The Transformation Story Archive The Silver Dawn

A Martyr to the Cause

by Keith Morrison

"Goddamn monster," one voice roared out from the crowd. Were her naked skin still visible to the observer one would have noticed an angry red flush that colored her cheeks but the thin coat of light brown hair was adequate to conceal the reaction.

She tried to shake off the momentary flash of anger and concentrated on scanning the crowd.

"Stafford, you okay out there?" a voice asked in her ear. She raised her arm and spoke into the microphone attached to her wrist.


"Alright," the voice said skeptically. "Crossbow is due in two minutes. Look sharp, people."

Jennifer Stafford watched, apparently impassive, as the local police pushed the small crowd of protestors back. Some carried signs proclaiming that God would have his revenge on the sinners who polluted the Earth but they were mostly harmless. The dangerous ones were the quiet ones, the ones who appeared to be mere innocent bystanders.

By rights she should not have been out where she could be seen. The hostility of people faced with a five and a half foot tall humanoid rat in a suit had long been noted by her superiors from the moment that the First Lady had insisted she be tested for suitability. Even after she had passed the Secret Service entrance tests there was still resistance to her presence on the security detail and it was only the insistence of Holly Calvin that prevented the brass from sending her to upper Alaska to examine fake one dollar bills.

The motorcade rounded a corner and then turned in front of her to descend into the parking garage. She began to back up and then raced inside to be there before the sliding door closed.

The First Lady was already out of the car and being greeted by the mayor, the local senator and the chairman of the ACLU. She shook their hands and responded politely to them and then looked over to Stafford, smiled and nodded.

"Bitch," one of the other agents muttered. Roberts, a new guy, Stafford recognized. Famke, one of the veteran agents on the detail, grimaced and shook his head while the others who had heard the comment suppressed smiles. Stafford turned and gave Roberts a dazzling smile and nodded to him before falling into place just ahead of Calvin as they prepared to leave the garage. She saw Famke out of the corner of her eye lean toward Roberts and whisper something in his ear. The agent's eyes suddenly widened and he stared at her. More specifically, he stared at her large, and very sensitive, ears.

The procession made its way to the main lobby where Calvin waved to the partisan crowd who cheered her entrance. A large banner stretched over the main desk proclaimed the Milwaukee Association for Equality and Justice welcomed the First Lady. Calvin stopped to chat to people in the crowd. Stafford tensed, as they all did when their charge came within arm's length of the throng. Guns and knives they could check for at the entrances but there was no way to identify someone willing to choke someone.

She noted with some amusement that there were just as many cameras pointed at her as at the First Lady. She sighed in resignation at her celebrity status and turned her attention back to the crowd.


"Thank you, Linda. The Convention Center here in Milwaukee has been the scene of demonstrations for the last three days since it was announced that First Lady Holly Calvin would be speaking. The source of the controversy has not been Mrs Calvin but one of the Secret Service agents assigned to protect her.

"Jennifer Stafford was a detective with the Baltimore Police Department until early last year when she was removed from active duty after being attacked by a silver cloud in rural Maryland. A few months later, reportedly at the insistence of the First Lady, Miss Stafford applied for and was accepted into the Secret Service.

"The presence of a person with Radical Induced Physiological Alteration in the presence of Mrs. Calvin has been a powerful signal that the Administration is sympathetic with the movement to make discrimination against people so affected illegal. Despite this there is still a great deal of public opposition to Mrs. Calvin's initiative and Jennifer Stafford has become the focal point of this argument."

"Yah, I don't think that, you know, something like her should be near the President, you know."

"You can't trust all. Remember that town in Georgia or Alabama or something that was completely freaked out? They had a special on TV about that. You just can't trust them."

"That was just a sample of the opinions we've heard over the past few days as the presence of Stafford on the Presidential detail has become known."

"Larry, has there been any hint of violence or some other disorder there in Milwaukee?"

"No, Linda. So far everything has been peaceful but the controversy about the presence of Stafford will no doubt continue."


"Ladies and gentlemen, the First Lady." The chairman of MAEJ stepped back from the podium, clapping as Calvin took her place behind the microphones. She smiled an acknowledgment and waited for the applause to die down, arranging her notes until she could speak.

"Two years ago something new came into our world that we still fully don't understand but the effects it has had on ordinary people is something that we understand all too well. Discrimination, fear and hate are old friends..."

