The Trial Of Odessa Price


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Scene Title The Trial of Odessa Price
Synopsis Every choice she has ever made comes back to haunt her in a battle for her very life.
Date March 25th — March 30th

A slate gray sky welcomes the end of Odessa Price’s life.

It is raining on the morning of March 28th when she arrives in Albany at dawn. She has been up for seven hours already, roused from her cell at Liberty Island to meet with her attorney for one final round of discussions before being shipped off to Floyd Bennet airfield and flown in to Albany. When she touched down, it was 5:15 in the morning.

The only attorney willing to represent Odessa, Bryant Kotch, has been with her since she left Liberty Island. Bryant is a creaking old man, tall and dour, deep voiced but also grandfatherly. He is an attorney well past the end of his career, but one who knows the Harrison family and one who has taken on this case out of charity. But Bryant Kotch is an honest man, and he has brought Odessa in to this trial with one truth hanging over both of their heads since their first meeting:

This will never be about your innocence.

This trial is for your life.

Albany Supreme Court

Albany, New York

March 25th, 2019

6:00 am

The courthouse of the Albany Supreme Court is one ingrained in modern American memory. It was on this stand that Robert Bishop was sentenced to death by lethal injection for his role in leading the Company. It was on this stand where Eve Mas was forcibly removed from the court while brandishing a painting of a white horse. Odessa Price never saw any of the televised Albany Trials, but given the givens perhaps that’s for the best.

The courthouse is full today, a row of United Nations observers sit behind the prosecution’s bench where a tall and severe-looking woman from the International Criminal Court studiously checks handwritten notes. As Odessa is led through the courtroom, mercifully in neither a jumpsuit nor cuffs, she is sat down at the bench of the defense alongside her attorney. It feels like forever as she waits, the murmurations of the crowd drowned out by the sound of her blood rushing in her ears.

“…orable Judge William Autumn, presiding.” Odessa barely hears the tail-end of what the bailiff was saying before she’s urged to stand by her attorney, and in strolls the equally dour countenance of Daniel Autumn enters, son of the late General Sebastian Autumn. Judge Autumn slowly takes his seat and the courtroom slowly settles in for what will be a day long deliberation on the fate of a woman who always assumed she’d die from a knife to the back.

“Good morning,” Judge Autumn begins. “This morning we will hear the plea of Odessa Price, charged with crimes against humanity and the perpetration of war crimes during the Second American civil war.” Judge autumn motions to the prosecution. “Ms. Price, we will begin with a listing of the charges levelled against you, and after each you will state whether you are pleading guilty or not-guilty. Do you understand the charges that have been leveled against you?”

To which Odessa simply replies, “Yes.”

As simple as that, the conversation for Odessa’s life starts.

“Ms. Odessa Price,” Judge Autumn says with all the gravity he can muster, “on the charges of conspiracy to commit murder, how do you plead?”

And just like that, the fight for her life begins. Odessa is terrified. From where she's standing, she chances a look to her attorney out of the corner of her too-wide eyes before looking squarely back at the judge as she enters her first plea:

"Guilty, your honor."

“On the charges of willful extermination of SLC-Expressive individuals, how do you plead?”


“On the charges of willful enslavement of SLC-Expressive individuals, how do you plead?”


“On the charges of forcible transportation of SLC-Expressive individuals, how do you plead?”


“On the charges of willful and unlawful imprisonment of SLC-Expressive individuals, how do you plead?”


“On the charges of persecution of SLC-Expressive individuals, how do you plead?”


“On the charges of willful enforced disappearance of persons, how do you plead?”

There’s a moment of hesitation where Odessa closes her eyes and presses her lips together, inhaling a deep breath through her nose. “Guilty.”

“On the charges of intention to commit genocide, how do you plead?”

Not guilty,” is as emphatic a plea as she’s given so far.

“On the charges of willful killing in violation of Article 8 of the Geneva Convention, how do you plead?”


“On the charges of torture in violation of Article 8 of the Geneva Convention, how do you plead?”


“On the charges of willfully causing great suffering in violation of Article 8 of the Geneva Convention, how do you plead?”


“On the charges of murder in violation of Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, how do you plead?”


“Your pleas have been recognized by the court,” Judge Autumn indicates, followed by a look between the prosecution and defense. “With the not guilty plea being made on the charge of intention to commit genocide, we will move forward with the trial phase. We will reconvene tomorrow.”

Odessa heaves a quiet sigh of relief. At least this much is over.

Albany Supreme Court

Albany, New York

March 26th, 2019

6:17 am

There is no rain on the first full day of the trial, and Judge Autumn sits square-postured in his seat. The warm light of the courthouse contrasts with the stark and gray light of the overcast skies spilling in through the courthouse windows, casting Odessa in contrasting shades.

The morning had been something of a blur, and it’s only when prosecution pushes out her chair and it makes a scuffing noise on the floor that Odessa is roused from her disassociation. Opening remarks, she belatedly recalls being told.

Jan Rundell slowly rises from her seat and clears her throat. “The accused, Odessa Price, would have you believe that she is a victim. Which, by definition, she is. Odessa Price was raised from childhood as a captive of the Company and liberated herself as an adult. Following her liberation, Ms. Price conspired with the Vanguard terrorist organization to develop a weaponized virus that could have wiped out 98% of all life on earth. That sentence doesn’t conclude the list of crimes Ms. Price is accused of, but it is the sole crime for which her guilt has been called into question.”

“There are sixteen classified crimes against humanity,” Jan continues. “Ms. Price is charged with and plead guilty to eight of them, leading up to but not including her actions with Humanis First during the Second American Civil War.” Reaching into her pocket, Jan withdraws a scrap of paper and begins reciting those crimes. “Murder,” she raises a finger, “Extermination, enslavement, forcible transfer of population, imprisonment, torture, persecution, enforced disappearance of persons.” Slowly, Jan holds up the handwritten list.

“Ms. Price’s defense will attempt to persuade you that she is a victim of circumstance. But this emotional appeal disregards the fact that Odessa Price is an adult capable of making her own decisions and understands the consequences for her actions.” Jan looks over briefly to the defense, then lowers the list. “Others have hung for less.”

With her powerful statement made, Mr. Kotch rests a hand on Odessa’s shoulder and slowly rises to offer his opening statement. As he approaches the floor, his movements are slow and deliberate, each expenditure of energy carefully chosen. “The ICC prosecutor is correct,” Kotch says softly, “others have hung for less. But I assert that no children have faced such punishment. Over the course of this trial I intend to bring to light Ms. Price’s stunted emotional and psychological development, brought about by her upbringing with the Company. I do not attest that Ms. Price is incapable of understanding the consequences of her actions, but that rather her warped upbringing has irrevocably damaged her ability to discern what is right and what is wrong.”

Kotch motions to Odessa. “We have a woman raised in captivity, made to endure hellish situations against her will in a world she neither had the life experience to understand, nor the emotional maturity to manage. I am not here to find whether or not she is guilty or innocent of the crimes she is accused of… I am here to defend the life of a woman who has not yet been allowed to know what life is.”

As Kotch moves to sit back down beside Odessa, he pulls out a yellow legal pad and makes a small note, while Judge Autumn adjusts his glasses and looks across the court. “Prosecution, you have first witness.”

Jan sets down her documents, then looks up to the judge and rises from her seat. “The International Criminal Court calls Doctor Mohinder Suresh to the stand.”

Albany Supreme Court

Albany, New York

March 26th, 2019

6:17 am


“It was… January 2nd, 2010.”

The man sitting on the stand is a shadow of the scientist Odessa Price once knew. Mohinder Suresh is sunken-eyed and rail thin where he sits, a specter of the brilliance that presided over the near-genocide of the entire SLC-Expressive population of America. The only thing that saved Mohinder from a lethal injection was the debate over his free will during the worst of his crimes, and the lethal irony that he has Sylar to thank for his life may have contributed to his current condition.

“I knew her then as Odessa Knutson,” Mohinder explains, “she came to me at a coffee shop in Manhattan, panicked and in distress. She’d told me she slipped away from her handlers, run into someone who knew where Adam Monroe was — he had just escaped Company holding a few months prior — and she… she said she needed my help.”

“Did you help her, Doctor Suresh?”

“I did,” Mohinder says with his eyes averted to his lap. “I followed her to a rendezvous spot just a few blocks away, where I was apprehended by Sylar.” A tension comes over the crowd when the name of one of the most notorious and reviled villains of modern history is said aloud.

Jan steps closer to the bench. “You stated in sworn testimony at your hearing in the first convening of the Albany Trials that you were an unwilling participant in the machinations of Kazimir Volken. Was this the moment you were brought into his fold?”

“Yes,” Mohinder says with a quiet, broken tone.

“Why do you believe Odessa helped Sylar?” Jan asks, one brow raised.

“She told me,” Mohinder says with a slow shake of his head. “She said as much, right where we were standing. She just wanted a little freedom,” comes with a shake of his head. “For her freedom, she handed me to the man who murdered my father. For her freedom she traded mine like I was— like I was property.”

“What was the nature of Odessa’s status with the Vanguard. Were you both detained as prisoners?”

“No,” Mohinder emphatically states. “I was held captive, while Odessa was free. She would apologize to me for— for my predicament. She would apologize for how things were, but then she would leave with Sylar while I was left to ponder my allegiance. At the time I pitied her, I— I felt for her.”

“Do you still?” Jan asks quietly.


Odessa’s shoulders sag. She would give anything right now to have her ability. To be able to stop time and grieve for the loss of this human connection she once possessed. Instead, she’s on full display when her shoulders sag and she sobs silently into her hands.

