The jury murmured among itself as the courtroom shuffled into order.
“On the Lim matter,” began the judge, clearing his throat. “Brandon Lim and one anonymous accomplice known as “Chastity” are before us today, with their counsel, one Mr. Charon. As Chastity has elected to remain anonymous, her name will not appear on court transcripts unless it is necessary for the case or provided by a witness. On the prosecution, the people, represented by Mr. Bailey. Our first motion is an appeal to quash a subpoena by a representative from Virtue, Ms. Blake. Ms. Blake?”
“Darlene Blake, appearing for Virtue,” said the black woman who approached the podium. “Personal legal counsel to Mr. Honnete, founder of Virtue. I assume you’ve read the papers and know what Mr. Bailey’s request is. He’s asked for a subpoena of personnel records from the local branch of our organization. However, those records were unrecoverable after the local office was destroyed in the process of bringing the defendants before us. As such, the documents cannot be produced.”
“Thank you, Ms. Blake. Mr. Bailey?”
“Greg Bailey, representing the people. I think their presence in the office can speak to their affiliation well enough. Let the subpoena request drop.”
The judge nodded and said “Okay, we’re agreed. Any more issues?”
The attorneys shook their heads.
“Alright, can I see Mr. Charon?”
Mr. Charon stood and approached the bench.
Mr. Bailey bounced his leg impatiently as the judge spoke quietly with the golden-haired defense attorney. After a few minutes, the judge nodded, and Charon returned to his seat. The judge spent a few minutes reading the papers on the desk, then resumed the proceedings, looking over his reading glasses at the assembled people.
“Will the prosecution make their opening statement?”
“Thank you, your honor.” Mr. Bailey stood and spoke into the microphone. “Brandon Lim is a metahuman with precognitive and telekinetic abilities, and a supervillain under the moniker “The Upright Man.” Over the past month or so, he has been engaged in a conspiracy to destroy and defraud the legally sanctioned institution known as the Wardens of Justice and their associated youth team, the Wardens of Tomorrow, and on several occasions physically attack or kidnap its members. Brandon Lim is the father of the former member of the Wardens of Tomorrow known as “Phenomena,” who was killed in an incident last year involving precognition psychosis. He then joined the anti-metahuman organization known as Virtue, and was inducted into an extremist group within Virtue. He and other members of his group were granted metahuman abilities by the criminal organization known as Blackwell to assist in this conspiracy.”
Mr. Bailey sat down.
“Thank you, Mr. Bailey, that was nice and succinct. Mr. Charon?”
Mr. Charon stood. “We’d like to wait until the beginning of the defense case to present our opening statement, your honor,” he said.
“Very well then.” The judge shuffled papers around. “Mr. Bailey, present your first witness.”
“I’d like to call the person known as “Shatterpoint” to the stand,” said Mr. Bailey.
Shatterpoint, in his costume, approached the bench. He was sworn in, and took a seat.
“Now, I’d just like to mention, calling a convict as your first witness is a bit unorthodox,” said the judge. “Especially an anonymous one. But go ahead and examine the witness.”
“What was your profession?” asked Mr. Bailey.
“I was a villain for hire,” said Shatterpoint. “I took contracts to make holes into and out of places.”
“Who was your most recent employer?” asked Mr. Bailey.
“The Upright Man,” answered Shatterpoint. He glanced uncomfortably at Brandon Lim sitting mutely at the bench.
“Were you under any threat at the time?” Shatterpoint furrowed his brow.
“Sorry, I misspoke,” interrupted Mr. Bailey. “Were you or your family under threat during that time?”
“Yes,” said Shatterpoint, relieved at having been able to clarify.
“Objection!” called Mr. Charon from where he reclined. “Leading the witness.”
“Overruled,” snapped the judge, flicking his papers. “This is preliminary information, backed up by police reports. No need for formality.”
Mr. Charon grumbled quietly in his seat, still brimming with anger but understanding that speaking out would do nothing.
“Where is the Upright Man currently?” continued Mr. Bailey.
“Right there.” Shatterpoint pointed across the bench to Brandon Lim.
“And how do you know that the defendant is the Upright Man?” Mr. Bailey pressed further.
“I met with him several times. Um… I met him in person. Saw his face both times. And I recognize the suit.” Shatterpoint paused. “Actually, I knew him before then. He was a… family friend I guess. He got us out of Japan before Metatron took over, so I owed him everything. The first job after his son died was a way to make it up to him. But the favors started getting shady… I told him I wouldn’t help anymore and he started-” His voice broke as he spoke. “He started threatening my family.”
“How do you know your family is safe right now?”
