“Cameron Burke will immediately submit himself to the Mutant Commission Office for testing!” the gavel’s bang affirmed the judges pronouncement.
The Court’s demand struck like a tsunami! The initial impact was overwhelming surprise followed quickly by a dread which swept over those present as the realization hit home; Cameron was being thrown to the wolves!
Mike Williamson and Karen Mitchell sat to Cameron’s left, they floundered trying to grasp at what had been said. Karen was visibly devastated. She sat staring down at the table in front of her since to even look over at Cameron she would have burst into tears, her anguish telling within her posture.
Mike for his part had his eyes closed, obviously concentrating deeply while his face held a scowl Cameron had only else encountered when his guardian spoke of the scene in the hospital when Cameron awoke from his coma. Mike initially felt helpless about Cameron being treated like a piece of meat …. but Cameron could see the resolve slowly return into the man’s face and heard the whispered words; No more! - Never again!
For Cameron it felt as if they’d lost the battle, the crushing weight of defeat had deflated his spirit.
As for the MCO contingent? It was overjoyed at the first volley with the Supreme Court being so overwhelmingly in their favour. The opposing table shared smiles and fist bumps in celebration.
Court is an arena of battle - not all so different from Whateley Academy’s training grounds where physical powers were tested. However, this bastion was established for dispensing justice … where weapons were words, and devastating blows came from proving a point through reason, a battle won through swaying opinion, supporting ideas and ideals honed like blades which cleaved away until truth shone through. Cameron took a killing blow.
Mike Williamson stood to address the judges arrayed on the bench and spoke with full conviction. “May I direct the courts attention to the charter of human rights: An individual is entitled to self determination! Mr. Burke does not wish to be subjected to invasive testing.”
The bench was taken aback by the apparent rebuttal. “Is this court to understand that you wish to argue the merits of whether a mutant is human or not?” questioned the judge sitting beside the judiciary’s chairperson.
“Yes your honour, to be completely honest it does appear to be the logical progression for these proceedings to take. We need to explore the definition of being human, both dis-abled and en-abled,” exclaimed Mike.
The panel of judges formed a huddle and spoke between themselves for what felt like a very long time, but actually taking only five minutes before the judges’ spokesman addressed the room.
“Mr. Williamson, we agree with your assessment; it is in fact what piqued this panel’s curiosity and why it chose to hear this case. However, it has been determined that we cannot render a decision if the facts are not known. To that end, this court is of the opinion that Cameron Burke must submit himself for examination to determine how human he is.”
The defendant’s table had so far been excluded from participation in the debate since it appeared the judges had sided with them. This latest legal turn had brought them another measure of ecstasy. From among the MCO supporters an agent sitting in the gallery rushed Cameron striving to place handcuffs on him. Cameron quickly ducked under the table to escape, but found himself hemmed in on all sides by court officers and additional MCO reps eagerly encircling him until he was pressed up against the judges’ desk, sinking to the floor crying “no” to deaf ears.
Mike Williamson had to fight to be heard overtop the MCO mob, but eventually he managed to interject, “To enforce that decision is nothing more than government sanctioned rape!”
The chairman judge began to bang his gavel with vigour to get the melee’s attention. They were oblivious to anything other than restraining the struggling Cameron, forcing him flat onto the floor. An MCO agent pressed his knee into the boy’s back as handcuffs and shackles were clamped on.
“Mr. Williamson, you had better have a good explanation behind such an outrageous claim!” accused a seated judge, watching with satisfaction the assault happening just feet away.
“Forcing a medical procedure upon a person against their will is an act of rape - be it mental, emotional or physical. Taking away somebody's rights and freedoms without just cause is tantamount to making them a slave. Is it this court’s opinion that Cameron is no longer worthy of being a citizen of Canada?”
“You walk a dangerous path by making such accusations against the Court,” crowed one of the judges.
“Certainly, a central tenant of what it means to be a person must include conscious choice - deciding for ourselves what to think, feel, and believe.” Mike pointed towards the subdued boy beneath the swarm, “Society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens … Is this your picture of a just society?”
The lead lawyer for the defendants jumped at the chance of rebuttal. “The MCO is here to protect decent people from dangerous mutants! Our mandate is to control mutant activities, we can only do that by knowing what they are capable of. We must be able to defend against them.”
“And you’re very good at it too - you’ve denied them freedom at every turn; how to live, what work they can do, who to marry. In fact, people recoil in fear at the very word mutant.
The MCO’s zeal has yielded a crop of fear and hatred, to the extent that they have pushed us to the cusp of spawning the very thing they sought to prevent; a mutant apocalypse!
Soon we will have powered individuals running through the streets in open warfare against an unjust and oppressive regime… Look at what is taking place at your feet!
This is what it means to be labeled a mutant!” Mike had to catch his breath and steady himself before he could continue. “Today we have a chance, a chance to do what is right, and good - and fair. Tomorrow that chance isn’t going to be available for us!”
Cameron groaned while bringing his knees up to his chest. He wrapped his arms under his legs as he lay motionless; waiting for his heart rate to drop from its panic driven frenzy. His thoughts were a jumble after the nightmarish dream. “This was a bad one,” he spoke, as if saying it aloud would change what he dreamt into something less disturbing.
There would be no getting back to sleep tonight!
Cameron and Mike had only returned to the Bunker beneath Ottawa a few days ago in response to the call Mike received that the Supreme Court had scheduled a review of the MCO’s appeal. Mike wanted to get back to Ottawa to get preparations underway, regroup his team of lawyers, and try to anticipate any questions the judges might have.
Ray Martin; head of the RCMP’s Special Investigations division, had extended an open invitation for Cameron to return, so the Special Operations base was going to be ‘home’ for the foreseeable future.
Cameron was deeply perturbed over this negative turn, and was chasing ideas around in circles until he opened up his laptop and sent a message to Lynn, asking her thoughts about the possibility and consequences of trying to change the future?
To his great surprise, given the late hour, Lynn replied right away saying to give her a call. She picked up on the first ring.
“It doesn’t look very promising does it?” confessed Lynn.
“You know what I’m up against?” puzzled Cameron.
“Your day in court; the judges will demand you be tested … the MCO is applying pressure to have you exposed to get your case dismissed.”
“How?” wondered the surprised boy.
“You remember I’m a ‘PreCog’; right? Accept that it just is - your brain will melt if you try and figure it out,” admonished Lynn.
“And it would be helpful if you managed to squeeze out more than single word sentences,” teased the girl.
“Fine,” tossed out a frustrated Cameron.
“That’s more like it!” encouraged Lynn.
“Is the future set? Unchangeable?”
“Mom explained it to me this way: since she sees the future like a crossroads, she looks at the possible outcomes to pick the best course to follow.”
“So what does your mom think?”
“Don’t know! She’s at Toronto in Arkham with Alan.”
“Oh!” realized Cameron, “so what did you see?”
“You’re not gonna be happy.”
“Tell me. I can take it.”
“No! You’re not gonna be happy! The MCO testing is going to result in plenty of nasty injuries. You’re gonna wind-up in hospital … and.”
“Come on,” urged Cameron, “it’s not like I haven’t been hurt before.”
“During the testing, the MCO is going to gouge out your eyes to discovery how you see,” revealed Lynn.
“Oh!” responded an aghast Cameron.
There was a minute where neither of them spoke, the silence over the phone hung heavy.
“How does it affect the trials outcome?” asked Cameron.
“Your not actually considering letting them blind you!” demanded Lynn.
“Certainly not my preference!” conceded Cameron. “But, what other choice do I have? Everything hinges on winning the trial! Changing society’s view of mutants! Opening the way to free Were’s!” he reasoned out. “I’m committed to this course. If you want something bad enough sacrifices have to be made.”
“I’m so sorry,” Lynn blurted out, “I put you in this situation!” she wailed, as she tried to hold back tears.
“It’s okay,” confessed Cameron. “I made the choice - of my own free will.”
“You don’t understand,” cried Lynn, “you aren’t supposed to be the Golden Eyed Man, you’re not the guy that would save the Were, or the person I’m supposed to marry.”
Cameron remained quiet as that information digested before admitting, “I know.”
“And you’re still going through with it? That’s crazy!”
“Any more crazy than marking the wrong guy? Pushing an entire race down an unknown path?”
“I saw an opportunity to save lives, a better path that doesn’t hurt so many people, one that will prevent a war. But; it still has a price.”
“Go on,” coaxed Cameron.
“You’re gonna bear the brunt of the burden,” Lynn admitted.
“Kinda what I figured,” revealed Cameron, but added, “It also meant that you would give up your own future, and any possible happiness for yourself.”
“The real Golden Eyed Man is a total jerk: he’s angry, abusive, full of hate. I’d have no happiness!” supplied Lynn. “He would relish leading the Were to war, which will result in nearly wiping them out of existence. The devastation wrought would make humans fearful and no good relationship possible, ever.”
“Hmm, sounds like you came to a crossroad?”
“I saw another possibility … I don’t blame you for hating me.”
“I wouldn’t go that far. But I would like to know why you chose the path you did?”
“On the train, when I slept on you - not once, but three times! You wouldn’t move a muscle so as not to disturb me. You care more about others than yourself, that’s what love means - and love is more powerful than hate.”
“So you took a chance … made a choice. Decided to try and change the future.”
“So that brings us back to my question: the future is changeable! What we choose to do now can alter the outcome.”
“Mom always says, ”The trick to winning is betting on the right horse. You have something in mind?”
“What if we do an end-run on them? Have Arkham do the testing ahead of time; maybe it’ll change the court ordered outcome, hopefully it’ll swing the judges in our favour.”
“If you’re going to Arkham I’ll get in touch with Mom! She’ll want to know, and she might have some insights too,” suggested Lynn.
“Mom has been keeping a vigil over him. The goop is still hanging on and making him sick, he’s in a lot of pain. The doctors can’t even enter his room, so he’s made little improvement so far.”
“I’ll make certain to visit them. I’d better run my idea past Mike - talk to you soon.”
“I’d like that!”
Cameron put on a night coat and slippers for the cold walk down the corridor a couple doors to Mikes room. Cameron looked at Mike and saw that he was in bed, but not asleep; his heart rate was too high, Cameron realized he wasn’t the only one anxious tonight.
Cameron knocked gently, opening the door to Mike’s reply of ‘come in’. Entering the room, Cameron sat on the foot of Mike’s bed saying, “We need to talk.”
February 4, 2008
Arkham Research Centre, Toronto
Tanya Nelson got the ball rolling afterMike called to schedule an exam for Cameron, Tanya for her part had brought together all available records regarding Cameron, then assigned her most trustworthy staff to the client’s case. However, the entire facility caught wind that an anomaly was coming.
Tanya had to field many questions, but in keeping with Mike’s instructions how ‘loose lips sink ships’ deflected much of the curiosity so that only those who signed non disclosure agreements were in the know.
Arkham was a large complex consisting of multiple buildings on a vast rural property located a short distance outside Toronto. What was visible above ground was dwarfed by what went on underneath; a network of tunnels and vaults housed many chambers and storage areas built into the solid rock of the Niagara escarpment.
The Centre had an impressive entrance with high glass walls that let in natural light. But the directions Tanya gave had Leap bring Cameron and Mike to a little used side door away from curious eyes.
After a discreet knock, Dr. Carpenter and Tanya Nelson greeted them. Having these two present, people Cameron had a history with, made the anxiety Cameron was feeling a touch more bearable.
Dr. Carpenter was overjoyed with the prospect of conducting this exam. After shaking Cameron’s and Mike’s hands, he motioned for them to enter saying, “I hope you remember Starling and Wanderer, we needed to call in extra resources.”
“They work for Arkham?” puzzled Cameron.
“Their freelance contractors, you made such an impression on them, they jumped at the chance to do your testing,” assured Dr. Carpenter.
Tanya walked ahead to ensure the coast was clear, and led them down a twisting maze to avoid making contact with other people.
Arriving at an elevator, Tanya used a pass card and the group entered. After punching in a code the elevator took them down, and Cameron counted out a distance of 220 feet before the elevator stopped.
When the door opened Dr. Carpenter called over to a cluster of white-coated scientists and doctors, who then approached to make introductions. Each was excited at the prospect of discovery Cameron represented, each was highly skilled, handpicked, and completely trusted.
Cameron reached into his jacket and withdrew from ‘Cupboard’ a copy of Dr. Ophelia Tenant’s medical exam from his time at Whateley Academy, handing the thick folder to Tanya. After seeing the near magical appearance of the folder, the white-coats began a verbal dissection of that simple action - Cameron sighed; this was going to be tedious.
Prior to his latest arrival at Arkham, Cameron had never directly met Tanya Nelson, they’d only spoken on the phone and through a couple video conferences. In person - she turned out to be somewhat shy and reserved, still in her twenties, and certainly an attractive lady, but having more a librarian vibe than someone used to social interaction.
It was very comforting to have Tanya stay close. An anchor for the nervous youth, she had even remained in the room during the medical exam. The practitioner meticulously referenced all previous examinations, then updated all information gathered to reflect Cameron’s growth, and noted any health improvements.
Being brought to another section, the testings focus shifted to Cameron’s eyesight. An optometrist ran every conceivable examination to gauge the boys vision, highlighting the aspects that warranted further study. When Cameron was asked to read the bottom line on a eye chart, it was conducted in a long hallway with the doctor taking ten steps back after each successful read until there was no more hall left. Cameron was some 140 feet away, but still accurately reading the chart!
The results began coming in from the variety of tests performed, each new result sparking debate amongst the doctors and scientists, as they cross-checked hypotheses with the collected data.
After his fourth eye exam Cameron was returned to the medical area to resume the physical testing, the doctors and nurses checking his reflexes and other senses. When samples of his blood was withdrawn it had to be in triplicate. Cameron felt like a pin cushion after so many needles.
Cameron was exhausted after a busy day, he sat on the exam table with his head drooping and fighting to keep himself awake. Tanya sat beside him, wrapping an arm around his back and giving him a small squeeze she said, “Can we pick this up again tomorrow?”
“That would be great,” agreed Cameron. “I need to eat and get some sleep.”
“Deal,” commented Tanya. “Come on! Mike has been waiting, I can show you to your rooms.”
Mike Williamson had stayed as close to Cameron as possible. It turned out that he was more nervous than the boy himself. He alternated between pacing the floor in the hallway or sitting and watching the clock. Cameron was tickled by his presence and concern, and smiled warmly at his dear friend when they reunited.