Albany Supreme Court

Albany, New York

March 26th, 2019

6:44 am

“Mr. Suresh, what was your plea for the charges of… attempted genocide, at the first convening of the Albany trials?”

Odessa’s defense attorney leans against the stand, his other hand on his cane. Mohinder, slouching back into his seat quietly responds, “Not guilty.”

“Not guilty,” Kotch repeats. “Not guilty, because you were being mentally impaired by a potential telepathic ability, according to your statement. I have here, your testimony from your trial. Could you read this highlighted portion to me? I’ve provided a copy for both Judge Autumn and Ms. Rundell.” Kotch hands the document over.

Mohinder slides the paper over with his fingertips, as if wary of his own words. Taking his glasses out of his front pocket, he slides them on and brings the paper up closer to his face. “My own assessment,” Mohinder begins quoting himself, “is that I was impacted by a form of telepathic gaslighting, explaining the redacted medical assessments as shown by Doctors Conners and Filbatch. The results of that report indicate that I was under an unnatural level of psychological stress.”

Having composed herself again after being overwhelmed by her despair, Odessa dabs at her eyes with a handkerchief and watches Mohinder read back his own testimony with a blank expression.

“An unnatural level of psychological stress,” Kotch says with a nod. “Thank you Doctor Suresh.” Leaning away from the stand, Kotch begins making his way across the floor. “Now, you studied Sylar for years, yes? Following your father’s death, during the time he spent as captive of the Company?”

“That is correct,” Mohinder says with a moment of hesitation.

“In your opinion as both a medical expert and an expert in the field of SLC-Expressives, what was the classification of Gabriel Gray’s ability?”

Kotch’s question has Mohinder’s brows furrowing. “Intuitive Aptitude, a subclassification under the umbrella of a mosaic.”

“And could you define for the court what a mosaic is?”

“A human who possesses more than one SLC-Expressive ability,” is Mohinder’s quick answer.

“So in your sworn testimony at the Albany trials, you assert that Sylar — while operating under the guise of President Nathan Petrelli, possessed an ability capable of subconsciously manipulating the minds of those around him.” Kotch raises one brow.

“Yes, but Sylar nev— ”

Thank you, Doctor Suresh.” Kotch quickly tramples over what he was about to say. “Do you believe it is plausible that Sylar possessed this ability during the time in which you were held captive by the Vanguard and Odessa Price was working with their members?”

“He never exhibited any signs of having such an ability,” Mohinder loudly asserts, but Kotch circles back.

“Is it possible you didn’t recognize them at the time? Is it plausible that he may have already possessed that ability, Doctor Suresh?” Kotch’s brows raise.

“He— ”

Answer the question, Doctor Suresh.

Mohinder slouches down and scrubs a hand up over his mouth, lifting his glasses off of the bridge of his nose to scrub forefingers and thumb over his eyes. “Yes.”

“Thank you Doctor Suresh.”

The handkerchief is crumpled up in Odessa’s hand beneath the table. Nails bite into her palm to keep herself from expressing her satisfaction.

Albany Supreme Court

Albany, New York

March 27th, 2019

8:08 am


Shuffling feet, murmurations of dozens of different voices, and the squeak of chairs on tile signal the return of witnesses and guests of the court to the criminal proceedings. Just as the room is settled in, Judge Autumn returns to the stand and all once more rise. He is quick to gavel in and allow the courthouse to return to their seated position.

“Mr. Kotch, your witness.” Judge Autumn indicates with a motion to Odessa’s defense counsel. Kotch rises from his seat and sets down his notepad, briefly resting one hand on Odessa’s shoulder before moving ahead of his table.

“I would like to call Jacelyn Childs to the stand.” Kotch’s call has the ICC prosecutor shuffling through her paperwork, looking down to the witness list. Kotch had only filed Jacelyn in days before the trial, and it would seem the prosecution hadn’t been prepared for her to actually take the stand.

“Judge— Judge Autumn,” Jan stands from her seat and approaches the bench hastily. “I object to this witness on the grounds of competency. Jacelyn Childs is a minor with you personal or professional experience pertaining to this case.”

Judge Autumn turns to Kotch with a brow raised, and Kotch approaches the bench. “Ms. Childs is a character witness, not an expert. Her experiences with Ms. Price are only indicative of her current experiences following the conclusion of the war and provide an unbiased opinion of her character.”

“Your Honor,” Jan says sharply, “with respect to Miss Childs she is a young woman without the life experience necessary to— ”

“Ms. Childs is also an intern with SESA and was offered this select honor among three SLC-Expressive youths for her strong investigative skills and intelligence.” Kotch interjects. Judge Autumn spreads his hands and shakes his head at Jan.

“I’m allowing defense to call their witness, Ms. Rundell. Prosecution will just have to determine how best to cross-examine.” With that, Judge Autumn nods to Kotch. “Your witness, counsel.”

As Jac is brought in to the courtroom, settled on the stand and sworn in for the first time in her life, she is face to face with a crowd of both strangers and familiar faces. Face to face with the American legal system, with United Nations observers, with media, with the world. The elderly attorney standing in front of her, she knows, is Odessa’s defense counsel, and Kotch seems more like someone’s grandfather than a lawyer.

“Ms. Childs,” Kotch addresses her with a gentle smile, “could you tell the court how you came to know Ms. Price?”

Seated on the edge of her chair, Jac’s attention moves from the bailiff to Mr. Kotch once she’s all sworn. It stays there for barely a second, flicking to Odessa and then those sitting in the audience. She even chances a look up at the judge, blue eyes wide with curiosity and also a little overwhelmed. But determined, too, the importance of today isn’t lost on her.

When the lawyer speaks, her focus fixes on him again and she leans forward so she can speak into the microphone. “She…” Her eyes dart down to the mic when her own voice echoes back through the amplifiers.

“She helped me after the boat captain got me out of the Hudson River,” Jac resumes after a second. She looks up at Kotch, deciding it’s easier to talk to him than to everyone. It doesn’t stop her from sneaking a look to the audience now and again, but she pushes on anyway. “When I got kidnapped by a trafficker. She sewed up where his knife cut me. She kept me safe and took me home.”

There's some shuffling on Jan’s side of the courtroom, flipping through pages of depositions. But Kotch keeps the proceedings moving quickly. “To reiterate for the court, last year you were abducted by human traffickers within the Safe Zone and following your escape, Ms Price tended to your injuries?” Kotch nods, the question a rhetorical one. “How would you describe the quality of care that Ms. Price afforded you? Was she paid to tend to your injuries? Was she asked to?”

Blue eyes flick to the prosecution side, attracted by the movement, and the young teen shifts in her chair before turning her full attention to Mr. Kotch again. The question doesn’t require an answer, but Jac’s head nods all the same to confirm what she said. “She was very nice,” she answers, leaning forward again to talk into the microphone. “She promised to keep me safe. And it didn’t hurt when she did the stitches but it did later like she said it would. She wasn’t paid or told to help me. Just… she was told I was hurt. And she helped me.”

“Thank you,” Kotch says with a hand pressed to the stand. “I think you’ve answered enough, Ms. Childs. You’re very brave to have come up here.”

Judge Autumn motions over to the prosecution at her table, conferring with other members of the ICC. “Ms. Rundell, your witness.” Jan looks up at the question, her brows furrowed, making eye contact for a long period of awkward silence. Then, looking down to the tabletop she just shakes her head.

“Prosecution will not be cross-examining.”

And like that, it’s over.

Albany Supreme Court

Albany, New York

March 28th, 2019

7:12 am


“Let’s change gears for a moment, Mrs. Ruiz.”

Jan looks down to her notes, folding a piece of paper back to look at something scrawled beneath, then turns her attention back up to the woman on the stand. “As a former member of the Ferrymen you directly faced opposition from groups like Humanis First, which Ms. Price was a member of. Are you familiar with the specifics of the crimes she is accused of?”

"I think we're all familiar with the specifics of the crimes she's accused of," Lynette says dryly. The article in the paper was hard to miss after all. "As a former member of the Ferrymen leadership, I have the privilege of having seen first hand how people can change for the better. And how the desire to turn over a new leaf can lead to some of the bravest and most generous people I have known." She lifts her chin, speaking with the authority of her experience and both her former and current positions. "I'm not here to argue the degree of Ms. Price's innocence or guilt, only that I know she regrets the choices she made and wants to do better. She can be better if we give her that chance. If we help her. Rehabilitation is something my facility and the American justice system are supposed to have in common."

Jan nods, hands folded behind her back. “The Benchmark Center offers rehabilitation services,” she notes, “and you have a very impressive list of counselors on call there. In your professional experience, have you ever had to oversee the rehabilitation of someone with Ms. Price’s level of disregard for human life?”

Objection,” Kotch rises from his seat, motioning to Judge Autumn, “Speculation, there is no clinical determination that Ms. Price disregards human life.”

Judge Autumn nods to Kotch, “Sustained. Ms. Rundell, please rephrase your question.”

Jen manages a painted smile, then looks back to Lynette. “Mrs. Ruiz, in your professional experience, have you ever had to oversee the rehabilitation of someone with Ms. Price’s record of crimes?”

Lynette lifts an eyebrow at the first question, letting out a gentle sigh. Disappointed, perhaps. But when it gets reworded, she tips her head to the side. "I'm afraid I can't answer that question. I don't oversee anyone's care; I'm not a mental health professional. I'm purely administration. And for the fact that we aren't a criminal justice facility, either. If given the chance to help someone in Ms. Price's position, we would certainly try to help." She spreads her hands, because Odessa's care is out of her hands at present. "I'm not here to speak about the success rate of the Benchmark Center, though. I'm here to speak about my belief that Odessa Price both wants to change and that she can. She's proven that herself, with her willingness to come out of hiding in order to help with a recent SESA operation. By doing so, she helped save many lives. The very thing you imply she has a disregard for."

