Lightning Never Strikes Twice
Karen Galarneault

Acknowledgements and much gratitude to my beta reader Jennifer, for
making this an even better story. Mil Gracias!  


Disclaimer Cannonball and all related X-Force characters, the Friends
of Humanity,  and all events, themes, and concepts are the property of
Marvel Comics. I am simply borrowing them for entertainment reasons.
Highlander the Series, Immortals, the Quickening, the Gathering, and
all themes, events are the property of William Panzer Productions.
Highlander belongs to Rysher. The germ of the idea for the OTHER RULE
is borrowed from the story by Ryan Leary and Lee Barnett who inspired
the additional twist to Cannonball's being Immortal. Fenris Cullen is
my creation, I liked the name. Jeri/Gerladine Mckenna is mine. She
appears in my two Highlander/Star Trek: The Next Generation crossover
stories Footsteps in the Sand> and Games Without Frontiers part 2 of 2.
"Games Without Frontiers" 

This can stand alone without having to read theother two. 

Lightning Never Strikes Twice by Karen 

Jeri Mckenna clenched her fists tightly over the steering  wheel in a
white knuckled grip. Sweat trickled down her back  and she could
physically feel eyes watching her every move.  She started merging into
the left lane before turning into  a cross street. The silver Saturn
and its lone occupant subjected  to a downpour, even late February in
the Twin Cities was bound  to be slushy, and snow melt didn't make it
any easier.  Waiting for the traffic light to turn green, she glanced
into  her rear view mirror. She noted that the black mini van was still
tailing her. It had picked up her trail after she rented a car  at the
airport after the flight from Europe. It made her  distinctly
uncomfortable. It wasn't her Watcher, that man was  persistent. Then
again, if it was another Immortal and if it  was who she suspected, she
was in serious trouble. 

The light changed and Jeri manoeuvred the car in between two  city
buses then into a parking lot, slid into a free spot and  turned off
the ignition. 

"Better safe than sorry." 

Exiting, she pulled back on the lever that popped the trunk and  walked
around to the rear. She pulled out three bags: one was  about four feet
long and slender, slightly longer than your  average duffel bag. She'd
had a devil of a time getting it   through customs.  They'd wanted to
open it, of course.  And it had set off every alarm in the place. She'd
told them  she was transporting museum exhibits from London. They'd
given  her funny looks, but they bought it. The bag held her sword.
The smaller was her backpack that contained her necessities:
cosmetics, passports, ID, credentials, credit cards, and  sundry items.
The most important at the moment, a cellular phone.  The last was a
wheeled suitcase with a change of outfits.  Slamming the trunk, Jeri
walked slowly and purposefully toward  the church's double doors. It
was holy ground, she'd be safe  there. 

Swinging back the doors, Jeri absently noted that it had  undergone
some impressive renovations since the last time  she'd been there. "Not
surprising, since the last time I  was here was almost half a century
ago."  The dome was no longer tarnished green from exposure, instead
the copper shone as rich and dark as ale. The place brought  back
bittersweet memories of another time and place.  ____ 

Flashback, London 1557 

Gerladine Mckenna leaned up against the wall of the anteroom  of the
Tower of London, peering out into the city. A wagon  trundled along a
concrete causeway spanning the Thames.   In the wagon bed sat two
figures: a man and a woman, both  heavily cloaked. Chains bound their
hands and feet, a set that  matched the ones on her own hands. Drawing
closer, she could  see their features: Lady Jane Grey and her husband,
Lord   John Dudley. 

She heaved a sigh that came up from the soles  of her black boots and
ended at the roots of her brown hair. 

"They'd hadn't managed to escape after all." 

The ship she'd commissioned and booked passage for them  must've been
waylaid enroute to Calais or commandeered by   Queen Mary's royal navy.
She also knew what would happen once they reached Tower Green;  they'd
be executed.  Both had their hair shorn close to their  scalp as a mark
of their crimes and to make it easier for the  headsman to perform his
duties. It also meant she'd join in  the public display of justice. 

She was sentenced to a trial  by water for the crime of being a witch
and aiding and abetting  an enemy of the crown. 

Approaching the drawbridge, the portcullis lowered, the hinges
creaking as they rubbed against centuried brick and mortar.  The wagon
rumbled inside and its passengers were unloaded by  a tall man wearing
a black hood, with an axe over one shoulder.  His arrival triggered the
tell-tale buzz that signalled the  presence of another Immortal.
However, the man did not turn  around or acknowledge that he sensed her

"End of the line, folks," the man growled. 

