knife in hand. Sam had little intention of fighting here. A fight would put lives in unnecessary danger -- his, Sara's and the policemen's. Running was the only acceptable option.
He put his ear to the door and listened.
"...sensitive experiments that I dinnae want ye apes destroying!" Moira was shouting, her tone stern and commanding.
"We have a search warrant, doctor, now stand ye aside!" a deep male voice snapped back.
Sam stepped away from the door, his expression bleak. Looking around, he saw no windows or doors that led outside. Which meant that he and Sara were trapped like rats.
"Bad news?" she asked.
"The worst," he responded, studying the room intently. At full speed, he might be able to break through one of the steel-reinforced walls. The trouble was that the room was too small for him to get the speed he needed to break through those walls.
The policemen outside started hammering on the door, shouting orders to the two fugitives to surrender. Sam had no intention of doing that. Not yet, anyway. He was not prepared for this contingency. He had hoped -- prayed, even -- for a few days respite. Time enough at least to formulate a real plan. It was all well and good to go to a non-extradition country, but how they survived once there was a question he had not yet answered.
"Time for the cavalry to ride," Sam told Sara. "And hope mah hide is tougher than Dr. MacTaggert's walls."
Sara hesitated, still locked in battle mode. Her blue eyes were fierce with berzerker fury, yearning for a fight. Sam could tell that she wanted revenge for being locked in a cage, and any policeman would do. If they stayed, he feared that she would be guilty of more murders.
"Come on," he urged.
The door rattled as someone tried to unlock it.
Sara stalked over to him, a tight grin on her face. "I'll ride you any time, Farmboy."
Sam blushed crimson. He could not help it. Even though he saw her really as just a bitter-eyed girl, he knew there was a soul of iron in her. He knew that she was only playing -- that a hard-bitten veteran like herself could never have any interest in a country bumpkin -- even the suggestion made his blood race.
The door opened and men rushed in, guns at the ready and voices raised. Sara rounded on them, her knife in hand, a feral smile on her face. "Don't you know that it's bad manners to barge into a lady's bedroom?"
"Drop your weapon," one of the officers warned.
The tension in the room went up several levels as the two sides faced off. Sam could tell that Sara was not going to go down quietly. The policeman, pitifully few that they had brought, might get in a lucky shot.
There was going to be blood.
Sam did not know what to do. He had no desire for anyone to be hurt, but at the same time, he was loathe to let them take Sara back. The quick, fierce glance she threw at him told him that she was expecting back-up.
Could he betray her?
"That won't be necessary, gentlemen," a cold, clear voice remarked as two new people entered the room.
"Vertigo? Blockbuster?" Sam gasped, completely uncertain what this turn of events meant. What were the Marauders doing here?
"That's Special Agents Maelstrom and Jackhammer to you," the slender woman in the dark suit told him.
Sam was completely confused. The two people before him were easily recognizable, despite the sober dark-suits that had replaced their garish spandex. These two were members of the Marauders, a team of assassins that the X-Men had tangled with.
Neither of the agents had the time or the interest to explain their story to the fugitives. They had both been re-trained and assigned to the task force in charge of dealing with super-powered menaces by the U.S. government in exchange for amnesty.
"You are both under arrest," Blockb-- Jackhammer told them.
"Screw that! I've been itching to get a piece of you two," Sara growled and lunged.
And then pitched forward like a doll with her strings cut.
"Fortunately for her, I was generous and only rendered her unconscious. Do you wish to try my patience, Sam Guthrie?" Maelstrom asked.
Cannonball did not understand. The whole world had gone crazy on him. He was a fugitive from the law, and two Marauders were trying to arrest him in the name of the U.S. Government. He could not accept it.
Sam took to the air and barreled at the huge man he knew as Blockbuster. A meaty fist knocked him from the air -- a feat that should have been impossible. Groaning, Sam tried to get to his feet.
"You were warned, Guthrie," Maelstrom hissed.
There was a sudden stabbing pain in his chest and suddenly everything went black for Cannonball. His last sight was that of Sara, her eyes open, staring sightlessly at him.
How futile it had all been, Jennifer thought now, minutes away from the execution. Sam's noble gesture had been thwarted -- and of course escaping had only made things worse for Sara. If that were truly possible.
Jennifer swallowed back bile as her stomach started to churn. A human life was about to be ended. She had saved hundreds -- billions, really -- as the savage She-Hulk. It appeared, however, that Jennifer Walters could not save even one.
