The Appeal Process
by Brian Doyle
This work is completely unauthorized. No permission has been given, no offence has been intended. This was started a couple of years ago, and only recently finished, as I am not the most regular reader of X-Titles, it's probable some of the continuity is shot to hell, for which I make no apology, I defy ANYONE to get it all straight in their heads. And if some poor soul DOES have it all straight in their heads, might I suggest they find a more worthwhile endeavour for their spare mental capacity, it's only a comic book for pities sake!
"So, Douglas Ramsey of Earth 616, We understand you'd like to appeal against your death sentence."
"Yes your Fairness"
"Normally We would say something about this being 'Most irregular", but frankly, given your... genetic predisposition, We are actually a little surprised that it took you this long."
The setting was a trifle odd to say the least. The Courtroom itself was vast, though this was perhaps exaggerated by it's significant lack of walls, only misty clouds and starry depths seemed to be supporting the all too solid looking ceiling several hundred feet up. It all looked very cosmic.
The decor was classically simple with lots of white marble. Gold and jet tiles in the floor gave the appearance of a rather luxurious chessboard.
Seated behind a table just in front of the towering desk of the Judge, which would have dominated any, for want of a better word, chamber except this one, was a blond boy in his late teens, wearing what appeared to be an exotic black and yellow ski suit which meant, coincidentally, he complemented the rooms decor rather well.
Seated at the desk was the his/her Supreme Fairness, known to all as "The Judge", a faintly glowing humanoid figure in long red robes and a long, powdered wig. It's features and voice tended to shift and change as you looked at it. Sometimes it was male, sometimes female, sometimes black, sometimes white, sometimes oriental. It was less a being, and more a concept, epitomising the justice of a world and its many peoples over aeons of time.
The blond boy spoke. "Well, your Fairness, my mutant ability was both passive and mental in nature, and I didn't have a healing factor, so the usual channels weren't much help"
"No healing factor? Now that IS unusual. And "the usual channels"? Ah yes of course, the Xavier Protocols as We believe some wit in Records has taken to referring to the files."
"Yes, your Fairness, and on top of that, my cause of death was a bullet wound caused by a standard handgun."
"A handgun? Not plasma energy blasts of indeterminate nature?"
"No, your Fairness."
"No large buildings falling on you, or similar explosions, making recovery of the body impossible?"
"No, your Fairness"
"Mysterious other-dimensional forces at work?"
"Not that I was aware of, your Fairness, I was rather preoccupied bleeding to death at the time."
"Quite. Hmmmm... Time-displaced mutant assassins from potential dystopian futures causing paradox by the very nature of their being and intent?
"No alien intervention perhaps?"
"No your Fairness. Just a deranged human with a gun."
"Ummmmmm.... Are you in any way related to the Summers family? Lost twin? Chronologically displaced cousin? Third Uncle twice removed and not due to be born for a thousand years?"
"Not that my parents ever mentioned."
"Hmmmm...." The Judge said again, genuinely nonplussed "Are you QUITE sure you're a mutant, Mr Ramsey?"
"Yes, your Fairness. Actually, I checked the records and I couldn't find any other examples like mine, nearly all of them had am obvious way back. Anyway, having found nothing recently I went back further and found what I think is reasonable grounds. Article NM 52, Section 5, Sub sections 4 through 7."
"Article NM eh? We're rather surprised you were able to read those files, they do date back to pre-Babel days."
"Babel? Is he a mutant too? Cool name."
"No Mr Ramsey, THE Babel, Genesis... Chapter 9.. Tower.. Wrath of God etc etc. Remember where you are."
"Oh, THAT Babel, sorry. Anyway, the scrolls weren't a problem, my power lets me translate anything given a little time. This was nothing compared to Dire Wraith or Old Asgardian."
"Really?" The Judge looked interested and leaned forward in a semi-conspiratorial manner, "We've been having a little trouble with the instructions for installing Our Windows 98 upgrade, We wonder whether you might...."
"Sorry, your Fairness, my power's good, but it's not THAT good."
"Oh well, it was worth a try. By the way, We wouldn't mention Asgard again if We were you, it's something of a faux pas to mention other pantheons in situations like these."