"Cullen!" Jeri exclaimed, "He knows what its like to be the   object of
witch hunts, why would he...." she whispered. 

"YOU!" he gestured brusquely to Mckenna, "You are sentenced  to trial
by water, this way," was all she the reaction she got  out of him.


Jeri watched as her two friends were led up to a hastily   built
scaffold, and made to lay down on the wooden surface.   Cullen raised
the axe above his head, with ringing arc, he brought it down upon
Jane's neck, spraying blood everywhere,  and then brought it down on
John's neck.  The watching crowd  in mixed mood about the entire
proceedings, some cheered. 

Cullen flung his left arm behind him and snagged her around the  waist,
then flung her bodily into a waiting tub of water,  hoping she'd sink
like a rock.  The shock of freezing water hitting  her body woke her
from her numb state of disassociation from  the situation.  She felt
herself sink and her lungs struggle to  gasp for breath. 

The chains on her arms preventing her from  flailing to come back up to
the surface for air. Then everything  went black. ___ 

Present Day 

Seating herself in a shadowed nook, she picked up the   phone, removing
the address book, Jeri dialled the number   in San Francisco. If Sam
Guthrie hadn't mailed her a postcard  from X-Force's vacation in
Hawaii, she wouldn't have known  where to find him.  __ 

Sam Guthrie and Dani Moonstar pulled up in front of X-Force's current
base of operations: a glorified warehouse 
leased to their teammate, Roberto Dacosta from his father's
international business. They'd just returned from a run along    Venice
Beach, and parked the cherry red 58' El Dorado in front    of the

"The problem with this town is that the streets are either too up or
too down!" 

Entering, the first thing they heard was the blare of the TV and
Tabitha , her blond hair covering her eyes, lying on he sofa, zapping
through channels. Bobby slept on the floor, having long ago given up
the fight for the remote. 

"Yo! Mason-Dixon! You've got a phone call," she yelled from the center
of the room, loudly, but Bobby never stirred. 

"Y'all going to be okay, Dani?" Sam asked, referring to their talk on
the beach about Dani's waning psionic powers. 

"I'm fine, Sam. Go take your call," Dani said, brushing backa lock of
black hair. "There's nothing wrong with me that a    good night's sleep
won't cure. End of discussion." 

"Kay. Give me the phone, Tab. It might be Paige again." 

"Sure," Tabitha yawned and handed him the cordless phone. 

Placing the receiver to his ear, he flopped down on the   couch next to
Taibtha, absently noting that she was now 
watching CNN. 

"Paige, is that you? Is Ma okay? She's getting better with the
treatment at that facility in Louisville, right?" Sam, asked, worried.
It had been only a couple of months when he'd learned that his mother
had come down with some obscure   syndrome. It wasn't fatal, however,
it required treatment and a lengthy hospital stay. 

"Sam, it's not your sister," a woman, with a Scottish burr, said on the
other end of the line. 

"You sound awfully familiar.  Who is this?" 

"Sam, I'm sorry to hear about your mother. It's Jeri Mckenna." 

"OH MY GOD! Jeri, where y'all been hiding yourself, girl?" 

"It's a long story, Sam." 

"Coming from you, ah'd believe it. What's up?" 

"I have a situation that involves you. I can't say how or why....." 

"You sound like you've seen a ghost. We've been friends too' long,
don't hedge your bets with me, Jeri." 

"Sam, there's a man. His name is Fenris Cullen. He knows all about you,
all about your family, your sister, Paige." 

"Does he know about X-Force?" Sam asked, a tone of suspicion and worry
creeping into his voice, making his Kentucky drawl  even more

"No.  He doesn't care about X-Force. At least I don't believe  he does.
It's you he wants. He knows everything that happened  when you died and
came back to life." 

"Were the Externals mentioned?" 

"No. He thinks you're one of the Immortals, like Macleod,  Methos, and

"He thinks I'm Immortal participating in that ol' cosmic  Game of
yours?" Sam almost choked on the irony and absurdity  of it all. Jeri
Mckenna wouldn't have called with a story like  that for the sake of a
practical joke. 

"Yes. Sam. I'm sorry. I wouldn't ask if it wasn't necessary.  Please,
believe me." 

"What do you need?"  "I need you to come meet me in Minneapolis by the
cherry and the spoon." 

"That some kind of Immortal code?" 

"NO. It's an actual sculpture at the Walker Art Center." 

