Story by James Wylder, Art by Annie Zhu
Author's Note: As of today, we are officially on Hiatus! We'll be taking a month off to get the next arc of 10kd ready to go, but because we're bad at Hiatuses, we're also still going to be having new 10kd stories every week about side characters from the Universe! You can check out the (revised) schedule below :). Happy reading! I hope you enjoy the end of this story arc... Here we go! -Jim
Oct 22nd: Alice "Songbird" MacLeod Story
Oct 29th: "Knights and Dragons" Story
Oct 31st: 10,000 Dawns Halloween Special, art by Annie Zhu
Nov 5th: The Adventures of Mister Sprinkles the Cat Sequel
Nov 12th: Jame Morrel Story
Nov 19th: (return to normal schedule) 10,000 Dawns Chapter 16
Previous chapters are also available as an audio podcast from the Southgate Media Group.
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If you're new to 10kd, you can read the story from the start for free below:
Chapter 15: The Trial of Graelyn Scythes
"You keep breathing but you don't know why.
Life's unfair and sometimes you die.
You're still breathing but you just can't tell,
don't hold your breath but
the pretty things are going to hell." -David Bowie
Graelyn fidgeted as the head of the board of Directors spoke on an and on. She couldn't stay focused, it was like the world around them was crumbling into a million puzzle pieces and she was scrambling around on the floor trying to replace them. She looked down at her hands. She frowned.
"Excuse me," Ariadne Moore interupted, "I need to step out for a moment." She had clearly just gotten some message on her phone, the head of the board indicated it was fine if she left. The meeting continued for a few more minutes, and then the waiter came in with some refreshments.
"Now if we can just turn around things in China we can--"
"Excuse me everyone," the waiter said, "I'm afraid I have some bad news." The board looked up in unison, as the man drew a gun. "Viva La Revolucion." He finished." Many on the board scampered under the table, some pressed panic buttons hidden on rings and watches. The man held firm, and after a brief explosion heard from the same floor, a stream of pro-Revolutionary forces stormed into the room.
"I will not be taken to be put on some show trial!" The head of the board screamed, as two revolutionaries grabbed her and took the suicide capsule from her mouth by force.
"Now now." A voice said, a firm voice, and then stepped forward a Songbird of Liberation.
"No one ever said you'd be getting a trial. Line them up. Get the ropes."
Graelyn didn't fight back, she just stared at her reflection in the glass. How did she get to where she was? They would never understand why she had to do what she had to do. She heard her name listed off, and realized this was the end. She hadn't done nearly enough. But as she fell, she saw herself. Young, screaming, she remembered that outfit even. She didn't have time to think about it before she fell and the rope went taught. It wasn't a quick death, and when Alice said "You're dead." a few yards above her, she was in fact wrong. Graelyn had always heard that when you die your life flashes before your eyes. It turned out to be somewhat true, cause only part of it appeared. She saw a few days, like flashes, before her breath stopped, and she just hung there like a medal.
February 18th, 2494
The conductor raised her arms, and in a sweeping motion brought the orchestra to life. It wasn't just music, it was an organism, set to live for only seven minutes and so many seconds. The strings bore the brunt of the beast's life, and they set to work in a a fervor. Graelyn Scythes closed her eyes for a moment. She could feel the gentle weight of the glasses on the bridge of her nose, and on the top of her ears. Ashlyn reached out an clutched her hand, she reciprocated the gesture, allowing a faint smirk to creep onto her.
The orchestra below was literally playing her song. Things really couldn't be better.
The audience rose to applaud the piece. Bandwagon fans, she thought.
June 4th, 2494
Ashlyn heard the lock turn in the next room, and Graelyn steppe into the bedroom rubbing her eyes. "What exactly is in that room anyways? You really don't have to worry about me spilling your secrets." Graelyn smiled at her reassuringly. "Don't worry about it. Its just very sensitive work. I don't want to show anyone tilll i know if it works or not." Ashlyn nodded. It was basically the same explanation as last time. She felt like a detail had changed from the last telling though.. Though she couln't place which one.
"Don't be so worried." Graelyn muttered, slipping under the covers. The cat walked over, and sat on the bed, so Graelyn got up and put it in its cage.
"Why did you name the cat Captain Fudgesickle?" Graelyn shrugged as she settled into bed again.
"It just seemed like the the I'm supposed to do."
"You mean as a cat owner?" There was a prolonged silence.
"...No, I, never mind." She rolled over, and was silent.