“For the record, Ms. Price only needed to come out of hiding because she was actively attempting to avoid punishment for her actions.” Jan indicates with a rise of one brow. “But, as you said, you’re here to talk about your belief that Ms. Price can change.” Jan begins walking the floor in front of the stand. “Are you a firm believer in redemptive processes, Mrs. Ruiz?”

"And yet, she could have well and truly avoided it if she hadn't come forward." Lynette lifts a shoulder, as if she were merely in an academic discussion and not testifying. "I am a firm believer that we should give redemption a try before locking someone up and throwing away the key. As I said, I'm not going to argue that she did nothing wrong or should get off entirely. Only that we do what we say we do and let her rehabilitate. I did my own research, you see, into Ms, Price's past. I think we all know she was one of the children Robert Bishop was tried over. I don't think anyone has tried to help her in her whole life until quite recently. Maybe things would have gone better if they had."

“I will instruct you to answer only the questions asked, Mrs. Ruiz, and not include further embellishments.” Jan walks over to her desk, picking up a folder from within, then holds it up. “I would like to present item D into evidence,” and as she says that, Kotch and the Judge flip through copies. “SESA’s unsealed crime scene photographs from the Benchmark center related to the investigations of one Samson Gray.”

The file is laid down on the bench in front of Lynette, opened, and images of two dormitories shown. “You indicate that you are a firm believer in giving people a chance at redemption, and I believe you. These images are from two residences at the Benchmark Center, one occupied by SLC-Expressive serial killer and the father of Gabriel Gray, Samson Gray while operating under an alias. The other, a Benchmark resident who was murdered by Gray during his stay at your facility.”

Jan looks down at the images, then back up to Lynette. “Unlike Ms. Price, Mr. Gray is still at large. Do you believe that Samson Gray is capable of redemption?”

Objection,” Kotch insists, “relevance? What does the innocence of a different man have to do with my client?”

“Your Honor,” Jan looks to Judge Autumn, “I’m trying to establish character with Mrs. Ruiz.”

“I’m sorry, counselor. I’m going to side with the defense on this. Objection sustained,” Judge Autumn says, looking to Lynette. “You do not need to answer that question,” and then to the stenographer, “please have that removed.”

Breathing in deeply, Jan paces away and slaps the file down on her table, takes a moment, and then looks back to Lynette. “I have… one last question.” Jan’s expression is tense, struggling. “During the Second American Civil War, did you fight with a unit named the OIympians?”

"I would like to say one thing," Lynette says with a nod to the judge, "In general, when someone struggles with addiction in the way that many of our clients do, it is a lifelong struggle. Clean or not, that addiction lingers. Treatment is life long. And if someone isn't honest and upfront about that addiction, their path is going to be even rockier. I believe everyone who has come into my center is genuine about wanting to get better. If a criminal needed rehabilitation and was honest about why they needed it, one would assume the authorities would have adequate protections in place for and because of those individuals." She shakes her head, speaking of Samson Grey without speaking of him is the sort of verbal gymnastics she hasn't engaged in in some time. "Odessa Price, as you say, is not at large. So honesty in her recovery won't be an issue."

She blinks, though, when her war record is brought up. She sits up a little straighter, squaring her shoulders. "I fought with a lot of people in the war."

“Did you fight with a group called the Olympians?” Jan asks again, stalking back toward the bench.

"I think we all know I did," Lynette says, pushing hair back from her face. "Why don't you ask me what you want to ask me instead of things you already know the answer to."

“For the record,” Jan says with regards to asking questions she already knows the answer to. “I know how hard this must be for you. Your final operation with the Olympians ended in a massive loss of life for your comrades in arms. Do you feel guilty for their deaths?”

"For the record," Lynette says, her jaw tightening for a moment before she forces herself to relax again, "I don't think you care about how hard it is for me. Or about how much my people sacrificed so that we have the freedom for you to be asking me these questions. It was more than just their lives. We sacrificed who we were. Our humanity. That's what I regret, that I encouraged them to do that. I got the chance to claw my way back from that, they didn't. They gave everything they were to a cause they believed in. They were the bravest people I have ever met, and you are bandying them around this courtroom. They deserve better than to be a piece on your chessboard."

There is a murmuration of voices rising in the audience at Lynette’s impassioned testimony, some mixed with shouts from those witnessing the trial. The frustration and tension in the crowd grows so much that Judge Autumn is forced to slam his gavel down twice to try and bring order to the courtroom.

In the chaos, Jan manages a smile that is both measured and subtly smug.

“That will be all. Thank you Mrs. Ruiz.”

Judge’s Chambers

Albany Supreme Court

Albany, New York

March 28th, 2019

8:04 am


Absolutely not.

Jan Rundell looks like she’s about to have a heart-attack. Standing behind her chair, the ICC’s prosecutor has all the posture of someone who wants to stab a person. Seated in a chair near Jan, Odessa’s defense attorney Bryant Kotch looks up with her with a languid expression of half-lidded eyes. “This would be an absolute mockery of the court. Do you recall her previous testimony?”

Across from the attorneys, Judge William Autumn slouches back in his chair and folds his hands in his lap. His attention isn’t focused on either attorney, but instead leveled across the room to the dark-haired woman seated between them. Judge Autumn never thought he’d be face-to-face with Eve Mas ever again, and yet here she is.

“Ms. Mas,” Judge Autumn says as he closes his eyes. “If I’m going to allow you to do anything in front of this court again, I’m going to need some reassurance that the testimony you have to give is relevant.” Even Kotch seems suspect of this, slouching to the side in his seat and side-eyeing Eve.

“Exactly what factual information do you have to offer?” Judge Autumn asks, almost dreading the answer.

"Mmmm factual."

Eve's rasp sounds and her head snaps in the direction of Judge Autumn previously looking out of the window. The woman has been wearing a pair of dark sunglasses the whole time. "Why thank you for your time your Excellency. Your Warm Welcome is appreciated." Her hair braided into one thick single braid. The dress she wears is simple and black, her trench coat thrown over it. The most wild piece of her outfit are the silvery sparkly roller skates that adorn her feet. The bright red wheel is lifted as she crosses her legs and flicks the wheel with a fingernail. "I've got plenty of factual information, stories! Take your pick. We don't have to talk about the horses, I know it's triggering." Eve leans forward a little in her seat and she slowly takes her glasses off.

Those crimson shades eyes glow and a ghost of a smile crosses The Red Lady's lips. "Fact: I met Odessa Price after having a vision involving her and an all powerful spirit that meant to do the world harm. She was linked to it, we all are." As her fingers drum on the armrest, Lightning the same shade as her eyes prickles along the surface leaving smoke in its trail, "Sorry. New body trying to iron the kinks out. Thanks to that spirit." A bitter smile flashed their way.

"Fact: Odessa also enjoys tea." Not just the herbal kind but the kind that was gossip cuz who didn't okurr?

Jesus Christ,” Jan mumbles into the palm of her hand, head down.

Judge Autumn stares vacantly at Eve, mouth open and head slowly shaking from side to side.

“Bailiff,” Judge Autumn calls to the tall man at the back of the room, “Get— please remove Miss Mas from my chambers.

"The day the courts take precognitives more seriously might be the day that this country stops losing so much. That ability cannot be true how could it? We only have people flying in the air around us today." Eve's sneer and sarcasm is open and she looks from Jan to the judge. "You have a huge problem here in this country… plans of a new regime and you're debating whether or not to use one of the helping hands you have." She ignores the tall man called upon by the judge. "Yet another failure to heed my words. Have you grown tired of the Horsemen? The ones who target your saviors Yamagato Industries? I suppose that's not factual enough for you." It's rare. This display of anger from Eve, she's a jester. What does she care if people believe in her? She believes in herself but today with her friends life on the line.

The former seer sees this for what it is. "People in this world in this nation having visions of alternate selves, the incident in New Mexico but I'm too much for these chambers." A wild cackle emits from the woman.

"You didn't ask one relevant question but here I am to song and dance for you, always here to help you. You're welcome." Eve's eyes grow wide as the veins beneath her pale skin begin to glow and she grins at the people in front of her. "Don't worry. You won't ever have to hear of a vision of mine again." Standing the woman rolls to the side with a dark look towards the Bailiff, "I got an upgrade. I pray to the gods that you aren't too busy with your nose in the archaic books of what you deem justice to see what's coming. What's right in front of you and how Odessa Price can help you."

Lightning runs up her arms to her face and streams down from the ends of her braid. Her form shifts and flickers, the winces of pain evident as Eve rolls sluggishly on the carpet in her skates. Until the red crackling form that is Eve flips the bird to the people in the chambers and leans forward, sailing towards the wall and passing through it leaving behind a human female shaped burn on the wall, white smoke wisping off of it.

Everyone is sitting in silence, staring in frozen anticipation, waiting for the other shoe to drop. When nothing happens, Kotch slowly turns to look at Jan, who is gripping the arms of her chair for dear life. Then slowly, Odessa’s defense attorney turns to look over at Judge Autumn, wide-eyed.

Judge Autumn closes his eyes, wavers in his seat, and presses his fingers to his brow and gently rests his head in his hands.