Tanya showed the duo to a set of rooms which had been prepared as sleeping quarters. The accommodations shared a dining / living space to relax at. After looking at a menu, Tanya arranged for food to be sent down for them. Mike was still curious about the facility and asked about a tour. After weighing the options it was decided that tomorrow while Cameron was getting tested, Mike would be given the grand tour.
When the food arrived, it was piled high on the cart. It looked and smelled terrific, and there was certainly more than was needed for two.
Tanya asked, “I hope I’m not intruding, but I was hoping I could join you for dinner?” At which Mike pulled out one of the other chairs at the table for her to sit. “And I also arranged for a visitor to join us. She should be here shortly.”
Mike’s eyebrow raised in curiosity, expecting more details to be forthcoming, the knock on the doorframe proceeded Terry Franklin’s entrance.
Cameron dashed from his chair to be wrapped in an embrace as soon as he got within reach of the lady, Mike waited until Cameron was ready to break away before getting an introduction.
Holding Cameron at arms length Terry noted, “You’ve grown!”
“Almost six inches,” provided Tanya.
“Lynn will be pleased,” she said with a smirk. “How are you young man?”
“Much better, and I’m so glad to see you!” Grabbing her hand, Cameron brought her over to Mike. “Terry, I want to introduce you to my guardian and dear friend, Mike Williamson. Mike - Terry Franklin.”
“I am honoured Mr. Williamson,” gracefully intoned Terry, adding a slight curtsy.
“A pleasure Mrs. Franklin. What little Cameron has said about you; although good - didn’t do you justice.”
“Cameron told me you were honest, trustworthy and loyal. I find he left out unabashed flatterer.”
“There’s no point in starting a friendship on a sour note.”
“I have a feeling we shall be great friends indeed,” stated Terry.
Sitting down to dinner turned into an enjoyable time, the conversation started out slow - the usual stuff like weather and questions to build rapport until familiarity allowed more meaningful topics to be fielded.
As the evening progressed it was only Terry and Cameron talking, Tanya and Mike had pretty much been relegated to being spectators.
“So what have you done with your Oberon? I’d have thought they wouldn’t let you out of their sight.”
“We heard about a Were village that was just probed by the ‘Voodoo Wolves’; I asked Ella to go and help them.”
“You have a way to take the fight to them?”
“I do, I’m thinking it might help Alan.”
“You give me hope! He’s been sedated, so - if tomorrow - you could …” prompted the concerned mother.
“If I can be permitted - perhaps as a demonstration for Arkham’s investigation?” Cameron postulated to see if his testing schedule had some flexibility.
“I am certain we can make room for a ‘live’ demonstration,” countered Tanya.
“What exactly had you and Lynn been discussing?” asked Terry. “She was very upset when we spoke.”
“I wanted to know if it was possible to change the future,” informed Cameron.
“How big a change are you thinking of making?” questioned Terry.
“How do you mean?” wondered Cameron.
“Every choice you make is going to impact what happens next. We constantly change the future: up - down, left - right, chicken or fish … always go with fish, you can’t go wrong with fish,” confided Terry. “So you see; each decision we make alters our path.”
“Okay! How much impact can a single choice make?” asked Cameron, as he started to grasp a new concept.
“Life is a highway,” instructed Terry.
“I’ve heard the song,” confessed Cameron.
“No, ya goof!” admonished Terry. “Life IS a highway. You chose which lane to travel in, how fast or slow your going, even who to travel with. But you don’t get to pick where it starts or how far away it ends - that’s set and unchangeable.”
“Fate?” questioned Cameron.
“No, its just recognizing limitations. Do you eat to live or live to eat?” declared Terry.
“It’s the same thing, isn’t it?” puzzled Cameron.
“If you don’t eat you’ll die, so recognize the necessity of it and enjoy what you eat,” illuminated Terry.
“But what if the highway is heading towards a cliff?’ postulated Cameron. “Is it possible to detour traffic around the danger?”
“And that’s the worst thing about precognition: the helplessness that comes from knowing what’s going to happen,” revealed Terry.
A realization hit Tanya, she turned to Terry in shock as the pieces fell into place. “You’re a PreCog!”
“A minor one,” Terry admitted. “All I have really been able to do - all my life, is steer my family around some of the worst potholes.”
“I was told Precognition only had a single classification?” Mike inquired.
“You’re not wrong,” supported Tanya. “Measuring precognition is tricky. The most commonly used test is a deck of cards being turned while the person says what the next card is.”
“Can’t you take how many cards they got right and use that percentage of accuracy to get a classification?” fielded Mike.
“A true PreCog might not give a truthful answer, or you’ve got a Psychic who can read a persons mind to find out what card is next, even educated guesswork gives good odds. How do you distinguish them? It gets worse: if a PreCog is playing cards and see’s what’s next, are they playing cards or playing the people at the table. So testing Precognition is almost impossible to measure or even verify. Any testing that’s done is flawed - even so: what if card reading isn’t what the PreCog sees?” explained Tanya.
“My brain hurts,” Mike confessed.
“It sounds like: by exercising our free will, we can control our own personal futures - and maybe to some extent those we are directly in contact with. The question then becomes: what limits the amount of change we can make?” sought Cameron.
“I would hazard that it depends on how wide the highway is,” Terry put forth in an effort to fill-in the unknown.
“What about taking a short cut, to avoid a nasty piece of road?” wondered Cameron.
“Lynn told me about what will happen when the MCO get their hands on you,” comforted Terry, as she recalled why the topic was so important to the boy.
“I’d really - really like to avoid that; if possible,” confided Cameron.
“You seem pretty upset Cameron. Do you have precognition as well?” asked Tanya as the tone of the conversation lent to that conclusion.
“I have dreams - tiny slices of my life, they let me know I’m heading in the right direction,” revealed Cameron.
“It’s how you knew to stock up on food?” concluded Mike as he made a connection.
“Yes,” Cameron admitted.
“So what’s the problem? You’ve seen what’s coming - you plan accordingly.” questioned Terry, as if manipulating the future was second nature.
“My last dream … in Court - it’s the judges! They side with the MCO; It’s like they won’t even give consideration to our argument,” explained Cameron.
“Ever since Cameron told me about his dream I’ve been trying to figure out the reason why,” expressed a worried Mike.
The table sat in contemplation, occasional glances hopefully made towards the others to see if a solution had presented itself.
“Here’s what I want to build my case around,” detailed Mike. “Mutants and the empowered are human, only with abilities. Just like a person with a disability is granted status as a human - so should a person with abilities.”
“I can support that,” insisted Tanya. “New research shows mutation is happening due to genetic manipulation rather than evolution. I just read a paper issued from a scientist at Whateley Academy who's study has those very conclusions.”
“So mutants are both the victims of being tampered with - plus the victims of society’s hatred,” reasoned Terry at the new information.
“Exactly! The problem is people are so prejudiced by the MCO’s propaganda, that they believe all mutants must be dangerous. The MCO uses fear to forego reason,” sounded out Mike. “So how do we break that cycle?”
“By putting in front of them someone who is human, who has powers, and who isn’t dangerous,” surmised Terry.
“So far: nothing about Cameron points to him being a mutant, but it doesn’t explain how he has powers: we can try to measure those. But as to the question of being dangerous? There’s no testing for that!” surmised Tanya.
“Just by standing up to the MCO; Cameron has become a threat to them. No matter how many character witnesses I line up, there is no evidence I can enter which will diminish that perceived danger,” summed up Mike.
“I might have a way,” quietly chipped in a subdued Cameron.
The quartet talked for hours into the night, Terry was the first to excuse herself: she had been spending long days watching over her son. Cameron’s head began to bob so goodnights were given and it was lights out.
A hearty breakfast waited for Cameron after he finished his shower. Mike was already at the table reading a newspaper munching on toast, and Cameron hadn’t even put down his fork after finishing the meal when Dr. Carpenter knocked on the door.
“It’s a busy day my boy,” the man said in anticipation. “If you’ll follow me, we have our first experiment.”
Cameron was taken down a network of hallways to then be shown into a medical examination room, which held a cluster of white-coats. Aside from an occasional stethoscope or clipboard, it was tough to determine if they were doctors or scientists.
On the examination table rested a large man who had been stripped down and wore one of those awful hospital gowns which leaves everyone’s butt exposed. Cameron was introduced to the man; one of Arkham’s security guards. He’d broken his leg skiing and it was swollen and blackened from bruises.
The man was placed into a Magnetic Resonance Imaging scanner. Cameron commenced repairing the injury, allowing the healing process to be captured by the machine. Repairing the fractured bone was an easy enough task. Since this was a demonstration, Cameron went the extra step of repairing the arteries and removing the blood which discoloured the wound and attributed to the swelling.
The buzz of excitement from the white-coats became louder. As the security guard was shown out Dr. Carpenter approached sheepishly.
“Outlook, I have an old back injury which causes me grief, could you …?”
“Glad to doctor. Are we using the MRI again?”
“That would be marvellous. Let’s get it ready people!” said the man, as he began to disrobe.
One of Cameron’s fears over being examined was that he’d be getting injured to demonstrate how he healed, Arkham had found a way around that. In fact, a line had formed of different staff members waiting for some aliment or another to be fixed.
Cameron had lost track of time when Tanya Nelson entered the examination room. She approached Cameron who was just finishing healing a nurse who was a type two diabetic. Cameron had helped her Pancreas to produce more insulin, a doctor was preparing to give her an exam to check the results.
When Tanya announced to the room that Outlook was being taken away now for other testing, a moan could be heard from those still in line. As Tanya and Outlook exited, many of the white-coats followed along. At the elevator Tanya had to prevent them from stepping in saying, “This next testing is private, we will pick it up again in an hour.”
Tanya took the youth on a surreptitious route until reaching a restricted area with high security, this section of the Centre dealt with contagious agents, and where Alan Franklin was being confined. Tanya and Cameron both donned bio-suits before taking the elevator down.
The lower level that housed the containment rooms had little in the way of comforts, no extra touches to give it warmth - just drab tan coloured surfaces everywhere. The exposed stainless steel here and there added to the very institutional feel of the place.
Another of the bio-suits was perched on a stool positioned in front of a glass wall, Tanya motioned them in that direction, but stopped short of getting closer when she came to a yellow line painted on the floor that protected her from seeing the occupant.
Looking inside the completely sealed room, Cameron recognized the lights he’d helped make and leaning against the far wall was an emaciated body; it was a ghastly sight. Alan was gaunt, his eyes dark and without fire, he looked weak like he was being starved and he was covered in open sores and scabs.
Terry stood and came to stand beside Cameron; when she spoke - it carried through the suits radio communication. Even thou they were next to each other; it sounded like they were miles apart.
“He hasn’t improved. He’s fed well, and the doctors put medicines in his meals, but it looks like he’s just wasting away,” remarked Terry.
“And the black contaminate?” wondered Cameron as he began a scan of the room.
“If you look on his back, against the wall out of the light. It’s kept a hold on him,” directed Terry.
Cameron took Terry’s hand and gave it a squeeze, then began layering his sight to observe better the situation. He was startled by what he found: that slime was present inside Alan’s body, in his stomach and intestines, it had become parasitic. No wonder he looked starved, the black goop was diverting the food for itself.
“Can we get closer to him?” asked Cameron.
“Too dangerous! The goop lashes out at anything that moves - even in full light,” informed Tanya over the radio. She was still keeping a safe distance.
“How do you feed him?” wondered Cameron.
“There’s a little door on that wall, a tray gets pushed in,” supplied Terry.
“And I noticed that anything coming out of that room gets hit with lethal doses of disinfectant and light. That’s good, cause the contaminate is inside him now - it’s living off the food, not just Alan’s energy.”
“It isn’t possible to do a surgery, we couldn’t perform something like that from inside these suits, nor can a human look directly at that stuff,” calculated Tanya. “I don’t suppose there are Were surgeons?”
“I don’t think the goop would sit still for that either,” added Terry. “Cameron, what was it that you had in mind to help him?”
“Did you ever see one of my energy collectors? I came up with a variant on that idea, I make these little black balls which absorb energy like sponges. The Were use them as projectiles which, when in contact, drain off the contaminate’s energy.”
“Will Arkham be able to inspect some of these ‘collectors’?” asked Tanya.
“Of course, I had expected you would want to check them over, as part of my testing,” agreed Cameron. “I had thought to use them to help Alan … but I wonder,” paused Cameron as he contemplated a new idea. “If I make them really tiny - and they don’t adhere … maybe.”
“You have an idea to share with us?” requested Terry.
“Instead of using one large collector, how about lots of tiny ones - say the size of a grain of rice, or salt … something Alan could easily eat. With enough passing through him it could absorb the contaminate’s energy- get it out of him.”
“One of Alan’s favourite meals is a meat pie I make,” suggested Terry. “It has a lot of pepper in it so small black dots wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary.”
“Then if we are in agreement, I would say we need a kitchen,” commented Cameron.
“If we’re to keep a low profile - we’ll have to let Terry do the cooking. Can you provide her with the pellets?”
“Not a problem, I’ll get them to her once I’m out of this suit.”
When the three reached the clean room, and they removed the cumbersome protective suits, Cameron gave Terry a pouch containing the tiny black granular collectors. He also handed over a regular size black ball to Tanya, which she in turn handed over to a white-coat for analysis.
Cameron returned to being tested, he was shown to a very large space that had tables arranged along one wall with different objects and paraphernalia, while the floor was covered with chalk in rings edged with symbols and glyphs. Wanderer greeted him and introduced the team to examine Cameron’s affinity to magic.
Wanderer explained the gist of the testing, adding how he was both Psychic and a Wizard and would walk the boy through the various tests they had waiting for Cameron.
It was a rather brief session, shortened when Cameron accidentally negated several of the artifacts used to measure essence, draining any magical residue. The situation got the white-coats frantic and rushed Cameron over to another testing area, bringing the magic folks along to ensure they hadn’t been bamboozled.
Cameron was presented with different elements, as well as essentially every known blend of materials. The process of checking which elements he could work with began. The plan was to try every conceivable combination Arkham had available, as Cameron would adhere two pieces of material together the energy equivalency was calculated.
The white-coats also concocted a system of measuring the electrical energy Cameron needed to repair a carefully selected assortment of items, the white-coats had been analyzing Cameron’s black ball in the same area.
During Cameron’s testing they took to zapping the little ball with a ray gun which resulted in it turning white, Cameron demonstrated that he could drain it - which began a multitude of speculation regarding what sources of energy Cameron could draw from, the idea of having Cameron grab onto a high voltage power line was suggested - and rejected as inappropriate.
