Have you ever tried to tie a tie in a car? Let me tell you, it’s not easy.
Something else that’s not easy is trying to work your way through court precedings with less than a Bachelor’s degree, pre-law. But hey, I figured I knew enough from TV to fake it… for long enough, at least. Ishmael had been arraigned the day before and, thanks to a bunch of anti-Mythic legislation the AE had paid to ram through Congress, he was being tried that next morning, no bail, as a threat to national security or some such shit. We didn’t have much time, but we had enough.
“Objection!” I shouted as loudly as I could as I blew past two guards and into the courtroom. I couldn’t believe I was actually doing this, and it all seemed a bit too cheesy to be real. My Mom and Xandra had done a good job distracting the folks at the entrance, and Brigitte was posing as one of the guards at the door to let me in. She… may or may not have pinched my ass as I went by, which probably made my shout even louder.
I walked into a court that was barely populated. These Mythic trials seldom are, as families realized pretty early on that showing up to help plead a relative’s case was a one-way ticket into jail themselves. The judge, a bored lifer in the position, glanced up at me with tired eyes as my voice’s echo faded from the concrete walls.
“John Noble, your honor,” I said with gusto, slamming a briefcase full of nothing down on the table next to Ishmael, “representation for the defense.”
“I was not made aware of any representation,” the judge sighed. He glanced over at the prosecutor, an AE goon, who gave a smug smirk and nodded.
“I’ll allow it… I suppose.”
“Thank you, your honor. Now, if I may be given a few minutes to confer with my charge?”
“Thank you, your honor.”
I hadn’t looked at Ishmael since I walked in, trying to keep tunnel vision to keep up the charade. I knew that once I did, I’d absolutely wilt under his gaze.
I was right.
He didn’t even ask it as a question. He didn’t even say any more words. He just said that. “What.” I slapped on my best lawyerly smile and opened my briefcase, which contained about fifteen issues of Kyle Rayner’s initial run.
“Just shut up and let me do this for you, moron.”
“I don’t need anyone to do anything-”
“Hey!” I hissed at him, surprised at my boldness, “You’re not going to get the last word on this, all right?”
His eyes, piercing and blue, softened a little. Every fiber in me wanted to just reach out and give him a hug and promise everything would be all right… but that wouldn’t be very lawyerly.
“Are you ready to proceed,” the judge asked before sarcastically adding, “Defense?”
“Yes we are, your honor,” I slammed down the briefcase with more insane bravado, “I believe my client has already entered a plea, if the nonstop radio coverage in my car is to be believed?”
“Yes,” the judge replied with no shortage of condescension, “he pleaded guilty.”
“Excellent!” I responded too quickly and too loudly, “Just as I had instructed him to do. Traffic was terrible this morning. Belmont. Terrible. Had to leave a message.”
“If the defense would please finish his traffic report,” the judge groaned, “the prosecution was making their case.”
This was a kangaroo court, and everyone knew it. The judge sure did. No Mythic ever got off, especially not in Philly with the AE looking over our shoulders. The idea was simple: make the case, convict, move on to the next one.
“Your honor,” the prosecution goon began, “We have numerous instances of civilians, public officials and law enforcement all confirming that the accused has waged a campaign of terror and murderous violence from one end of this country to the other. He is clearly a terrorist threat to our well-being as a country and must be dealt with as harshly as possible. If it please the court, we would like to read just a few of the collected statements regarding the man referred to by the MCI as ‘Black Jacket,’ the subject of investigation for years.”
MCI. Mythic Criminal Investigation. Good thing the phone company went belly up or they’d have to find some other stupid acronym.
“The first confirmed report comes from a youth matching Black Jacket’s description in a supper club in rural Minnesota. An MCI agent received a tip of an undocumented Mythic washing dishes. Upon approaching the youth, he was struck in the face with a coffee mug: the agent survived, but had to undergo surgery to mend a broken jaw.”
Ishmael scoffed next to me.
“It was my first one,” he said, a little too loudly, “and for the record, it was five coffee mugs, not one. I wrapped them around my fingers like brass knuckles. Shame I only broke his jaw.”
The goon prosecutor swallowed hard through a pencil neck, adjusted his thinning hair, and continued.
“Uhhh… April 8, the following year, Clark County, Wisconsin. A youth matching Black Jacket’s description was said to be hiding in an abandoned barn. Upon entering the barn, Black Jacket locked the door and burned it to the ground… with the agents inside.”
“I lost my favorite hat in that fire,” Ishmael quipped, “Twins, the old logo. Remember, the big “M” one? Kirby Puckett?”