"I'm sorry," she thought as the guards pulled the hood over her client's head. The hood and the electric chair were normally not used in New York. In fact, the device had been installed here in Clinton, New York specially for this day.
The state, in its wisdom, had decided that lethal injection could not be relied on to work on mutant biology.
"And what good is that?" she wondered darkly. "In an hour or so, I'll be home, sorting through junk mail. I lost the case, but I'm not the one who has to pay the price."
She almost stormed out at that point. It was too much for her to handle -- too large of an injustice to be borne. But she did stay, because she had promised. No matter how hard it was turning out to be.
Over the last year, Special Agent John Carlton had seen the work on his desk multiply at an alarming rate. Mutant-related crimes -- or at least ones worth noticing -- had traditionally been sporadic events.
Now, it seemed that every crime in the country was being perpetrated by or upon a mutant.
He was making progress, though, there was no denying that. His agents had finally tracked down the fringe group of the KKK responsible for the death of at least six black mutants. Proving their guilt was going to be a challenge, but he was certain that he would prevail.
They had locked up the FOH fanatics responsible for beating Barbara Dexter to death in a truckstop a few years back. Solving that case had allowed Carlton to sleep a lot easier at nights.
Other cases were proving more difficult -- like the vigilante that was stalking and attacking suspected rapists. Carlton still was unable to get a solid lead on the perpetrator. The victims, for some reason, weren't talking.
The rash of mutant-killings that had suddenly broken out had Carlton deeply concerned. It seemed that people were murdering mutants for no reason at all. Otherwise upstanding citizens were throwing their lives away in random, inexplicable attacks on mutants.
It was aberrant behavior that needed investigating. Unfortunately, the Bureau still did not accept the validity of John Carlton's work. He was unable to get either the manpower or the resources he desperately needed to do his job.
Currently, he was preparing to go to Oregon. He was hoping that he would have more luck prying information out of the tight-lipped citizens of Jon Day than Mayfaire had had. A boy was dead, and for no good reason. Someone would have to answer for it.
"Good morning, sir," Anna Mayfaire greeted him as she stepped into his office.
"Morning," he returned, taking the coffee she brought him with a grateful smile. "What's on the agenda for today?"
Anna Mayfaire, an ice-blonde, sober-faced woman, took a seat in front of his cluttered desk. "The assorted kidnappings, beatings and hoaxes, sir. Senator Dumont has invited you to lunch. McIlwain's sentencing is today."
Brian McIlwain was a mutant who fancied himself something of a Don Juan. Regrettably, he tended to use his mutant telepathic powers to bolster his questionable charms.
"I thought you'd want to see this sir," Anna told him and handed him a case file.
Carlton trusted his assistant. Anything that she handed to him personally had to be of vital importance. He opened the file and scanned its contents. The report was of the young mutant Sara -- a case he was familiar with. Open and shut, from what he had seen.
Then he got to the part about the testimony of the hypno-therapist. "Dear god...she was there," he whispered. "The massacre -- she was there!"
Anna nodded. "The descriptions are too consistent with our own findings to be a ruse."
"Why weren't we contacted when this came up?"
His assistant shrugged, stone-faced. "The local authorities did not want 'Federal interference.' They want blood, sir. A cop was one of the victims. I was reading the 'Post, sir, and they were discussing it after her escape attempt. There was an aside about her psych profile that caught my eye."
Carlton rose to his feet and grabbed his coat. "I've been waiting for years to find an actual witness. I'm not going to let the state of New York kill her. Call the governor -- stop that execution. I'm going to the airport now..."
The lieutenant governor was yammering on, making a pompous speech about "Justice" and the "triumph of law over anarchy." It was making Jennifer's temple throb in a slow staccato beat.
The clock ticked inexorably onward, minute by minute, oblivious to the life that it was bringing to an end.
The seat of her chair was being slowly destroyed by her clenching hands. She was having a very hard time controlling her temper. If it got any worse, she would have to leave, promise or no promise.
The lieutenant governor finished his speech with a trite and wholly unconvincing, "May God have mercy on your soul."
Jennifer gave up hoping for a miracle in that instant. She had been harboring a small bit of optimism that the governor would call and stop the execution. The governor was on vacation, though, and she knew from personal experience (all the fruitless arguments...) that he would not make the phone call unless God himself told him to.
Three non-descript, solemn-faced men stepped up to the switches set into the wall and took hold of the levers. None of them would ever know which one was the one to throw the fatal switch. A mercy on their consciences. Jennifer knew of countries where no such niceties are observed.