Cameron was shown to another testing room sporting a table and chairs, one wall was entirely made of glass, he was asked to take a seat facing the reflective wall - which honestly didn’t hide the people behind it from Cameron. After a few minutes Starling entered in a huff and she took the chair across the table from him, crossed her arms and gave the boy a stern look.
“Do you have any idea how impossible it is to test psychic abilities on someone without even a signature?” she bemoaned.
“Your not the first person to mention it,” confessed Cameron.
“Well! There are two very frustrated high level psychics on the other side of that mirror right now,” Starling announced. “I warned them about you, told them about my previous encounter with you. You’re impossible to get a read off now.”
“I’ve been practicing,” admitted Cameron. “Mr. Geintz gave me some pointers.”
“Mr. Geintz?” puzzled Starling.
“Fubar, he’s an instructor at Whateley.”
“I’ve met him,” admitted Starling. “We’ve attended some conferences together.”
“I wouldn’t imagine he get's out much,” confided Cameron.
“You don’t actually travel to a Psychic conference,” explained Starling. “But if Foob has been teaching you … ?”
“Mr. Gientz just described how others defend against a psychic attack, and he checked for any openings I might have,” supplied Cameron.
“Which could be construed to mean you have psychic abilities - by blocking others,” advised Starling. “I know that isn’t the case from my past experience in your mind, but we need to have more than just my word to settle the matter.”
“You want me to drop my shields,” surmised Cameron.
“Shields? You have more than just one?” questioned Starling.
“There’s the mental barrier you’ve already seen, I also discovered how to convert psychic waves into energy that I can absorb, then I’ve got a new wall that doesn’t allow energy to pass through,” described Cameron.
“You keep learning new hurdles,” sized up Starling. “I imagine you’ll want a pact saying no harm will come to you?”
“Please,” smiled Cameron. “I have trust issues.”
When the day finally ended and Cameron was allowed to return to the rooms Arkham had set aside for he and Mike, he was pleasantly surprised to find that Terry had made him extra meat pies - without the special seasoning. A home cooked meal was a treat, as was a quiet evening to allow Cameron to rest-up from a strenuous day.
Terry watched her son through the night for any signs of improvement. When the morning shift started work and entered the secure zone, gob-smacked amazement held them fast when they saw Terry sitting on her chair talking to Alan still on the other side of the barrier. No indications of the black goop were on him. From his demeanour and cheer he was better than he had been at anytime since his arrival.
Cameron was still in bed sound asleep when a doctor knocked on the door, Mike answered and spoke with the rather excited lady. Mike asked for ten minutes - and then broached the matter of waking Cameron.
Regardless of how sincerely Cameron asked for just five more minutes, Mike got the boy moving, and out the door holding a slice of toast with peanut butter and jam along with a banana in his hand. The trio dressed in the protective suits and rode the elevator down.
A tired Cameron moved up to the glass barrier, and took in the sight within.
“Hi Alan, how are you feeling?” Cameron spoke over the suit’s intercom.
“Cameron?!?” was heard in reply from inside the containment room.
“Oh good, I wasn’t certain how much you’d remember.”
“It’s fuzzy, and there are some holes … but I remember being trapped and talking to Mom.”
“So how do you feel?”
“If my stomach wasn’t so upset, I’d be sleeping for the next year.”
“I’m going to be looking inside you - do you know that the black goop had entered into your body?”
“When I had some alacrity, I could feel it moving and churning; turning my guts inside out. Is it gone?
“Nothing on the outside, and … hmmm, insides clear too. We used just enough absorbent to draw off all the bad energy … I’m afraid your poop is going to be a might strange for the next couple days.
“How about the room? Is any contaminate still present?” pleaded Terry.
“Nope! All gone! It’s safe,” assured Cameron.
The words had barely left Cameron’s mouth when Terry was at the sealed room’s door, peeling off the protective suit and begging for someone to open the door. The outer door moved to let her in, then it rotated to the inner compartment. Terry rushed in and embraced her son, crying after finally being reunited with family.
Cameron was returned to the upper levels for testing to resume. He was back in the optometrists office with more improvised examinations, since they had gone through all the standard ones long ago.
Dr. Carpenter had set-up a room with his lie-detector, Cameron was put into the room next door. They would each interview the same subjects, ask the same questions, and compare results.
Arkham had sought volunteers from a wide cross section of workers and guests in an attempt to give as large a spectrum of situations possible. The lie detector was good - Cameron was better, since the people couldn’t not speak the truth; which began another series of tests.
In the afternoon, Cameron was brought into a nice office, in one of the chairs sat Mike, Cameron was offered the other. Tanya was behind the desk typing away, looking at papers and giving Cameron a glance before returning to the keyboard.
After a few minutes of this, Tanya looked up, taking off her glasses and setting them on her desk, she addressed her audience:
“I was just finishing up our evaluation. It’s one of those: good news - bad news situations. How do you want it?”
“Give me the bad news first, then the good news doesn’t leave a sour taste afterwards,” expressed Cameron.
“That’s an interesting philosophy,” said Mike.
“Cameron, to start with I want to say you’re healthy, but you're on the lower end of that scale. You are physically weaker than most people, have less stamina, less strength. Not an unexpected result considering how long you where in a coma. But … you are rated as a below average baseline.”
“Did I make any improvement from past exam results?”
“Some improvement can be seen. It’s encouraging … but I wouldn’t get my hopes up for any big changes over the long term.”
“So getting at least as tall as my Dad?”
“What was his height?”
“Sorry to be blunt, but no.”
“Have you got any more bad news?”
“It depends on how you look at it,” confided Tanya. ”We took three sets of blood samples, sending two of those out to other labs, it may be useful later - one of the labs was the MCO. All results came back negative for the Meta-gene complex; you are not a mutant.”
“That will prove interesting,” added Mike.
“I thought you might like that tidbit,” humoured Tanya.
“So … the good news?”
“Right! Powers testing,” remembered Tanya. “If you’ll pardon the term; our team had to go down several blind alleys."
"Psychic testing was fruitless. Cameron always knew what the next card was - he could see it. It wasn’t until the lab techs started sharing data before they figured it out. All the Psychics claimed Cameron was completely devoid of empathic of projective abilities. They even used the expression ‘Null’ since he gave off no presence."
"As for Devisor and Gadgeteer, Cameron is of course insightful into the workings of mechanisms. Being able to see the inner workings right down to the molecular level means he can see weaknesses in anything. Plus he also is very inventive, along with being a creative thinker. But his talent is not outside of the realm of a baseline, so we have given him a Gadgeteer 1 rating."
"His healing ability threw everybody for a loop. It wasn’t until playing back the MRI footage that our boys caught on; Cameron was using his sight and matter manipulation to fix bodies - just like he does with inorganic matter. While it appears miraculous, there is nothing magical about it! Getting that out of the way - Wizard testing had no positive results. In fact, he ruined many of the magical artifacts Wanderer brought him into contact with."
"Now I need to explain about Manifestors; Cameron does, in a way, manifest matter, but it is already existing, he has - his store of material to draw upon. However, a true manifestor makes something from nothing and is typically limited to a single thing. Needless to say, the debate over this was intense and the results are not unanimously supported, but we do not feel Cameron fits the definition of being a Manifestor."
"Cameron’s sight set the bar to new heights, nobody on record has vision nearly as accurate or as diverse. His vision ranges from microscopic to telescopic and can see in every wave length. There isn’t the means to fully test Cameron's vision … which is further compounded by the fact his eyes are blind."
"Our conclusion is his sight is a mental function based outside his eyes, not a physical process, so it is an Extra Sensory Perception. In most cases ESP is classed as a Psychic ability - but Cameron specifically has an enhanced physical sense, so he has been rated as an Exemplar 2."
"Let me be honest. Yes; Cameron is below baseline on most physical aspects, but due to his sight he fits into the classification of an Exemplar by far exceeding that norm."
"And a drum roll please!” asked Tanya, as she tapped out a beat on her desktop.
“How does Cameron manipulate matter?" she taunted by holding a long pause.
"He is an Energizer!” announced Tanya. “When Arkham hooked Cameron up to a power supply we were finally able to quantify his power to meld matter together; he expends energy to create molecular bonds."
"Now try to understand, an Energizer is normally measured by how much power they put out. Cameron pulls energy in and is limited by how much he can draw upon. We have two scientists on staff who are going to be writing a paper over what has been found … of course no names are mentioned as per the confidentiality agreement.
But we are confident that a rating of Energizer 3 is appropriate.”
Cameron had to agree with Tanya’s assessment since it was near to his own estimations. However, a quick check on his battery initiated a smirk on the boy, the gauge was only sitting at 43 percent.
February 19, 2008
Supreme Court Chambers
Mike Williamson and Karen Mitchell sat across the large table from the contingent of six lawyers representing the MCO. The panel of five justices had sought a preliminary meeting to sort out legal points before the public forum would commence.
The Chief Justice addressed the room, “I would like to thank the Crown’s efforts in providing a powers analysis and medical report, it was a bone of contention for this body in not having a concise description available to determine the risks presented.”
The lead lawyer representing the accused: Suzanne Roth stood, picking up her copy of the thick file and held it in front of herself. “This document is a piece of tripe! The information is misleading and fraught with inaccuracies. The bias of this assessment is clearly evident and should be dismissed!”
“Provide this court with a specific example supporting your complaint,” advised the sitting Justice.
“Page 67: and I paraphrase: ‘Laboratory results conclude that the subject has no Meta-gene complex tracers present in accordance with all commonly used identifiers in determination of a mutation’s occurrence: the results of testing performed indicate the subject has not undergone a mutation.’ Looking over the pages, Suzanne’s gaze fastened onto Mike and she blurted out, “An unsubstantiated fabrication, not worth the paper it’s printed on.”
Mike replied to the verbal assault, “If it pleases the Justices, I would like to draw their attention to the credentials of the authors found in the report’s appendix: Arkham Research Center is an internationally recognized authority on mutants and the effects of mutations. As can be seen, the majority of the scientists who conducted the tests are former MCO employees. Most of these individuals are even referenced in the MCO’s own manuals, which are used for mutation classifications. And some of these scientists developed the actual methods to achieve accurate and repeatable testing results.”
“The laboratories used aren’t credible,” refuted Suzanne.
“May I direct my learned colleagues to page 59, sample set 2 which was analyzed by the MCO’s very own Toronto laboratory. The returned results align precisely with those achieved by each of the other labs’ findings! Is the accused suggesting their own facilities are not reliable?” commented Mike doing his best to hide a measure of amusement.
The accused’s lead lawyer looked harshly at a team member who hurriedly read through the referenced information. He looked up and nodded his head that the rebuttal was correct.
“No explanation is given on why Mr. Burke has his powers!” complained the Suzanne.
“That is correct,” admitted Mike.
The Chief Justice interrupted saying, “A valid point Mr. Williamson, this panel wishes an answer.”
Reaching into a pocket Mike withdrew a coin and placed it onto the table, “I would like to enter this dollar coin as the answer.”
“If the Crown is attempting to bride the judiciary, our defence welcomes such evidence being admitted,” jested Suzanne Roth.
“I shall admonish the Crown’s attorney, the coin he presents is called a ‘Loonie’. We hope this is not a statement reflecting his assessment of this panel,” cautioned the Chief Justice.
“No sir, rather it is my intent to ask the Chief Justice to read the inscription surrounding the Queen’s effigy,” requested Mike Williamson.
“Elizabeth II D. G. Regina,” read the judge.
“D.G. being the abbreviated ‘Dei Gratia Regina’ latin for: ‘By the Grace of God, Queen Elizabeth the second,” instructed Mike.
“Aside from a lesson in dead languages, your point?” chided the accused .
“The Canadian Government recognizes the presence of God. It has gone so far as to enshrine in the ‘Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ that religion must be unfettered by prejudice or exclusion. Mr. Burke is imbued; empowered by God. To demand an explanation is to infringe on his right to freedom of worship,” explained Mike.
“There are many God’s, who empowered him?” demanded Suzanne.
“That is a question the ‘Charter’ does not allow you to ask. The Canadian Government doesn’t specify by which God the Queen reigns,” sharply replied Mike Williamson.
“I object! The Crown would have us chase our tails over some artfully contrived rhetoric that has no substance!” scoffed the accused’s attorney as a defence.
“May I request the court to provide me with a Bible? One must be present since it is used to swear in witnesses.” A Bailiff handed the book to Mike. “I’m certain Moses is not entirely unfamiliar to all present, he brought down the ten commandments: rules such as you must not steal or commit murder. Laws nearly every legal system in the world recognizes and adheres too ,” detailed Mike.
“But, I ask you give attention to this verse: Exodus 34:30, which reads; ‘And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.’” Mike continued by addressing the room. “My learned friend asks for substance! If I’m not mistaken, I have not only supplied that, but also provided a precedence to explain Mr. Burke’s condition.”
A hushed exchange ensued between the parties which Mike interrupted, “If it is the accused’s desire to expand the scope of these proceedings to include debating which is the true religion and the best way to worship God … I don’t believe the Supreme Court is prepared to adjudicate that issue.”
“This is preposterous!” cried out Suzanne
“It does rather sound as if the accused believes that Mr. Burke deserves the harsh treatment he has received at the Mutant Commission’s hand. It must be terribly inconvenient that he isn’t a mutant.”
“He presents a threat to society!” accused Suzanne
“Doesn’t everyone?” admitted Mike. “Let us not lose focus. The case that has been brought before the Supreme Court is to determine if the MCO killed Mr. Burke’s family, inflicting grievous harm to his person, and then on multiple accounts attempted to murder him. The Crown’s burden has been to show that these events took place. So far the facts brought forward have not been questioned, only weak excuses for the actions of the MCO have been presented. Therefore, what remains for us, is to determine if there has been an infringement of human rights, and by extrapolation - are en-abled beings human, since by all accounts Cameron Burke is not a mutant.
A recess was called so the justices might confer. When the investigation was recalled the Chief Justice gave the lawyers their decision over the trial’s commencement: “This court will not be drawn into a religious debate! We are satisfied with the proofs given that Mr. Burke is human. The merits of this case are sufficient to warrant proceeding into deliberations. I must caution the accused: If the source of Mr. Burke’s abilities are called into question, this judiciary has no choice but to immediately find in favour of the Crown.”
Mike was still a distance away from the exit when approached by Suzanne Roth. “Mr. Williamson, I have been authorized to enter into negotiations so we might avoid a public fiasco.”
“Ms. Roth, we’ve already tried that road, I’m surprised you aren’t acquainted with the outcome of that venture.”
“An unfortunate misunderstanding,” claimed Suzanne.