"Now, let Us see..."; the Judge pulled a scroll out of thin air and pored over it, "Here we are, Article NM... Section... Sub section... Mm-hmm 'Reanimation caused by a pre-mortem infection of an organic life form by alien techno-organic transmode virus'? Is that the part you are referring to?"
"Yes, your Fairness"
"We have to hand it to the Babel boys, they certainly were THOROUGH in preparing their 'Eventualities' list. So you claim to have been so infected, Mr Ramsey?"
"Yes your Fairness. I also claim that I was left waiting for processing by the Afterlife Commission for too long. A prompt return could have been arranged with little or no fuss, continuity -wise. But bureaucratic delays meant that by the time I was accepted it was too late to return."
"Not an uncommon complaint We must admit. What was the problem with the delay?"
"I'd been embalmed, your Fairness."
"Ah! A tough one that We agree! Now let's see." The Judge consulted his notes. "Saved entire Earth on at least two occasions, defended planet against alien invasion, died saving the life of a friend. Selfless gestures and heroic acts aplenty. We've even had a character reference from Merlyn! It seems you helped out in a rather complicated case he was working on, you volunteered to help a Miss Katherine Pryde and her friends out I believe."
"Well..... Yes and no."
"Would you care to elaborate?"
"Well it DID happen but apparently it didn't happen too. Merlyn did sort of a flight simulator thing inside some guys head and asked me to get involved because it would help Kitty out. It never happened in real space/time though."
"All the same, you were prepared to help out?"
"Well, hmmmm.... that should still count We believe, Merlyn so rarely gives good references, you should _hear_ what he says about Arthur! Now to business, have you seriously considered the implications of your return Mr Ramsey?"
"Did any of the other mutants in cases like this, your Fairness?" "A valid point, but you are a rather an unusual case.... for a mutant. Your death actually satisfies the Gruenwald Laws of Mortality; Your cause of death was quite explicable. Your death was seen by reliable witnesses, the body was recovered and you were declared dead by a qualified medical examiner in ideal conditions. Returning would not be easy and might have serious implications for those who knew you. The Continuity Police would have hysterics for starters."
"However, it is not Our intent to prevent the due processes of justice. To that end We propose that you survey the world as it is now, to ensure that you would still be able to fit in, should We choose to recommend a dispensation for you. Fortunately We have a specialist in such matters available for consultation. Call Mr Jordan."
A dapper-looking middle aged man entered from a doorway that had appeared from mists rising up from the middle of floor. Wearing a well cut suit, he carried a clipboard and a large leather bound book with him. If there was an gene for quiet efficiency, it was fairly obvious he had been overly endowed with it.
"Mr Jordan is our special facilitator with Earth/Heaven jurisdiction disputes and has a lot of experience in cases such as yours. We suggest you journey with him, whilst We consider your application... Mr Jordan, if you would be so kind. Court is adjourned for multi-dimensional analysis and consideration of due process."
"Yes, your Fairness.. Please come this way Douglas."
As the two figures walked though the doorway and disappeared, mists rose again and the entire doorway vanished.
- - -
Doug found himself in a long corridor, made out of white marble. Hanging along both walls were picture frames, each filled with rolling clouds.
"Experience has shown that this can be quite a painful experience emotionally speaking. That's why I don't recommend you viewing your parents, I have already done that separately as it can be quite upsetting for the individual. This is more of a chance for you to see your peers... I have to ask though, were you emotionally involved with any of the people you wish to see."
"One or two... Three tops."
"That's normal for a person your age I suppose. Well we'll leave them to later. Shall we start with an easy one?"
"Okay, how about the New Mutants? They were the team I was with when I.. passed away."
Mr Jordan consulted a note in his clipboard. "I'm afraid that they don't exist anymore. The team disbanded some time ago."
"What happened to everyone?"
"Well, according to this they went their separate ways but one of them went on to lead a new group. Would you like to see them"
"Please, this should be interesting...
The mists in a nearby frame became more active and started to clear, revealing a perfect three dimensional image of a group of oddly dressed people, apparently in the middle of some sort of combat exercise.