July 3rd, 2494
Graelyn watched the Mexico City facility fade from view as the VTOL began making its way to New York. This was all necessary. She knew it was necessary. If she didn't do this... Her thoughts trailed off. Why was this necessary? She tried to put her thoughts in order, but they didn't quite line up properly. Like someone had put the answer at the end of an equation and she had to work towards it no matter what. This was the answer, but the question eluded her. This was to fight Mars, right? Or the Rim pirates? She'd said as much to herself before, but there had to be a more efficiant way for this to happen. Why this way? She felt her head start to pound. As she looked in her reflection in the window, it suddenly struck her that her hair color was wrong.
June 8th, 2495
Ashlyn slipped out of bed, and picked the keys up out of Graelyn's purse. She had to know. It had been eating away at her all this time, and she had to know. It could be nothing behind that door, but if it wasn't... She didn't even know what it would be. But she still creeped towards the door, keys in hand, and taking one last look to see that Graelyn was asleep, turned the lock. She opened the door slowly, and peered in. At first there was only darkness, but then there was a movement in the shadows. She stifled a reaction, and fiddled for a switch. The lights turned on, revealing a man, his body lined in scars. He turned to her, pityingly. He didn't speak, for his mouth was sewn shut.
"Such a pity." Graelyn said, with a sigh. Ashlyn turned, and put her hand over her mouth in shock.
"Graelyn, you're awake. I just, you left the door open and..." Graelyn shook her head, and jangled the keys.
"You should have trusted me Ashlyn. So many things would have been simpler." Graelyn went over to the sink, and turned the water on. She flipped a switch so the basin would fill.
"What are you doing? Who is he?"
"A test subject. The son of a rather important figure who opposed us, actually. Now he's finally usefull to society. Johnathan, come over here." He followed her, and Ashleyn rubbed her arm nervously.
"Ashlyn, you to. I need you to see something." She followed, against her better judgement.
"Now Ashlyn, Johnathan is the ultimate solider. He follows every order. With use of an army of him we could take back Mars, take the Rim, finally have a true united humanity... But I can't... I can't shake the feeling I'm missing something. There is a larger reason I've been working on all of this. I can't place it though, like its a bug hovering around my head I can never swat or catch a glimpse of. Do you know what I'm saying."
"I... I think so."
"Good. You've been a good wife Ashlyn. Sorry about this, and I mean that, you know that? I'm not a bad person."
"Of course you're not-- I don't understand, you're not leaving me are you?" Graelyn put her arms around her.
"No no no, of course not. I'll never leave you as long as we're both breathing." Ashlyn sighed, and leaned into Graelyn's chest, but she shoved her back against Johnathan.
"Johnathan. Hold her head down in the sink till she stops breathing." Johnathan looked pained, horrified even, but he didn't hesitate for a moment. Graelyn pulled a drink out of the fridge and took a seat as the splashing and water muffled screaming grew fainter and fainter. What an unpleasant night.
"Please get rid of the body Johnathan, I don't really care how." She looked up at him.
"She did know that you can never achieve anything if you aren't willing to cut out your own heart? That you cannot advance unless you sacrifice what matters to you?" Johnathan was silent.
"It was necessary. This all was necessary. And I will be remembered as a hero."
Her feet turned gently in the breeze. After some time, her left shoe fell off.
* * * *
July 27th, 2495
She chose her clothes carefully. She'd never been particularly interested in clothes, not the way lots of people were, but she payed attention to them. Today, she chose them more carefully than usual. Manuel had given her a whole wardrobe, and she picked out a luscious hounds-tooth blue and red blazer and skirt. She had new glasses fabricated that matched the pattern, and put on a pair of black converse all-stars. Her lawyer had raised an eyebrow, but she couldn’t escape the fear she'd have to run again, and she was tired of getting caught in dress shoes. She picked out a tie and a blouse, and put her hair up in a ponytail. She looked in the mirror, and she felt like herself. Her black hair, her lean physique, her favorite clothes to wear... She was ready. Today was the day. Today she would prove something to more than just herself.
Antwon Phillipe had the cameraman run one more check, and then they began filming. Minh-Ho was still setting up, and she didn't have as good a view of the Oslo Courthouse. He flashed his winning smile and began broadcasting.
"We're here in Oslo for the trial of the century. Graelyn Scythes claims to be a different individual from the Centro director-- Wait it looks like the accused is arriving now!"
The van pulled up, an armed guard forming a human fence between the back doors of the truck, and the accused stepped out from the van, carefully helped down by a blonde revolutionary in a Beret. Instantly, the scene was mobbed. The soldiers held ranks, and Graelyn tried to hold her head high as Jame came to her side, Shona coming down from the truck to guard the other side. The cries and jeers of the crowd grew louder and louder, and soon things were being flung, most of them impacting on the stoic chests of the people in uniform.
"Just hold in there. Its only twenty meters to the door, and then you can't hear them anymore." Jame whispered to her. She nodded, and the trio began walking.