“There’s an understatement! Tell me; which of the nine attempts on my client’s life do you suggest to be a misunderstanding?” rebuffed Mike.
“I take it you are not open to discussing a settlement?” positioned Suzanne.
“That ship sailed a long time ago. I look forward to seeing you in court. Good-day,” remarked Mike, as he stepped out of the building into the protection of an RCMP guard.
February 25, 2008.
Supreme Court of Canada
Cameron sat nervously at the table, he had to purposely hold his hands down on his lap least he start biting his fingernails. Had his efforts made an iota of difference … was the future he saw about to come true?
Court was called to order and all parties took their places, the stage was set. The Chief Justice began:
“The case of Burke vs MCO is now in session. The Mutant Commission Office requested an appeal of the Federal Courts findings. The Supreme Court has conducted a review of that body’s proceedings. We have four items that we shall now concern ourselves with.
The first point of contention is the legal standing of Mr. Burke: The MCO has contested that Mr. Burke has no status in Canada from being a mutant.
The Crown’s attorney has provided a detailed examination conducted upon Mr. Burke, which after submission to us has undergone thorough investigation, this panel would like to thank the Crown’s client for their co-operation. The examination provides compelling evidence that Mr. Burke is not a mutant. This conclusion removes the question from deliberation. Mr. Burke is a citizen of Canada with all the inherent rights and privileges.
The second point we must investigate is the charge by the accused that the previous hearing was tampered with by paranormal interference.
This court was provided a detailed report completed by the lower court. In part, we received an event by event account from a freelance agent that provides monitoring of psychic activities. The agent is known to this panel since it is someone we ourselves have used to monitor possible interference.
The report just mentioned highlighted some disturbing information; the claim fielded by the MCO was put forth because their own efforts at manipulation had been thwarted. It must be stated that the Crown had no involvement in monitoring any psychic activities, it was a matter handled by the afore mentioned agent acting on behalf of the Federal Court.
For reference; these sessions are monitored, any attempts at interference or to sway the outcome through psychic means will not be tolerated, the perpetrators of such actions shall be exposed and prosecuted.
It is this panels judgement that the MCO is guilty of obstruction of justice. This issue will be held until the conclusion of our review.
The third point under consideration is one of contempt of court. Certain witnesses refused to fully participate in the previous proceeding which undoubtedly influenced the lower courts decision. We are prepared to give the accused opportunity to recall the witnesses in question to clear up any misunderstandings.
“Is the accused prepared to proceed at this time?”
“Yes your Justice. If it pleases this court, I call Chief Executive Officer Mr. Dale Philips to the stand.”
The man had been seated in the courtroom, he wore oversized dark glasses with the edges of bandages visible beneath them, when he rose he grasped a cane and was provided assistance over to the witness booth. He was entered as a witness and swore to speak the truth.
“Mr. Philips,” commenced Suzanne.
“Please! Call me Dale,” smiled the man.
“Do you recall your encounter with one Cameron Burke?”
“Absolutely! It was the first of May last year. I was in Prince George partaking in negotiations to smooth out a misunderstanding that had occurred between the MCO and Mr. Burke.”
“I take it things didn’t go as anticipated?”
“Certainly not! He and I had just been introduced when he uncovered his eyes and implanted untruths into my mind. Lies which have been taken as an admission of guilt. This compulsion resulted in my arrest for an attempt on his life. It is also the exposure to Mr. Burke’s ‘light-beams’ that caused my blindness.”
“Was your blindness a quick onset?”
“No, it has progressed over the last couple months, worsening until my current condition of permanent incurable blindness.”
“And the confession you gave at the time?”
“A complete fabrication - I was coerced to speak it. I never even met the sniper that shot at Mr. Burke.”
“Is it not true that Mr. Cousins; aka Beady, was a contract worker for the MCO?”
“I have been informed after the fact that he did provide his services to the MCO when dangerous situations required his skills to prevent endangerment to civilians. I was not responsible for his actions - he went rogue.”
“Thank you, Mr. Phil - Dale,” said Suzanne. “I have nothing further for my witness, I leave him for cross examination.”
Cameron leaned over and whispered to Mike, “He’s been given a chemical inhibiter to block his sight, I’ve cleaned it out of his system.”
Mike smiled at that information, then stood saying, “Hello Mr. Philips, It’s Michael Williamson; we met in Prince George.”
“I remember you,” intoned the witness with a hint of disgust.
“I am so sorry to find out about your condition, It is sad to consider - given the potential outcome of these proceeding, that you are no longer a member of the human race.”
“I don’t follow you?”
“In part this hearing is to establish what it means to be human, those with abilities and the poor unfortunates like yourself with disabilities, these individuals may no longer meet the criteria being purported as to what being human means. Simply put, you are now likely a mutant.”
“It’s Outlook’s fault!”
“I find your aliment curious. You shared a room with Mr. Burke for what - five minutes? I and many others present today have been in Mr. Burke’s company for nearly a year and have suffered no ill effects.”
“I’m the one that was blinded; maybe he just didn’t blast you like he did me!”
“My apologies, I did not mean to add insult to your injury. But I must ask if you wouldn’t mind uncovering your eyes?”
“I object Chief Justice! What does the Crown hope to achieve?” shouted the lead lawyer for the MCO.
“I’ll allow it. Mr. Philips, please remove your bandages,” directed the judge.
Mr. Philips reached up and removed the dark glasses, then pulled off the bandages taped over each eye, after which he blinked repeatedly while he held a shocked expression on his face. Mike moved quickly towards him - seeing the movement Mr. Philips recoiled from the advance.
“Oh happy day! A miracle happened!” called out Mike raising his hands in the air and shaking them as he stepped away. Turning on the witness he said: “Do you wish to recant your testimony, or is it that the permanent and incurable condition you are suffering from is being a pathological liar?”
“I … I,” stuttered the disgraced man.
“Mr. Philips this panel has serious doubts about your credibility, do you wish your sworn statement to remain as given?” queried the Chief Justice.
“No. I withdraw my comments,” admitted Mr. Philips.
Directing his attention to the accused’s table of attorneys the Justice asked, “Do you contest the dismissal of your witness?”
“No your justice,” Suzanne muttered slowly.
“Mr. Philips please keep yourself available for further questioning. Your next witness please,” indicated the Justice.
“I call Bartholomew Sigel,” informed the accused’s lead lawyer.
From the audience rose a suited man with slicked back hair. He stepped up to the stand and was entered into the proceedings.
“Mr. Sigel, in your own words, describe for us your encounter with Cameron Burke.”
“I was an attorney working for the law firm of McAvoy, Arnold, and Strong; retained by the MCO concerning the alleged wrongful deaths of the Burke family. Cameron survived the accident between the family’s car and the MCO’s vehicle. When she recovered from a coma, I was present to obtain an unadulterated recounting of the particulars.”
“The results of which?”
“I was present to observe the manifestation of her mutation.”
“That must have been a shock?”
“I was completely unprepared for the experience and have sought counselling.”
“I imagine, what happened?”
“The predetermined questions were asked. It became evident that she was not a reliable source of information, she had been asleep in the vehicle’s rear passenger compartment.”
“I see. What did you do next?”
“When I left the medical facility, I couldn’t forget the incident and the potential danger an unregistered mutant represents, so I contacted the Mutant Commission Office to alert them of a new mutant and provided it’s location.”
“Thank you for you concern, not everyone is so community minded. What happened next?” said Suzanne.
“I was later arrested under suspicion of arranging a failed murder attempt.”
“Were you culpable?”
“Heavens no! The police were just looking for a scapegoat, and I fit the bill.”
“There was no collusion between yourself and the man arrested for attempted murder.”
“As mentioned, I’m simply a lawyer - I have no reason to want someone dead … its ludicrous!”
“I rest, the Crown’s witness,” informed Suzanne.
Cameron passed a small note to Mike and after reading it he nodded in acknowledgement.
“Mr Sigel, I would just like to confirm a few items first. A couple times now you’ve mentioned that Cameron Burke had been female. For this Court’s reference: the bullets Cameron was shot with contained toxins which caused irreversible damage - necessitating a sex reassignment surgery. Please accord Cameron the gender specific ‘male’ henceforth.
“I wasn’t aware,” noted a smirking Mr. Sigel.
“Now, I will turn the questioning over to Mr. Burke, he has expressed a desire to face this witness personally to obtain a sense of closure.”
“I object!” shouted Suzanne as she forcefully stood to magnify her resolve.
“It is not without precedence, but highly unusual. You may proceed,” instructed the Justice.
Cameron assumed the place reserved for the questioning attorney, removed his visor and faced the witness, staring at the man, “Mr Sigel, Please detail your relationship with Mr. Ryan Codett, otherwise known as ‘Codfish’.”
“I … he” stammered the trained orator, finally unable to resist the effect, he began: “Codfish had been assigned to tail my actions in the event I needed more nefarious activities to secure the desired results in the case.”
“When you awoke, the potential for the lawsuit to take a turn against my clients was deemed an increased risk. I had also ascertained an unacceptable outcome for another interest, so I requested Mr. Codett’s services.”
“What is this ‘other interest’ of yours?”
“My involvement in your situation gave me access to review your family’s assets, upon which I became aware of an inheritance. It included a sizeable parcel of land that I and a group of realtors have been attempting to secure.”
“You put me through hell because of your greed?” boggled Cameron.
“Yes,” curtly answered the former lawyer.
“I have my answers, do what you will with him Mike,” said Cameron, as he dismissed the man.
Suzanne jumped at the opportunity. “This travesty cannot be permitted! This man was just forcefully interrogated, without regard for his person or rights. It was an attack right before your very eyes!”
The lead judge replied,“I think we can all admit to a measure of astonishment, but at no time did I see any harm inflicted upon the witness, and it’s been established that no injury results from exposure. The documentation we have been provided described the effect of Mr. Burkes eyes, but I’m amazed by its efficiency. I would also be remiss if I failed to mention that the witness was under oath to speak the truth. Your objection is overturned. The Crown may continue.”
Mike commenced his summation, “A rather interesting turn of events Mr. Sigel! Your admission of ordering Cameron’s death - not only for being a suspected mutant, but because of your shady business practices set into motion a long chain of misdeeds.
"You bear responsibility most assuredly, but the MCO picked up the torch and ran with-it, despite everything in their charter saying they should have acted with restraint."
"I see no further need of this witness,” concluded Mike.
“Does the accused desire more from their witness?” sought the Justice.
“No, he may step down” informed Suzanne disgustedly.
“The bench would like to recall Mr. Philips at this time,” instructed the Chief Justice.
It took a few minutes for the disgraced man to return to the witness chair.
The Chief Justice addressed the witness stand: “Mr. Philips, I remind you that you are still under oath.” Turning his attention he asked, “Does the accused have any questions?”
Suzanne Roth relied with a no.
“I direct the Crown to field some questions on the bench’s behalf, after they have asked any outstanding questions of their own. Mr. Burke if you would oblige?” inquired the Chief Justice.
After a quick curious look at Mike, Cameron rose and approached Mr. Philips ensuring he met the man’s eyes.
“Mr. Philips, how many of the assassination attempts on my life did the MCO facilitate?”
“I was only present for the first three. Once incarcerated I was no longer privy to the MCO’s actions. Prior to my arrest however, I had given direction to the man known as ‘Bigfoot’ to hunt you down; I understand you met him in Jasper. So four that I know of.”
“Back in Prince George you said, ‘We decided it was the best solution,’ having me killed! Who made that decision?”
The man squirmed uncomfortably before he spoke. “It was the MCO’s board of directors, it is comprised of four men each representing a region of Canada, plus an additional member who advises the group.”
“So this board is made up of five?” sounded out Cameron.
“No: just four. One of the directors is bound to a spirit,” revealed the witness.
A rush of muted talking was heard in the courtroom, only tempered by the bang of a gavel. “This room will be quiet!” demanded the Judge.
“Has it been under this board’s administration that the MCO began its reign of terror?” asked Cameron.
“My counterparts and I have lead the MCO to new heights. I would not call it a reign of terror,” touted Mr. Philips.
“I suppose you wouldn’t,” surmised Cameron. “But to what end? Why does the MCO hunt down the unfortunates that manifest?”
“The Meta-gene was introduced into the general population to make more vassals. The weak would be disposed off, the more powerful sorted for suitable use. Those who can host a spirit are the desired product,” detailed Mr. Philips.
“What do you deem a suitable use for mutants?” queried Cameron.
“Soldiers of course, wars can’t be fought without them,” scoffed Mr, Philips.
“Mr. Burke can you ask the witness who released the Meta-gene? requested the Chief Justice.
“Mr. Philips, who created and released the Meta-gene?”
“The spirits,” he replied. “It was created prior to the collapse of the old courts.”
“Chief Justice, we request an adjournment, the information before us is … is beyond the scope any of us was prepared for,” admitted a shaken Suzanne.
“This panel is in agreement, we shall reconvene tomorrow at 9:00 am,” instructed the Justice, and gave finality by banging his gavel.
February 26, 2008
Supreme Court of Canada
“Review of Burke vs the MCO is now in session,” was announced by the Bailiff.
“This panel would like to continue questioning the witness Mr. Philips,” directed the Chief Justice.
Suzanne stood before the judge saying: “Mr. Philips committed suicide last night in his holding cell.”
After a moment of discussion between the panel the Justice asked, “Does the accused have more witnesses it wishes to call?”
“No your Justice, we do not.”
“Do you rest your case?”
“No your honour. At this time the MCO wishes to throw itself to the mercy of this Court.”
“I’m afraid I must table your request. There is one more item before us; the question of: whether those who have manifested abilities, such as from a mutation, meet the definition of being human.
“We would like to ask Dr. Tanya Nelson from the Arkham Research Centre to join us.”
Tanya entered the witness stand.
“Miss Nelson, your doctorate is on the classification of mutations?”
“That is correct your honour.”
“You have provided us a paper written by a scientist in the United States; to be honest the subject matter is difficult to comprehend, can you paraphrase for us the findings within?”
“Dr. Quintain has been working at a specialized institution dealing with the medical and physical realities of mutation. His study is pointing to the likelihood a mutation is an introduced phenomena rather than an evolutionary event.”
“Dumb that down a touch please.”
“Research is indicating that mutation is a result of stimuli being introduced into humans.”
“Is it correct to say that humans are being experimented upon?”
“In light of what was discovered yesterday, the evidence certainly concurs with that conclusion.”
“Does the accused have questions for Mr. Nelson.”
“No your Justice, but we would like to express gratitude for her attendance.”