"Good grief! Who is that big guy, the one that's built like a concrete outhouse?"
Mr Jordan looked pained. "Please Douglas, we only have until the end of time up here. Suffice it to say that Mr Cable would have been your Headmaster had you stayed around the mortal coil."
"Boy, I'll bet gym class was compulsory with HIM in charge."
"And doesn't he seem to have any feet, his legs just sort of fade out into nothing?"
"Maybe it's part of his mutation, Douglas."
"Hey, can we zoom in on this thing, track that fireball in the sky if you can."
The picture expanded to focus on the individual form, a young man in a purple and white bodysuit and a flying helmet.
" WOW! The Sam I knew was really tall and skinny. He was built like a string bean, when did he get so.. buff? And what happened to his colour sense? Lilac? I like the aviator goggles though."
"Trust me Douglas, if poor dress sense is the worst thing you come across, you'll have it easy compared to most mutants. Samuel certainly seems to have adjusted to his current lifestyle leading a group ... X-Force I believe they're called."
"_Force_? Doesn't sound like Sam's style, they're a new one on me. Still, it's nice to see that he made full team leader. He was only co-leader of the New Mutants"
"His leadership skills come partly due to a re-dedication to his cause following your death."
"Would my coming back change that?"
"I doubt it, Samuel seems to be a most... dedicated person anyway."
"Then he hasn't changed much either. Good. Okay, so that's Sam. Now, who next. How about Dani Moonstar, Mirage. She was the other team leader."
Mr Jordan looked at his list, "Hmmmm, how odd. A slight territorial conflict here. Your friend is currently somewhere in Asgard, which containing an afterlife in and of itself outside my jurisdiction."
"Oh right, Dani and her whole Valkyrie harbinger of Death thing again."
"She was a part time Valkyrie."
"I wasn't aware that the Valkyrior accepted part time employees."
"Well, it was more of an extra-credit after-school activity thing. She was chosen by the Valkyrior to be one of them and that's not the sort of offer it's wise to refuse. Winged horse, Death perception, the whole thing."
"If I might perhaps make a rather tasteless comment at this time; Her death perception doesn't seem to have helped you much does it?"
"Oooh yeah, and believe me, I'm gonna ask her about that at the first available opportunity! Okay, now how about.. Magik? Illyana Rasputin"
Mr Jordan gestured towards another frame and the mists swirled. They parted again, then flowed back, then parted. The image beyond was hazy and rolling. After a short time a moving finger appeared and sketched, in letters of fire, "Normal continuity will resumed as soon as sanity is declared." and having writ, moved on.
Mr Jordan frowned and looked once again at his clipboard, a roll of print-out paper unraveled and trailed across the floor. His worked his way quickly through the list.
"Douglas, I try never to make value judgments about another persons friends, but you seemed to have moved in VERY strange circles. But even I should perhaps have expected some problems with this one. For starters 'Magik' ceased to exist some time ago at the age of fifteen, and then later died aged about five."
"Oh no! You mean Illyana died? What happened?"
"From the rather rambling notes I have here, the 15 year old Magik you knew was a temporal anomaly, who became infected with something called the Legacy virus, then ceased to exist, reverting to her natural five year old self, and then died of a disease she wouldn't catch for another ten years, biologically speaking. At least I THINK that's what it says. The tenses become a little confused about this point. And there seems to be some jurisdictional problems with her soul. When she was older she was 3/5 committed to evil, but that was retroactively erased, but her actions still existed. They'll be arguing that one till kingdom come. It's true what they say about Lawyers going to... the other place. She's comfortable in the meantime though, on a sort of metaphysical bail-bond it seems."
"Poor Illyana, is there anything I can do to help, does she have visiting rights or something?"
"I don't know. A nice gesture though, I'll look into that later Douglas, never fear. Now, who's next?"
"Well, that's most of the team worked out except for a couple. Sunspot? No, Bobby and I never really hit it off, might as well be honest about that. How about Magma? She left the team just before my accident, but it'd be nice to see what she's up to. Her real name was Amara Juliana Olivia Aquilla."
Mr Jordan flicked through his notes, then again, then back yet again, a frown on his face.
