Judge Not

May 25, 2000, 9:50 pm. Tavern on the Green, a posh country club in the heart of Midland Park

Awareness came slowly to Ivy. From somewhere ahead of her she could hear talking. Parting the bush a little, Ivy glanced out as the final part of her teleportation was completed and like a pod she snapped off the tree trunk. In the parking lot of the Tavern on the Green, away from the few cars that were still there, was a black Plymouth. Leaning against the Plymouth were three gentlemen in dark suits and sunglasses.

Across from them were two teenagers. One of the teenagers was slightly overweight and wearing a Toy Story T-shirt. The other was classical Romany, from his dark hair to his high check bones, and was wearing blue jeans and a half shirt.

Ivy glanced around uneasily as a sense of menace and unease rippled through her.

"Hey, did you hear that? There is someone out there."

One of the men shouted and an unique sound ripped through the night. Ivy dived back into the bushes as she felt something lance along her left bicep. Someone is shooting at me, she gaped incredesouly, trying to discover where the shoots had come from.

Out in the parking lot, one of the dark suited men was still firing into the bushes. His two companions seemed to be trying to stop him. As Ivy watched, another man joined the teenagers. He was about six feet tall, and dressed in dark clothing, his hair looked like it had been painted on and he looked about 90 lb. The Romany nodded and the group disappeared under cover of darkness.

A slight movement on her arm, where she had commanded none, grabbed Ivy's attention. A bullet had grazed her biceps and a light whitish-green oozed out of the wound. As she watched with revulsion over the pure alienness of her body, one of her biceps tendrils reached out and snagged a few leaves. It then brought the leaves back to the wound and held them there while other tendrils wrapped themselves tightly around the leaves and wound.

The gunman ejected his clip and slammed another into place. Ivy snapped her attention back to the battle with an effort. Plant like tendrils snaked out rapidly over the cement of the parking lot, on had a flower on the end. As it came into range of the gunman the flower unfolded spraying pollen into the air. The gunman started coughing and his two companions jumped into their car and rocketed out of the parking lot.

Ivy nodded in satisfaction as her other tendrils started to wrap around the gunman's ankle. He fired into the tendrils, screaming madly.

Meanwhile, Diamond and the samurai woman stopped dead as the night was split with gunfire.

"Not again," Diamond moaned softly to herself. She squared her shoulders, and took a step forward, then paused, turning to the samurai.

"I'm relatively bulletproof, so I'll go in the front. Care to go in the back way to make sure none of the bad guys get away?" Diamond asked, obviously anxious to get going.

The samurai studied Diamond for a few moments as if sizing up her and her ability or rightness to give her orders. And then, the samurai came to a decision and gave Diamond a slight bow. She then took off at a dead run on a course that would take her around the parking lot, her hand rested on the hilt of one of the swords.

Diamond took off as well. She burst onto the scene in time to see a dark car squealing out of the Tavern on the Green parking lot. A man in a dark suit was firing wildly into the ground at his feet, and screaming in abject terror.

At that moment, Tusk thundered onto the scene and watched as the car's tail lights disappeared in to the night, "Hey, where you guys going? Come back! Man, I am in BT."

"Damn straight, big boy," Diamond replied. She quickly scanned the area, looking for Ivy. Noting that the parking was empty except for the fear-ridden gunman and Tusk, Diamond dropped into a defensive stance that resembled a weaving snake and addressed Tusk once more.

"Crashing an interview is okay, but kidnapping one of the panelists, well, that's just plain rude."

Before Tusk had a chance to respond, out of the bushes stepped Ivy, a thorny shield around her. She spoke to the gunman, "Your struggles are useless… your friends gone… do not force me to harm you!"

The gunman dropped his gun and ran screaming into the night, arms flailing madly.

"Ah, man I thought you were on my side Plant Lady, this is NMN." With this observation, Tusk lowered his head and charged Diamond. At the last second Diamond stepped to the side and Tusk charged past her.

Quickly, Ivy assessed the situation, and her mind quickly suggested a route to take.

"Tusk, I am on your side… you've been duped… these men were waiting to ambush you just as they did me… they've betrayed us!" she called out. Her eyes met Diamond's and a meaningful glance passed between them.

"I don't know who this crystal one is…" she continued. As she spoke she moved towards the two combatants.

Tusk turned and looked hesitant as he divided his gaze between the two women. In the background the gunman was still screaming.