“Would the Crown like to add anything?”
“We have nothing to provide beyond what has already been entered, your Justice.”
“Then it appears the answer to our fourth point has been established. At this time the panel will take a recess and return with a verdict.”
At three o’clock that afternoon the session was recalled
The Chief Justice stood and called the room to order.
“In the case of Burke vs the MCO the Supreme Court has reached a decision. It upholds the verdict reached by the lower court, but we find it necessary to add a few clarifications:
This court hereby awards the victims of the Mutant Commission’s Office crimes the amount of 1 billion dollars; 10 percent of this amount to go to Mr. Burke in restitution for damages suffered. The remainder to be held in trust for the families of those killed or injured by the MCO.
This courts is adjourned!” and the gavel’s bang was heard across the Country.
There was a mob on the courthouse steps. Reporters and cameramen had swarmed to get a sound bite after the shocking recent court verdict. Mike Williamson, who was only a step ahead of Cameron, was now fully engulfed by a horde of news hounds asking rapid fire questions at him.
Ray quickly diverted Cameron over to large podium at which stood a waiting man. The podium held a large array of microphones and Cameron was positioned beside the man. Ray stood to the side of Cameron.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I am RCMP Chief Commissioner Hudson. In light of the recent Supreme Court decision: the Government of Canada will institute immediate oversight of the Mutant Commission Office to ensure no further malfeasance. I was directed by the Prime Minister’s Office to prepare the RCMP to take on this role in the event such an outcome from Cameron Burke’s trial should happen.
It is my pleasure to introduce to you Captain Ray Martin. Captain Martin heads up the RCMP’s Special Investigations division, and this group of dedicated officers has been tasked with taking on the Government of Canada’s duty to bring the Mutant Commission Office into harmony with its chartered mandate. Special investigations is ideally suited for this task since their prior focus was working with mutants and paranormal activities.”
Having finished his prepared statement Commissioner Hudson motioned for Ray to finish-up the announcement.
“I want to provide assurance to every Canadian about the travesty that has taken place, that every child - every person that went missing under the MCO’s hands, will be thoroughly investigated, so every family will have closure for long open wounds. And I promise: the RCMP will stop at nothing to prevent another child from being victimized at the hands of the MCO!”
Ray looked over at Commissioner Hudson who nodded his head in agreement. When Ray turned back to the waiting crowd interspersed with reporters he was peppered with questions. Ray choose carefully which questions to respond to. When asked what were the RCMP plans, Ray replied:
“Our first order of business is to enforce the rule of law. Each agent of the MCO will receive direction on how they will conduct themselves moving forward. More information will be provided in the coming days.”
Within the throng some began to shout out questions on how Cameron felt about winning his verdict, Ray turned and smiled down at the youth and nodded his head, then stepping aside to let the boy speak for himself.
“How do I feel? Happy I suppose, this has been such a terribly long road. I … I honestly don’t know what to think, or how I should be feeling. But, I can say a huge weight has been lifted off me - I can breath again.”
A shout asked, “What are you going to do now?”
Smiling Cameron retorted: “I’m going to Disneyland!” met with a roar of laughter, “Isn’t that what everyone’s supposed to say? Truthfully, I haven’t had time to digest what’s just happened. I hope you understand if I don’t have a good answer for you.”
After expressing his gratitude Cameron was escorted to a waiting police cruiser and whisked away. The bunkers cafeteria kicked it up a few notches for a celebration that night.
Unspecified location beneath Ottawa
Cameron was woken-up early, Smith knocked gently on his rooms door - a much nicer wake-up call than being blasted by the bunkers PA system. After a rushed breakfast of oatmeal and some fruit, Cameron entered Special Investigations meeting room to be greeted by Ken Tallman and John Bastain.
“Where’s Ray?” asked Cameron, looking around expectantly.
“He’s already left, getting everything ready,” provided Ken.
“Ready for what?”
“Bossman wants it to be a surprise, but told us to make you to wear this,” informed Ken, holding up an RCMP uniform on a hanger, identical to the ones the men wore but bore Camerons name and rank.
“So you’re saying this isn’t the surprise?” questioned Cameron as he changed clothes.
“What? Being issued a uniform? Every RCMP officer is expected to wear one while on duty!” explained Ken.
“Oh!” expressed Cameron in puzzlement.
“Come on! We need to get going,” suggested Leap, so the three prepared to jump.
St. John, Newfoundland
Cameron, Ken, and John ended the teleportation jump by taking a few steps to eat up the momentum, and took a few seconds to acclimated to their new surroundings: an MCO field office.
Ray stepped up and welcomed them.
“Good morning Sergeant Outlook. I already briefed Leap and GQ, but figured I would let this be a surprise. Today we turn the tables on the MCO!”
Cameron was taken aback, slack-jawed. Bossman gave him a moment before explaining.
“I hope you don’t mind my not asking you ahead of time, but I want you to interview each and every MCO agent. I have prepared some scripted questions for you, feel free to expand on them. Now if you don’t mind we’re on a tight timeline today. I have prepared an interrogation room for you.” Ray had a huge smile knowing his referencing Cameron’s experience in a MCO office would spur the boy into action.
As promised, Ray had commandeered one of the MCO’s own interrogation rooms, Ken and Cameron set up shop by sitting behind the table and called for the first agent to be shown in. The agent who entered was nervous as he assessed the two RCMP officers sitting at the table. He gave a slight huff of indignation at seeing a kid as he presented his identification and badge, setting them on the table. Ken picked them up and read them aloud,
“Agent Samual Ackerman, I am Officer Tallman of the RCMP. We are conducting a criminal investigation into the actions of the Mutant Commission Office. So you are aware, our conversation is being recorded, and you are required to answer truthfully. Please state your name for the record.”
“Samual George Ackerman, agent number 33147, assigned to the MCO Maritimes Region, posted at St. John’s for the last eight years.”
“I am now turning the questioning over to Staff Seargent Burke,” noted Ken.
“Wait! Burke! You’re that kid from the news … the one that… that,” he managed to say just above a whisper as the situation fully dawned on him. Had the man been nervous before - he now became terrified. “You can’t! You can’t make me testify against myself - I have rights!” he protested.
Ken spoke up, “Agent Ackerman, you are not under arrest, only taking part in an investigation. It was established by the Supreme Court that questions asked by a duly appointed authority should be answered truthfully, otherwise it is a subversion of justice.”
Cameron removed his visor and looked at the agent. The man quickly shut his eyes and turned his head to look away. Ken leaned forward and loudly said, “Boo!” The man was startled and opened his eyes.
Cameron asked the first of Ray’s questions. “Have you ever killed someone?”
“Yes,” was answered sourly.
“What was their name?”
“Have you used torture on people?”
With those admissions a local RCMP officer entered the room and put the MCO agent under arrest. A second agent was shown into the room.
Once all the MCO employees at that office had been screened, Leap, GQ and Outlook prepared to jump, but not before Cameron spotted the gathered agents who had passed interrogation being lectured by the very imposing Roche, who was reading them the riot act on how they would conduct themselves henceforth.
Ray again greeted them, this time in Halifax, Nova Scotia, he had once more been a step ahead of them getting this group ready for Cameron’s arrival.
“Good timing! That took less time than I thought, how’d we do?”
“Four out of eight,” answered Ken.
“Better odds than I expected,” admitted Ray. “Ready for another round?” he asked of Cameron.
“How many interviews are we doing?” wondered Cameron.
“There are three hundred and fifteen MCO in Canada. My plan is to do this in one fell swoop,” supplied Bossman.
“That’s expecting a lot out of Leap,” mentioned Cameron concerned about over extending his friend.
“Already thought of that, I hired two teleporters: one is assigned to Roche, I have the other. Leap is with you and Ken,” instructed Ray. “I wasn’t certain about you though, can you handle interviewing that many people in one day?”
“It’s no real effort on my part, I just look at them and ask a couple questions,” deflected Cameron.
“I’m more concerned about how you’re feeling,” admitted Ray.
“I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” confessed Cameron.
“Then we better hop to it,” interjected John, eliciting a groan from his teammates.
As the day progressed, Ray had arranged that the interviews be conducted at the start of the workday for each of the MCO offices situated across the country, the schedule had Special Investigations’ arrival to match the time zones. Local RCMP detachments would have officers arrive and assemble the agents in preparation of the interrogations, in an effort to stop anyone from getting warned ahead of time and evading the RCMP coup.
Each MCO office across the county offered some resistance, and each presented problem cases, but the average remained close to fifty percent for those who lent credence to the MCO’s bad reputation. Alberta was the exception: both Calgary and Edmonton had more militant agents and the numbers of those who had committed crimes were higher. That was not entirely unexpected.
Cameron and Ken were just wrapping up the last interview in Victoria. The Regional Office in Vancouver had the largest MCO presence in Western Canada. Victoria BC was just a small outpost, and the next stop was Prince Rupert on BC’s northern coast with only a handful of agents posted there. Then as a finally, Ray arranged so the Prince George office would be the last stop: the location of Cameron’s first introduction to the MCO. The boy was anxious for that ‘visit’; the icing on the cake - the cherry on top of the sundae. Cameron’s plan was to meet up with Ella in PG, and from there he and his Oberon would head over to catch-up with Lynn and her family.
However, Cameron could tell that Leap was getting tired and told him to rest-up while he and Ken conducted the interviews. Of course John wanted to be part of the action, but eventually he did take the offered advice and would at least sit to recoup some strength before the next jump.
John, Ken, and Cameron prepared for the jump, the distance of travel would require five bounces in relation to the number being teleported. John called out, “Ready?” initiating the trio to move in unison and jump into the air after a short run.
John arrived at Prince Rupert’s tiny MCO office, Leap’s appearance startling all present as he slowed his momentum in the cleared area Ray Martin had prepared for them, everyones eyes turned to gauge the threat but upon seeing his RCMP uniform the tension waned … until John realized he had arrived alone.
It was eerily dark as Cameron began to assess his condition. He kept still hoping the pain would ebb quicker. “Owww! That hurt!” he said barely audibly, his contorted body unable to vocalize more than a whisper. Cameron blinked repeatedly as he tried to ascertain what had happened, only to see nothing but blackness. Panicked, Cameron rotated through his different layering of vision which escalated his desperation at still being unable to see.
“Fer crying out loud! Did anybody get the number of that bus?” Ken Tallman bitterly complained. He mostly lay sprawled on-top of Cameron with his face pushed into the ground right beside Cameron, near enough to have heard the boys complaint.
Cameron felt more pain as the crushing weight sitting on him shifted.
“Get off of me!” exclaimed a young sounding voice that then broke into a fit of deep coughing.
“Patty! - Troy! You guys alright?” asked another voice; a boy. He had an accent and sounded a little older than the first.
Grumbled a girl, “I will be once you get your knee outta my ribs.” This was followed by her giving a sigh of relief.
Cameron felt the heap on-top of him being lessened as more bodies extricated themselves and got untangled. Each of the voices moaned in conjunction to the movement Cameron felt. At last Cameron was no longer the low man on the totem pole and breathed easier, although each intake of air burned his throat and lungs making him cough.
Cameron heard Ken cough too, then felt a hand on his shoulder shaking him gently.
Ken asked, “Cameron! How’re you doing bud?”.
Cameron was face down, his visor no longer covering his eyes, he turned towards the voice and groaned. He heard a slight gasp come from Ken.
“Your eyes …!” Ken managed, appalled from seeing blank white eyes instead of the usual golden light being emitted.
“I can’t see,” revealed Cameron. “Where are we?”
“Oh my, it’s the Police!” observed the girl.
“Frak!” the older boy commented.
Ken grunted as he stood, stretching to work out some kinks from his back. Once stabilized, he began to scan the surroundings and tried to determine their situation. After taking a deep breath he began a deep rumbling cough.
Cameron tasted the air, it was foul and smelled of old cheese.
“Stay close to the ground, it’s not as bad down low,” instructed the girl.
“Is the air poisonous?” Cameron asked, in as strong a voice he could muster - in the direction the girls voice came from.
“It burns your lungs and you’ll develop a nasty cough, but you’ll live,” replied the older boy. “But we need to keep quiet!” he said, with the accent that Cameron couldn’t place.
Ken finished checking his Special Investigations phone only to determine it was useless. That frustration carried over into his voice, “So we sit down and shut up."
“We don’t wanna attract attention…” hissed the youngest boy, his worry evident in his words and actions.
Cameron heard Ken sit beside him. “No phone coverage, and John isn’t with us,” whispered Ken in a somber voice.
Cameron advised, “Well Ken, Bossman keeps telling us; ‘first get the 5W’s, then make a plan.’ You better take the lead.”
“Alright, I suppose introductions are in order,” stated Ken to the small group that had huddled near. “I am Constable Tallman, this is Seargent Burke, we’re RCMP.”
“How come you’re older - but he has a higher rank?” asked the youngest boy.
Once Cameron stopped laughing he said, “Ken’s the real policeman, they just didn’t know what else to do with me. I’m Cameron, What’s your name?”
“Troy Smithers,” he replied.
The girl added, “ I’m Patrica Conners.”
“Oliver Jones,” chipped in the third youth.
“Do you know where we are?” Ken asked.
“Somebody called it the Inter-Dimensional Rift, but I don’t know where that is,” Oliver answered.
Cameron questioned, “How did you get here?”
“My roommate is a Teleporter and he gave me a ride … I was joking around and stupidly let go partway through,” admitted Oliver.
Troy blurted out, “I was swallowed by a demon and got spat out here!”
Incredibly, Ken took that answer in stride to then direct his question to Patrica, “What about you?”
“I …” she timidly began.
“She stepped through a portal,” interrupted Troy.
“I manifested as a mutant,” Patrica disclosed. “I tried to use my power and made a portal; it brought me here.”
“You mentioned others; how many are there?” asked Cameron.
“Nine,” supplied Troy. “I’m the youngest.”
“What happened? How did we end up here?” wondered Ken.
Patrica spat, “Tell him!” her annoyance manifested towards Oliver.
“We saw a lot of teleport flashes, so I suggested we try and escape. We jumped in at a flash and when we tried to grab on … you guys came out,” Oliver stammered out.
The two newest arrivals absorbed that info for a moment before Cameron then put forward, “Who are we hiding from?”
“The wraiths,” informed Troy shakily.
February 26, 2008
Franklins Ranch: ‘Passing Wind’, Southern Alberta.
Lynn let out a deep sigh, and rested her chin on her balled up fists, supported by her elbows sitting on the dinner table.
“Manners! Elbows off the table,” chided her mother Terry, as she set down a delicious smelling pot.