“What…” Judge Autumn murmurs, “the fu—

Albany Supreme Court

Albany, New York

March 28th, 2019

10:17 am


When the court returns from recess there is a pall hanging in the air. Outside, rain hammers down on the tall and narrow courthouse windows and the brutish March wind howls relentlessly. The gathering of press and observers is a solemn procession, followed by the bailiff escorting Odessa out from the back to her seat with her attorney. The whispered conversation between the two is brief and ends summarily as soon as Judge Autumn returns to the stand.

As the courtroom is seated following the Judge’s return, two of the United Nations observers quietly exchange a short whisper to one-another, then return their focus up to the Judge. The atmosphere in the room remains tense, accompanied by the shuffle of paperwork and muffled coughs. “Defense’s next witness has been declared unfit to testify,” Judge Autumn indicates with a furrow of his brows, “I’d like to get us back on schedule. Prosecution, you have the floor.” He motions to the prosecutor from the ICC, Jan Rundell, who rises from her seat and smooths out the front of her slacks.

“We will be hearing testimony from Doctor Bella Sheridan,” Jan indicates, setting down a few papers as a soft murmuration of voices rise through the court. Odessa’s attorney offers her a mild look, then begins flipping through a yellow legal pad as the bailiff proceeds to escort Doctor Sheridan to the stand.

As she’s settled and sworn in, Jan references something in her own notes, then approaches where Bella is seated in the wood-paneled stand beside Judge Autumn. “Could you please state your name for the record, and how you came to know Ms. Price?”

Time has tread lightly on Bella. The years of agony and worry, of patience and violence, have been well hidden wherever they appear. She’s made herself up with care. This is an Event, after all, her first appearance in public. She must not look like she was dragged out of the dark. She must look proud, and groomed, and level-headed. Trustworthy. She takes the stand, steps precise in low heels, her tweed blazer and black turtleneck twin signifiers of her pedigree, her intellectual chops. It’s a picture carefully composed to hide the terror flapping its wings just behind her eyes.

“My name is Isabella Sheridan,” she says, after taking the oath. “It’s usually my friends that call me Bella.”

Formality, and then informality. Clear answer, half-joke. She has prepared for this, for the rhythm of speech that will save her from seeming either mechanical or insincere. That’s the plan, at least. Her training in public speaking is decades past, as distant as her last trigonometry class, but she remembers a few things. Like speaking to the audience, not the moderator. Like keeping her hands in her lap, hidden behind the stand, where they cannot fidget and betray her nervousness.

“I first knew Dr. Price by reputation. Put frankly, I envied her. She was already accomplished at that time, easily more laureled than myself, and young. Younger than me. A wunderkind by any measure. It was, as you might imagine, frustrating.”

Jan slowly paces the floor in front of the stand, not out of any measure of frustration or nerves, but something more stalking and predacious. “Ms. Sheridan, you’re an accomplished psychiatrist and for a number of years worked directly for the Company. During your tenure there, did you ever — or were you ever asked to — act as a psychiatrist for Ms. Price?”

“I was assigned Dr. Price, yes,” Bella answers. Cool and crisp at first, she permits another swing into warmth as she smiles and adds: “She was no less frustrating as a client. Particularly brilliant people often are, since their considerable intelligence is turned towards the construction of elaborate defense mechanisms. This is, or was at the time, doubly true for SLC expressive clients- but that was my speciality. Hence my position at the Company.”

Nodding, Jan slowly paces the floor. “And this would have begun after Ms Price’s tenure as a prisoner of the Vanguard. August 26th, 2010.” She only waits for a ment before moving into the point of her approach. “In your professional opinion, was Ms. Price in full control of her faculties, capable of making rational decisions for herself?”

Bella gives a sigh, shoulders achieving the precise angle of resignation. Like she expected this. Like what she’s about to say is an unhappy inevitability. That’s the idea, anyway. “I’m not sure I can answer that question in a way that satisfies a legal definition. Dr. Price was a intelligent, energetic, troubled young woman. She was struggling with trauma, both old and recent. Not every choice she made would be what an economist would call ‘rational’, but of whom is that not true?” Her smile is small, rueful, and brief. “I apologize if I seem like I’m equivocating, but it’s a loaded word, especially in my field. It’s a question that can decide whether a person is treated like a person, whether or not they get to be free.” Bella’s fingers lace, out of sight, hand in hand with herself. “I believe she was so deserving.”

Odessa’s throat is tight as she watches Bella - the woman who would become her wife in another timeline - give her testimony. Her face remains passive, despite the emotions at war behind her eyes.

Though they’ve grown apart since the start of the war, Odessa holds hope that there’s some glimmer left of what they had that will encourage Bella to save her from the noose. For nostalgia’s sake if nothing else.

Jan’s follow-up is quick and sharp. “Did you at any point believe that Odessa posed a danger to herself or others?”

“No,” Bella answers, suddenly succinct. She looks directly Jan as she affirms the negative, her audience sharpened to the woman asking the questions. It’s a focus she holds for a sonorous second afterward, and breaks when, for the first time, she looks directly at the defendant. Seeing her in the present after speaking of her past. Nothing shows on Bella’s face, nothing beyond her calm confidence, carefully cultivated. And the moment’s gone as soon as it’s there. Back to Jan. Any other questions?

There is a very brief, near imperceptible twitch of Jan’s brows. Bella has seen this subconscious expression before, a tic before a shift in approach to a challenging situation. One door closed, another opened. “I would like to present the evidence file marked F.2 to the court.” One of Jan’s assistants from the ICC retrieves a file and flips it open, then picks up a small hand recorder from the table and walks it to Jan. Judge Autumn begins to page through his own copy of the evidence, and Kotch — laboriously — does as well.

“From November of 2009 through to November of 2011, the Commonwealth Institute operated a company-wide residential structure on Roosevelt Island in New York City called the Octagon.” Jan holds up the recorder. “The Institute, as per the deposition of security analyst Frances Connors at the Albany Trials, installed listening devices in Octagon residences to surveil their employees. This recording is from the Institute’s surveillance recordings and was entered as part of discovery in the trial of Doctor Derek Vaghn in 2014. The date of this recording is November 15th, 2010 at approximately 6:15 pm.”

Jan clicks the play button on the recorder, and voices are immediately heard.

«I'm so sorry. You should have said something!» Odessa’s voice, tinny and small, chirps from the recorder. There’s some shuffling, an audio pop, then another voice. Bella’s.

«Now what about my conduct thus far suggests I would feel uncomfortable?» Bella asks on the recording. «You can gad about as scantily clad as you like, Odessa. At worst it will make me redouble my resolve to feed you something!»

There’s a moment of pause, in which voices in the courtroom rise up in a low murmur. «Odessa,» Bella’s voice calls out. «darling. I don't mind. I won't have you be the least bit self conscious around me, not if I can avoid it. You're fine with me. I promise.»

There’s more rustling sounds, something wet — a kiss? All the while Jan stands with the recorder in hand.

«Odessa,» Bella’s voice again, «maybe we should sit down for a minute?»

«I'm sorry. That was…» Odessa’s voice chimes back in, «so out of line. God I wish I could rewind time.» More rustling, the creak of something — perhaps furniture.

«I'm pretty sure,»Bella says on the recording, «that we've been pretty hazy about lines, and what counts as being out of them. I'm sorry for stopping you short. I— need to be careful, is all. For my sake. And for yours, but mostly because of me. So… It's not that I wouldn't like to. So don't you dare think that. But you deserve to know the- well- it's complicated.»

Words said a decade ago in what all parties believed was confidence now plays for all to hear across a courtroom. «Complicated. Right.» Odessa responds on the recording. «I'm sorry.»

For a moment the recording is in silence, allowing for the shuffle of those in attendance and the background chatter to be more audible. But Bella and Odessa both remember what is coming next, why Jan isn’t hitting stop.

«Shit…» Bella’s voice on the recording says to her present-day self. «Odessa, please. Please, don't- don't… I hurt someone. Badly. Enough that they- well, let's say I'll be lucky never to see her again because I don't think I'll walk away. I don't ever want to do that to you, for you to- to have you think of me that way. You are a Godsend to me, Odessa, and that's saying a lot, coming from an atheist. I have needed this so badly. Needed you. But I don't want to suck to dry. And I'm afraid I will. So please- please tell me we can figure this out, okay? Because it's not that I- it's not that I wouldn't. It's that I don't know that it could last and I- I really can't lose you. I just can't.»


Slowly lowering her hand, Jan stares across the small divide between herself and Bella. “Ms. Sheridan,” Jan asks with the tone of a woman drawing a knife from a sheathe, “do you feel your personal relationship with Odessa Price was appropriate and professional?”

Odessa goes very, very pale as she recognizes the voices — the situation — on the recording. “No!” she whispers, leaning over to her lawyer. “Do something! Stop her! Object!” Tears shine in her eyes. Even she isn't sure whether she's more mortified for herself or for what Rundell's implying about Bella.

But there's no objection to make it stop. Odessa is shaking when it's over. “Mr. Kotch, I think I'm going to be sick.”

A knife-thin smile. No longer affable. But not joyless, either. Bella’s heart races beneath dark wool as she maintains composure through the recording. Old voices. Old choices. Thank heavens the TV-grade makeup covers the tint of her cheeks. Before answering, Bella extracts a pair of rimless wire reading glasses from her blazer pocket, unfolding them and setting them on the bridge of her nose. Next she removes a pad of paper from another pocket. She’s stealing seconds, performing rituals, gesturing herself into something like calm as she examines her notes. Just to be sure.

“Considering I formally dissolved my professional relationship with Dr. Price on… October the 18th of that year?” Bella’s answer is less crisp than starched, just barely cracking at the end. “I feel my personal relationship with her in these recordings is just that: personal.

