A Legion of Lawndale Heroes 'Mini', by Brother Grimace
"You know how they talk about all of those dangerous mutants on the news...? I'm the worst one."
-John Allerdyce, aka 'Pyro', X2:X-Men United
"Hey, you! Yeah – you! Hold up – we want to talk to you!"
Standing on Dega Street, Mack Mackenzie turned away from his flame-red 1969 Corvette with curiosity on his face as the two Lawndale P.D. officers approached him. "Is there a problem, officers?"
"Whose car is that?" The younger of the two officers – barely older than him, Mack noticed – had his hand just barely touching his sidearm as he moved close to the Legionnaire, approaching as if her were closing in on a lion.
Mack felt the same cold lump in his stomach form that he felt every time a police officer approached him from out of the blue – here we go again, he thought. Be cool, bro. This guy's on pins and needles. Just do what they say.
"It's my car," Mack said, his voice as calm as he could make it. "I got it less than a day ago. I'm Mack – Michael Jordan Mackenzie. I'm with the Legion."
"The rich kids out at the Tower?" The second officer, who appeared to be a bit older, moved away from his partner to face Mack from a forty-five degree angle. "Not likely – they don't have any black kids."
"I have my National Legion ID in my wallet, along with my Chapter One ID and my CCHS ID," Mack said, keeping his hands – which he only now realized were raised into the air – from moving towards his pockets. These guys are too jumpy. Don't give them a reason. "I'm first-string on the football team. Before Lawndale High blew up – I was captain of the football team there."
"Okay – put your hands on top of the car, and spread your legs." The officers acted s if they hadn't heard a word Mack had spoken. "Do it slowly."
Mack didn't resist as the younger officer searched him, took his wallet and passed it back to his partner, and winced with pain as the officer snapped the cuffs on him before walking him over to the curb.
"You're wearing an outfit like that, shoes like that, and you expect us to believe that you're with the Legion?" the younger officer said, towering over Mack with a self-satisfied demeanor than Mack had seen before – Thank God, not as much as my cousins in New York have, he thought, keeping his face impassive. The stories they tell...
"Damn – these are some nice fakes..." the second officer said, looking at the shining-new Legion ID/access card Mack had been issued less than three weeks earlier – it had been waiting for him in his newly-assigned room in Legion Tower after the Legionnaires and their counterparts in The Alliance has returned for pizza and tours of the Tower. "Between these and this car – what the hell you selling, Mack Daddy?"
It was the first time in months that anyone had called him that.
The last time had been just before Carter County High's first game against Polk High that Mack had played in. Kevin Thompson, wearing a Penguin uniform (and lowering his opinion of the boy even more) yelled out across the field "HEY! WHAT'S UP, MACK DADDY?" as soon as he had seen Mack.
The way Mack had gone silent had scared Mack's new teammates, and the absolute brutality with which he had flattened his former teammate (Kevin was out cold for over ten minutes) had ensured that NO ONE ever attempted to call him by that name at CCHS.
"Don't call me that."
The combination of righteous anger and absolute delight in the younger officer's voice immediately signaled to Mack that he had just flipped a switch. Oh, damn.
"What did you say – 'Mack Daddy?' You telling me what to do, 'Mack Daddy?"
His hand lingered on the grip of his holstered taser; had he been paying attention to his surroundings, he would have noticed the faint but unmistakable rise in temperature that affected the entire street.
On the wall outside Dega 'Dreds and Do's (a combination barbershop/hair care salon that catered to the small group of minorities in the cities throughout Carter and Lawndale Counties), a giant outdoor thermometer instantly marked a seven-degree increase. "I'm sorry," Mack said, glancing away from the officer; he knew, from past experience, that eye contact would be seen as a sign of aggression or defiance. "I didn't mean – a guy I knew always called me that."
"You see this badges we have right here – 'Mack Daddy'?" Instead of rough and commanding, the officer's voice was silken and uncomfortably pleasant – a sure sign that things were about to get very unpleasant. "These badges say we can call you anything we damn well please-"
"Is there a problem here, officers?"
A familiar voice made Mack's head jerk to the right; the two officers looked up to see Kyle Armalin, his ID card and badge visible as he held the ID case in the air as he stood in the street about twenty feet away from the scene. "Who the hell are you, mister?" the older officer called out.
"Colonel Armalin," he replied, holding the ID out further. "I'm with the Department of Homeland Security. Officers – I'm here to keep you from making even more very serious mistakes... mistakes that I'm sure your superiors are going to speak to in grueling detail about when you return to your precinct."
"Don't move any further," the older officer said, leaving his partner to guard Mack as he walked forward and looked over the Marine's ID. "'Supervisory Agent - GLG-30'. What kind of rank is that?"
"Why don't you call it in and confirm that it's genuine?" Kyle said, the extraordinarily calm tone in his voice setting off all sorts of alarm in the officers' heads – especially the older, who was looking at both Kyle's and Mack's ID's... and a very bad feeling began to grow in his stomach.