"Murderer!" She heard a woman yell.
"If they don't kill you we will!" She heard a man yell.
"You don't deserve a trial they should just shoot you where you stand!" Someone cried out. Graelyn kept her head up as Jame and Shona ushered her through the human corridor. Then a thrown object went high-- and Graelyn cried out as Shona shoved her back from a brick that slammed into the pavement in front of them with such force it shipped it and then bounced.
"Shit." Jame muttered, and pushed Graelyn forward again. She looked between her guardians with an edge of fear.
"Why are you scared Graelyn? Afraid we'll do to you what you did to us?" The crowd erupted in mocking laguhter at that, and then another object went high. Shona batted it out of the way, but it spattered all over her, coating her in some sort of red fluid. Graelyn nearly panicked before realizing it was red cream soda.
"We have to keep going." Graelyn decided, and they kept moving, as the guards were pushed in by the crowd, narrowing their passageway.
"IS THIS ANYWAY FOR A PEOPLE TO BEHAVE?" A voice boomed out, and Songbird stepped out of the courthouse like a thunderstorm. Her eyes were lightening, and her voice was the sky.
"If you want to murder her, go ahead. Do it. Lower yourself to Centro's level. Let the history books show we were no better than the people we gained our freedom from. Embarass yourself. Do it if you want to. I won't stop you." The crowd grew eerily silent. "Or you can trust that within those wall's justice will be decided. There will be a livestream. Or I suppose I fought tooth and nail since I was a child for freedom so we could commit our own attrocities with out the government's help. Is that what you want?" The crowd looked at each other, as though trying to figure out if the question was rhetorical or not, and then a chorral of untimed overlapping, "No, Songbird...."'s began. She nodded.
"Then let her through." She took one look at Graelyn's shocked face, and turned and walked back inside.
"Do we know who the jugde is yet?"Graelyn whispered, after they'd been set up at their table.
"No." Jame said angrily. "I have a feeling this trial is going to be highly unorthodox. As much as the WRC is claiming its not a show trial, they're livestreaming it. Which means it is a showtrial." Graelyn narrowed her eyes.
"So I'm performing for more than just for the Judge then."
"Yes. They don't need this to be a jury trial. They have a planetwide jury waiting. Billions of people are already tuned in right now you know, I have the app open on my phone. The audience is only going to grow one we officially start." Jame pointed over to the other table. "That's our opponant, Marissa Thomas. She was the chief Prosecutor of the African Superior Court before she defected to the revolution. She's tough."
"Have you ever won a trial against her before?" Jame shook their head.
"No, not even close. I had one trial against her years ago and she ripped me apart." Graelyn did not feel reassured. "Oh, don't look at me like that. This is different. I've got an Ace in the hole."
"You do?" Jame raised an eyebrow.
"I thought you'd figured it out by now." Jame might have said more, but a representative of the WRC stepped forward to to make an announcement. Graelyn looked behind her to see the Salazars including Manuel, Maria, and Lizette, Archimedes, Shona, and Alice were all in the audience. She was reassured to see most of them, though she had a hard time meeting alice's gaze.
"To all in attendance, and all viewing remotely: The WRC has decided on a judge for this trial. There is only one candidate we have determine is fit to decide this contest fairly."
"Wiggins? Al-?" Jame muttered to themselves.
"And so we are proud to introduce to you the Judicator, model 0001, of Talinata Systems. Justice of the Peace, and of the Revolution." The ensuing reaction was luckily filmed for posterity, as Jame and Marissa's jaws dropped in unison. As the worlds soaked in, the court exploaded in noise. Both Jame and Marissa were yelling objections, the crowd was screaming or laughing, or just sitting there confused, which was what Graelyn was doing. The representitive stood calmly, and then the side door opened for the Justice to step through, and all eyes fell on it. The Judicator was not just a justice, it was Justice. With its every step, it broadcast to the world that damn son, you'd better be fair because the Judicator would know if you weren't. Its feet stepped through up to the Judge's podium cutting through the din like noise canceling headphones. It slid into its chair, and spun aroun in it once before settling in and leaning forward.
"I'm curious." The Judicator said, "What exactly the two of you are objecting about when I'm barely even in my seat." The court was totally still, and Jame and Marissa looked almost embarrassed.
"I'm the Judicator, like this kind representative said. I've been programmed with a completely objective and lawful attitude towards all beings, and insurmountable clemency for the facts. Now if you wouldn't mind, are there any objections to me?"
Graelyn tugged at Jame's sleeve, "What is that?"