"I'll deal with you later, aphid-bait," Diamond snarled, hoping she was doing the right thing and Ivy wouldn't be insulted.

"But first, I'm going to teach you some manners. Come on, Nosy," Diamond taunted, moving sideways so that, if Tusk turned to charge again, his back would be to Ivy. "Let me show you why they call me Diamond."

Diamond again dropped into a martial stance, short with one foot drawn up on its ball close to the other foot, and made beckoning motions with her hands.

"Let me handle the glass bimbo," Ivy hissed stepping up beside Tusk, she reached out to ensnare Diamond.

Upon the plant woman's body, tendrils stirred and wove outwards, wrapping themselves around Diamond's neck. Diamond detected a slight pressure, and once again a quick look from Ivy.

"I can't believe this… what was so important about that Blanchard clown anyway?" Ivy tried to affect an uncaring attitude as she pretended to strangle Diamond.

"Hey, Plant Lady, I don't know," Tusk answered. "All I know is that I snatch the wig guy, drop him with youse and then give the case to the guys in black, they give it to the Minions and the Minions give them something and I get the high tech stuff. Simple. Only those yo-yo's have done and run off and it looks like the Minions didn't even show," Tusk sighed and shook his head.

"Uhm," he glanced nervously from Ivy to Diamond. "You aren't going to ice her or anything, are you? I don't want to take an accessory to murder rap."

Off in the distance, the screaming stopped abruptly. The night was silent. Except for the wailing of sirens coming closer.

"If you two think you're going to get away with this, you've got another thing coming," Diamond snarled, and pretended to try and break out of Ivy's grasp. "You've been set up, Tusk. Left to take the fall. Do you really think your buddies'll help you? Get real."

"Ah, man." Tusk paced back and forth alternating between glancing at the briefcase to where the police sirens were coming from. Thinking on the fly was obviously not one of his strong suits. "Truth is going to KM."

He then made a decision. "Look, Plant Lady, our deal was completed, so I am going to book, you better do the same. Nice meeting you."

He walked a few feet away and then turned back to Ivy. "Hey you want to do something sometime, dinner? A movie?" His ears were twitching.

"I'm married…" Ivy blurted out reflexively, blinking in shock at the question. My life just keeps on getting weirder… she thought in shock.

"Since the thing's… blown… what are you going to do with that?" She snaked a coil around the brief case.

"You're not going anywhere, let alone on a date with Greeny," Diamond declared almost on the heels of Ivy's comment.

As Ivy's tendril coiled around the briefcase, Diamond hit Tusk squarely in a textbook tackle. Tusk made a surprised snort and the two flew through the air a good three feet before crashing to the ground. The briefcase was left in the possession of Ivy.

Diamond stood up shaking her head, it was like running into a brick wall. Tusk laid where he fell a total look of surprise on his face as he tried to get his breath back.

"Give it up, Tusk," Diamond breathed. "You're not going to get away, so just sit back, relax, and wait for the cops. Don't make things worse."

"Plant Lady, help," Tusk cried out and started to struggle to his feet.

Diamond reacted quickly, bringing her hand down onto to Tusk's head. There was an audible thud and Tusk was driven back to the ground.

"Ah… Plant… Lady?" His voice was barely audible as he cried out for aid.

"Leave him alone… he was a dupe in all this… just let him go all right…" Ivy stepped up to put a restraining hand on Diamond's. "There's no need for this." Feeling a sympathy and strange kinship with Tusk, she helped him to his feet. "Go on… I'll hold them here for a awhile."

"I don't think so," Diamond replied. "It doesn't matter whether he was the mastermind behind it or not. He committed a crime, and I'm not about to 'just let him go'. Do you even know who the hell Blanchard is?"

"He's one of the leading anti-meta and mutant officials in the city. He spearheaded the vigilante bill that would put us in prison if we damaged something while trying to stop people like Tusk from committing crimes."

"Do you know who else was on the panel? Taglienetti, the head of the special ops team to deal with meta and mutant threats, and another strongly anti-meta and mutant official. Then there's that guy Cory, who wrote that piece of trash 'The Mutant Question', and he's a member of Genocide. And, of course, the thousands of people who just happened to be watching the live broadcast."

"Let him go? Sure, and make things 100 percent worse for those of us mutants who work to stop criminals. So you sit right back down, Tusk, and wait for the police, or so help me, I'll make you sit. Maybe they'll cut a deal with you if you cooperate. And if you're lucky, Taglienetti's still alive and you're not going to face a murder rap, especially if we tell them you were cooperative and agreed to turn yourself in, and you tell them everything you told us. And," Diamond says with added emphasis. "We hand over that briefcase."