"Jeri, X-Force..."  "I understand that your first loyalty is to X-
Force, and  the cause you're fighting for. 
What do you know about a group calling itself the "Friends of

"They're bad news, anti mutant vigilantes. Stay away from  them, Jeri."

"Fenris Cullen is one of them." 

"An Immortal is one of their bloodhounds?" 

"Look, I can't say anymore over the phone, just trust me.  Fenris may
have followed me here. He wants you." 

"I'll be there. I'll figure out something to tell the others.  Jeri,
stay put, and be careful." 

"Thanks, Sam. Thanks a million. Bye," Jeri hung up and   the phone on
the other end clicked with a dull chime. 

"What was that all about, Sam?" Tabitha asked. 

"Your sister, okay?" 

"Yes, Paige is fine. She sends her's and Ma's love,"   Sam fudged. 
"You think the guys will miss me for a few   days if I went back to
Kentucky for a visit?" 

"Why not? It's not like you're the life of the party."  Tabitha said,
picking up a copy of Reader's Digest. 

"Tab, you keep that up and people might think you have a brain," Sam

"Very funny," she growled and went back to reading before   her head
hit the couch cushions. 

"That was simple enough, might as well take a deep breath and jump
right in" 
It was bad enough being an Immortal   mutant, but now...." he muttered
and trundled off to bed.  ___ 

Being a mutant has its advantages, being able to fly with the  wind in
his face, was definitely one of them." Sam thought.  Igniting his
kinetic blast field, he launched himself into  the sky. He adjusted his
speed slightly to pace himself.  He figured he'd make he Midwest in
about three hours.  __ 

The Sculpture Garden 

"Jeri, you here?" Sam said, turning off his blast field  and drifting
down to a landing on the tiled pathway.  He never thought about the
fact that his powers seemed to  insulate him from temperature extremes.
Northern California  in February was like spring here. 

Taking stock of his surroundings, he noticed that Mckenna hadn't  been
kidding when she'd said "meet at the cherry and the spoon'  It was a
sculpture, about the size of a house. A silver implement, gleaming in
the brittle winter sunlight.  It arched like some medieval catapult
primed to launch   boulders at some castle. Instead of a boulder,
perched on the  rounded end of the spoon, was a large red, cherry,
threatening  to topple at any moment. 

"Over here."  Jeri's Scottish drawl echoed as she came around from the 
mounted portion of the sculpture. 
Her brown hair was swept  up into a braid. She was dressed in a black,
knee-length  outfit with black boots, with her sword strapped to her
back.   Giving his friend a quick glance that took in everything,  Sam
would have said she resembled a tail twitching panther  about to

"Kinda an odd place for a clandestine meeting," Sam joked,  trying to
lighten the tense atmosphere. 

"You were expecting a romantic rendevouz?" Jeri managed to  grin,
picking up on Sam's lead and glided over to give the  Kentucky born
mutant a hug and a peck on the cheek. 

"You're looking good, Sam. Blue suits you." 

"So where is this guy, anyway? And just how much does he  know about
me?" Sam asked, getting back to serious business. 

"Everything, Sam. His dossier file on you is probably as   complete as
the Watcher database on Immortals. He's had   two hundred and fifty
years to compile it. He's recently   hacked into the Xavier files." 

"Why is he interested in me? Why not other mutants if he's   the
bloodhound for the Friends of Humanity?" 

"He may become interested in other mutants, I'm not really  sure.  The
others Externals, as you call them, are 
for  all practical purposes, defunct. With them out of the way..." 

"Other than the blackcap, Selene, I'm the only one left.   How do you
know she iced the others?" 

"Bad news travels fast. It was in the papers. Plus the throw down with
the Externals was pretty obvious, since it 
took place in Rockfeller Center. Plus, my curiosity was  piqued by the
fact that the police files from the NYPD  precinct disappeared almost
immediately after X-Force's  bail was posted." 

"Okay, I'll buy that. Now what?"  "Let's go the to the conservatory."

"Is he coming?" Sam asked anxiously, rocking back and forth on his
heels. Sam suddenly winced in pain as a 
dull throbbing  buzz began at the base of his spine and worked its way
up  behind his skull. He could sense that someone was there, but  he
couldn't put his finger on exactly where they were. 
Yet,  he could feel eyes watching him. 

Jeri reacted in a similar  manner, drawing her sword, she began pacing
the length of  the building. She turned her head, staring into shadowed
corners, checking all exits and entrances. 

"Who's there?" Sam demanded. 

"Guess that answers that question, boyo?" a man's gravely   voice said.