"A myth." Jame whispered. "The Judicator once convicted the entire board of Directors centuries ago. It got deactivated because it was too fair. It doesn't see the social good. It doesn't see regimes. It sees justice. It knows the entire history of world law. Centro never trusted AI's after the debacle it put them through." Graelyn looked at the machine, its rectangle eyes glowing bright blue, and couln't help but wonder if this was actually all real.
"Excuse me, your honor, but how can we trust your programming is... Not corrupted after all these centuries?"
"Fair question." The Judicator's eyes flashed, and a file popped up on the tablets of Jame and Marissa. "I have been tested by every single living member of a superior and supreme court on Earth, and I have passed every test flawlessly." They took a moment to scroll through the results, they were inarguable.
"Any more objections?"
"Your honor," Jame began, "we've only just been informed you are our Justice. Perhaps it would be prudent to postpone the trial...?" The Judicator leaned back.
"Under normal circumstances, I would. Unfortunately delaying this trial would only serve to further the prosecution's cause, not because it would give them more facts, but because it would allow public opinion to continue to sway in their direction. It would be irresponsible of me to allow further delays when people are already throwing bricks at your client." Graelyn shuffled her feet.
"Now then, you two are both ready for this trial then? Do you have opening arguments? Because please, I'm a sucker for opening arguments. Gets my gears all in a tizzy."
"Yes we do, your honor." Said both lawyers.
"Excellent. Then we'll begin with the prosecution. Miss Thomas?" Marissa stood up.
"Thank you your honor. As you're well aware, there has been much debate as to who the woman we are putting on trial is. I have no doubt the defense will argue that this is an entirely different person from the Graelyn Scythes who committed atrocities, and that we should hold her wholly uncountable for the actions of the character of the woman we know of as Graelyn Scythes, let alone that woman's action's. However, upon any careful analysis, we can determine that if these are two different women, if, then they hold remarkably similar traits. For example, a history of lies and distorting the truth to protect herself."
"Overruled, for now. Continue Miss Thomas."
"Along with this, we have the issue of participating in the Prison break of a month ago, as well as the attempted assassination of Alice MacLeod." Graelyn felt the camera on her, her skin itched. "Actions that the accused has not denied taking part in, simply denied the state's motivation for doing."
"Objection, the prosecution is leading the court with the accusation that shooting Alice MacLeod was an 'assassination'. This term requires that the state's accusation's of motive are true to be accepted as a description of the event."
"Sustained. Clerk, wipe that from the record." The Judicator looked at the cameras. "And you'd better remember, this is a court, not a game show. You're watching. But you aren't playing from home. Continue, Marissa."
"Thank you, your honor. In conclusion, over the course of this trial, we shall prove the intent of Graelyn Scythes to kill Alice MacLeod, as well as to prove that this woman is a danger to society. Thank you."
There was some applause, but the Judicator silenced it in an instant.
"Now let me hear the defense." Jame rose from their seat.
"Thank you your honor. My client has withstood an incredible amount of vitriol thrown at her for crimes she not only did not commit, but had no reason to. The prosecution is right in saying I will assert that this woman is different from the Centro Systems Director of the same name, but is incorrect in saying that this is a moot point. The character of these two women could not be more different. As the court is aware, Graelyn Scythes helped save the life of Alice MacLeod, after she accidentally discharged a firearm at her."
"Objection, now the defense is leading the court."
"Apologies. We attest that the discharge was accidental. That Graelyn helped administer life saving care to Alice is an unquestioned point, and conflicts tremendously with the idea she has a defect of character. Over this trial we will prove that Graelyn's character is of sound quality, that she holds no responsibility for the actions of the other Graelyn Scythes, and that the weapon discharge on Alice MacLeod was accidental."
There was some boring time filling, and then Marissa called her first witness.
"What are they going to open with?" Graelyn whispered.
"I'm not sure. They won't be opening with their strongest evidence though. They're going to try to tear your character down before they drop any bombshells."
"I call as my first witness, Archimees Artemis VonAhnerabe." Most people didn't understand the relevance of what was just said, after all, they didn't know who Archimedes was. But Graelyn was shocked.
"He wouldn't have volunteered for this!" Graelyn whispered loudly.
"Of course not." Jame replied. "But he'll go on the stand nonetheless." Arch indeed looked fairly confused, but was escorted to the stand. He was offered a variety of texts to take an oath on, and chose a book of Greek Mythology, which was promptly pulled up on a tablet.
"Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth by your gods?"
"I do." He replied.
"We would like the court to be aware," Marissa continued, "that the Judicator is capable of telling whether or not you are lying."
"Can it really do that?" Graelyn muttered.
"I'm not counting out anything today." Jame replied.
"Now, Archimedes, how did you meet Miss Scythes?"