"Yes," the Marine continued, seeing the way the color began to drain from the man's face. "Today is going to be a day that, I imagine, you will remember for the rest of your career. What's left of it."
"What – what's he talking about?" The younger officer, his hand now grasping his taser but not drawing it from its holster, kept looking from his partner to Kyle and back; his expression, and the way his head moved, both would have been comical to Mack (he thought, watching the officer) if these had been any other circumstances. "What's he talking about, Troy?"
Officer Troy Finneton turned away, swallowing hard as he felt the eyes of the military man – he has to be ex-military, he looks just like special-ops those guys I saw when I served over in Iraq and when they had that look, they were off to wipe places out – follow him back to the car. We are so screwed. We are so screwed.
Officer James Gallister – the younger officer, on the force for nineteen months (and just finishing his probationary period only four weeks earlier) had just enough on the ball to take his hand away from his weapons. "You can put your hands down, sir," he spoke up, managing not to wince as Armalin's gaze fell upon him.
Kyle complied, and Mack watched as Gallister walked back to the LPD patrol car that Mack only then noticed, parked two car lengths behind his Corvette.
Mack saw the younger cop go absolutely pale as the other talked to him for a couple of minutes; pointing back to Armalin several times, holding the ID in Gallister's face and pointing out things on the ID as he did so.
He watched as Gallister, downcast and defeated, fell in behind Finneton as the latter walked a death-march back to the Marine with partner in tow. "Here's your ID, Colonel Armalin," he said, an unreadable look on his face as he handed Armalin's credentials to him.
"Thank you, Officer," the Marine said, his eyes fixed upon the younger policeman. "Now - could you please take a moment, and explain why it appeared as if your partner was about to use unnecessary force upon a restrained prisoner?"
Finneton stepped forward, about to protest – but any comments he was about to make died on his tongue as Kyle looked at him for a moment before locking back on Gallister. "You were saying, Officer Gallister?"
"We – we observed the suspect as he was approaching this car, and judging by his manner of dress, we were curious if he were the actual owner of the vehicle," he said, speaking as if he were reciting from a learned script. "According to standard procedure, we secured the subject and were about to search the vehicle for contraband-"
"Did he identify himself as a member of the Legion, Officer?"
The two officers passed a look before Gallister continued. "Yes, he did, but-"
"You didn't believe him because he said that he was a member of the Legion, and you said that he couldn't be a member of the Legion because he's Black, and they don't have any black members," Armalin said, his tone going arctic. "Because of his race and his clothing, you disregarded his ID and his claims, instead choosing to leap to the worst case scenario. You addressed him in a derogatory manner without provocation. Granted, you had no way of knowing that he has a bad history with that particular term, but instead of comporting yourselves in a professional manner, you were about to abuse your authority.
Armalin's lethal gaze swiveled to fall upon the ranking officer. "Tell me, Officer Finneton – and trust me when I say that I hold you responsible for this man's actions - had I come around that corner one minute later, how many times do you think you would have been able to use your taser on Mister Mackenzie?"
Before the young officer could speak, Kyle pointed towards the sidewalk – and the two officers only then saw that a traffic camera was pointed directly at them. 'The entire incident's on videotape – the traffic cam, as well as the camera in your car."
The two officers were silent. "Officers – here's what will happen now. To paraphrase a character from a show I enjoyed very much, 'There will be no lawyers involved.'"
He glanced down at Mack; moments later, the young Legionnaire was on his feet, rubbing his wrists as Finneton had helped him up, unlocked his handcuffs and returned his wallet.
As Finneton stepped back, not meeting the simmering look of anger in Mack's eyes, Kyle continued to speak. "There will be no mass media coverage of this incident that will draw reporters and camera trucks here to Lawndale the same way flies are drawn to manure. There will be no very public, multi-million dollar civil lawsuits that would ruin the both of you and cripple the financial health of the city – because we would undoubtedly win – and there will be no ongoing discussion in the media of racial discrimination that would forever mark the two of you as racists, Mister Mackenzie as a victim, and give far more time to individuals on both sides of the issue who don't deserve to be in front of a camera for a family photograph, let alone discussions of an issue this important or this sensitive. There will be no constant linkage of the Lawndale Police Department or the Legion to racial problems, and Lawndale will not have protesters waving slogans and chanting all over the area."
Armalin gave both of the officers a very long, icy glare, and then held up his badge. "Two further points, officers. One. Do you see this? This is a 'if I believe that you're in any way assisting with terrorist activity, I can raid your homes, imprison your families without trial, seize all of your assets, interrogate you for months on end and you'll never see the fucking light of day again unless I so choose' badge. Everyone has someone over them, officers – someone who can change their life in an instant. I would remember that, if I were you."
Mack suddenly realized that he was holding his breath; his gaze flickered over from Armalin to the two officers, who were so pale that Mack thought Finneton was going to faint on the spot. "Two," the Marine continued. "I believe you two owe Mister Mackenzie an apology. Keys."