A figure emerged from the shadows, levelling  open a pane in the glass
walls, and stepped into the light.  "Fenris Cullen, I presume?" Sam

"The same." 

"Geraldine Mckenna." 

"Ah guess you already know who I am." 

"Samuel Guthrie. YOU, ME, NOW. Guthrie, I assume you're  up to it,
boyo." Cullen laughed, which sounded like nails  being run down  a

"Any time, pal," Sam growled, a heartbeat away from igniting  his blast
field, it had been a long time since anyone could  get away with
calling him a 'boy.'  This Cullen fellow was  definitely raising his

"Hold It! I want to evoke the Other Rule!" Jeri yelled. 

"What the bloody hell are you talking about, woman" Cullen growled. 

"There's an obscure rule among Immortals. Marvels are  exempt from
participating in the Game because Immortals  aren't allowed to
challenge them, because of the unpredictable  nature of the X-Factor
tipping the scales during a fight,"  Jeri explained. 

"Who cares? I challenged him, he accepted," Cullen said, pulling a
sabre out. 

"As his teacher, this fight is mine." 

"You're his teacher?" Cullen asked as if he didn't quite believe her.
His eyes narrowed in concentration, trying to 
assimilate this bit of information, and if it worked out in  his favor.
Evidently the answer ended up in the plus  column because he turned
back to her, and grunted with  an affirmative nod. 

"Agreed. Okay, Mckenna. I've heard of  you. This time you're not
walking away from me." 

"Jeri, I don't need you to protect me," Sam whispered. 

"I know. Keep the Friends of Humanity off our backs, and you'll be
doing both of us a favor."  __ 


Sam didn't have to wait long, for as soon as he appeared  outside, six
men with guns, knifes and other weapons, moved  into formation.  They
surrounded him in a tightly closing ring.  As even half-dozen, all
dressed alike, jeans and cotton shirts  with a crimson armband tightly
bound across their upper arms;  the stark  black letters: F.O.H printed
big as life on the  white cloth.  The last time he'd seen those letters
had been when X-Force  had intercepted a federal transport, when they'd
been set  on kidnapping its passenger, Lucia Callasantos, sister to
their former team-mate, Feral. 

She was being transported  to Rkyer's Prison in upstate New York. That
mission had gone  somewhat smoothly, until they reached the house where
both  sisters had grown up.  Sam shook his head, 
"What a mess that was." 

Feral had been completely unremorseful.  That incident had bothered him
more than he cared to admit. 
That Feral defected to the Mutant Liberation Front, was bad  enough;
but the truth of her family's murder that came out in  that dingy two-
story house was a painful memory.  Sam blinked away tears of regret: 

"Ah gotta focus on the  here and now. Can't let old memories get in the
way. Better  ignite mah blast field and get this show on the road." 

He took up a battle-ready stance.  The men closed in, some chanting
'mutie-scum, mutie-scum',  over and over, others were eerily silent, as
they opened  fire, salvos and high octane energy hit his blast field
caroming off it like billiard balls after the opening break.  The thud
of impact causing tiles, dirt and concrete to  explode. 

"Idiots," Sam thought, deliberately colliding with his  opponents,
causing their weapons to explode as they made  contact with his blast
field. Taking advantage of the  momentary shock, he effectively took
them out of the  fight with a solid left hook to their jaws. He watched
them drop to the crowd with a satisfying thud. 

"End of the line, boys. Hope Jeri's doing okay up there."  Sam glanced
towards the glass enclosed building. Spotting  the black mini van these
folks arrived in, Sam dragged the men  one by one, by the heels and
unceremoniously dumped their limp  forms inside, then slammed the
doors.  Heading back towards the conservatory, he heard the
distinctive clang of blade on blade, Jeri's soft breathing and
Cullen's ursine growling. 
"At least she's still alive. You go, girl. Give'em as good  as you

Of all the rules governing Immortals, one he knew by heart,  that
during a battle, running interference by another wasn't  allowed.
"Stupid rule," he muttered, sitting down on a nearby  bench, silently
cheering his friend on.   _ . 

Both opponents brought up the hilts of their swords in   the time-
honored salute of sword fighters throughout history.  They lowered them
with the points horizontally about five  feet above the ground.
Rocking back on her heels, Jeri assumed a battle ready stance,   poised
to either strike or defend. She watched as Cullen  ponderously circled
her, she imitated him, but circled  counter clockwise, both looking for
an opening in the other's  defence. Suddenly Cullen let out a bear-like
growl and  levelled his sword until it was even with her shoulder
blades,   charging like an angry bear from its den. 