"She rescued me when I fell in the ocean. Pulled me up into a big facility she was working in called Project Atlantis. I owe her my life. She reactivated me,"
"Excuse me." Marissa cut in, "But you say she reactivated you. Did she access your internal systems?"
"Yes, she did."
"Now am I correct in thinking that your memories can be electronically accessed?"
"Yes, I have an access port for data exchanges."
"Did she access that."
"Yes, though I don't see how that's relevant."
"Archimedes, how do you know she didn't access your memories?"
"She did access my memories." There was a rumbling through the court, the Judicator quieted it.
"Oh? Really. You're certain of it."
"She told me so herself to apologize for it. It was an accident?"
"An accident? To access someone's personal memories?"
"She didn't realize I was a person, she thought I was an automaton."
"Archimedes, isn't it possible that she manipulated your memories when she was inside your systems?"
"She wouldn't do that."
"But if she was inside your systems, she could have colored your perceptions of her. Erased how you really met. Doesn't it sound preposterous that she just found you at the bottom of the ocean? Doesn't it make more sense that your utterly bizarre story was a fabrication on her part? A way to get you on her side?"
"Uh, no, not to me."
"But you admit its possible?"
"Its possible, but it didn't happen."
"Could you know for certain it didn't happen?"
Jame rose up. "Objection, proving a possibility is not a fact."
"Sustained." Marissa smirked. Jame knew she'd already gotten what she needed.
"Now, Mr. VonAhnerabe, you have a very distinctive design to your exterior. Are you aware who designed it?"
"Direc-er, Mister Salazar did. But not that Mister Salazar. One from-"
"An alternate, dimension, yes. Now, part of your surrender to the Revolutionary forces in New York involved consenting to a full physical inspection, correct."
"Now, I have many accounts from scientists claiming they have seen nothing like your design outside of one other inspection they have done. Are you aware of who they might be comparing you to?"
Graelyn's eyes widened. "Jame, uh, I know what she's trying to do." Jame raised an eyebrow.
"I heard someone say that in this reality Graelyn Scythes interned with Manuel Salazar."
"Yeah , so?"
Marissa gestured for her aide to pull up a holographic display. The Hologram showed a scan of Arch's interior, as well as that of a man who Graelyn had seen before, in the apartment she'd entered. While he didn't show exterior signs of looking like Arch, the interior made it obvious, you didn't have to be a scientist to see that the new parts had been built and installed in the same manner.
"This man's name is Johnathan. Graelyn Scythes experimented on him, replacing parts of his body with enhanced mechanisms and biomodifications against his consent. The internal mechanisms appear to be of the same manufacture and design as the ones inside you, abet slightly more advanced. Now which seems more likely, that these nearly identical mechanisms were built by the same person, a person who needed your help to escape from revolutionary forces, or that this is just a co-incidence."
"We're from an alternate reality, of course there are going to be similarities."
"But how many co-incidences can there be? The surgeries performed on Johnathan were brutal and cruel. Many were performed without anesthetic, clearly the sign of an unstable and vicious person. His mouth was literally sewn shut at one point. Can you look me in the eye and tell me that this woman is not the same person?"
Arch shifted his head towards her.
"Even when she has been in your head, even when you know very well she could have altered your memories?"
"No further questions."
Jame rose up and walked to the witness box. They had planned on using Arch as a character witness, but with his reliability thrown into question, that was really out the window. Jame did their best, but there wasn't much to salvage from him, anything he said had the possibility of manipulation running under it. Jame sat down, and a note popped up on their tablet. Jame clicked it, and grunted.
"Well then. Alternating witnesses. It looks like the Judicator is well aware this is a show trial. I wonder what its playing at."
"I thought it was like, the ultimate Justice machine. It seems sort of wishy washy."
"Its playing a game with us. It wants to know something, I'm sure of it. Still, we're going to have to open strong. I'm playing this by ear at this point. We have a few minutes first." As she ended her sentence, another message popped up. Jame rubbed their brow.
"What is it?" Graelyn asked.
"Its from your old intern. She says she chatted up one of the aides to Marissa in the canteen, and managed to get him to brag that they have a tape of Alice Macleod leading her troops through the Mexico City facility. From her description... It sounds bad."
"Bad enough that if they play it you won't walk out of this building alive even if you're declared innocent."
Graelyn had lost her faith in systems at an early age. She knew that even if you were good, there was nothing that could protect you. She began to look for an escape route, but none seemed to present itself. The audience was filled with allies, the friends she had made here in her brief time in this universe. But protecting her might be their death sentence.
"I don't want to hurt anyone."
"Don't you know you can never achieve anything unless you're willing to cut out your own heart?"