“Cameron’s in trouble!” informed Lynn. “He didn’t show up where he was supposed to.”
Her father Doug asked, “Do you know where he is?”
“No!” Lynn replied, crying dejectedly.
“He’ll show up,” Alan concluded as he leaned forward taking a prolonged sniff of the food, “Smells great Mom!” he complimented enthusiastically.
Terry smiled, then began scooping out the meal.
Talk at the table dealt with the day’s chores, but Lynn remained somber until she announced, “I’ve got to help him!” startling her family with the sudden outburst.
“Take it easy,” comforted Doug, “tell us what you’ve seen in your visions.”
Lynn explained, “Cameron’s friend Leap has been jumping back and forth from Victoria and Prince Rupert. The poor guy’s past exhaustion trying to find Cameron and Ken.”
“You don’t know where Cameron is, so you can’t help find him,” Terry reasoned.
Lynn continued, “That’s not all. There’s a narrow window of opportunity that could bring an end to the Were’s binding. If Cameron was around he could go - it’s up to me now!”
“What needs to happen?” sought Terry.
“I need to get to the Mediwihla,” Lynn pleaded.
Doug lamented regretfully, “I’m sorry Lynn, but I can’t leave right now; its calving season and your Mom isn’t exactly welcome there.”
“I could take her,” volunteered Alan.
“You’ve only been home for a few days!” complained Terry in exasperation.
Alan stated, “It’s okay Mom, I’ll be back - I promise. Besides, I owe it to Cameron,” giving Lynn a wink.
Cameron had brought from out of the Warehouse his tent, in the process he added a layer to make it airtight and then filled the room with clean air. He’d also provided everyone with fresh water to drink and set out what food he could find from Storage; it was only peanut butter, jam and bread, but his guests were ecstatic over it. Ken and Cameron sat on the bed while the others ate.
“So we were mid transition when we got knocked out of Leap’s teleportation jump,” confirmed Cameron. “What does this place look like?”
“There’s a thick grey fog, I can’t see more than twenty feet. It looks like the sun has set for how much light there is - but it’s not getting darker. The ground is a fine powder - same grey colour as the fog. I haven’t seen any plant life or rocks even.”
“What about our new friends?”
“Oliver looks to be the oldest; fifteen maybe sixteen, he’s wearing a school uniform.”
“Black jacket, crest on the left side that looks like a two headed bird?”
“Yes … can you see it?”
“No. It’s a Whateley Academy uniform - he said his roommate’s a Teleporter, so he’ll be a mutant. The girl?"
“She’s wearing pink pyjama’s that have these bizarre cats with ribbons.”
“Hello Kitty pyjamas!”
“Is that important?”
“Could be, It seems to be favoured by ‘troublemakers’.”
“She’s young, I’m guessing fourteen; brunette, brown eyes. Troy is around ten, he’s in a tee shirt with a transformer logo and blue jeans.”
“Autobot or Decepticon?”
“How can you tell?”
“Does the face have a smile or frown?”
“Do you hear a slurping sound?”
“Is it one of our new friends?”
“No, Troy chews with his mouth open, but that’s not what I hear.”
Quietly moving closer to Oliver, Ken asked him, “What is that slurping sound?”
Shocked, Oliver quickly became agitated and started shaking his hands vigorously up and down getting the others attention, then uttered, “Ssshhh!”
Everyone in the tent sat as quiet as can be, amplifying the sucking sound coming from outside.
Silent as a mouse, Ken moved over to the tent flap and peered outside, then quickly withdrew his head back into the tent. He returned to sitting beside Cameron and whispered into his ear.
“There’s an intangible life-form out there, I could only see it because it displaced the grey fog. It was hunched over sucking on a small nub rising up from the ground.” Seeing the pure terror on the three new faces, Ken didn’t make any further sound or move - but kept a hand resting on Cameron’s leg, assuring him that someone was close.
After a long slice of forever the sucking sound stopped. Cameron could hear the three breath again, and in a hushed voice asked, “What was that all about?”
The question hung unanswered, until a silent debate between them was settled and Oliver answered, “A wraith, they feed on teats that stick out of the ground - when they aren’t sucking the life out of us.”
“Vampires?” Ken asked.
“They draw blood, but that only seems to let them pull the life out of you easier,” advised Oliver.
“It feels like you’re gonna die once they're finished,” added a shuttering Patrica.
February 28, 2008
Airport, Montreal Quebec
Ella Oberon looked out over the crowd, she had selected a railing on a platform that allowed her to see the passengers coming in from arrivals. The call she had taken from Mike Williamson, explaining in part what had happened to Cameron - had shaken her.
‘Why did I leave Cameron,’ she berated herself. ‘My father trained me my entire life to be a protector … and then once I find him - I just let him go off alone.’ The burden of failure tore at the Were’s heart. Ella zoned out deep in recollection of their recent trip together, before she had left to help the Were:
Cameron, Ella and Ben traveled together to Ottawa, following a path that allowed for Ben and Ella to deliver flashlights and black energy balls to the Were villages enroute.
It was during the drive that Ben revealed he was an archivist - a type of librarian for the Weres. This was news which held Cameron’s fascination for many miles - which had Ben recounting stories that Ella grew up with, but Cameron knew nothing about.
It was at one of the Village stops that they had been informed about another small Were community in Arizona which had been probed - the precursor to being attacked. Cameron had formulated a strategy that had them fly-out immediately - in fact, as soon as they had arrived at Ottawa.
“How am I supposed to protect you if I’m not at your side?” countered Ella, as she parked her Jeep in the Ottawa Airport parkade.
“I was with Mike, it’s not like I need a bodyguard - at least not all the time,” Cameron complained.
“The Oberon has a valid concern,” grunted Ben as he picked up his gear. “The Mediwihla would be honoured by your return. You are one of our people, you should go and stay with us. Granny may be an old fuss-bucket but she took a liking to you.”
“What of you L, what do you think I should do?” wondered Cameron giving the option some thought.
Ella returned, “My voice carries no weight, I go where you go.”
“That’s just wrong in so many ways!” refuted Cameron. “What kind of freedom do I bring, if the Were closest to me act like servants?”
“It is the duty of a sword and shield!” countered Ella.
"You are so much more,” Cameron replied. “You know the strategy of fighting and can keep up with a running battle. It is you that must lead the Were,” persevered Cameron.
“But I…,” objected Ella.
Cameron instructed, “Ella, right now the war has two fronts, if we can put up a resistance to the dark - by reclaiming those Were taken in corruption … that is the place the sword and shield needs to be. By denying the dark its army, we will change the tide to our favour.”
“The people will only follow the Golden Eyed Man.”
“The Were will follow an Oberon, I know I would,” said Ben, “especially if she had a way to defeat the dark … gifted by the Golden Eyed Man!”
“You are not helping!” chided Ella. At which Ben slung his pack over his shoulder and chuckled. “But what of you?” she further sought.
“I will be drawing their attention. If we can distract the enemy they won’t suspect it’s a combined effort,” counselled Cameron.
Ben offered, “I will go with the Oberon, a bear is always a force to be reckoned with.”
“I welcome a friends support,” smiled Ella.
“Actually Ben, I was really hoping you could do something for me,” Cameron stated.
“Name it?” the curious were-bear responded.
Cameron explained, “I need to know what the Were’s vowed! We seek to break what I believe can be considered a legal contract - we’re going to need an understanding of what both parties said, plus the conditions and circumstances that surrounded the agreement.”
“It will be an honour,” accepted Ben.
Ella nearly jumped out of her skin when a voice behind her said, “Hello Ella.” She was surprised because no-one should be able to sneak up on a Were unawares!
Turning to face her would be assailant, she was met by the visage of an attractive young girl. She had long wavy black hair with vivid green eyes, her slightly upturned nose was wrinkled from the huge smile she wore. Ella was tense - ready to pounce, but wasn’t prepared for the hug that she found herself wrapped into.
“Ummm?” was the best Ella could muster as a response.
The mystery girl said, “Trust Cameron to never introduce us,” still holding Ella tightly.
A look of shock came over the warriors face draining her ferocity replacing it with awe. “The Pantheress!”
“Pul-ease!” came as an objection, and then offered, “Lynn,” along with another squeeze. “I’ve never met an Oberon before.”
Ella tried to make enough space between them so she could drop onto her knee to show due honour.
“Please don’t make a scene!” Lynn cautioned, as she stepped back slightly, then gave a high pitched growl announcing her position. “For my brother,” she provided as an explanation. “We separated to find you, he guessed you’d be outside.”
Ella was puzzled, “You knew I’d be here?”
“Yes, I know it’s hard to grasp - but I’m what our people call a seer - or farsighted,” supplied Lynn.
Ella stuttered, “But …”
“It’s very cute,” admired Lynn, looking over the young fox. “Cameron said you were pretty. I do wish he ‘was more’ verbal.”
“I wonder at times if he’ll ‘ever stop’ speaking,” snarked Ella.
The two girls stared at each other briefly before breaking out in laughter! They were interrupted by an indignant, “Ahem!!”
Lynn reached over and grabbed her brothers arm, thus presenting his hand to Ella. “Alan Franklin, met Ella Oberon.”
The two Were shook each others hand for an extended period as they just stared admiringly at each other.
Alan was a fine looking young man, he didn’t have the black hair like his sister; rather the sandy coloured hair of his father as well as his father’s blue eyes, but he had strong cheekbones and a similar nose to his mother’s.
Ella had her copper / red hair tied in a stylish pony tail that curled down to her mid back, her face struck in a coquettish smile that only had one corner of her mouth raised up.
“Awkward…,” stated Lynn, which reanimated the two. “When is the flight from Prince George due to arrive?”
“Landed twenty minutes ago,” Alan replied, without taking his eyes off the vixen.
Blushing, Ella pointed to a set of doors, “They’ll come through that gate,” only to notice a group of four standing just outside the doorway attempting to get oriented.
The three Were walked the short distance from Ella’s vantage point over to welcome the newcomers.
Central among the group was a tall wiry man dressed in a flannel shirt, jeans and cowboy boots. He stood head and shoulders above a group of three teens; a boy and two girls.
Lynn was the first to approach and began by hugging the tall stick of a man, who looked down at the head of black hair with his eyes doing a dance of confusion at the friendly assault from a complete stranger.
“Mr. Johnson, I’m Lynn Franklin,” provided Lynn while still hugging the beanpole.
“Lynn?” stumbled Marcus, “Mike said someone would met us at the Airport, but I thought you were in Alberta.”
“Marcus, I’m Lynn’s brother Alan,” inserted Alan. “And this is Ella Oberon,” he provided, after they’d shook hands.
“May I present: Timothy, Rachel and Charlotte.” Mike was then interrupted by a loud, “Hoy!”
Turning to face the outburst, a large barrel chested fellow with his arms wide open approached Marcus and embraced him.
“Roche!” exclaimed Marcus, and wholeheartedly returned the greeting.
Standing just a little behind Roche was a very tall girl, even taller than Marcus, who wore a hoodie that hid most of her face leaving just her mouth and chin visible. She also wore heavy duty gloves.
Roche reached over putting his arm around the girl’s waist and onto her back and drew her forward, “Please to make the acquaintance of R.E.D.”
The ear splitting screech was enough to make everyone cover their ears and wince in pain.
The tent walls and roof were indented by hands that pressed upon the fabric. The three youth curled into fetal positions and repeatedly wailed, “no,” and fear wracked their faces.
Ken and Cameron stood back to back, Ken had drawn his RCMP issue pistol as he faced the doorway. Cameron had layered his most powerful shields around the tent after the stories they’d been told of being fed upon, but they seemed to provide little protection against the wraiths.
The wispy outline of a wraith passed thru the tent and latched onto Ken’s shoulder. He cried in agony as he tried to hit it with the butt of his gun, to no avail. Ken dropped to his knees as he no longer had the strength to stand.
More of the wisps entered and each targeted one of the tent’s occupants. Over the wraith’s shrieks Cameron heard whimpers from all of his companions. Cameron felt the bite on his neck and then sensed the pull upon him.
Cameron panted heavily. He was down on one knee and only remained upright from the support provided by the staff he had manifested during the battle. Cameron’s tent was in tatters. He still was not able to see, so he could only lash out in hopes of making a chance connection upon the foe - and not strike friend.
When the entity began to siphon off Cameron’s life force, Cameron had been able to reverse the tide and drew energy in from the wraith. It was an energy source unlike anything he’d encountered before and left a nasty taste in his mouth. He badly wanted to see what level his battery was at now, since he’d never felt so empowered, but without sight he couldn’t know.
The wraith had dislodged itself and began wailing like nothing he had ever heard before. The other wraiths gave up their feast and began circling Cameron, attempting to punish him for ruining their dinner.
To defend himself Cameron had fashioned a quarter staff out of his energy absorbing material. It had started out dark black, but from the occasional contact it made on an attacking wisp - it now had whirls of milky white intermingled in the black.
Each strike that hit the wraiths resulted in a satisfying wail of anguish from the wisps as their energy was drawn into the staff. The shrieking abated and Cameron no longer felt the jabs and shoves he had been getting pummelled with.
Listening, Cameron could hear the pained breathing of his companions, each was moaning and coughing from the bad air around them since the tent no longer provided a pocket of clean air to breathe.
Digging deep into his memories, Cameron imagined a face mask with filters and brought it out from his Workshop. He put the mask on and breathed thru it, the seal wasn’t great so he adjusted the fitment. He made four more and distributed them, checking the fit for each.
The mask distorted a person’s speech, but he ascertained how everyone was feeling. None of them were much more than just alive, they shivered violently and were clammy to the touch. Cameron couldn’t locate his blankets in the Warehouse, but decided to make ponchos out of the black absorbent instead.
In Storage, Cameron knew there was some steamed white rice, he was able to recall its location and felt for it. He then made some small energy pellets like he had done for Alan at Arkham, but this time he filled them with energy so they were white, and mixed them into the rice.
Cameron apportioned out the food, telling them they would feel better after they ate. They all commented about the crunchy bits, but ate nonetheless. As they ate they heard voices coming from out of the grey gloom. The voices called out the three youth’s names - to which Patrica called back, “Over here!” between mouthfuls.
The five were joined by another six that Oliver, Patty and Troy knew. The grown-ups vigorously chided the three teens for having run-off. They had heard the commotion and came in search of what they had feared were three deaths.
Concord, New Hampshire.
Emit Paulson sat back in his chair watching the case unfold; he had volunteered to act as co-counsel for the state but that was declined. Instead, he sat in the gallery as a spectator watching this court’s proceedings, which had been an entertaining exchange.