The two cops were still, and Mack realized that Armalin was speaking to him. "Your keys, Mackenzie. I'll drive."
Wordlessly handing him the keys to the Corvette, Mack watched the Marine get into the sleek sports car, and turned to the two officers – both now looking at him as if he were a cross and they were vampires. "I apologize for the way my partner and I treated you tonight, Mr. Mackenzie," Gallister said; to his credit, he looked Mack in the eye as he spoke.
Mack nodded. "I'm sorry," Finneton said, quickly turning away to the safety of his patrol car.
"Let's go, Mackenzie," Armalin's voice rang out from inside the Corvette. "The show's over."
Mack opened the passenger-side door and entered the car as the police vehicle sped away, a tad faster than necessary. "I wanted to mention something to you before you get back to the Tower," the Marine continued. "You handled yourself well – that slip-up of yours was a natural response, don't think you did anything wrong – and you didn't use your powers on them. You kept them, for all practical purposes, firmly under control."
Mack was silent for well over a minute. "I wasn't going to hurt them."
"I know that," was the response. "If it means anything, you did far, far better than I did when I was in a situation very much like this one. Trust me on that. Also, I had advance notice that you wouldn't harm the officers – who probably deserved a couple of scorch marks, all things considered."
"Advance notice?" Mack's eyebrows raised, even moreso as Armalin removed a familiar envelope from his jacket and passed it over. "That's twice. You know, you and your fellow Legionnaires really should take a trip to New York City and become reacquainted with your former schoolmate. It appears that she would most likely be a valuable asset to your organization."
The Marine sighed as several images of Andrea Hecuba-Thorne flashed through Mack's surface memories. "Not what I meant, Mackenzie. Glad to see that you're not a eunich, though."
Mack drew back as he realized what had just happened. "Did you – you just – I thought only Daria-"
'And now, you know something else about me, Mackenzie." Armalin put the car into gear, and the Corvette pulled away from the curb. "Let's get a burger. You can talk, or not. Either one is all right."
The blocks went by. "It's always going to be there, isn't it?" Mack said. "Racists. There's always going to be around."
"You already know the answer to that, Mackenzie," Armalin replied. "Racism, bigotry, discrimination, prejudice – it's always been with us, and it always will be. It's the nature of Man. Racism, sexism, homophobia, even political correctness – it crosses all lines and all boundaries, and can be reversed very easily."
"Man, that sounds like something out of an Afterschool Special."
Armalin smiled. "Yeah – it did, didn't it? Okay – now that we've got the 'deep thinking' out of the way... they're always going to be out there. Those cops – you have to give them a little leeway, because they do have a dangerous job, and there's no telling whom they'll have to come up against in the blink of an eye. The problem with them is that they were being racist; as soon as you identified yourself as a Legionnaire – as long as they didn't have any reasonable suspicion that you were doing anything wrong, and having a nice car doesn't qualify – they should have simply questioned you if they felt something was amiss. They were in the wrong from the beginning – but don't start thinking that all cops are that way."
He turned the Corvette through the infamous 'seven-way' intersection, and looked back at Mack. "Don't believe that most of them won't suspect that you aren't up to something if they simply lay eyes on you, either. Things have been the way they are for far too long to think otherwise."
He stopped at a red light. "It's like an eclipse. Most of the time, you live your life and not think about that, because you're just living your life and the sun always shines – but every now and then, the darkness shows up. It's right there – casting its shadow, visible for everyone to see, even though the sun is still shining. Things have gotten better, but it will always be there."
"How do you deal, Colonel?"
"I'm honest with myself, Mackenzie," he replied. "I recognize that it's out there – I recognize that it's in myself – but that we can learn to cut as much out of ourselves as we can, deal with the subject when it comes up and we have to, and train the people coming up after us to see past things like gender and race. We get past who's sleeping with who, and we do all of it by focusing on two things, and two things only: 'Can they do the job?' and 'Is this a person I want to know in my life?' All of the rest is crap you deal with later."
Mack looked down at the welt coming up on his left wrist. "Is this what you were warning me about, back at the Academy?"
"In a way," was the reply. "You've had to deal with this your entire life, being in Lawndale, and you don't come across as if you have any problems there. In fact..."
The Marine barely suppressed a laugh. "It seems to me as if you could have been in Tom Sloane's shoes, as things with a couple of your fellow Legionnaires go – but I've a feeling that circumstances would have been a bit more...amenable... for all concerned."
The Legionnaire looked at him. "What's that supposed to mean?"
The light turned green, and he Corvette pulled off. "Mackenzie – do you really think you're the first guy who's messed around with several women that knew each other, and somehow managed to keep all of them smiling and friendly with each other afterwards?"
Armalin turned and smiled at him. "That's quite a gift you have there. Even Morgendorffer's had her thoughts drift towards you on occasion. I believe that happened the day you all went to the Academy..."
Mack leaned back, and Armalin chuckled. "Would you like a beer with your burger, Mackenzie?"
The Legionnaire turned to look at Armalin. "Yes, sir. I think I'd like that."