It occurred to Graelyn that she had never had this many people on her side simply because they liked her. She saw her own friendship as a service, and she kept her friends by providing them with ample benefits. Her best friend in elementary school, Claudine, had been appeased by many phone calls and chats where Graelyn had taken advantage of her ability to multi task and taken notes on important points in the conversation while doing her homework. She would formulate calculated replies based on the trajectory of the conversation and say them. Claudine had considered her a very good friend before she'd moved away to St. Petersberg. But if she looked up, she could see Lizette waving down at her. Shona in her Red Pop stained uniform. She could see Manuel, Sarah, Arch... Hell even Alice who she'd shot. All of them were willing to defend her. Why? She had only caused them problems. She hadn't any of them but Manuel any sort of tangible benefit, or if she had it was nothing anyone else couldn't have given them. Why? Suddenly, one of the eye-lights on the Juicator turned off, and turned on again... "Did it just wink at me?" She thought.
Jame rose up, "Your honor, I call Alice MacLeod to the stand."
There was a huge rumbling, not just in the court room, but across the world. People put down what they were doing, and friends texted each other to tell them to open up the feed. Alice walked to the stand, and sat down. "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the true, by your gods?"
"I do." Jame approached the box.
"Now, Alice, explain your relationship to Graelyn Scythes."
"Which one?" The rumbling grew up again, and the Judicator quieted it.
"Explain your statement."
"Well, as the record shows, I executed Graelyn Scythes. Her body was tested, and it was definitely her. The corpse showed no sign of memory transfer, or being a duplicate. There is footage of the execution available on the record if you wish to play it?"
"Yes, I would." Jame replied. The footage played on the same Holoprojector that had previously shown Arch and Johnathan. It showed the whole chain of events, the revolutionaries bursting in, the Directors getting lined up and kicked out the windows with nooses around their necks... And a younger Graelyn running into the room confused. The confusion and horror on her face was monumental.
"The second Graelyn we encountered clearly had no idea what was going on. At first I assumed she was a duplicate."
"But you don't think that now?"
"No, after several conversations with her, I have come to believe this second Graelyn is exactly what she says she is: a girl from another dimension." There was an uproar. If you want to imagine it, imagine you heard the person you respect the most going on an international broadcast, and declaring that ducks were actually aliens from Pluto.
"She can't be serious." A man in Liverpool muttered.
"She's lost it just like they said." A woman in Nairobi said.
The Judicator even had trouble calming the court room down.
"I know it sounds ridiculous-"
"But its actually a totally reasonable suggestion." Said a new voice, loudly. Eyes turned around, and they focused on the back of the court room where two figures had appeared, both wearing hoodies with a pattern of a sun turning into a moon going down the hood and the spine. One wore shorts, the other a black blazer. One was a white man, the other a Latino woman. They were both wearing sunglasses, indoors. You couldn't escape the perception that they were really full of themelves right now.
"Hello there," the man said, "Sorry to interrupt the proceedings but we have some pretty important new information we thought you guys should hear."
"Security!" A memeber of the Revolutionary Council yelled, and the man just gave a lighthearted dismissive wave.
"Aw shucks, we're not worth that much attention."
"But we do need your attention." The woman added.
"Oh yeah, definitely."
"Also we've made sure your security isn't really an issue for us right now." They couldn't have all been there before, but they were there, so they must have been there the whole time, but there were dozens of people in identical hoodies (with otherwise totally inconsistant dress) scattered throughout the room. Guards found themselves with people peering down their neck, their hands not quite at their weapons.
"Glad to see you made it." The Judicator said.
"You knew about this?" The WRC member yelled, who appeared to be Alice's Uncle.
"I didn't know about this, I guessed it." The Judicator said, "There was too much evidence of interuniversal interferance for there to not be some group involved in this.
"Precisely!" The man said.
"My name is Miranda Vice."
"And I'm John Vice."
"And we're here to demand the extradition of Graelyn Scythes and Archimedes VonAhnerabe into our custody." Ian Macleod approached the pair of them cautiously, edging past the other people in the row to the aisle.
"Extradition to where exactly?"
"Another dimension. Our headquarters."
"Graelyn Scythes is on trial for crimes against Earth!" He yelled.
"Crimes for which the primary charge is that she is in fact, not from an alternate dimension." The Judicator said. Ian grimaced.