New Hampshire Child Services had a good lawyer representing themselves, and Marissa Dawson: Whateley Academies lawyer, was competent at least. Emit was taking notes and sizing up what to expect when his own case came before a judge.
The defence being used was almost formulaic: The defendant: Mrs Carson, claimed that Cameron Burke had brought his woes upon himself; it was his own fault for not bringing his situation to the administration’s attention.
Meanwhile, Child Services had exposed some gapping holes in how Whateley conducted its business. The school’s independently managed and operated sections hadn’t communicated effectively with each other - and that situation allowed someone to drop through the cracks.
That someone was Cameron Burke, and now Mrs. Carson was facing charges of child abuse, in part because the school failed to account for him under her administrative blanket. At issue and under debate was that she herself was to blame for Cameron’s situation.
Mrs. Carson looked sufficiently contrite as the court peeled back layer after layer of mistakes. When damning evidence was revealed, she even wept on occasion. A good act conceded Emit.
Marissa Dawson was tireless in her efforts to construct a chain of evidence intending to build a defence that would exonerate the school and its top administrator. She kept returning to a simple conclusion: What’s wrong with that kid? All he had to do was come to the office. All this could have easily been handled.
Emit could see the strategy behind creating reasonable doubt. The best legal recourse was to turn the blame back onto Cameron Burke for not working along with the school. That basic premise would have prevented any of the issues that had culminated in a legal battle.
Mrs. Dawson was also working the angle that Cameron had problems with authority figures, implying he was a complete dunderhead. She even explored the possibility that he’d come to Whateley to foment discord, and wanted to create trouble for the school, for mutants.
When Marissa Dawson thought she had sown enough dissent she called Mrs. Carson onto the witness stand. It was a brave move, but calculated: presenting to the court a caring, motherly figurehead that all the students adored, a heroine that could do no wrong.
While Mrs. Dawson was finishing up her charade, Emit passed a few notes and a large bound volume up to the lawyers positioned at the table. The note was read with interest, and some furious activity ensued.
When Mrs. Dawson concluded with her witness, it was in haste that the lawyer stood to begin a cross examination. Addressing the witness she asked: “Mrs. Carson, is it correct to conclude that choosing a code name, the moniker used to obscure a true identity is typically done to reflect a persons extraordinary abilities and personality traits?
Mrs. Carson: “Yes.”
Lawyer: “How about yourself, we understand that you have taken several of these aliases, Miss Champion, and Miss Miracle for instance?”
Mrs. Carson: “The first name I took originated from my association with Champion; we were partners since we shared many similar abilities. When I went solo I took on a name to distinguish myself from Champion.”
Lawyer: “This would have been around the time you found an affinity for the mystic arts, hence the new name Miss Miracle?”
Mrs. Carson: “Yes. The changed name better reflected my abilities at the time.”
Lawyer: “Interesting! Now I take it at some point that you married. Was this the reason you decided another name change was required rather than just retaining the name Mrs. or Ms. Miracle?”
Mrs. Carson: “No. My abilities developed beyond what a simple miracle might imply.”
Lawyer: “I see. Your progression into wielding magic required you not ascribe the wonders you performed to mere fluke.”
Mrs. Carson: “Magic only comes about because of commitment to study and practise. It is not miraculous, rather it takes hard work to perform.”
Lawyer: “Thank you for clarifying that. So your current name then?”
Mrs. Carlson: “Lady Astarte.”
Lawyer: “So we are to understand that this is now a current reflection of your abilities and personality?”
Mrs. Carson: “Yes.”
Lawyer: “Mrs. Carson: are you a god?”
Mrs. Carson: “I do not make that claim.”
Lawyer: “But yet you have named yourself after a god.”
Mrs. Carson: “I chose that name because it best depicts my abilities and reflects a powerful figure.”
Lawyer: “Oh dear! I am certain this court would be interested in learning about who you have chosen to emulate.” Picking up and reading from a large encyclopedia she commenced:
“Astarte was the goddess of fertility and married to Baal the god of harvests, her priestesses were temple prostitutes and her adherents held orgies in their honour. The images archeologists have found of Astarte rank as some of the most extreme and grotesque types of pornography. Unearthed from under her temples are the human remains from the sacrifices given to her: consisting of children - burned to death, then buried in urns.”
Closing the textbook, the lawyer looked suitably appalled when addressing Mrs. Carson: “Certainly an outstanding figurehead to provide for a school full of impressionable youth.”
February 28, 2008
Highway outside Montreal
The large passenger van that Roche and Marcus rented carried the newly acquainted group of nine away from the airport. It was being driven Northeastward away from Montreal towards Quebec City. Ella would have preferred to travel in her own Jeep, but it was left behind in Montreal.
The youths far outnumbered the adults in the vehicle and Ella was cautious around the newcomers … either it was her instinct kicking in, or possibly due to years of preparing for anything. As it was, some of the passengers were taking the opportunity of the lull caused by the journey, to have a nap. Conversation so far had been a little subdued because the unfamiliarity of the three groups made it tough to feel comfortable with each other right away.
The quiet surroundings gave Ella some time to think. Everything happened so fast - it was a blur, so she returned to her memories. Undoubtedly her role would become the storyteller of the Golden Eyed Man, and the battles with The Dark, so she had to get the story right.
The Were had a resounding victory at the village in Arizona. Her rallying call had brought a large force to help the beleaguered village, which honestly, was much to her surprise. Incredibly even to her, was how many of those who came in response had already heard stories about the battle at the Mediwihla Village, where the contaminated were defeated.
Ella successfully used a similar tactic that had been executed with the Mediwihla, by setting a snare. After this battle had been won fifteen had been reclaimed from The Dark. What was only to be a brief separation from Cameron changed once again when two more villages faced siege.
Ella and her band of warriors rushed to provide aid to the two beleaguered villages, and the resulting victories cemented that the Were could win. The news of the dispersing of the flashlights and dark energy adsorbing balls were now spreading like wildfire. As their reputation grew, and their value in defeating The Dark was established, Cameron’s weapons against the foe became sought after by Were across the nation.
The return of those lost to The Dark was the news that Were desperately needed. Hope flourished among the Were at last.
She absently rolled one of the black balls in her fingers; it was set into a necklace given to her by the grateful people at one of the villages she and her band had helped. The Were had started a whole new art incorporating Cameron’s solutions against The Dark. They had taken to weaving his protective and curative devices into clothing and making jewelry around them.
Cameron. The thought of him made her smile. As is often the case, the runt of the litter holds the most surprises. Ella had never been more surprised than by that scrawny human boy. She had always imagined herself as the ideal soldier; it was who she was trained to be, the existence she was born into.
Cameron didn’t hold to the traditional values. In fact, he broke down those walls which had been past down for ages … it was like he didn’t know - or didn’t care. Some of the Were tried to convince her that the boy couldn’t fulfill the legend of the Golden Eyed Man, yet others absolutely loved him and never doubted his role. Looking to her own heart, Ella didn’t truly know how she felt, or what she thought because Cameron was so different to her preconceptions.
Ella’s mind slowly drifted away in her thoughts to conversations of another long drive she had taken not so long ago:
Ella impatiently commented, “You went off unprotected again! Did the children need a hero?”
“They wanted to show me their home. You worry like a mother hen,” observed Cameron.
“As compared to you running-off like a chicken with its head cut off?”
“I keep my head firmly attached, Thank you! Making friends goes a long way to building trust.”
“I’m sorry to be sharp,” retracted Ella.
“Not a problem. But you must admit - each step you take is like you’re waiting for someone to come at you swinging.”
“I don’t want my next step to be my last … and now I must protect an undisciplined human who has no clue of the dangers present!”.
A surprised Cameron retorted, “You think I’m oblivious to what surrounds me?”
“Without a Were’s senses, I doubt you are cognizant of half the dangers around you - even here,”Ella referenced the border station they were queued up at.
Cameron performed a quick three hundred sixty degree scan, then began pointing. “Four MCO agents at eight thirty; each with low calibre sidearms, pepper spray and concussion grenades shaking down a family with a mutant son. Ten o’clock - a Federal Marshall is carrying an unloaded sidearm while transporting a prisoner. One thirty is a United States customs check point with a total of seven officers; all with sidearms and close to a concealed weapons cache with shotguns, rifles and tasers.”
Continuing his evaluation Cameron kept pointing, “Three o’clock, Canadian Customs office; three people currently posted with a fourth entering a bulletproof control area. The door’s touchpad code is: seven, seven, three, two, two, eight. On our six is an off-duty policeman who’s taking his family on a holiday, his firearms concealed in his luggage.”
Ella gave her charge a long look, a mix between shock and awe.
“Would you like a breakdown of who has knives and their lengths?”
“How do you see that?” She questioned, as she moved the Jeep forward.
“Me?! I’m blind … at least that’s the official verdict. I don’t see the normal way - I’ve failed every vision test given me. I’ll never get a drivers license because I can’t narrow my focus down that way.”
“I never considered that your eyes did more than shine.”
“Am I wrong in guessing that you’re wondering what useful role an Oberon can have if it is not to make up for my pitiful ‘human’ senses?”
“Yes, I’m struggling trying to figure out how I am best to be of help to you.”
“Ella, I need a sword and shield in ways you’ve probably never considered. In order to use my sight to the fullest, I become blind to all else happening around me … I’m at my most vulnerable when I’m at my strongest.”
“Then why complain that I keep wary of the dangers around us?”
“Did you ever see the movie Pinocchio, where Jiminy advises the puppet?”
“You imply I should be a noisy cricket and sing you songs?” jested Ella.
“Boy! That would be swell!” humoured Cameron.
Ben roared with laughter in the back seat.
“Ha!” she scoffed and gave Ben a dirty look, “Fat chance of that happening!”
“I was trying to say that I need someone to act as my guide to all things Were; your culture, your customs.”
“That is a reasonable suggestion.”
“And if you could put it to a nice Caribbean beat, toss in a couple maracas - Oh! oh! or maybe steel drums.”
“You’re testing my patience,” fumed Ella.
“Only seems fair, you’ve been testing me against some secret Oberon code of yours - so what’s the verdict; am I the guy?”
“It’s okay. You don’t have to answer that. You have a job to do - I get it. Just don’t let work stop you from smiling a little. No matter what the test says, at the end of the day I’d like to be able to call you a friend.”
“That would be acceptable,” revealed the duty bound Oberon.
“Where are we heading?” Marcus’ question drew Ella’s attention back to the present.
“R.E.D.’s family has a place we can all stay,” answered Roche. “We’ll spend the night there before heading to the States.”
“Hate to impose,” worried Marcus, “there’s a lot of us.”
“Her family demanded we come … It would insult their hospitality if we refused,” countered Roche. “Besides; you haven’t eaten until you’ve had a French Canadian feast. Trust me! These folks are family you just haven’t met yet.”
“I’m more concerned with eating them out of house and home. Mutant teenagers are bottomless pits!”
“Fair point,” replied Roche, “but don’t worry, they’re prepared.” After checking the traffic he then asked, “You didn’t bring Polaris with you?”
“Grace wanted to come, but she’s at home taking care of Mark; the little guy’s too small for an adventure.”
Roche nodded in understanding, “How old is he?”
“Two months,” Marcus proudly added with a sigh, “I didn’t want to leave, The Trifecta of Trouble had to drag me away.”
Ella inquired, “Try who’sit?”
“He means us,” provided Rachel. “We got a message saying Cameron needed our help.” The head bobs to the affirmative indicated the same for everyone else.
“That would have been me,” chimed in Lynn. “I contacted all of you through Mike Williamson.”
“It seems you are the only person who knows what we are getting ourselves into,” the comment drawing attention as it came from the most quiet of the group; the tall hooded girl sitting in the back.
“Cameron has disappeared,” informed Lynn. “I don’t have all the details yet, really just that he's in trouble. But I’m sure he’s going to need our help.”
“I assume collecting us together makes up the who, have we an inkling towards the what and why?” contributed Ella.
Tim piped in by saying, “Cameron saved our lives, so I’ll do whatever I can - but really, what kind of help we can be?”
Ella voiced her worry, “My concern also.”
“I wish I had more details,” confessed a remorseful Lynn. “But best as I can tell - it looks like Cameron needs our help. Without us; it will be bad!”
The van’s occupants returned to being quiet as they pondered what Lynn meant. It was only a short pause before:
“I was just tested so I could go on the airplane: I’m rated as an Exemplar four and Energizer three, and can fly - on my own - the plane was neat too. I wanted to use the code name Princess,” explained Charlotte, “but they said it was a title not a name; the poopie-heads! So I picked Excelle,” sulked Charlotte. Her expression quickly turned to a grin as she turned and poked Ella who sat beside her, “You’re it!” teased the young girl.
“What is ‘It’?” asked Ella, confused by the expression.
“‘It’ is your turn,” instructed Rachel. Seeing the answer didn’t register she continued, “To tell us what you can do.”
Lynn jumped in to rescue the uncertain Were regarding how much should be revealed. “Ella, Alan and I are shape-shifters with enhanced healing abilities and above usual strength, I’m also a Pre-Cog. But we don’t have code names.”
Rachel piped in next, “I’m a level three Psychic, and an Exemplar one. I haven’t chosen an alternate name yet.”
“I’m a level four speedster, call me ‘Swift’,” announced Tim.
All heads turned to the last person, seated in the van’s back. R.E.D. removed her sunglasses and pulled down the hoodie revealing the sparkling ruby red eyes and hair that looked like it was on fire - it pulsated, the effect working down the length of her hair. “I am Energizer six, and Exemplar three. Please to call me Flambé.”
Cameron outfitted everyone with a breathing apparatus and poncho; he also handed out staffs to those who asked for one.
Those that had undergone the recent attack had started to feel better. Cameron’s energy infused rice had imparted a replacement for that which had been stolen. Ken described to Cameron how it felt like his life was being pulled through a straw, and was grateful for Cameron interceding when he did.
In the distance could be heard a roar like crashing waves. It was coming closer until the individual shrieks could be distinguished. The wraiths had called up reinforcements who now came at them as an angry horde.
Oliver asked for a staff and joined the ranks that formed a circle around those like Troy and Patrica, who curled up under the ponchos.
Cameron stepped a few feet away from the circle so he looked like an easy target, as the remaining defenders all held the staffs out to get a feel for the weapon.
The first attackers arrived and beset upon Cameron. Although the wraiths had no solid form, contact with them was painful, feeling like a heavy slap rather than a punch. Cameron gave no resistance, daring them to bite him. When any wraith attacked him it was much to their surprise when they started to be drained of energy.