"I don't care about the briefcase…" Ivy shot back, irritation clear in her voice. "Tusk was used in this… maybe he did other things, perhaps not. Blanchard is a bigoted idiot who'd most likely have you up on charges for doing this. Tusk certainly can't expect any mercy for this. Just say he escaped."

Ivy then glanced in the direction of the oncoming police cars. "I don't want a confrontation with you on this."

"Too bad," Diamond replied, then turned to Tusk.

"Of all the arrogant…" Ivy snarled furiously. Her vines snaked out toward Diamond for a split second then stopped as she gathered herself. "No, I won't solve this with blind violence like some cheap comic book character…"

Ignoring Ivy, Diamond addressed Tusk sternly her hands resting on her hips, "So, give me one good reason why I should let you go, and it better not be because you were set up. You don't have much time. You'd better make it good, 'cuz the police are almost here."

"Whoever doesn't want to talk to cops better leave now." The samurai glided up beside Diamond, and looked pointedly at Ivy. "By the way, the gunman back there was Salvatori."

Diamond crossed her arms in front of her, and watched Tusk closely.

"And how did such a good boy like you get mixed up with the Salvatori?" Diamond asked. "They're not exactly the Boy Scouts."

Diamond sighed mentally. Another teenager who's screwed up his life. I wonder if he's a dope-head, or just their muscle, Diamond thinks to herself while waiting for Tusk to give his explanation.

The samurai looked at the briefcase and then back at Ivy, "Diamond is correct, Ivy. He is now a wanted felon. Kidnapping, assault with intent, those are the least of his problems if Tag dies. I understand what you are saying about a fair trial but your logic that he was duped does not hold. He knew what he was doing. He agreed to kidnap Blanchard. He assaulted Tag of his own free will. Just because his drop site went bad, doesn't…"

"No wait," Tusk broke in,"you don't understand, they have my little brother."

"Your brother? Who has him?" Diamond asked quickly. She turned her head to gauge how far away the police are, and swore silently that she should have gotten that other woman's name before taking off.

Ivy's tendril coiled restlessly at the samurai's tone of voice, she then tossed the briefcase in the general direction of the Samurai woman, "Your brother… go on…" She gave Diamond a glance then looked at Tusk.

As Diamond and Ivy asked their questions practically on top of each other, the samurai tilted her head to the side, "Got your brother. And what do you figure they will do to him, hmmm."

The suspicion and doubt were clear in her voice.

Ivy held up a hand, "Let's her him out, this could be important." She looked at Tusk, folded her arms and waited for him to continue.

"I would like him to answer the question, the answer is quite important," the samurai replied firmly.

Suddenly Tusk took a half step backwards, his ears were twitching wildly, a look of total terror crossed his face as he stared at the samurai.

"You, you're like him." His voice started scaling upwards. "Please, it was just a ploy, like in the movies you know, Billy's with his foster parents, see I'm not lying. Please I'm not lying."

Diamond stood still, wondered what the hell was going on this time. Was he that good of an actor, or was he really terrified?

"Calm down, Tusk. I'm quite sure that," Diamond looked at the samurai, and hoped that she would supply her name.

Ivy looked at the Samurai then back to Tusk. "Why are you so frightened of her…?" She turned to the stranger. "And just who are you anyway and what is your stake in all of this?"

Ivy was visibly flustered about the entire situation, and growing more agitated all the time. "Diamond followed Tusk, Tusk and his cronies blundered through my home but how did you get here?"

Ivy looked from one to the other and started edging towards a nearby street light.

"My name is Sentry and I am here for the same reason as Diamond, to apprehend the ones responsible for the kidnapping of Judge Carmen Blanchard," the woman spoke softly with great confidence and conviction.

Diamond struggled to keep the smile off her face, "I am sure that Sentry won't harm you if you cooperate with us."

"Okay, I give," Tusk quickly raised his hands and trunk into the air. "See I'm not lying."

"Yes, yes you're not lying," Sentry sighed and leaned over to pick up the briefcase.

At that moment, a bright light speared the spot where Diamond, Sentry and Tusk were standing. "Police, freeze."

Sentry looked at Diamond and the same thought ran through both their minds, Great, it looks like we're mugging Tusk.