Shatterpoint sat up straighter and stared at Brandon Lim with hate in his eyes. “Because,” he said after a moment, “Witness Protection agents caught the thugs he hired to track them down and get me to keep quiet. They confessed.”
“Thank you, that will be all.”
The proceedings paused again as the judge read from his papers.
“Will the next witness please come to the stand?” said the judge.
Jamisson stood, was sworn in, and sat in the witness chair. Mr. Bailey stood over him, preparing the questions.
“Will you state your name for the records?” asked the judge while Mr. Bailey sorted his documentation.
“Hiram Jamisson. I prefer to go by my last name.”
“Can you spell- oh nevermind. I have it here. Here, give that to the court reporter, will you?”
The judge handed a piece of paper off to an aide who passed it to the stenographer in the corner.
“You may begin examining the witness.”
Mr. Bailey cleared his throat and began.
“Can you state your profession for the record?”
“I am, or, I guess, until recently was, the director of the Wardens of Justice and their affiliated youth team, the Wardens of Tomorrow,” said Jamisson.
“Have you or your teams encountered the Upright Man before?”
“On several occasions, yes,” Jamisson said.
“Could you elaborate?”
“We first heard of him… a week and a half ago maybe. I forget the exact date. Let’s see… After Shatterpoint broke out Masquerade, he arranged for Labyrinth to be brought into the Wardens’ building along with who we thought was Shatterpoint but was actually the Upright Man,” Jamisson began. “Labyrinth used his ability on the building, which allowed the Upright Man to sabotage the power lines, backup generators, and communications equipment, and steal some of Dr. Mind’s experiments. Shatterpoint made a hole for them to exit, and they escaped.”
Jamisson paused, working his way through the events. “While our equipment was out, he kidnapped Shatterpoint’s daughter with the stolen equipment to get Shatterpoint to… demolish the police station,” Jamisson’s brow furrowed. “And paid Limit Break to lure us into a fight with the Collswell City Specialists where Cryoclasm was seriously injured. He used that as a chance to use the stolen equipment to kidnap Cryoclasm and turn Pyroclasm temporarily by threatening her.”
“When did you learn the defendant’s identity?” interjected the attorney.
“About then. Once we rescued his daughter, he came to us and told us. We’d suspected before then, due to the similarity of his powers to Phenomena’s, but until then it was just speculation.”
“Did your team have any direct confrontations with him?”
“Yes. After we found the lab where Chastity was holding Cryoclasm, the Wardens of Tomorrow encountered him. He defeated them and escaped with Chastity and Pyroclasm. We managed to overhear a conversation and track them to their rendezvous, where we used Kismet’s ability to defeat the Upright Man’s precognition and bring them in.”
“As a villain, how would you classify him?” asked Mr. Bailey, changing the line if questioning.
“He’s a planner,” explained Jamisson. “Likes to run things from behind the scenes. Everything he did was calculated. That’s common for precogs.”
“How did you know about the precognition?”
“There are a few common clues he tripped. He came out of every confrontation on top, relying on outcomes that would have been impossible to arrange without foreknowledge. It’s something we’re trained to watch for. Our suspicion was confirmed when we learned he was related to Phenomena.”
“Can you give examples of those clues?”
“An example…” Jamisson thought for a moment. “The encounter with Labyrinth was engineered specifically to prompt the Wardens of Tomorrow to break up. That was a big one. He knew where we would be before we arrived- this occurred several times, and is how he avoided us for as long as he did. He knew where and how Pyroclasm and Cryoclasm would defeat Shatterpoint. There were others, as well.”
“Okay, thank you very much. You can return to your seat.”
Jamisson stood and crossed the courtroom back to where he had been sitting.
“Will the individual known as Charity come to the stand?” said the judge after a few minutes.
Charity, in costume, stood from where she sat and approached the stand. She was sworn in, and sat.
“What is your affiliation with Brandon Lim?” began Mr. Bailey.
“I was a member of Virtue for some time. I met him and… Chastity, personally when I visited the Collswell office,” Charity answered.
“How long were you a member?”
“Of Virtue? A few years.”
“Are you currently a member?”
“I’m not going to answer that.” said Charity.
“Okay, what did you do in the organization?”
“I advocated for anti-sponsorship regulation.”
“What did other members do?”
“Most of them that I associated with just wanted more regulation, or oversight, or accountability or something like that. There were some groups that were really extreme, though. Zealots, skinheads, bigots, that kind of thing.”
“Which category did the defendant belong to?”