The main body of the assault swarmed the circle of defenders. The wraiths tried to find an opening past the barrage of staffs, but any contact with the staffs to the intangible wisps elicited a scream, and the injured wraith reeled back to have its position taken by another angry attacker.
Cameron was slammed into repeatedly by the mob trying to unbalance him. Struggling to break free from those wraiths who were stuck to him Cameron spun, and by happenstance managed to grab onto one of the assailants by its trailing tail. He then used the captured wraith as a bludgeon by swinging it around in a circle knocking away many within the arc. Cameron pulled out a copious amount of energy in the process.
A few of the wraith rose up over the reach of the staffs to then dive-bomb into the ring’s centre. The attack was halted by the ponchos that prevented them from attacking from behind, or getting to those huddled underneath the protective covering. Oliver turned inward and began swatting the close range targets with his staff; each blow resulted in a great howl.
The staffs which had started out pure black started to show white, indicating the hurt that was being inflicted, but it didn’t stop the onslaught. Instead it seemed to make the wraiths madder the more energy they sacrificed through engagement.
A number of wraiths began to crawl along the ground and managed to bite onto the unprotected legs of two of the defenders. These wavered and fell, but those wraiths were easily struck and beaten off. The weakened men were pulled into the middle of the group, and put under cover as the circle tightened up to adjust for the losses.
A punishing blow was delivered upon Cameron who stumbled and fell to the ground. One hand held onto his staff, but his other brushed up against a nub that stuck out of the ground. To his mind it felt like a nipple. He accidentally jammed the end of his staff into the nub as he tried to stand, resulting in a loud crash sounding like shattering glass. This was followed by a shock wave that sent all the wraiths tumbling, but had no impact on the people fighting them.
The nub then disintegrated into the grey powder that was scattered all over the ground. The defenders who witnessed what happened shouted for Cameron to hit another of the teats.
Ken managed to give concise directions by shouting to him, “Eleven feet, head to two thirty on a clock.”
Cameron got to his feet after knocking away some wraiths that had tried to hold him down. He walked one step at a time, planting each foot firmly to try to remain standing.
“One foot to your right,” Ken yelled, as he swung his staff making a solid connection. The resultant shrieking drowned out anything else he might have said.
Cameron dropped down onto his knees and ran his hand over the ground, finding the nub. He again jabbed at it with his staff and the resulting reaction and concussive blast was even bigger, knocking the wraiths out of the air. The group of defenders shouted loudly celebrating the effect upon the wraith, rejoicing over the discovered means to fight back.
“Another!” hollered Cameron.
“This way,” directed Oliver, “seven feet to the left of me!”
As Cameron stumbled towards Oliver, two of the others left the protective ring and rushed over to two of the nubs that barely rose above the dust layer. Synchronizing the thrust of their staffs, both men jabbed simultaneously and the resulting blasts flung the wraiths further back than before.
Once the wraiths picked themselves up out of the dust and shook off the grey powder, they howled in unison like an angry choir - showing their displeasure. None dared approach the humans, but circled and shrieked, as the defenders regrouped and strengthened the ring.
Cameron was posed to jab another nub; he gestured his intent, which elicited a shrill from the wraiths who maintained a distance. He very slowly knelt and touched the nub, gauging that it was at least three times the size of the ones that had been destroyed.
Returning to his feet, Cameron threw out his arm, a single finger pointing away from the group of humans to emphasize his objective - then he threatened to shatter the teat with his staff.
The message got across, not without complaint however as the shrieking coming from the wraiths was earsplitting for a brief moment. But the wraiths did back away, their noise abating, letting Cameron know of the departure. The others watched as the wisps began slinking away into the thick grey gloom; soon all that could be heard was a faint din.
“We won!” exclaimed Oliver, showing a large measure of disbelieve in the turn of events.
“For now.” Ken did not want to sour the moment, but he was not ready to say the danger was past.
“Ken’s right,” admitted Cameron. “I doubt there was even fifty spirits in that attack, what happens when there’s a hundred of them, or a thousand?”
“We open another can o’ whup-ass on them!” encouraged Oliver.
“We got lucky,” confessed Ken. “Cameron was on his last legs, and the same for all of us. Against greater numbers we don’t stand a chance.”
“So we keep popping those pimples; that shook em up,” countered Troy, who had watched the battle blow by blow from safety.
“It rattled them, but I don’t think that is what drove them off,” explained Cameron.
“What do you mean?”
“I suspect the nipple I was threatening is important to them.”
“You need to explain,” came from one of the adults.
“When I touched it, it was much larger than the others. I sensed a lot of potential energy in it.”
“That’s why the wraiths suck on them - it’s how they feed,” surmised Ken.
“Compared to those nipples, we’re probably just appetizers,” conceded Cameron.
“So; what do you suggest?” asked another of the adults.
“We stay close to this nipple, they may not attack again right away, but I believe they’ll return sooner or later.”
Concord, New Hampshire.
The courtroom finally had returned to order after repeated attempts by the court officials. It was only after a bailiff had discharged his firearm into the ceiling that the pandemonium halted.
Emit Paulson basked in the furor that had erupted from so little tinkering; emotions were high, the stakes higher. This is exactly what the Goodkind's wanted, for Cameron’s legal case to rip apart any favourable public opinion of mutants.
The proceedings judge called for the court session to be dismissed and resume tomorrow in order to cool everyone down; a good idea on his part. Emit decided a coffee was a suitable reward and left to find a purveyor.
Marissa Dawson sat down at the table and let out an exhausted sigh. That last go-round had been damaging; she knew it, but couldn’t let her client see it in her eyes. Marissa had hoped to deal in facts, instead there was name calling and mud-slinging … Why did it always come down to the level of being in day-care?!
Looking over at Elizabeth Carson, who sat with her head bowed, her breaths short and in sporadic fits. If she would have spoken you would have heard the pain. This close, Marissa could see the streaked mascara and the puffy eyelids.
In a soft controlled voice Liz asked, “Are they going to use that recording from my office?”
“I’m sure of it,” admitted Marissa.
“I don’t understand, I’ve played it over and over, but when it happened - I heard Ronald Lundquist’s voice.”
“Are you saying they doctored the recording?”
“No! I had Delarose check our tapes, they’re identical. But I heard Ronald Lundquist, not Cameron Burke in the office.”
“Liz! I’m sorry, but I can’t build a case on what you thought you heard. We’re in enough trouble. I can’t open the door that you might be hearing voices.”
“I should have listened to the little voice that told me not to accept Outlook’s application to Whateley. It had too many inconsistencies.”
“Why did you? He’s not a mutant.”
“I thought we could actually help him. He’s a hard luck case like so many of my kids; an orphan with a messed up life.”
“You’d pick up every stray off the street.”
“So sue me!” the smile was weak, but Liz did manage one. “Outlook was so intriguing: a power set I’d never heard off before, an odd physical condition, plus a tough medical history.”
“I noticed he was under a psychiatrist’s care for emotional issues. I had hoped it was mental problems; that would have given me something to work with.”
“You’d willingly exploit a person’s faults?”
“It would depend on how serious the situation. Sometimes the moral high ground is a luxury when you’re fighting for your life… Wait!… You’ve got something don’t you!”
“On his school application, look at the date of birth!”
February 29, 2008
Outside Quebec City.
“I can’t believe you punched me!” complained Tim, as he doctored his eye, gingerly holding the wrapped ice Marcus handed him.
“I told you to keep your hands up!” counselled Marcus from the vans front seat. “It’s a defensive posture; then you’re ready in case your opponent leaves an opening.” Marcus was trying to ensure their sparing lesson wasn’t a complete waste.
“I’m gonna have a black eye!”
“It’s your own fault, you walked into it,” pointed out Rachel as she leaned forward from the seat behind to say close his ear.
“Like you can do better,” Tim snarked back.
“I’m not the one with a shiner,” Rachel snickered.
Alan laughed out-loud at that, giving his seat mate a nudge. They had mixed up the seating, and Alan had wanted to sit with Ella, but Rachel had jumped into the van’s third row chair before he could make his move.
“Sisters are good at pointing out the obvious,” noted Alan.
“Tell me about it! I have two of them,” huffed a frustrated Tim, who sat back allowing the ice to rest atop his eye. “I just wanted to be better prepared; I haven’t done much fighting. What about you?”
Alan wondered just what he should say. His heart won teller’s rights, “I’m afraid I have been in a number of battles, each worse than the one before. I desire peace but can see that it must be fought for.”
Ella picked up on the conversation and asked her own question, directed to Lynn seated in the row behind, “Are we expecting a fight?”
Lynn sat looking out the window giving a long ‘Hhmmm’, “I don’t know,” she gave in an apologetic tone. “I have seen when and where we need to be, but the rest isn’t clear … I’m sorry.”
From the front seat came the suggestion, “We are all tied together by knowing Cameron, why don’t we share with each other how we met him?”
Lynn blurted out, “Before we swap stories, Ella, Alan and I need to tell you something, it’s important. We are Were!”
The van’s occupants mulled that over until Roche said, “About halfway between Sainte-Marie and Thetford Mines.”
Even Ella laughed at that. Alan interjected, “It is better said that we are Were-folk. No doubt you have heard of Werewolves. Unfortunately movies and fables have painted us as bloodthirsty beasts, and that stereotype is a great misconception.”
“You change form,” stated a nonchalant Rachel. “Ella is a fox, Alan and Lynn are panthers,” the revelation not phasing her in the slightest, although her saying so soothed her siblings.
Charlotte on the other hand made an impassioned plea, “Show me! Show me!”
Lynn obliged and changed to her kitten form. The tiny little puffball of black fur and amazing green eyes looked up at the young girl sitting beside her. Charlotte’s eyes went big as saucers, followed by raising her hands into small fists, and they vibrated in glee to her saying, “So Cute!!!”
Lynn stretched before sauntering over onto Charlottes lap and flopping down. The girl was ecstatic at being able to pet the tiny cat. Tim looked questioningly at Alan and asked, “How about you?”
Alan looked around himself to then say, “Not enough room.”
Elle stared at Rachel, half in curiosity and half in indignation before saying, “I don’t do requests.”
“I didn’t ask, but you want to know how I knew?” garnered Rachel. “Psychic, you can hide physically but not mentally. Before I allow you to put my family in harm’s way; what is this binding you’re trying to break?”
Concord, New Hampshire.
Emit Paulson arrived early to ensure getting a good seat in the courtroom, he wanted to sit as close to the action as possible, it allowed him to watch the lawyers - see any tells that might give away their hand. By being close he could also get a feel for their mental state, that spoke to how they assessed the hearing was going.
The table for the State was eager, they knew they had damning evidence to present, whereas the representation for Mrs. Carson didn’t look right, it was jovial, smiles and happy. Emit was puzzled, since to him the outcome was a done deal.
When the Judge entered and took his Dias, the room was called to order.
Looking down at a paper the Judge’s expression shifted from grumpy to become appalled. Emit was now beyond curious, what had changed?
The Judge spoke with a scowl, “I have a request from the defence that this hearing be dismissed. Mrs. Dawson, as counsel for the defendant, please explain your reasoning.”
Marissa Dawson stood to make her address, “My client has been charged with child abuse. I am drawing the court’s attention to the fact that the State has failed to demonstrate where and when such a situation occurred,” only be cut off before she could continue.
The States Lawyer commented: “Your honour, we are prepared to submit such evidence.”
Marissa Dawson continued, “As I was endeavouring to say, The State has failed to produce a situation of endangerment, therefor the charges of child abuse must be dropped.”
This was a twist that caught Emit’s attention.
Seeing that she had the judges attention, Marissa Dawson pointed out, “The State is claiming that my client willfully brought harm, by denying the basic necessities of food and shelter to an underage minor. If it pleases the court; Cameron Burke was born November 11, 1985, making him twenty-two at the time of the alleged crimes.”
The Judge ‘hurmpt' loudly at that news, matched by the State’s lawyer quickly checking her notes.
The State’s Lawyer approached the bench, saying, “The State acknowledges the date of Cameron Burke’s birth. But we have medical records showing that the victim had been incapacitated for seven and a half years in a coma. Cameron Burke only had thirteen years of accumulated life experience, certainly not enough to be called an adult.”
The Judge called a break as he withdrew to his chambers, and everyone grew restless waiting for his return. After two hours, the lawyers responded to an invitation to join the judge. An hour later all parties returned to the courtroom.
The Judge called the courtroom to quiet before addressing the room. “After deliberations and consultation, I was unable to find any precedent that allowed me to roll back the clock. On the contrary, there are many cases where a youth claims the right of majority due to demonstrating advanced development, not a reverse. I find I cannot support the State’s motion and must dismiss the charges against Mrs. Elizabeth Carson.”
Ben returned to his lair, lighting the lamp that burned in a holder on the small room’s wall. Stationed in the middle of the hand hewn cavern sat a table piled high with books, parchments and scrolls.
After many days his search was bearing fruit, as he’d uncovered much on the Were’s history. Last night Eloise was shocked when he told her about why Panthers were sought as leaders among the Were. He’d at last unearthed how the binding to the seven courts had been performed, and by who! The council of elders sent a Were pantheress to make a peace treaty. It necessitated the Were swearing to be subjugated to the seven courts, what’s more, it was a blood oath.
In-order for Ben to get as concise a history of events possible, he had called many of the leading Were houses to gather their recollections. Oral tradition allowed for variation, but the central tenant held true. The Sidhe had made a pact swearing that if the Were aligned with the Seven Courts, the Sidhe would grant protection to all the Were.
The phone call he had with Ella last night had been unnerving, he had been surprised to speak with Eloise’s niece Lynn, from whom he had been instructed to make the necessary arrangements. These were as dictated by the old ways, and supported in the texts he’d researched.
Ben had gone earlier in the day to seek an audience with the Grove, he had spent many hours conferring with the conifers. He had to present his request succinctly as there is no beating around the bush with a bunch of bushes. But it was successful! The grove agreed to host a parlance to air a grievance.
Sitting back down to his desk Ben rechecked his writings, ensuring it was all in order. A mistake now would carry penalties. His hand shook as he dipped the quill into the ink pot and scratched out the last remaining words onto the velum.
He gave the documents to the duly appointed messengers and bid them haste. If Lynn was right, and he had every reason to believe she was, timing was critical. His assignment done, Ben breathed a sigh in relief; he could now afford to relax and give attention to what he’d found. He hoped Cameron was okay, from what Lynn revealed there was reason to worry.
End of Part 5