"Are you sure about that name Douglas, I have a Magma, but the name here is Allison Crestmere, an English girl. There's no Amara Juliana Olivia Aquilla here". He got the name right on the first attempt, which impressed Doug no end, most people had the decency to stutter over it at least once.
"The Magma I knew was the daughter of a Senator in Nova Roma, a lost tribe of the Roman Empire in the Amazon."
"You say that _so_ casually Douglas."
"I had a short life, but a weird one. Maybe it's someone else, another mutant who just uses the same name. It happens all the time I expect."
"Well, there is more than one Magma, but only one mutant by that name; Adolescent female? Blonde? Shifts into glowing yellow magma-form and can manipulate earth and lava mentally?"
"Well, yes, that does sort of sound like her.."
Something fluttered out of Mr Jordan's copious notes and he snatched it before it could hit the ground. He read it carefully "Whoops! This is a note from the.. Gracious me, the Retcon Authority. We so rarely hear from them in mutant cases. Normally their reality is convoluted enough without the need of such intervention. Hmmm..." Mr Jordan scanned the note carefully.
"The girl you knew as Amara apparently IS this Allison Crestmere, daughter of the British Ambassador. She and her entire city were the construct of an immortal being named Selene. It seemed she kidnapped people and then mentally reprogrammed them to think they were part of this Nova Roma colony. Her memories were recently returned to her and well, that's more or less where she is at the moment."
"But that makes no sense!"
Mr Jordan's tone was weary "So little in this case does Douglas, so little in this case does. Well, since she doesn't seem to have memories left from her time with you, her case is more or less irrelevant, wouldn't you say? Next."
Doug only thought for a moment before deciding; "Psylocke, I'd like to see Psylocke, Betsy Braddock".
Even after all this time he still felt himself start to blush at the mention of her name. Having a crush on a stunningly beautiful telepath ten years older than he had been, and having her return at least some of those feelings had been one of the weirder experiences in his life, but one of the more pleasant. Then his face fell.
"No wait a minute, she died in Dallas with the other X-Men." Doug frowned, strange he hadn't seen her around up Here then.
Mr Jordan looked at his clip board "Care to wager on that Douglas?"
The mists in another cleared to display a beautiful Asian woman with long purple hair. She was wearing what appeared to be several yards of silk bandaging and little else. She was facing half a dozen bikers in an alleyway, and was moving with exquisite grace and fluidity, leaping and vaulting, striking so fast that she could barely be seen. The bikers were going down like nine pins.
"Well, Douglas, I can see why you might want to see her again."
"I'm sorry Mr Jordan, I think there must be some mistake. I asked for Psylocke, but I think your screen is picking up a cable channel. 'Ninja Hookers' maybe?"
"No Douglas, the records state that is Psylocke, Elizabeth Braddock, known as Betsy."
"No offence sir, the hairs almost the right colour, but the Betsy I knew wasn't that skinny, had much better dress sense and was.. well... not to put too fine a point on it, a lot less... Japanese than this lady is."
Whilst still talking, they both found themselves fascinated by what was going on, tilting their heads in unison as the figure on the screen moved. At one point they both winced in reflexive masculine sympathy as a biker received a particularly vicious kick to a highly sensitive area.
Doug paused for a moment, trying to work something out in his head, "Mr Jordan? I confess that I don't know too much about the subject but wouldn't that be a REALLY uncomfortable outfit for a lady to wear after a while? It would ride right the way up her..."
"Mmmmmh? What? I'm sorry, were you saying something?" Mr Jordan pulled his gaze away from the screen with obvious reluctance.. "Ohhh, yes, I see what you mean, I'm um.. sure that it could become a trifle... abrasive, after a while"
There was a rustle of paperwork followed by a long sigh.
"Oh look, what a surprise, her life has been turned upside down as a result of her association with Charles Xavier's School. Some time ago, she traveled through something called the Seige Perilous, had her mind was half wiped and was merged psychically with a Japanese assassin called Kwannon. She has now been cured of this... situation, but remains in the body of Kwannon as her original body has died from the Legacy virus. I swear, if I were alive I'd want the largest aspirin known to mankind right about now."