“The extreme ones, definitely. There was a whole group that was in it for… revenge, like a support group or something, I’d thought. I heard that Brandon’s son was killed, and Ka- Chastity’s sister was-” Charity paused. “Nevermind, doesn’t matter, but she was there too. The whole Collswell branch was like that.”
“When did you become aware of their plan?”
“After I was beaten by Blackwell and captured, Myriad spent a while gloating. Said she’d traded some ‘super juice’ for consultation with a precog.”
“What did she get from the precog?”
“Knowledge of how to beat me, among other things. Precognition services are really valuable. She said that all she had to do was kidnap some college student for a few days and I’d lose, somehow. And I did.”
“Can you name anyone else in their group?” There was the question. Jamisson glanced to the periphery of the courtroom where plain clothes CCPD officers surreptitiously shifted to reach their weapons easier. If anyone in the audience was going to make a move, it would be now.
“I can.” Charity closed her eyes and moved her hands as if pointing to people and shaking hands. “Uh, first was tiny albino woman… Ciara Cross, then Benjamin Hill. Then Karen… Something long I didn’t catch, and Brandon Lim. And Dan Romeo. Romero.” She paused. “Hold on, let me think. There were… two more? What did Ben say?” The courtroom was shockingly silent for a moment and the audience collectively held their breath before Charity spoke again. “They’re off in Washington watching the speeches. That was it.”
“Can you identify any of them in the crowd today?”
Charity opened her eyes and scanned the crowd.
“No,” she said, and Jamisson leaned back in relief. “Only those two.” She gestured to Brandon Lim and Chastity.
A few more witnesses were questioned, witnesses to the fights with the Upright Man. After a few questions, Mr. Bailey sat, and Mr. Charon stood.
“We would like to give the defense opening statement now.”
The judge approved.
Mr. Charon made his case. “So often precognition is treated as some magical force of planning, but the reality is that it’s never that reliable. Everything bad that happens as a result of his actions you argue, must be premeditated, but in actuality precognition-”
“Excuse me, may I interrupt?” asked Chastity, cutting Charon off mid-speech.
“Would the defense like to speak on his own behalf?” the judge asked.
“He can’t speak on his own behalf,” said Chastity. “He’s mute. But he would like to say something.”
“Will he be communicating telepathically, then?” said the judge sarcastically.
“He told me what he wanted to say in advance.” Mr. Charon visibly deflated as Chastity spoke.
A swell of murmured exclamations were made around the courtroom. The judge glared at Chastity.
“Are you saying that Lim had foreknowledge of the results of this trial?” the judge asked, leaning in with suspicious eyes. Mr. Charon sighed as his argument collapsed around him.
“With some room for error, yes,” said Chastity. “The jury will nullify despite overwhelming evidence, be declared compromised, and the trial will be delayed until a new jury is selected, in clear violation of the double jeopardy clause.”
This provoked an uproar. Mr. Bailey was on his feet immediately, demanding a recess. Mr. Charon just fell back into his seat.
“Aeropist V. Georgia!” shouted Darlene Blake as she leapt to her feet. “Rights of the accused can be suspended where metahuman abilities would impede due process and the execution of the law.”
“Order!” barked the judge. The room quieted quickly.
Chastity spoke again. “He also told me that in fifteen minutes if you don’t intervene, Cryoclasm will go nuclear and flash-freeze the entire hospital.”
Jamisson leapt to his feet and sprinted towards the door. The courtroom guards were distracted by the sudden panic, so Jamisson was able to dodge past them easily. They probably wouldn’t have stopped him, but he didn’t want to risk the delay. Others in the courtroom were already making calls to various emergency services, though some were remaining skeptical. This was the kind of threat they couldn’t afford to ignore, Jamisson reasoned.
He whipped his phone out and shouted into it, “Call Mind! Urgent.”
Jamisson burst through the courthouse doors and glanced quickly at the street signs. Dr. Mind picked up.
“Prep Denudine, stat,” Jamisson said between breaths. “Lim said Cryo will go nuclear in fourteen minutes. I’m close.”
“On it. I’ll send it to you via drone.”
Jamisson hung up and continued sprinting down Pleasant Street.
“Sorry, emergency!” he said as he shoved through a tour group and sprinted through the nearly static traffic. A chorus of car horns followed him as he crossed 11th Street.
He took a right and ran for three blocks before he heard a buzzing sound approaching him. Not even looking, he waited until he could hear it just behind him and jumped, arm stretched upwards. He closed his fist around the Denudine injector. When he landed, he started to slip on the rain-slick sidewalk, but recovered without missing a step. The drone, which looked like nothing more than a fancy remote controlled airplane, soared off into the distance.