“If you have questions as to our personal relationship-” She sets the pad on the polished wood before her, then once more folds her hands in her lap. “I can speak at some length on that for the benefit of the court. Unless you’d like to play some more recordings first. For context.”

Jan doesn't miss a beat, weaving past the offer to the earlier fact. “And why did you choose to dissolve that professional relationship?”

Odessa closes her eyes and draws in a slow, deep breath. If Bella lies, there’s almost certainly tape that would prove why their professional relationship dissolved. The idea of having more of her personal life laid out on display for the court only adds to that queasy feeling in her stomach.

Dr. Sheridan looks Jan in the eye and answers with an air of rightfully recovered dignity. “Because I believed I could be more helpful to her as a friend.” Then her eyes lower as she removes her glasses, folding their arms and setting them above the notepad. When she looks back up, her mouth is ever so slightly drawn, corners tinged with strain. “She didn’t need another institutional agent trying to fix her. She needed fondness, kindness, and a feeling that she was worthy of love. I found I’d rather provide that than any clinical insight.”

If Jan had records of that moment, of that time, she doesn’t leverage it. There’s a chance, however slim, that the intrusions of privacy wrought by Desmond Harper only extended so far into Bella’s personal sphere. Or perhaps the recordings at her office were lost in the Institute’s collapse. Jan steps away from the stand, sliding the forefingers and thumb of one hand together. Perhaps there’s another answer. Perhaps she already has what she wants. In any event, the prosecutor backs off from that line of questioning, save for one final piece.

“As a mental health professional, could you define the concept of transference for the court, Doctor Sheridan,?” Jan asks, turning back to Bella.

She wanted to be personable. Approachable. Warm. But no sooner is she cornered, than the acid starts to drip. She doesn’t roll her eyes, she isn’t that far gone, but Bella shrugs. “As conceived by Sigmund Freud, transference is an emergent process of analysis in which the analysand projects their feelings about some figure in their life onto their analyst. Often unresolved childhood ones.” Her tone stays level, her composure holds, but the very clipped clarity of her words bely her. “Anger once felt towards a mother, trust felt for a father. It’s part of the whole ‘family drama’ model of psychoanalysis.” Too much. She knows she’s saying too much. Yet she doesn’t stop herself. “Very popular at the turn of the last century.”

Blue eyes grow wide, wild and bewildered all at once. “Why aren’t you objecting?” she hisses at her lawyer, reaching out to grab his shoulder. “Relevance? Badgering the witness? There’s got to be something!

Kotch remains stoic, offering only a look out of the corner of his eyes to Odessa, then back to Jan and Bella’s exchange. There’s something going on behind his eyes, perhaps consideration, perhaps thoughtful planning. Hopefully something.

“No further questions,” Jan says, the verbal equivalent of throwing a match over her shoulder onto a gasoline soaked bridge. One that Kotch is about to walk out onto. Judge Autumn scrubs one hand at his brow, then strikes his gavel down.

“Defense, your witness.”

Collecting his paperwork and checking one note on his yellow legal pad, Kotch slowly stands and straightens his suit jacket before picking up a hardcover book sitting face down on his table,and approaching the stand. He and Jan share a brief exchange of glances, but soon her attention settled on the other ICC representatives seated at her table. As Kotch comes up to Bella, he holds up the book. It’s cover is entirely black, and it has no written title, just the silhouette of an elephant in white, and the name BELLA SHERIDAN in red at the bottom. It is a sensationalized cover for a recent reprint following the maelstrom of publicity from the Albany Trials. A reprint of a book that started this trajectory of Bella’s life.

“Ms. Sheridan, could you tell me what this book is?” Kotch asks, setting it down on the stand.

Ease seeps back into her like the thaw into spring earth. Back on terra firma. No more disembodied voices, no more ghosts. The volume, with its aggressive neo-abstraction, buoys Bella with an irrepressible pride. “That is a book I wrote, on the psychological consequences of the particular personal and social challenges facing SLC-E individuals.“ More specifically postdoctoral research on manifestation tension turned-manuscript turned-revised edition for the non-academic market. But ‘book’ is close enough. Though- wouldn’t hurt to drop the name. “The White Elephant Complex.”

Kotch nods slowly, setting the book down in front of Bella on the stand. “This book was what brought you to the attention of the Company, is that correct?” Bella’s agreement spurs Kotch as he continues on that line of conversation, striding over to his table and withdrawing a few stapled pieces of paper. “I would like to call to attention the documents provided as evidence marked C3.”

The ICC prosecution team opens up a large folio, leafing through until they find the relevant documents, while Judge Autumn does the same at his bench. “This is an internal memo, dated May 22nd, 2007. Written by Robert Bishop, one of the Company’s founders. Mr. Bishop, I will remind the court, was tried and executed for his service to the Company that — not insignificantly — included the inhuman experimentation and torture of his own daughter Elle Bishop.” Kotch fails to mention Elle’s pleas for leniency during his trial.

“And I quote,” Kotch begins, “White Elephant says what we’ve been saying among ourselves for over a decade now. People with abilities face extraordinary stresses in their lives. We’ve seen this with the burnout of our field agents, we’ve seen this in the people who have gone through the bag and tag process that eventually break free of the memory wipe procedure. Stress defines and sculpts their lives, and we have not adequately considered or accounted for these traumas. I think about what we did to Ellie, what we put her through because of how she was born, and I can’t help but think that the entire world is incapable of fully understanding how the mere fact of being what we are is a life-altering trauma that no one is prepared to handle. We are not unique — the Founders. Each and every person like us faces our own individual Coyote Sands, and we must endure it alone. I believe Doctor Sheridan may have the talent to change that cycle for us.

As he stops reading from the document, Kotch looks around the courtroom, then settles his attention in front of Bella again. “Doctor Sheridan, do you believe that Odessa Price suffered from extreme stress because of her SLC-Expressive nature? And if so, do you believe — as a mental health professional — that this stress impacted her decision making abilities?”

“I believe it impacted her entire life.” Bella asserts. “Manifestation is itself often tied to emotional distress or trauma. Feelings of alienation, isolation, self-loathing and depression are common consequences of the challenges facing the SLC-Expressive. Add to that the widespread persecution facing SLC-E individuals, as well as their active instrumentalization, and it seems to me indisputable that Dr. Price faced tremendous stress due to her neurogenetics. We would not have met had her SLC expression not profoundly influenced the course of her life.”

Kotch looks to the judge, then over to Jan with a hint of a smile, and then finally back to Bella. “Thank you, Doctor Sheridan. Why don’t we move on to the chapter where you discuss…”

Albany Supreme Court

Albany, New York

March 28th, 2019

1:36 pm


Judge Autumn slouches back in his chair, looking down at Jun with furrowed brows. “I’d like to hear Mr. Ayers’ thoughts on this.” With a squaring of her shoulders, Jan slips back down into her seat at her table and quietly confers with her peers from the ICC. At that same time, Odessa’s attorney straightens his suit jacket and approaches the stand again.

“Mr. Ayers,” Kotch says with an incline of his head toward Odessa, “you’re a representative of SESA. You’re a long-time advocate for SLC-Expressive rights, despite being non-expressive yourself. Now when you were up here,” Kotch says with a smoothing of one hand across the front of the bench, “testifying on your own behalf and defending your involvement with the Company, you spoke candidly and from the heart.”

Kotch looks up to the judge, then over to the United Nations observers seated in the front row behind the prosecution. For a moment he lets that notion hang, then slowly looks back to Corbin. “You’ve spent the better part of your life fighting for the people Ms. Price harmed through her actions, but what is it about Ms. Price that has you, here, speaking on her behalf? What about Ms. Price deserves leniency? Who is she to you?”

For perhaps a change from those who might know him more, Corbin Ayers has come to this particular meeting dress impeccably. A more traditional tie, a good suit in neutral colors and his hair under control. Even his beard is trimmed. It’s a lot like how he’d looked at Albany, though, so to those who only knew him from television, they might not have known the difference. And he might have let Hokuto have a say in how he dressed too, but only she and him would know.

“Thank you, Mr. Kotch,” he responds in soft, polite tones, also nodding his head toward the Judge in respect before he answers the question, “It is true that she has caused harm, but I believe that she deserves a certain point of view that I can offer and that most no one else anymore can. As you know from my history, I worked with the Company for many years. So did she. Though that’s technically unfair. To say we were coworkers implied that Ms. Odessa Price had actually had had a choice when she served under the leadership that I did. She did not. I was an employee— she was an asset.”

There’s a pause as he allows that to settle, before he continues.

“You could say she was the strange piece of equipment that everyone in the office knew about, but no one really knew how it worked, what it did, or even where it came from. There was even an office bet going about what her ability was.”

Kotch nods, straightening a pocket flap on his jacket that had become disheveled while seated. “So Ms. Price was, to most people, viewed as property of the Company? Would that be an accurate assessment? And how is it you feel this treatment has weight with regards to her case here today?”

“I believe that was the opinion of most of those in the Company, or at least that is how she was treated, as far as I know,” Corbin speaks carefully, voice calm as if he had practiced this a few times. “Many of those who were SLC Expressive were treated differently than one might have expected, but Odessa had a distinction of being raised within the Company. I’m not sure when she arrived exactly, but as far as anyone knew she grew up in the keeping of the Company. Most, including me, even believed that her name came from the branch she was raised in, Odessa, Texas.”

“So she was alienated, ostracized, and used as a tool.” Kotch reiterates as he takes a few slow steps across the floor in front of the stand. “As someone who worked with the Company for more than a decade, you have an expert-level experience with the culture and climate of the Company. Would you say that the Company was a healthy place to work, emotionally?” It’s clear Kotch is going somewhere with this.