I gave him a glare, all the while wondering why this was the most chipper I’ve ever seen him. Xandra’s words kept ringing in my ears… maybe this is like Disneyland to a normal person?
“Uhhh…” the goon cleared his throat, as if to ask if he should proceed. The judge wasn’t paying attention, so he went on.
“December of that year, Toledo, Ohio…”
“We’re going to be here all day if you go through all of them,” Ishmael said, louder than almost anything I’ve heard him say before. It seemed to tax his voice, and I could hear his throat tighten up as he fought back the urge to cough. He returned to his raspy whisper and choked out a few more words.
“Why don’t we just skip to the end?”
Clearly shitting his pants, the goon prosecutor obeyed the defendant.
“All…” his voice broke, but he continued, “All told, the MCI reports that Black Jacket is responsible, both directly and indirectly, for the deaths of…”
He had to swallow again. I glanced over and realized that he had probably been fed this info by the AE, and this was the first time he’d ever seen it. His voice sunk to a whisper as he continued, his eyes goggling.
“fourteen thousand, two hundred and eighty f-five people, mostly thr– through very… intimate means.”
That’s the way a person sounds when they just found out they’re in a room with a mass murder… and a magical one at that.
“Fucking beancounters,” Ishmael sneered, “Your honor?”
Jesus, Judge… when did you stop caring?
“I’d like the record to show fourteen thousand, two hundred and eighty four deaths, please.”
“Can you validate this, uh, evidence?”
“Give me my guns back and I’ll show you.”
The courtroom grew deathly silent. I fiddled with the latches on my Naugahyde briefcase I won at school carnival in 8th grade, trying to find something to say, but thankfully I didn’t have to wait long. The doors to the courtroom flew open, and in stepped a man flanked by shock troops, wearing an impeccably tailored suit, silk tie with matching silk scarf, and what must have been glasses that cost more than my Mom’s house.
It was about this time I wondered again just how my life got to be this ridiculous.
“Objection, your honor!”
Hey, that’s my line.
“Sustained,” the judge said, actually seeming to be happy about something for once in his life. I guess with Kennedy Pyre presiding over the proceedings, the weight was off his back, and he’d still get paid. Pyre was just like I’d seen him a million times before on TV: slick, managed, Teflon. He probably would have been considered handsome if it wasn’t for that ever-present smirk constantly breaking up the perfectly manicured stubble.
“Thank you, your honor. Would it please the court if I were to observe the proceedings? We’ve been looking for this one for a long time, and it was… quite a surprise that he just turned up on our doorstep.”
His voice was a deep baritone that made your blood vibrate, the sort of voice that made you blush… even if you didn’t know why.
“Absolutely, Mr. Pyre,” the judge replied, and Pyre sat near the back of the gallery, flanked by body armor and semi-automatics.
“Well…” the judge cleared his throat, “If there are no further interruptions… does the prosecution rest?”
The AE goon looked like his knees were about to buckle. He looked over at Pyre in the gallery who simply smiled and nodded.
“The prosecution r-rests, your honor.”
So, we’re just going to bend Lady Justice over the bench a little further huh?
“And the defense?”
“Uh… yes,” I stammered, opening my briefcase and looking at nothing again in a desperate effort to stall.
“Defense?” the judge kept pressing.
“If your honor would like to grant me–”
“I would not.”
“Can I at least confirm with my client?”
“He doesn’t look like he wants to.”
Ishmael hadn’t moved since Pyre walked in. His eyes were back to that impossibly clear blue, focused right on him with the most murderous intent… it was primal. I saw his fingers digging into the table, his skills being able to find each and every weak point until his hand crushed the wood into sawdust.
“Oh look,” Pyre mused, “another Mythic upset at me. Wonder why.”
A low growl was beginning in the back of Ishmael’s throat. He stood up from the chair and stood to face Pyre, his back to the judge.
“If the defendant would please remain seated and face the bench–”
Ishmael let out a scream like the roar of all Hell’s engines. He easily snapped the wooden railing behind me into a makeshift javelin and hurled it a hairsbreadth from Pyre’s face… and straight into the face of the soldier seated next to him. The man died hard, gurgling.
“There,” Ishmael gagged on blood from his ravaged throat, “Now it’s eighty-five.”
“And I think that’s enough.”
Pyre sighed and stood up, almost annoyed at what had taken place.
“Your honor, it can clearly be seen that this man is a threat. I move that we go ahead with a guilty conviction. Agreed?”