He turned onto Mercy Street and threw his shoulder into the door of the hospital. Inside, an alarm was wailing, and the lights were tinted red by the exit lighting.
“Sir, stop! We’re evacuating,” said the attendant at the desk, but Jamisson ignored her. He flew through the double doors into the wards and raced towards where he knew Cryoclasm’s room was.
“Room 112 B, 112 B, ” he muttered to himself as he ran down the line of rooms. “112 B.”
He stopped and shoved through the door.
Pyroclasm, out of costume, whirled as the door slammed open. Cryoclasm gave a cry of alarm from where she sat.
“Jamisson?” Pyroclasm said, confused.
Jamisson stopped, shocked by the sudden cold. The room was bitterly cold, yet neither of its occupants seemed to have even noticed. Jamisson stepped forward, then stopped again. He tugged at his shoe, trying to take another step, and it stuck. The water on his shoes had frozen to the floor. He looked back up at Pyroclasm.
“Henry, I need you to trust me,” Jamisson said.
“You know that has the opposite-” Pyroclasm started to say.
“I know, I know, but I need you to use this on your sister.” He proffered the injector. Henry recoiled away from it.
“What is it?” he asked, sensing Jamisson’s urgency but still wary.
“Denudine, and if you don’t, I will freeze to death, along with the rest of the hospital.”
“What?” exclaimed Cryoclasm. “I wouldn’t-”
“You already are,” said Jamisson. His words fogged in the air and icy water dripped off his suit as it condensed out of the cooling air. His extended arm shivered, and his other arm hugged his chest inside his suit. “Henry, please.”
Cryoclasm screwed her eyes shut and sucked in a breath, but the temperature continued to plummet. “I- I can’t-” she stuttered. She opened her eyes. “Henry, do it.”
Henry needed no more encouragement. He snatched the injector out of Jamisson’s hand and rushed to his sister’s side. He pressed the grey tube to her temple and pressed the button- it used the same delivery mechanism as Neuraplast.
“Oh no,” Jamisson groaned, eyes widening. “Oh no. She’s on Neuraplast. I was set up.”
Cryoclasm started to panic. “It didn’t work,” she said.
A flickering orange aura formed around Pyroclasm as he started using his power, and the cooling slowed, but didn’t stop. The jet injector fell to the floor, forgotten.
Jamisson found himself reaching for his pistol, then himself stopped. It had been taken before he entered the courtroom, and he was glad. He never wanted to make that call. Jamisson fumbled his phone back out of his pocket.
“Interdiction!” he shouted into it. “Mercy Memorial Hospital, Collswell.”
Jamisson cursed. “Call Blueshift, call Paragon. Call-”
The door slammed open, and the world went white.
Jamisson woke to the smell of smoke and disinfectant. His skin felt raw, too tight in some places, too loose in others. When he opened his eyes, he saw Henry standing over him, along with an unfamiliar man and a man who was very familiar. He stood a head taller than either of the others, and from this perspective, lying on a hospital bed, his narrow hips and broad shoulders seemed even more accentuated.
“Ben?” Jamisson said.
All three men let out a breath of relief.
“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that, by the way,” said the man in the center. He was the only one Jamisson didn’t recognize, but from the yellow scrubs he assumed he was a one of the hospital’s healers.
“You’re alive!” Ben, also known as Paragon when in-costume, cried.
“I am. What happened?” Jamisson asked, his voice stronger than he had expected.
“You were caught in the blast before Paragon could contain it,” Pyroclasm explained. “Dr. Mind called him, and he jumped out of his plane when he was coming into the airport and flew the rest of the way over.”
“Always making a spectacle of yourself,” Jamisson joked to Paragon.
“He stopped the room from imploding and shielded off Cryoclasm. She’s still bubbled, and you were pretty badly hurt.”
“You were,” confirmed the healer. “I deal with a lot of frostbite in the winter. I’m good with burns and frostbite, but I’ve never seen anything like that. It was mostly skin damage, and some outer muscle tissues, all stuff I could replace, so you won’t be losing anything- it happened too fast to reach any inner organs or your brain, but you were… Crisped. There wasn’t even time for blistering.”
“Your suit shattered when I tried to move you,” Pyroclasm said. “I thought you were dead.”
“You’re lucky he was there,” said the healer. “He saved your life.”
“To be fair, so did he,” Pyroclasm said, gesturing at the healer.
“Thanks. Both of you.”
“I did too,” complained Paragon with mock-offense, then grinned ear-to-ear and bent down to sweep his old friend up in a crushing hug.
“Careful.” Jamisson gasped. “I was frozen today.”