Cutscene: When Justice is Done

July 04, 2017:

U.S.A. Archer and Catherine Grey butt heads over the matter of Wakanda's influence on the Trial of Two Centuries.

Washington, DC

No Agent Coulsons were harmed…or even around…during the making of this log.

Characters

NPCs: David Lee Archer, Catherine Grey (written by Phil Coulson)

Mentions: T'Challa, Bucky Barnes, Matt Murdock

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

US Attorney David Lee Archer was in a foul mood.

And he knew his mood was about to get worse.

He lifted his hand to knock thrice on Catherine Grey’s door. He burst in without waiting for a reply, which produced a look of sheer annoyance from the diminutive woman.

“Hello to you too, David,” she said crisply.

“You’ve been avoiding my calls. My e-mails. My attempts to schedule appointments.” David accused.

Grey took a sip of coffee. Even her coffee cups were grey. The decor in her office was also grey. She saw a lot of symbolism in her name, or just thought the motif gave her power. Normally he simply did not care, but this morning he just found the whole thing supremely irritating.

“I’ve been quite busy.”

David sat down across from her without invitation. “You didn’t calculate Wakanda into any of your plans, and now we have a problem.”

“Wakanda,” Grey said crisply, “did not say a word about their issues the entire time I was in negotiations with the other nations. Nor was Wakanda, in general, part of any theatre that we were ever aware of the Winter Soldier operating within. There was no reason to factor Wakanda into anything.”

David crossed his arms. “You had zero intel that Barnes was supposedly at the Mizizi Conference that day?”

“The State Department didn’t have a presence at the conference, David.”

“Have you met with him?”

“So far, the King of Wakanda has been reluctant to respond to the State Department’s requests.”

David stood up and paced. “He should have just come to us and put the conference into our case. He should be doing that right now. What’s his end-game, Catherine?”

“Given Wakanda’s history, their culture, their approach to justice, I’d say he’s going to demand extradition.”

“You’re not going to give it to him?”

“No.”

David breathed a sigh of relief.

“Why are you worried about it, David?” Catherine stood to pour herself another cup of coffee. “This is a man whose death you are aggressively pursuing.”

David scowled at her.

“I am aggressively pursuing justice, and the prevention of a war. That’s what you assured me this was all about. The truth is if someone strapped you into a chair and injected your brain with a mess of torture chemicals you wouldn’t do any better than he did, and neither would I.”

“Correct. We are in this to stop a war. And if I just hand Barnes to Wakanda after all that careful maneuvering, war will be back on the table for the insult to all those other nations, some of whom are just aching for an excuse. So no. I have no plans to offer formal extradition to the Nation of Wakanda. Chances are you will win your case, and he’ll get his lethal injection. We’ll invite Wakanda to watch, we will most likely be rebuffed, and relations between our country will become strained, but repairable.”

David heard something in her tone that he did not care for one bit. He’d been playing DC power games for awhile now, and he had learned to listen between the lines. “And if I lose?”

Catherine scoffed. “You’re concerned about losing to a 27-year old Hell’s Kitchen rookie 9 months out of law school?”

David glowered at her. “That 27-year old young, blind, idealistic lawyer is talented, and he’s steadfastly standing against the monolith of Corrupt Government to defend an American War Hero. This means he has a fantastic narrative appealing to a vast cross-section of demographics who usually can’t agree on anything, even before he gets into his case. There’s a romanticism to it that plenty of people are lapping up like cream.”

Catherine shook her head, resuming her place at the desk. She hadn’t offered him a cup of coffee. “You really shouldn’t read Twitter, David.”

David ignored the jibe. He did, in fact, have staffers aggressively monitoring social media buzz. It was part of the job. As was pursuing a case that had the weight of previous case law on its side, but which even to his mind lacked a certain something in terms of maintaining the moral high ground if Matthew Michael Murdock managed to paint a compelling enough narrative for the jury.