"I demand proof that you are who you say you are. We can't just believe you're really some... Preposterous group from another dimension. You're terrorists supporting Centro trying to dertail this trial." John sighed and looked at Miranda, who shrugged, and pulled out a black box with a red button that she pushed. Without delay, a swirling blue portal appeared in the center of the Aisle, and in its swirls you could see infinite possibiliites. You could see yourself, and friends you'd never had. You could see lost cats and holes you'd never get out of. There was everything thin those swirls. From that portal stepped a woman that Alice had seen before in a dream, a blonde woman with the side of her head shaved and the rest of her hair pulled to the other side. She was lean and muscular, tall and so flat chested it was easy to suspect she was wearing a binder. She was wearing the hoodie, but over it a distinctive brown jacket with a bold sun on the back. Behind her were a coterie of other coloful characters, a white woman in a poodle skirt and turtle neck with a katana on her back, a Potawatame man with powerful mechanical arms and a scar across his nose and under both his eyes, a pair of identical Mongolian twins who had glowing crystal slabs in their hands they seemed to be inspecting, a black man whose movements seemed too fast, as though he were on fastforward, and a very bored Indian woman who looked like she was just there cause the woman in the front had asked her to.
The woman in the front advanced. Her eyes looked forward like lances.
"I'm Kinan Jans. I'm the leader of Dawn, the organisation that these operatives are a part of. I demand an immediate stay of this trial and to meet with your World Revolutionary Council at the shortest possible notice." Ian's eyes were golf balls.
"As a representitive of the WRC, I welcome you to Earth, Kinan Jans." Alice MacLeod said, vaulting over the box.
"I think this trial is officially on hiatus." The Judicator said, smugly. It pounded it's gavel. Graelyn rose. Was this really happening.
"Graelyn." Kinan said to her, "It is my intention to extradite you from this plane of reality immediately after negotiations are complete. I suggest you send someone to get your things." Graelyn nodded dumbly.
Kinan and her troupe were led into another room, as the two Vice's made snapping finger pointing motions at Graelyn. This was ridiculous. They couldn't just end the trial could they?
Her heart pounded. She'd expected to die. But the pieces began to fall into place. The box with the sun on it from the woman Alice had met. The people she'd seen with Hoodies. The man in the dark robe who'd tried to stop Director Aril from making the portal to begin with. This wasn't an isolated incident. This was part of something larger, wasn't it? They were going to a lot of effort to find her, they had sent people to her multiple times.
This wasn't the end. This was just the start of something new. But how strange was it to leave her own fate to people in another room? For a moment she'd felt like a protagonist, like even if she died things were about her. But she hadn't been in control here at all, it was all out of her hands, and a peaceful sense of unimportance washed over her. She was small in the end after all. She could be forgotten at the bottom of the ocean again perhaps. She just had to get out of here. With a gesture, Alice called her and Arch into the room with the delegations.
The WRC and the representatives from Dawn took a few hours to discuss her fate. "May I remind you," Kinan said, "That we provided you with the Alistair Artificial Intelligence that allowed this revolution to succeed. Let me guarantee you that failing to meet our terms would cause immediate hostilities from my organization. We built your revolution, we can just as easily burn it down."
"We aren't partial to threats." Council leader Pauline Lamarque noted.
"We aren't partial to people threatening to execute our friends." Kinan said.
"You have met Graelyn before?"
"Yes, but she hasn't met us. Its complicated, naturally." Kinan crossed her arms and leaned back in her chair.
"You met me before?" Graelyn said.
"I didn't, the Vice family did." Kinan replied, "But I suppose you'll do that all in time as long as we save your life."
"I don't entirely understand," Arch broke in, "If you can travel between alternate realities... Why do you care about saving both of us at all?" Kinan bobbed her head back and forth lightly.
"Good question. This wasn't the first reality you appeared in, correct?"
"No, we traveled through several other ones first, briefly."
"What about a reality where you walked through a room full of corpses on a space-station?" Graelyn nodded. "That was reality."
"Excuse me?" Graelyn said.
"Could I explain?" Miranda asked. Kinan nodded.
"Look, there are tons of alternate realities, an infinite number, but travel between them was impossible. But not that long ago, something happened and it bound around ten-thousand realities to one other one. Or maybe we were all created in that moment, it doesn't matter. That central reality is feeding of us, and is slaving us to it in the process This little bubble of alternate realities is dying, and so is the reality that is feeding off of us. We need you to go back to that reality." Graelyn looked around at the representatives from Dawn. They all looked so serious. The World Revolutionary Council looked astounded.
"Can you take Arch and I home?"
"Yes. If you do what we ask of you." Kinan answered.
"Go to... This alternate reality that is apparently not alternate and is in fact our parent or something and do what exactly?"
"What we ask you to."
"And why can't you go there yourselves?" Alice cut in.
"Because," Kinan answered, "We can't get into that Prime Universe. We've been trying. We only have one agent in that universe, and we haven't been able to get her to interact with the universe outside of its present." The woman with the poodle skirt waved. It suddenly hit Graelyn that she had seen her on the deck of that spacestation as she'd fallen through the portal.
"Oh." Graelyn said simply.