As the lawyer reiterates, Corbin nods thoughtfully, appreciative of the way that the attorney is wording things. “No, it was not a healthy environment for anyone, honestly.” He had considered quitting so many times, but there had been reasons he had stayed himself. Most of them a little shadow that occasionally dances in the side of his vision. “I am sure many of us thought we were doing good, which is what we were told at the time, but as everyone here knows, that good was often counterbalanced by…” He waves his hand. They all knew what the Company had done now, at least what they could find out. Even he didn’t know everything they had done, and he hadn’t known a fraction of it when he had been with them.

“So we have an environment that is unhealthy for agents who operated with relative autonomy. An environment that, as we have already corroborated with Doctor Sheridan’s testimony, compounded the psychological toll working for an organization like the Company caused.” Kotch looks over to Odessa for a moment, then back to Corbin.

“Thank you Mr. Ayers,” Kotch says with a gentle tap to the stand, “defense has no more questions.”

Albany Supreme Court

Albany, New York

March 28th, 2019

2:31 pm


“Mr. Kozlow…”

One hand at her brow, the ICC prosecutor sweeps her bangs across her face, looking back up to the stand. “I would appreciate it if you answered these questions directly and to the best of your ability. I will remind you that under the terms of your criminal case at the first round of the Albany Trials, you were informed that you may be called upon to testify again in the future to the best of your ability.”

It’s been half an hour since Sasha came to the stand, and Jan is beginning to wear thin. It’s been a long, trying day, and the second Kozlow to testify may be what concludes the proceedings. “In your personal opinion, do you feel that Odessa Price is capable of empathy?”

This feels like a trap.

Sasha levels a very flat, very Russian look at the prosecution from his seat on the witness stand. His suit is a half size too small for his large, broad-shouldered frame, which has put on some weight since the last time he wore it. That had been Albany, too.

But Julie fussed with his collar and the sleeves of his jacket until they sat right on his body. She dogged him until he trimmed his beard and clipped back the coarse ginger hairs growing in his nostrils and ears. Then he slicked back his mane with gel raked through his fingers.

He could go through this ritual every day if he was so inclined.

He isn’t.

“I can answer in my language?” he asks, for clarification, but does not wait for Rundell’s response. He recognizes the translator in the corner. «Probably,» he continues. «Most people are.»

The interpreter beside the stand reiterates in English, and Jan offers a look over at Sasha that comes with a furrow of her brows. “Most people are,” Jan admits, pacing in front of the stand. “Do you consider yourself capable of empathy, Mr. Kozlow?”

Sasha is lucky that he’s generally perceived as being a little slow. His hesitation might be forgiven on account of him being a non-native speaker.

He squints at Jan as if trying to better understand the question, or at least rearrange it in his head so it’s easier to parse.

“Yes,” he says, then. In English so there’s no misconstruing his words.

He might be slow, but he isn’t stupid.

Jan looks down to the floor for a moment, then back up as she approaches closer to the stand. “How did you come to know Ms. Price?” She’s changed her approach like a hairpin turn.

«We worked for the same employer,» Sasha answers. “Carlisle Dreyfus.”

They’ve been through this before: Sasha’s relationship with the former Nazi hunter whose quest for revenge against Elisabeth Harrison and those he perceived responsible for the death of his son brought them both to the United States almost a decade ago.

It’s a period of his life he’d prefer to leave in the past where it belongs, but he’ll recount it if he has to.

(He does.)

«Should we go right to what you want to hear?»

Like a shark that has sensed blood in the water, Jan moves quickly on Sasha’s words. “If you would,Mr. Koszlow, please describe what you observed of Ms. Price during her time under the employ of Carlisle Dreyfus.”

«She was like a child,» Sasha says. Then, in English, for emphasis: “A child.”

He recognizes another predator when he sees one. Vicariously experiences the rush of adrenaline he knows Jan must be feeling. That same part of him is excited to disappoint her.

«Hungry for attention. Desperate to be liked. She’d do anything for his approval, or mine. Anything. You could tell she came from a bad place. A dark place. I used to wonder who hurt her so badly.»

The answer gives Jan pause. It both is and isn’t what she’d hoped for initially, but it sets a tone for the conversations to come. She takes a gambit. “You said, like a child. To clarify, do you believe that Odessa Price is capable of making her own choices with full understanding of the repercussions of her actions?”

“No,” Sasha says. «I don’t. She never learned. Was never taught. She’s a victim of the people who raised her.»

Jan’s associates in the ICC put a hand to their collective heads, voices rise in murmuration through the courtroom and Odessa’s defense attorney Kotch looks proudly smug. Recoiling from the result of her own gambit, Jan closes her eyes and shakes her head and motions with one hand into the air.

No further questions…” Jan insists, wanting to move past Sasha Koslow as fast as possible.

Before he could do any more damage to her case.

Albany Supreme Court

Albany, New York

March 28th, 2019

3:21 pm


“But let’s take a step back…”

Jan threads an errant lock of hair behind one ear, pacing the floor in front of the stand. “Mr. Ray, I’m not here to question whether or not you were knowingly harboring a known fugitive or whether you used your company’s assets to do so…” Her brows furrow, hands come to rest at her hips as she stops her pacing and looks up to Richard on the stand. “I’d like for you to describe to the court what exactly the nature of your personal relationship with Ms. Price is.” Raising one brow, Jan moves her arms to cross them over her chest.

“As you like,” replies Richard Ray mildly, his gaze sweeping over those gathered in the courtroom before returning to the prosecutor, “I was unacquainted with her before the war; after, I was her employer and later close friend. We did, as I assume the prosecutor is inquiring about, have a brief physical relationship as well. Our personal relationship is what allowed me to talk her into turning herself in to this court.”

That said, he brings a single brow upward, waiting for Jan’s response.

“When did this physical relationship begin?” Jan asks, amid the whispering of a few hushed voices in the courthouse.

Odessa picks up a pen from the table in front of her and jots a note on a yellow pad of paper. Sliding it over to her lawyer, she keeps her gaze ahead, tension wound tight through her neck and shoulders.

Where should I be looking?

Kotch just taps the pad. Eyes down.

“Spring of twenty-eighteen,” Richard replies plainly to the question, “After several years of acquaintanceship. I’m not entirely sure what any of this has to do with the accusations about Ms. Price, but go on.”

“Was this before or after you were aware of her true identity and the crimes she is accused of?” Jan continues, pushing past the question of relevance.

“Although I had reason to believe she was not, in fact, born Desdemona Desjardins at the time,” admits Richard, “A great number of people decided to have a… fresh start after the war. It left scars on all of us. I was not aware of the crimes she was accused of until they hit the media later in the year, at which time I recognized her profile.”

Jan nods, checking something on her phone, then returns her attention to Richard. “And after you learned these accusations, did you continue that relationship?”

Exactly as she was told, Odessa keeps her gaze down. Specifically, she’s staring at the dot on the end of her question mark. And focusing on her breathing. And keeping the bile from rising any higher than the back of her throat.

“After I learned of these accusations I attempted to have my security personnel detain her,” is Richard’s dry observation, “She evaded them, however. Contact was made later and I focused on convincing her to turn herself in to the authorities, which was successful and why we’re in this courtroom right now.”

One hand lifts, fingers scratching under his jawline, “As far as our relationship is concerned? Feelings don’t simply turn themselves off one day, Ms. Rundell. I’m not a robot. I didn’t exactly have much time for a relationship over the past several months, however, due to working on projects currently classified by our government.”

He pauses, “You’d have to subpoena that information separately, I imagine, if you were interested.”

“Yes or no, Mr. Ray,” Jan is undeterred by the diversion. “Did your relationship with Ms. Price continue after you learned of the charges leveled against her?” The courtroom is dead silent.

Odessa silently begs for Richard to deny that he carried on with her after he learned who she was. Her eyes close heavily, but only for a brief moment. That prosecutor knows blood in the water.

Richard breathes out a sigh, shaking his head - and then he offers the prosecutor a rueful almost-smile. “Briefly,” he admits, clearing his throat, “Sorry if I was seeming evasive, Ms. Rundell, but this is a little embarrassing for me— she actually broke up with me not long after we re-initiated contact and I started trying to convince her to give herself up. Nobody wants to admit they were dumped, but, that’s exactly what happened there.”

“No further questions,” Jan says as she taps a hand on the stand and looks over at Kotch, who has his head in one hand and is crossing out items in his yellow legal pad.

That could have gone worse.

Albany Supreme Court

Albany, New York

March 29th, 2019

2:03 pm


“Ms. Ryans, both you and your father worked hand in hand with the Ferrymen. Your father’s testimony during the Albany Trials was outspoken and passionate…”

Kotch manages a weary smile, straightening his suit jacket. “Now, the ICC Prosecutor is indicating that your father, Benjamin, isn’t here today as a sign that Ms. Price isn’t someone he would seek to defend.” Smiling up at Delia in the stand, Kotch folds his hands in front of himself. “But here you are, an SLC-Expressive human, coming to the defense of someone charged with crimes against humanity and involvement in the genocide of your own kind.”

Kotch rests a hand on the bench in front of Delia. “That must make what you have to say here feel all the more important, and I think all the court is interested to hear what it is you have to say.”

“My father isn’t here because he’s involving himself with chasing things that are dangerous to SLC-E and non alike,” Delia presses her fingers together in a steeple on her lap, keeping herself from fidgeting in front of the courtroom. “Obviously, he doesn’t feel that Ms. Price is one of those dangerous things because the prosecutor didn’t manage to get him to testify against her.”