"Try living it as a lifestyle for a while. It was certainly never dull. Still, it's good to know she's not dead anymore"
Mr Jordan decided not to tell Doug about the fact she never really had been, and that she and the X-Men had "faked" their deaths and emigrated to Australia.
"Let's try... Kitty Pryde... She was my best friend even before I went to the school."
"Somehow, Douglas, that does not lead me to believe that she has settled down and is now living in domestic bliss. Call it a hunch on my part."
The mists cleared, showing Kitty, now slightly older and even prettier than Doug remembered, in a room with Nightcrawler, Brian Braddock, an unhealthy looking man in a black suit with a cigarette in his hand, and a partially obscured figure sitting behind them operating a computer console, a redheaded girl at his side.
"Hey, there's Kurt, and Brian! I saved his life one time. I pulled him off a carousel that would have killed him."
Mr Jordan looked at the huge, massively muscled figure in the image and then at Doug's far slighter frame and decided not to even ask.
"And Rahne too! She and I were.."
"Don't tell me, 'Really close when you were alive.' I have to say Douglas, I admire your taste in the fairer sex."
"She's grown a LOT since I knew her though. And in all the right places too!"
"Ahem Douglas, there's a time and a place for everything. Though given this experience of your friends I wouldn't like to say when."
The figure at the redhead's side turned his head, coming into profile and into a clear view of the picture.
Both Mr Jordan and Doug just stood there staring for several seconds, their jaws hanging slightly open.
"Douglas, I know this has been a long and unusually trying session for both of us, but it does strike me that there is something very strange here, even relatively speaking."
"But that's me....! But I'm yellow... and shiny... Hang on... That's Douglock... but I was Dou... Warlock was Dou... WE were Douglock. WHAT'S GOING ON HERE!"
"You mean you KNOW that.. individual?"
"When I was alive there were a few times I merged my body with one of my best friends, a techno-organic alien called Warlock. We became a joint entity with both of us operating as a unit. We looked like me, but were made out the same stuff as Warlock. We looked just like that guy there. I know I'm up here, I know Warlock's up here, so who is that down there?!"
Mr Jordan pulled out a handkerchief and mopped his brow as he leafed through yet more documents.
"It seems the Continuity Section don't know."
"They don't know? You mean that's a complete stranger?"
"Well not exactly, it seems that there's a bit of debate about what his exact relationship is to you. He has some of your memories and ethical beliefs as a personality template, though he has a mind and soul of his own. It seems he's connected with the Phalanx somehow."
"The Phalanx. Your friend Warlock's people."
"But Warlock was a member of the Technarchy from the Kvtch system. What's with 'the Phalanx'."
"It's probably a Marketing exercise. I must say that if I was an all-conquering star-faring race called the Kvtchian Technarchy, I'd probably try to change my name too, to something that sounded less like a Russian politician."
"And what's Kitty doing with everyone there?"
"She's a member of a new team that was formed after your death. It's called Excalibur, Kurt Wagner and Brian Braddock are both members, and Kitty is currently romantically involved with the skinny one with the bad tobacco habit, Peter Wisdom"
"Really! He doesn't look her type. Still... is she happy?"
"Yes, I believe she is, but frankly I've giving up guessing that sort of thing in this case. Today, yes. Tomorrow? Feh!"
"Well, I suppose as long as it's what she wants. From the looks of things that Douglock person is close to Rahne. I'm good at reading body language, and I don't think they've admitted it to themselves yet. Well, as long as she's happy too, and he/I/whatever treats her right. Otherwise he's in for a haunting he'll NEVER forget."
Doug turned away from the screen, clearly somewhat upset by what he'd just seen.
"Have you seen everything you need Douglas?"
"I think so Mr Jordan. My friends seem to be getting on with their lives quite nicely without me."
"Don't underestimate yourself Douglas. They all remember you with fondness and love, and your actions whilst alive may have helped them achieve some of the happiness they now have. That's something to be proud of, no matter what you decide."
Without looking directly at him, Mr Jordan passed a handkerchief to Doug, who blew his nose loudly.
"Thanks Mr Jordan, that means a lot."
"Good. And now, your decision?"