"We are of course willing to trade some good to your government in exchange for their release to us."
Lamarque pursed her lips. "I appreciate that. Though I'd appreciate it more if I thought we had any choice in the matter."
"Your appreciation isn't necessary." Kinan answered.
The Salazars had gotten all of Graleyn and Arch's few possessions together, as well as packed them a few travel supplies. Graelyn met them in the lobby of the courthouse, where a cadre of revolutionary guards were staring off a bunch of hoodied Dawn members.
"I packed you a sandwich." Lizette told her. "I hope you like it."
Graelyn smiled as she squatted down to hug her. "I'm sure I'll love it." Lizette squeezed her hard.
"Keep practicing the piano. I hope to see you again soon."
"Me to." Lizette said, and held the hug for a few more moments before letting go.
Shona came forward next, "You guys take care of yourselves. Try not to get put in jail again." Arch and Graelyn chuckled, and hugged her to.
"Try not to get hit by any more cups of soda."
Manuel approached when they'd cut their embrace. "You two brought us all a new future here you know."
"No, we didn't do anything that important." Graelyn said.
"Of course we did, you were amazing." Arch said.
"He's right you know. I'm alive because of you. Nojpeten is alive and vibrant, my children and grandchildren will live without the hate of seeing their grandfather hanging from a noose, and Sarah is with us now to. You're part of our family now to, whenever you're here."
"What?" Graelyn said, looking around confused, "You can't really mean that."
"Of course I mean that."
"Thank you." Arch and Graelyn each said, and he shook their hands. Finally, Alice came up.
"Hey." She said.
"Hey. Graelyn replied, then after a pause, "I'm so sorry." Alice gave her a faint smile, and leaned in. Graelyn flinched for a moment, and Alice stopped. "Is it okay if I give you a hug to?" Graelyn nodded, and Alice wrapped her arms around her.
"You didn't just save Manuel. You saved me." She whispered in her ear.
"I shot you. I didn't save you at all."
"Yes you did. You didn't mean to shoot me... You didn't, I know that. And I was about to kill someone for the wrong reasons. I might have crossed a line I couldn't go back from... Can you understand that?"
"Yes." She whispered back.
"You'll always be welcome here. Maybe public opinion will be a bit confused for a time, but you'll be welcome with me."
"Have you taken good care of the cat?"
"I have, and I will."
"Good." They broke the embrace.
"I..." Graelyn looked around at the people, all these people who believed in her, who wanted her here. She couldn't find the words. She didn't know what to say. They were smiling at her.
"Thank you." She settled on that.
"Sorry again about shooting you with a missile." Alice said to Arch.
"Oh, no problem," he said. "I was fine." They laughed, and as they did, a stern looking Kinan walked towards them followed by the Vice family.
"Its time to go. Are you ready?" Graelyn looked at Arch, and they nodded to each other.
"We're ready." Arch said.
"Then follow me."
"Wait-" Alice said "I... I'd like to come to." Graelyn hadn't seen that coming.
"Not this time." Kinan replied, "You're needed here whether you see it or not. Come Graelyn, Arch, you're free now. Its time for you to see wonders."
Graelyn followed her out the doors of the courthouse, where revolutionary guards and Dawn members lined the road. A huge crowd swarmed around them.
"How are we leaving?" Arch asked. Kinan looked back, and there was a sparkle in her eye as she gave a snap of her fingers, and a swirling blue portal seemed to rise out of dust on the ground.
Graelyn didn't hesitate. She ran. She pulled the hair tie out of her hair and began to move. The wind moved through her hair, and blew it around. The crowd's mouth's moved, but she didn’t hear them. She was free. She was out of this. And she ran, the smile growing on her face, her legs like sunshine. There was something amazing on the other side of that portal, and her heart beat in her chest. She hadn't needed to flee. She hadn't needed to die. She hadn't needed to jump. She hadn't needed to fight. She needed to live. She needed to smile. The crowd's opinion was irreverent. They were her orchestra as her feet passed her through the blue swirls, followed quickly by the tramp of Arch's metal toes, and she stepped into a place where her heart beat might be hers alone, and the skies were not the color of sacrifices. She ran and ran, and for the first time, there wasn't a trace of fear.
For the first time, she forgave herself for her own mistakes.
And oh, did she run.
"Run fast for your mother run fast for your father
Run for your children for your sisters and brothers
Leave all your love and your longing behind you
Can't carry it with you if you want to survive
The dog days are over
The dog days are done
Can't you hear the horses
'Cause here they come" -"The Dog Days are Over" by Florence and the Machine
Next week: How is Alice doing now that she has her Universe to herself? Find out as Alice gets her own spin off story!
Poet, Playwright, Game Designer, Writer, Freelancer for hire.