Which the dreamwalker feels must be a point in Odessa’s favor. Glancing over at where the woman sits, she keeps her expression carefully neutral. “I know Odessa better than my father does.”

“Objection, Your Honor,” comes from the prosecution’s bench as Jan stands up and motions to Delia. “She cannot profess to know her father’s thoughts.”

There’s a clack of a gavel and Judge Autumn looks to Delia, “Sustained. Ms. Ryans, please stick to your own perceptions of events when answering questions.”

Mr. Kotch makes a slight face at that, then sweeps his hand across the bar. “Ms. Ryans, could you please tell the court how it is you know Ms. Price?”

Delia grits her teeth to keep herself from lashing out at Jan, as if he could guess the reasoning behind her father’s actions better than she could? No way. But she doesn’t argue. Not yet. One thing she did learn from Benjamin is all about time and place and this is likely the best place to use the advice.

“I took over her position as the manager of a health clinic, for the Ferrymen and we were neighbours in Eltingville, before the war.” Delia answers calmly, raising her chin a little in that haughty way she usually reserves for arguments with Nick or Lucille. “And I’ve been in her head.”

Objection,” Jan states again, “Immaterial narrative. Defense should not submit SLC-Expressive information as fact.”

Once more, Judge Autumn sides with the prosecution. “Sustained. I will remind you, Ms. Ryans, that telepathic SLC-Expressive abilities and the information gleaned from within them are not admissible as evidence in a legal trial and I urge you to stick to material experience.”

Momentarily stymied, Kotch looks from Autumn and back to Delia. “Eltingville Blocks, the SLC-Expressive relocation settlement,” Kotch clarifies, then finds his footing again. “What was your impression of Ms. Price during your time in Eltingville?”

"Sorry," Delia's tone is tight but polite. The quiet pop of her knuckles is barely heard over the microphone as she fidgets and runs through her fingers, one by one. She pauses before answering, looking over at Jan, waiting for the objection to the apology. When it doesn't immediately come, she continues. "My impression during my time in Eltingville is that she is kind."

She pauses again, frowning as she looks down. "She is a kind and supportive person."

“And what happened that brought you to that conclusion?” Kotch asks, leaving an opening for Delia to control the narrative.

"I— " Delia pauses chewing the inside of her cheek as she formulates the words. She'd rehearsed what she was going to say a hundred times, but reality was quite different. Again, small noises can be heard through the microphone as Delia clicks her nails against each other as she fidgets. "Things happened in Eltingville that I wasn't prepared to deal with on my own. People were executed, my roommate was taken away… I was always afraid that I was going to die."

When Delia's eyes lift, it's to Odessa that she looks. "After my roommate was taken, I felt like it was my fault because I couldn't protect her. I wanted to give up. Odessa was there for me, she helped me more than she ever let on."

Kotch’s brows pinch together with interest at that last part. “How so?” He’s quick to ask, but refines it down to a knife point. “How did she help you more than she let on?

“She rescued my roommate, Tania.”

The straight forward answer comes with no commentary, opinion, or explanation. Delia’s eyes flit to the prosecutor first, then to Kotch, before sending a grateful smile to Odessa herself. She stops clicking her fingernails and her knee stops bouncing through her nervousness. For now, she simply content to look at the defendant as one would do a loved one.

Suddenly, Kotch’s eyes light up. She’d gotten exactly where he wanted her. “According to the Department of Evolved Affairs relocation documents, that would be Tania Koszlow.” The court had just heard her testimony a day prior. “Tania spoke about the circumstances of her liberation from the Institute, is that the event you’re speaking of?”

Delia nods quickly, before leaning to the microphone again, “Yes, Tania Koszlow. We lived in Eltingville together with her brother and John Logan.” The fact that Kotch seems to have perked up isn’t lost on her but the amount of objections from Jan keep the redhead from going too much further. “Odessa rescued Tania and never said a word, she didn’t even ask for a thank you.”

Kotch smiles, resting a hand down on the stand. “Thank you Ms. Ryans, you’ve been very helpful.” Then, with a look up to the judge he adds, “No further questions, your honor.”

Albany Supreme Court

Albany, New York

March 29th, 2019

3:14 pm


There isn’t much conversation as a sleight woman is escorted to the stand amid the sound of howling wind and driving ran battering the courthouse. The ICC Prosecutor is referring to her notes as the next witness is brought to the stand and as the bailiff steps away, Jan sets down her notepad and walks over with a passing nod to Judge Autumn.

Tania Koszlow states her name for the record, and still there is no murmuration coming through those gathered in observance of this trial. Odessa’s legal representative flips through his notes, scanning for Tania’s name, then looks over to the window as the rain patters loudly against it.

“Ms. Koszlow,” Jan begins, slowly approaching the bench, “I’d like to begin this discussion by asking you a simple question. Why did you come here today?”

Tania brushes a lock of hair from her face with long, elegant fingers and tips her head to the side to listen to the question. The prosecutor gets a soft smile. "I came today because of the history I have with Odessa," she says, glancing toward the defense's table. "It's brief, but I think it may be relevant," she says, her tone earnest and making her seem younger than she normally would like to be perceived. But today is a special day.

“Before we get to that,” Jan indicates with a gentle touch of her hand to the bench, “for clarity of the court, could you state the nature of your relationship to Sasha Koszlow?”

“Objection,” Kotch calls from his table, “relevance?” Judge Autumn eyes Jan, and she briefly closes her eyes.

“I’m establishing a relationship, Your Honor. Mr. Koszlow already testified.” She seems irate at the need to even have to quantify her intentions. Judge Autumn motions to Jan.

“Overruled. Please answer the prosecution’s question,” Judge Autumn directs Tania.

"Sasha," Tania repeats, "how informal." It's almost a tease. It certainly could be read that way. "Aleksandr is my brother. He is the reason I ever came to the United States. There was an element of the government at the time who thought that they could control him if they had me. Nearly managed it," she says, "I was waiting for my mother after violin practice. But instead, I ended up staying with the Ferrymen until I was able to reunite with my brother. I understand he and Odessa have their own connection, but it isn't the same as mine. Except to say that she might have recognized my name."

“Were you ever aware of your brother’s activities with the Vanguard prior to the first convening of the Albany Trials?” Jan asks, one brow raised.

"I was not," Tania says, her head tilting quizzically, "my family thought he was dead for many years. After I came here, much was kept from me."

Jan folds her hands behind her back. “Did the revelation of his actions in service to the Vanguard change how you viewed him as a person?”

"In a way," Tania says, her head tilting. "I love him no matter what. But it isn't the blind love I had for him as a child. It comes with knowing his mistakes and his flaws. I feel like I know him better, good and bad. But I stepped out from behind him and made my own way and my own choices." She spreads her hands, "Family is family, though. I hope that answers your question."

It does, but perhaps not in the way Jan had hoped. She’s silent for a moment, trying to collect her thoughts. “Your brother murdered a— ”

Objection,” Kotch chimes in again, “your honor is this Sasha Koszlow’s trial or Odessa’ Price’s?”

Judge Autumn shakes his head and makes a discomforted noise. But Jan interjects. “I’m trying to build a foundation of— ”

“I think we’ve heard enough of Mr. Koszlow’s life story today, Ms. Rundell. Change your line of questioning or rest.” Judge Autumn insists, and Jan — flustered — pinches the bridge of her nose.

“I have no further questions,” Jan practically spits the words out as she moves to her seat. Odessa’s defense attorney Mr. Kotch is quick to rise as Jan finds a seat. With a hand on Odessa’s shoulder he offers her a reassuring word, then rises and approaches the stand.

“Ms. Koszlow,” Kotch says as he steps up to look her in the eye, “now, I do remember you saying you came here to talk about the history you have with Odessa.” Kotch rests a hand on the stand. “The prosecution didn’t seem to give you the time to discuss that so…” He looks to Jan, then back to Tania. “Can you tell the court the nature of your relationship with Odessa Price?”

"I met Odessa when I was at the Arcology. A guest of the Institute." Tania tucks her hair behind her ear and lets out a careful exhale. "I had been taken from my home and handed over to them. I didn't know what they were doing to me until Odessa approached me. She said it made her sick, what they were doing to me. It was… an experiment to see if they could make a virus that would make a— that would force a miscarriage if a baby was SLC-Expressive. Evolved, at the time." She lifts her chin, her breathing deliberate and careful. "She created a distraction and helped me escape. She got me back to my brother. I don't think I would have ever seen him again without her. I'm not sure I would be alive still, without her."

“So you’re saying that Ms. Price took a personal risk to help you in escaping the custody of the Commonwealth Institute?” Kotch nods once, then begins slowly walking over to his table. “Ms. Koszlow, was Ms. Price a fellow captive at the time, or was she working in some capacity with the Institute?” At the table, Kotch picks up an evidence folder and begins to make his way back to the stand.

"She did. I can't imagine things would have gone well for her if they had caught us trying to leave," Tania watches as Kotch moves back to his table, her head tilting at his follow up question. "I think it was a little of both. I got the impression that not very many people there were there because they wanted to be. If Odessa was working with them, it seemed to be for survival rather than devotion."

“Thank you, Miss Koszlow,” Kotch says with a gentle tap of his hand to the stand. “You’ve been very helpful.” He levels a look up to the Judge, confidently.

“Defense has no further questions.”

Albany Supreme Court

Albany, New York

March 29th, 2019

4:07 pm

“If there is no other testimony to be heard…”

Judge Autumn says quietly, while Kotch is hunched over at his table with a phone pressed to his ear, speaking in hushed and sharp tones into it. Jan has slanted a look across the courtroom to the defense, her brows knit together.