"You might as well get on your knees, and let me take your   head,
woman," Cullen growled. 

"You'd spoil my fun," Jeri replied. 

"Your funeral." 

"I don't think it's going to be that easy."  Jeri handled her sword
right-handed, using her center of  balance to draw tighter, a white-
knuckled grip on the hilt,  employing a series of thrusts, using its
length to dart in  for arcing cuts at Cullen while dancing back to stay
out   of his range. His longer, more powerful arms enabled to basically
hammer away at her sword. For all his ponderous bulk, the man  could
move rather quickly. Jeri parried with the flat of her  blade, the
cross guard to block, and on brief occasions to lock  up her opponents.
She hacked at his torso, tearing a long gash through fabric  and flesh,
using the opposite edge of her sword, protecting  her hand from
slamming into Cullen's. Pivoting on her heel,  she narrowly avoided a
darting thrust at level with the back  of her knees intended to
hamstring her, making it easier for  him to take her head.   She
narrowly missed another slash at her lower ribs and    spun around with
a technique learned in judo class.   Cullen may have been bigger and
stronger, but she'd   learned that most opponents she eventually face
would be,   and she'd  have to be smarter and faster. She had one
advantage that way, she could get in under his guard.   Darting into
range, Jeri locked up Cullen's weapon and    swivelling around her
sword, she swiped it across his    throat, as he instinctively brought
up his sword hand to   stem the flow of blood, dropping his weapon.
Spinning around, Jeri raised her sword above her head,   thinking even
as she did so, that during their last meeting   he'd been on the
opposite of this very scenario, when he'd   executed her friends, Jane
Grey and John Dudley. 

"Finish it, Mckenna," Fenris Cullen growled, defiant until the end. 

"There can be only one," Jeri said and separated Cullen's head from his
After she did so, a white fog rolled up out of nowhere, smothering her.

The Quickening    The magic contained enough memories of all the
talents   of its previous owner. his every move. It was all there for  
her to tap into, both the good and the bad, and all that   entailed
bound into the power of the Quickening.  Floating  in the storm wind,
the essence flooded into her and through  her with all her barriers
down. As much as a rush as  experiencing the Quickening was; in a
corner of Jeri's mind,  she was glad she'd taken the fight with Cullen
on herself.  Sam Guthrie, Cannonball, had spent most of his adult life 
learning how to control his powers, learning how to fight,  to survive
in a world where mutants were feared and hated.  But Immortals, and
their cosmic Game of good versus evil,  preparing for the Gathering,
that was drastically different.  He wasn't ready. 

Then all rational thought was swept away.  The coruscating energy swept
over her entire body, sparkling  crackles of lightning hitting her at
her ribs, her upper arms,  and down her legs. She tried to hold her
sword upright in the  ground, but she lost her grip, and stumbled to
her knees, letting  out a primal scream as the energy coursed through
her.  It could have been ages, but it was only a matter of minutes
before the Quickening transference ran its course.    __ 


Lightning lanced down out of a clear sky, imploding the    glass panels
of the conservatory. It set the double row of    pine trees on fire,
enough for several weeks worth of firewood.    Sam watched as the black
van drove away, and glimpsed Jeri    stagger down the steps. 

"Sam, you don't know how much I appreciate you coming all    this way
to help me." 

"Don't sweat it, Jeri. That's what friends are for," Sam said,  letting
her lean up against him and as he led her over to    a bench. Sam
lowered her so she was resting comfortably. 

"You look like hell. Does the Quickening always do this? 

"Pretty much." It's like coming down from a incredible    height." 

"You didn't take the fight on yourself for me."   "Sam, I meant
that..."    "But you had some sort of history with that Cullen guy." 

"It's ancient history, but I've left it too long unresolved."   "It's
over now?"  "Cullen won't be coming back. Ever." 

"You beat him." 

"It took some doing. It was touch and go most of the way." 

"Not that I'm sorry he's dead, but I'm glad you beat him." 

"How long you planning on staying?" 

"Well, not that the emergency is over..." 

"Unless you've got some pressing X-Force business, why don't you stay
with me, I'll show you around town." 

"Sure thing." Sam replied, as Jeri tilted forward and fell asleep,
since she was obviously exhausted, he didn't think  it was that much
trouble to let her stay there. The funny thing was, Immortal or not,
she reminded him of his sister, and in odd way, he often thought as
their friendship in that way.