America was always more inclined to err on the side of punishment than on the side of mercy, though. That worked in his favor, as did a dozen other elements.

He had good reasons to hold his nose and win the case anyway, because the precedent it could set would be nightmarish in the extreme.

“The point is, there’s no such thing as a slam dunk in our justice system. By design.”

“If you lose,” Catherine said carefully, “it is perhaps within diplomatic interests to avoid keeping too close an eye on where Barnes, with his newfound freedom, might or might not end up.”

David stood up and slammed the door hard enough to make it rattle, all so he could give them some privacy. He gripped his side of the desk and leaned forward. He lowered his voice. “You would allow them to conduct some sort of extraordinary rendition on an acquitted citizen of the United States?

Catherine sipped her coffee and quirked an eyebrow.

“Damn it, Catherine, that’s not how this works,” David growled. “One and done. He’s tried, he’s convicted, he appeals until he’s out of appeals and then he gets executed…or one and done. He’s tried, he’s acquitted, and we leave him alone. That’s how this is supposed to work. We do not let foreign nations simply do as they will, conducting some manner of barbaric, brutal retaliatory justice. I demand that you do whatever you can to get his allegations into our case so we can handle this the right way. Come on, Catherine, there’s an avenue for it. He released this entire news story ahead of trial in a bid to influence it. That’s got to mean he’s at least open to American justice, just like all the others were.”

“That news story is nothing more than a boon for you in a trial you ought to be thinking about winning, rather than concerning yourself over things which are beyond your control should you make the fatal mistake of losing.” Catherine leaned forward and favored him with a thin smile. “And it will be politically fatal for you, David, to lose your case to that so-excellent heroic narrative. One might even begin to wonder if you were sympathetic enough to Barnes to throw the thing. A man could end up disbarred if the wrong people thought that, in addition to being unemployed. I’m sure that would be very hard on your family.”

David was seething by the time she was finished, but kept his voice even. He thought about his family, waiting at home. Colette was gearing up to go to college in the fall. She only had a partial scholarship. He and Anne had 5 more years of payments on their Falls Church home. Anne’s salary alone wouldn’t cut it. He had enough contacts to forge a kind of safety net if he kept his law license. They’d be in real trouble if Catherine chose to get vindictive just to shut him up.

He banished those thoughts. There were lines that could not be crossed.

“I have never done less than my best on any case,” David retorted, “and I don’t take well to threats. You’re the one sitting here implying that you would completely ignore the Constitution and throw one of our own citizens under the bus, and for what? The hope of scoring an ounce of vibranium somewhere down the line?”

“I believe the only one who has said anything about that is you, David. And really, wild accusations do not become you. Why should the American government, after all, keep particular track of a free and acquitted citizen?”

David pushed off of her desk, standing. “This is wrong.”

Catherine spread her hands. “This is life. The man is doomed. Most likely by your hand. And even if he’s doomed at the hands of another, what can you possibly do about it? You really will have your own problems if that happens, David.”

The truth was, David Archer did not know. It was in the nature of the principles of the system he was trying to protect that his power was, in many ways, limited. Especially if he turned himself into political persona non grata by flubbing The Trial of Two Centuries.

But it was the nature of DC that there were always back channels, work-arounds, and small actions which could have big implications later on.

He heard his own teeth grinding as he left the diplomat’s office. First, he would attend to his own duty. He would win this case, and do it with everything he had, because if a man was to be doomed he would be doomed within the boundaries of the United States Constitution and the legal system David had spent his entire adult life believing in with every fiber of his being. Barnes would be doomed in an American prison cell, and executed in a humane, American way.

And if he lost…, well. He would still have a few favors, a few friends, and a few opportunities, no matter what else happened. Perhaps there wouldn’t be one useful thing he could do to tip the scales. But…perhaps there would be. A word in the right ear. A resource dropping into the right hand. And if he saw an opportunity, he’d take it.

If he saw a way to take Catherine down, he’d do that too.

Justice mattered.

Win or lose.

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