"If it's all the same with you, I think I'll explain that to the Judge."
"Of course Douglas. I'll be interested to hear your final choice."
They walked towards the doorway that had suddenly reappeared.
"Thanks for the... 'tour' Mr Jordan."
"Not at all, Douglas, happy to help."
+ + + +
A short while later, the young man in the yellow and black uniform stood before the Judge.
"Mr Ramsey. Given your highly commendable activities whilst alive, and the excellent references We have seen in this case, and also bearing in mind the somewhat ambivalent nature of your demise, resulting from the infection prior to your decorporation We are minded to grant your application in this case."
"However, please bear in mind that there would be a penalty involved in this. Having consulted with Mr Jordan, you would return in the form of a cybernetic organism, with various non-recoverable body parts replaced by regenerated techno-organic material. This might mean certain biological anomalies with your life and mentality, and We would advise to avoid your biological family, possibly indefinitely as they have already adjusted to your loss very well. Would you prepared for this?"
"Actually, your Fairness, I would like to withdraw my application at this time."
"Really? Might We be permitted to ask why you wish to withdraw at this late date, Mr Ramsey?" The voice softened, "Douglas, if it is a matter of simple doubt, then do not worry, there would be a cooling off period before re-incorporation."
"Frankly your Fairness, I've just seen what the world is like at the moment, and I don't think I want to go back there at the moment. I like to think I did my best to make the world a better place when I was on it, I fought megalomaniacs, battled inter-dimensional sorcerers, prevent a Dyson Sphere from double-parking around Earth, sorted my paper before recycling. I even flossed! For what? So a bunch of whacked out maniacs could get involved in some mutant military macho posing competition to see who has the biggest calibre handgun? So the heroes could act as bad as the villains, treating people like dirt in the cause of some sort self-righteous crusade? And those are the people who'd be on MY side. I don't even want to think what the villains are like now."
"These things shall pass Mr Ramsey."
"And at the moment, I'd rather they passed without me your Fairness. Maybe later, when things have calmed down a bit. In the meantime I think I've earned a bit of my Eternal Reward. Might I reapply at a later date, your Fairness?"
"Barring trans-temporal rewrites or cataclysmic dimensional crossover events, We would be certainly be prepared to consider a reapplication at a future date."
"Thank you your Fairness, I'm sorry to have taken up so much of your time."
"Not at all Mr Ramsey, we do have all eternity up here after all. Case closed, pending future re-application!"
The young man turned towards the newly appeared main doors of the courtroom, which swung open to receive him. He stopped beside a lone figure first to shake his hand, Mr Jordan smiled and returned the gesture vigorously.
As he turned back to observe the next case, Mr Jordan heard another voice from just beyond the door, electronic and strangely modulated....
"SELFSOULFRIENCYPHERDOUG! DID THE PROCEEDINGS PROGRESS IN A SATISFACTORY MANNER? SELF WISHED/DESIRED TO ATTEND BUT CHOSE TO RESPECT WISHES TO BE ALONE/APART. WILL SELFSOULFRIENCYPHERDOUG BE RETURNING TO THE EARTH DIMENSION/PLANE?"
"Trust me 'Lock, you do NOT want to know! Let's just say that Earth at the moment is a weird place to visit and I certainly wouldn't want to get reincarnated there. We'll go get an ambrosia shake or something and I'll tell you all about it...."
The voices faded away, lost in the background humming of celestial muzak that filled the hall (It was amazing what Henry Mancini and John Denver could do with an infinite number of angelic voices and an all-harp orchestra).
The Judge looked down a list of cases awaiting It's attention, checking them of as It went.
"Hmmm... James Buchanan Barnes.. Good grief.. Not him AGAIN! Irene Adler? Well if _she_ didn't see it coming, she's got no one to blame but herself... Jason Todd? Now how did HE get on Our books? Ahhhhh! A class action brought by a group who call themselves 'The Hellions' of Earth 616, citing Temporal Anomaly Clause 5; Assassination by time-displaced entity from a probable non-linear future."
"Oh thank Here for that, a simple case! Very well, We will proceed after lunch. Court is adjourned."
Back to Archive