A cell phone beeped.
Lt. Governor Mathews took it from an aide and spoke briefly with the caller. Jennifer could not hear what was said, though she could tell the conversation seemed serious. Mathews nodded slowly and took down some notes.
The warden paused, waiting.
The fateful hour came upon them.
'Please...' she thought desperately.
The lieutenant governor turned the phone off and handed it back to his aide. The warden looked at him questioningly. Mathews nodded, giving him a thumbs-up and a cheerful smile.
"Damn it," Jennifer cursed inwardly.
Three levers were pulled down simultaneously and thousands of volts coursed through Sam Guthrie's body.
Jennifer shuddered as his screams echoed through the execution chamber. It was mercifully brief, though, and soon there was only an awful silence.
Sam Guthrie, who had been convicted for the cold-blooded murder of three prison guards during the break-out -- despite his pleas that the deaths had been accidental -- died in the electric chair.
His powers had constituted the special circumstances need by the prosecution to push for the death penalty. His status as a rogue mutant had not helped his case any. Even though many had come forward and defended his character, he had been consigned to Death Row.
Jennifer got up and left. She had an appointment with Paige Guthrie, Sam's sister. Together they would escort the body back to Kentucky where funeral services had already been arranged. That is, his body would be released once the final atrocity had been committed.
This had been the worst part and the most unbelievable. On the witness stand, under oath, Sam had been asked if he believed that routine means of execution would work on him. Most people would have lied. In fact, had he not sworn on the Bible that he would tell the truth, even Sam Guthrie would have lied.
But lying under such an oath was worse than death, and so the noble young man had confessed about his suspicions that he was an External.
The court had scoffed, of course, but not so much so that they had not decided upon a very severe and somewhat illegal course of action.
Sam's body was even now on the way to the morgue to have his head removed post-mortem.
Jennifer wondered if Marrow knew yet. She was certain that the execution was all over the news (dear god, if she saw a reporter, there would be another death today...) and even if Sara was not near a television, she had probably been told. Darkly, the green-hued lawyer envisioned Sara being dragged screaming from the recreation room right now. As counsel for both defendants, Jennifer had understood how important each of them was to each other.
It was not a visit that she wanted to make, but she would. She owed that much to Sara and to Sam. For now, though, she had to try and console a heart-broken girl waiting outside the prison -- waiting for the final word.
Jennifer had, after all, made a promise to Sam that she would do so.
And just outside the prison, an old soldier waited, his face grim.
Nathan Summers, aka Cable, had not been able to be with his friend at the last for any number of legal and safety issues. So, instead, he had taken up a post outside and waited.
He saw the hearse leaving now, though, so he guessed it was time to go.
Cable had wanted to rescue Sam more than anything. It would have been a simple job for a man of his skills and talents. In fact, Roberto DaCosta -- a friend of Sam's since the New Mutants -- had been chafing at the bit to go and break the young man out.
But Cable knew Sam well enough that he might not appreciate being rescued.
And in fact, a message from Sam conveyed by Tabitha Smith -- the turbulant X-Factor member called Meltdown -- had told the two hot-headed men that Sam was intent on taking the punishment meted out to him. His guilt over the deaths -- accidental though they were -- would only be expunged through whatever justice the state deemed necessary, or so Guthrie had told them.
It had made Nathan sick -- and proud. Sam Guthrie had lived and died a soldier. He hoped, when his time came, that he met it with as much courage.
John Carlton slipped into the passenger seat next to his assistant, Mayfaire, his expression thoughtful. Anna said nothing at all as she pulled into traffic, waiting patiently for him to start talking.
"Nothing new," he murmured.
"She knows about Guthrie. She...wasn't very talkative."
Carlton had succeeded in his bid to stop Sara's execution, but only because the state had found another mutant to fry. Guthrie he had not been able to save. Truth be told, he had not tried very hard. John did not use his governmental powers carelessly. Sara he needed, so he had gotten her sentence commuted to life in prison. Sam...was responsible for the deaths of three prison guards in an unprovoked attack.
Justice -- as defined by the laws of the state of New York -- had been done. It was not Carlton's place to pass judgment on whether or not it had been just.
"Let's get back to the office, Anna. We're done here."
Mark my words please believe my soul lives on
When you know that your time is close at hand
Please don't worry now that I have gone
I've gone beyond to see the truth
maybe then you'll begin to understand
Life down there is just a strange illusion.
Hallowed Be Thy Name -- Iron Maiden
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