The judge, looking a little green around the gills, banged his gavel.
I flew up from my seat and approached the bench, all the while thinking holy crap, I’m actually approaching the bench!
“Now wait just a minute here!” I started talking like an idiot, “Are we seriously going to go ahead with this?”
“The court will please strike those last comments from the record,” the judge said to no one in particular, “we’re done here. Bailiff, restrain the convicted, please.”
Apparently, this judge hadn’t done his homework, because Ishmael tore through the handcuffs like tissue paper. The Bailiff just stood there, dumbfounded, as Ishmael hurled himself over what was left of the railing and straight at Pyre. He vaulted about three rows of chairs and ran into a line of assault rifles.
“That’s about as far as you go, Evaluator,” Pyre said, somehow smirking even harder, “I’m fairly certain even you can’t dodge all these bullets.”
He parted the ranks of his soldiers and came within feet of Ishmael, who was nearly frozen in impotent rage. I scrambled as best as I could to Ishmael’s side, trying desperately to stall for just a few more seconds.
“I am going to enjoy destroying you,” Pyre gloated, “almost as much as I’ll enjoy extracting your essence.”
“Hey, at least buy him a drink first!” I made a fool of myself once again, but it at least managed to get Pyre’s attention. Just a few more seconds, I thought, just a few more.
“Ah yes. You are the unexpected one here.”
Pyre sized me up in a way that made me feel just plain dirty before lightly waving his hand in front of my face. A cloud of sparkling blue mist filled my vision, only to quickly dissipate back to Pyre’s smirking face. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was my first run in with Mythic magic.
“Although maybe not that unexpected. I’m on a roll with killing fathers today…”
My feet felt like they sunk into the floor. I stood there, dumbstruck.
“You… killed my father?”
“Oh, I’ve killed many fathers,” Pyre sighed, “why should yours be special? I was bored, he was poor, you know how these things go.”
I knew I was supposed to feel that same righteous, white-hot rage well up inside me like it did with Ishmael, but instead I felt hollowed out, compromised, incomplete. I felt like I might collapse, but at that moment the courtroom went dark, much to everyone’s surprise but my own. I was immediately jolted back to the mission at hand at chaos broke out. The soldiers closed ranks around Pyre in the dim emergency light, while the judge wailed impotently from the bench.
“What is this? What on earth is going on?”
Reverting to the only thing he knew, he began to pound his gavel furiously.
“Order! Order, I will have order in this court!”
The doors to the courtroom flew open as an Olds Alero, heavily modified into a mini-tank, scattered chairs and soldiers in all directions. On either side of the gallery, shapes swung in through the windows, sending leaded glass fragments everywhere. One of Pyre’s high-ranking soldiers tried to radio for help, but the radio sent out a pulse of electricity that flattened him instantly. In the span of one clean minute, Ishmael and I found ourselves flanked by our own small army to match Pyre’s, all while Rat blared the bridge section to John Denver’s I Want To Live over a hacked PA system.
I knew I’d never get another chance to look this cool, so I turned to the judge, despite it all or maybe because of it, and said:
“Objection, your honor.”
At my left shoulder, I heard a familiar, rodent-like voice call out “Sustained!” and at the push of a button the entire wall of the courtroom crumbled like tissue paper, revealing Aonghus’ larger tank with the mad dwarf himself at the wheel. Xandra leapt out of the Alero and grabbed me, tossing me into the mini-tank, while Ishmael was carried off by literally everyone else, my mother included. As soon as he realized we made to escape, he began to writhe and snarl in the grasp of many arms, constantly trying to reach Pyre as his soldiers quickly ushered him out of the rubble. Even as the last bit of his scarf disappeared down the hall, I saw Ishmael’s thin, white fingers reach out for Pyre like the claws of a falcon, searing the image into my mind before Xandra slammed shut the door and motored out through the hole in the wall, following Aonghus back to the Southside and to freedom, however temporary it might be.
“Nice job,” Xandra grunted as we swerved the machine through unsuspecting traffic, “I’d kiss you, if I thought you’d enjoy it.”
“Let’s take a raincheck on that,” I said numbly. I looked out of what little window there was at the other urban tank, currently blasting its way through a grassy median. My eyes squinted almost automatically, trying to see if I could still see those talon-like fingers from the windows of our other vehicle, and my mind swam with a thousand questions. Somehow, out of all of that, I managed to get out:
“Man, I hope he’s all right.”
Have you ever tried to tie a tie in a car? Let me tell you, it’s not easy.