Ivy stepped cautiously into the shadows, and watched to see how things developed. The intense light of the search beam was tempting to her but she preferred some anonymity. As she watched, Ivy searched her memory, but the name Sentry did not stand out beside the dictionary meaning.

Ivy examined the woman more closely, hoping to find some indication as to what had so terrified Tusk but it seemed that Sentry had done nothing visible to cause such anxiety in Tusk.

"Good evening officers," Diamond carefully called out.

The two cops were standing behind their doors, guns drawn. The cop nearest the two heroes mouthed something that suspiciously looked like 'Shit' and dove into the cop car. He frantically spoke into the CB mike.

"Do you have any suggestions, Sentry?" Diamond asked softly. Shit, she thought to herself. Would there have been enough time for the police on patrol to find out about the kidnapping, and who did it?

"How fast can you move?" Sentry asked in a sotto voice. Diamond could see her hand moving slowly towards her belt.

At that moment, a sedan with a flashing light pulled up behind the police car. The largest black man Diamond had ever seen climbed out from behind the wheel. He was wearing black slacks and a white muscle shirt, a police badge hung from his belt.

Both cops visibly relaxed. "Hammer," they chimed in unison.

Hammer nodded to the cops and walked towards Sentry and Diamond.

"Ah, man," Tusk whispered, "it just isn't my night."

"Jerimah, Jerimah what am I going to do with you? Thank you both. Now can you fill me in on what is going on. Diamond?" He looked first at Diamond and then at Sentry, "Sentry?"

Diamond noticed that Sentry seems surprised that Lt. Hammer knew her. After the two women filled the lieutenant in on the night's events, he jerked his hand towards the police cruiser.

"Well Jerimah, you know the drill, your mother would be turning over in her grave if she could see you now."

Tusk sauntered over to the police car and then called out to the trees as he climbed in, "Goodbye Plant Lady, I owe you one."

"Come on, elephant man," one of the police officers spoke up as he helped Tusk inside.

Only Ivy was in position to see the brief flash of hurt that crossed Tusk's face at the police officer's casual remark. She watched as the car drove off and then faded into the bushes, feeling tired. She looked down at her own hands and feet and a great sadness came over her. God, it hurts. Am I a coward to stay here in my grove? The night was silent and her question went unanswered.

Meanwhile, Hammer sighed and shook his head again, "It makes me angry. Jerimah has always had a slight inclination towards what he looks like now. And people, some of them, can't see past what is on the outside. When he hit puberty and the final change came on him it got harder and when his mother was killed in a random drive-by…" Hammer sighed again, "He's just 17, did you know that?"

He then rubbed his bald head and gave both the ladies a rueful smile. "I am sorry, it is late and I am tired. I am sure neither of you are interested in my ramblings. Can I drop either of you off somewhere?"

"Yes, please," Diamond sighed thankfully. "How about Penrith Square? I have some personal business to take care of."

"By the way, has Blanchard been returned to his home? We had left him with another mutant. A healer who seems to manipulate light into daggers, and the like. She said she'd take him back." Diamond gave a wry smile. "In the concern of catching up with Tusk, I kind of forgot to ask her name."

"I have no idea," Hammer replied thoughtfully, "but we can check it out on the way to Penrith. What about you… Hmm, doesn't like to stay around, does she?"

Diamond looked around. Sentry was gone.

Sentry moved quickly through the brush on the way to her bike. How did he know who I was? There was only the one case for homicide that I got involved in. I like the way Diamond thinks, I wonder if we will meet again? And the night was silent, absorbing her questions.

In the parking lot of Tavern on the Green, Diamond and Hammer climbed into his sedan and drove away. Near the club house, a darkness shifted and then evaporated. Three people stood there. A man in black and two teenagers.

"Diamond, one called Sentry and a woman who controls plants," the man in black spoke; his voice was soft and totally without inflection. "Scarab will find this information most interesting. As interesting as the obvious fear the Salvatori have for metahumans."

He then turned to the Romany who was glaring sullenly at the ground, "As he shall know of your inability to follow orders correctly, Sludge."

He then gestured. "Home, Minions, Scarab awaits our return but not with what he expects."

The three headed for the middle of the parking lot. Once there, the man in black lifted the man hole cover with the easy of someone lifting an empty soda can. One by one, the three descended into the sewers. As the man hole cover was settled into place, a high pitched voice echoed eerily from below, "Couldn't we see a movie first? Toy Story is at the Plaza again."

And the night grew silent.