Stafford stood behind the dignitaries' chairs and glanced around nervously. Something was wrong, she thought. The hairs on the back of her neck were rising, an effect more noticeable for her than most but just as uncomfortable. She looked up at the skylights and tried to assure herself that nothing would happen. Just another routine evening.


The crosshairs swam into focus and drifted across the stage until they centered on the head of the First Lady. In the upper right corner the range counter adjusted and settled on a distance, the image shifting slightly as the sight compensated. Other numbers indicated the temperature, the wind direction and speed and the onboard computer reacted accordingly. A red dot began blinking in the middle of the sight and then locked solid.

The safety just ahead of the trigger was pressed forward with a soft click.


"...and we must ask ourselves, what type of world do we want to live in? We have fought for so long and so hard for equality and justice for all people. Let us not go back but forward..."

Stafford stared once more at the skylights and squinted. Something was wrong and now she was sure of it. She edged toward the podium.

"Stafford, what are you doing?"

"Something is wrong with the skylights."


"I don't know."

There was a sigh and the disembodied voice whispered again in her earpiece. "Fine, I'll get someone to check it. Maintain your position."


The Sako TRG is a Finnish rifle designed for sniping, 1.15 meters long and weighing 4.7 kilograms, all plastic, aluminum and silver steel. It is a high precision instrument designed for only one purpose and in the hands of an expert is a tool of sudden death.

The bullet left the muzzle at 310 meters per second. Three seconds after leaving the window overlooking the convention center it ripped through the light plastic sheet that had replaced one of the plexiglass panels. A quarter second later it shattered the water cup sitting by Calvin's right hand, showering her in water and plastic, penetrated the wooden podium and knocked it slightly off balance. For a moment there was shocked silence and no movement.

Several agents starting shouting into their microphones at the same time and converged on the First Lady. Stafford was first, grabbing Calvin and forcing her to the stage. She looked up and saw the back doors already open and more Secret Service agents running toward her. She began to rise and then screamed in agony when the second bullet slammed into her, throwing her back down on top of the surprised Calvin.

She was jerked roughly aside and dragged to the back of the stage by Famke. Roberts crouched beside them with his automatic drawn and yelled for more assistance while the senior agent pressed his hand against the wound.

"Easy, easy. Help's on the way."


"Linda what has happened here tonight is one of the most remarkable things I have ever seen. Several hours ago Secret Service agent Jennifer Stafford was brought here suffering from undisclosed injuries after being shot at least once by an unknown assailant during an apparent attack on the First Lady.

"Behind me you can see the crowd that has gathered to await word of Stafford's status and what is amazing is the composition of the crowd. Standing quietly side by side are people who have suffered from RIPA and those who were, only a few hours before, protesting against her."

"Thanks, Larry. Joining me here in the CNN newsroom in our continuing coverage of the attempted assassination of Mrs Calvin is Colonel William Grey, an expert in terrorist activity and..."


"Good morning."

Stafford winced when she tried to shift position. Holly Calvin placed one hand on Stafford's arm and shook her head.

"It's fine."

"Well, ma'am, I don't think talking with my butt stuck in the air is accepted protocol."

"Forget the protocol. I wanted to thank you. You may have saved my life."

"Part of the job."

They talked for several minutes. Outside the room a dark-haired man leaned against the wall and waited patiently until Calvin exited.

"Taggert! Why are you here?" she asked. He smiled slightly.

"I came down as soon as I heard what happened. Just in case there was something that the Project could do to help."

"I don't think there is but thank you anyway." She turned to walk away and then paused.

"It's rather amusing, you know," she said. "Whoever did the shooting may have been trying to stop the movement to help people like Jennifer but they've done just the opposite. They made her a hero."

The man nodded and watched her disappear down the corridor surrounded by her guards. He stood there for a moment with his hands in his pockets and turned away to take the elevator to the parking garage. Three hours later he stood on the shore of Lake Michigan with two spent cartridges in his hand. He watched the setting sun glint off the brass in his open palm. He dumped the cartridges into a small cloth sack weighted with a rock and threw it far from the shore. It disappeared beneath quiet water.

"Yep, pretty funny how thing turned out. You'd almost think someone planned it."

A Martyr to the Cause copyright 1998 by Keith Morrison.

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