“…we can begin the sent— ”

Judge Autumn,” Kotch calls out, rising up from his seat with his phone still in his hand. “May I approach the bench?” Jan slowly rises from her seat and looks at her counsel, then back over to Kotch as Judge Autumn nods and motions him forward. Kotch keeps his phone on but leaves it on the table beside Odessa as he walks toward the bench, Jan quickly behind him.

Odessa cannot hear their conversation, but Jan’s expression shifts from confused to frustrated and Judge Autumn’s soon matches. All Odessa can infer is an unknown New York number on Kotch’s phone, the timer on the call still counting up. Whoever is on the other end is waiting patiently.

After several minutes the attorneys return to their respective sides of the courtroom and Kotch offers both an apologetic and hopeful look to Odessa as he picks up his phone. “Get him here.” There’s a strike of a gavel that draws Odessa’s attention over to the bench and where Judge Autumn looks mildly perturbed.

“We’re going to take a 30 minute recess in light of new information.”

Albany Supreme Court

Albany, New York

March 30th, 2019

4:37 pm

Kotch has been acting suspicious since the trial went on recess, breaking away from Odessa and taking an important call and leaving her in a locked office guarded by federal agents. Kotch only returns moments before the court is to reconvene, briskly pulling Odessa from holding and bringing her back to the courtroom with no explanation. It’s unlike anything his demeanor has held yet, and it’s clear there’s a line of stress in his expression that wasn’t there before today.

As the court reconvenes, Judge Autumn returns to the bench and Kotch is a wordless cipher. As everyone settles in to sit following the Judge’s return, Kotch slips up from his seat without so much as a word to Odessa to stand beside the table. Jan is furiously texting someone, looking across the way to Odessa and then back again.

“Defense, your witness.” Autumn indicates with a motion to Kotch, who pivots to look back at the filled seats in the courtroom.

“Defense calls to the stand…” Somewhere after these words, Odessa’s heart rate spikes and her head swims.


“…James Sebastian Woods.”

Odessa’s hand comes up to cover her mouth, her eyes wide and suddenly full of tears. She pushes to her feet and turns to look out among the people gathered, eyes darting to and fro in an effort to find the familiar face.

A face lost to her time and time again. And all at once, found again.

She remembers herself and drops back into her seat quickly, murmuring an apology as she grabs for her handkerchief and wipes at her eyes. Now all the cagey behavior makes sense. Odessa wouldn’t have shared this information either until she had confirmation that James Woods could actually be produced, if she had been in her lawyer’s place.

“How?” she whispers softly.

The man entering the courtroom in a Department of Corrections jumpsuit is absolutely the man they claimed. James Woods is weathered, leaner than Odessa last saw him through a haze of dreams in a flooded world, but not as thin. More like a wiry cat that's lived in a junkyard. His hair is cropped short, brows furrowed and wrists bound in handcuffs. As he’s led to the stand the Bailiff pauses to undo his restraints, allowing him to walk up the steps to the seat unimpressed.

Jan is still testing rapidly, looking up to Mr. Woods and then over to Kotch and Odessa with a steely expression. Woods, to his credit, makes the pointed choice to never make eye contact with Odessa.

The Bailiff steps to the side of the stand and as Woods is sworn in a murmuration falls over the courtroom. Kotch gently takes Odessa by the arm and guides her down into her seat, then looks up to Woods with furrowed brows.

Judge Autumn gavels in and motions to Kotch. “Defense, this is your witness.” Moving his hand from Odessa, Kotch slowly rises and approaches the stand.

“Mr. Woods can you please state the nature of your relationship with Odessa Price for the record?” Kotch starts out plainly.

“I was a field agent in the Company, I deferred to Ms. Price in scientific matters in the course of my investigations during my term of service.” Woods explains, eyes down in his lap.

“Can you tell the court how long you worked for the Company?” Kotch Asi's.

Woods nods, silently. “I joined the Company in 1990 and served as a field agent and chief of security for their cover of Primatech Paper until 2008.”

“And why was your employment with the Company terminates?” Kotch inquires, coming to rest a hand on the stand. Woods looks up at the hand momentarily, then back down to his lap.

“It wasn't, sir.”

“Then on what terms did you part ways with the Company?” Kotch clarifies.

“On December 8th, 2008…” Woods says with his brows furrowed, “I was involved in an operation to recapture the fugitive known as Sylar. During the resultant conflict, I was… struck by something, and moved a great distance in the matter of a moment. An Evolved power. I was later apprehended by Hiro Nakamura and… abandoned, only to be apprehended by the Commonwealth Institute, in whose care I've been held for over a decade.”

Kotch nods, then steps away from the stand. “How long did you know Odessa Price?”

“Since 1996 when I was transferred from Great Britain to the United States.” Woods admits with a slow nod.

“Let the record show,” Kotch indicates, “per evidence labeled P-12, that James Woods is the only named agent of the Company with this extensive background with Ms. Price who is still alive.” At that, Kotch turns back to the stand.

“Mr. Woods, can you state for the court why you are in a Department of Corrections jumpsuit?”

Woods nods, again. “I was handed over to the Department of Justice by the paramilitary group Wolfhound following the completion of their operation in which I was liberated from the Institute. When my identity was run, I was held for questioning, charged with crimes associated with my work with the Company, tried, and sentenced.”

Kotch nods, then turns back to Woods. “And what is your sentence, Mr. Woods?”

“Life in prison for knowingly participating in the unlawful detention and relocation of SLC-Expressive humans.” Woods remains focused on his lap as he admits that truth.

“So you have nothing to gain from your testimony here today? Your sentence can not be commuted?” Kotch asks, to which Woods nods in the affirmative.

“That is correct,” is his simple affirmation.

“Mr. Woods, how would you describe Odessa Price’s upbringing with the Company? From your personal experience.” Now that Kotch has set the stage, he presses forward with a planned attack.

“Upbringing?” Woods furrows his brows and shakes his head, looking resentfully at his hands. “No, tha’s… that's not what happened. She was raised like a laboratory specimen, in a bloody bubble. She was a curiosity that Arthur Petrelli kept around because her ability was, to the best of his knowledge, singularly unique. She wasn't raised she was groomed by the worst of the Company founders… an’ after he — after what happened t’him, she was passed around like an unwanted dog from one Director to another.”

Kotch nods, circling back to the stand. “Would you say that, in her formative years, that Odessa was provided a rearing that allowed her to learn right from wrong? To effectively control her emotions? To empathize with others?”

Woods looks to his side, almost to Odessa, then back down to his lap and shakes his head. “No,” is how he chooses to answer. But then he looks up at Kotch. “The people she was bloody raised by? You executed most of them, or they bloody well went and killed themselves. You think about how awful all of those people were — what people like Robert Bishop did t’his little girl — an’ you tell me if anyone would come outta’ tha’ well.”

There’s a thin sound that escapes Odessa as she tries to get her sobbing under control. She’s never had anybody explain the life she lived in such simple but wholly accurate terms before. He understands what happened to her almost better than she ever has.

Raising his voice, Woods becomes increasingly agitated. “I've been alongside Odessa for— for what feels like multiple bloody lifetimes. I've seen her abused, tortured, reprimanded, and molded by a whole host of people who wanted t’use her for her power. Do I think she gravitated t’the first people who gave her word one of positive attention?”

Woods scrubs one hand over his mouth. “I bloody well think you'd be fools if you thought otherwise. Her compass isn't misaligned,” Woods says with a shake of his head, “it was installed wrong, on purpose. Out of spite.”

Settling back down, Woods looks at his hands and wrings them together. Kotch looks a Woods, then over to Odessa, and then finally to the judge. “I have no further questions for the witness at this time.”

Judge Autumn gavels as Kotch is headed back to his seat, and looks to Jan who is conferring with her ICC counterparts. “Ms. Rundell, your witness.”

Jan looks up, then over to Woods, and then back to Judge Autumn. “Prosecution has no questions at this time.”

Another gavel sounds, and Judge Autumn motions to the Bailiff. “Mr. Woods, you will be returned to holding.” Then, as Woods is being cuffed again, he rises from the stand and finally looks at Odessa. There is a haunted look in his eyes, a specter of James Woods’ of times come and gone. But Odessa can tell, without him saying even a word, that he knows. He saw it all.

He remembers.

Odessa lifts a hand off the table, handkerchief crumpled in her palm. Her mouth barely moves to form the silent affirmation. I love you. It was true then, and true in all the other lives. Every other version of her figured it out sooner than she ever did.

Her head droops, but her gaze stays on him as they move to take Woods away from her again. She wants to jump to her feet again and proclaim that she’ll do anything, face any punishment, if they’ll just let him go. The best person she ever knew from her terrible time within the Company. He doesn’t deserve to rot. Not like she does.

In the end, she’s silent. Her eyes only tear away from him when she would have to turn her head to follow.

Her heart drops.

“We will break for a brief recess and then I will allow for closing remarks,” Judge Autumn says, unaware of the human drama playing out behind Odessa and Woods’ eyes. When he strikes his gavel down, it signals something final.

The beginning of the end.

Albany Supreme Court

Albany, New York

March 30th, 2019

7:03 am

One day after the conclusion of testimony and closing remarks, the court reconvenes under partly cloudy skies. The gallery has thinned today, with only immediate family and press in attendance. Today is the first and last day media outlets were allowed to bring cameras into the courtroom. United Nations observers are gathered in the front row, counsel from the International Criminal Court convene with both defense and prosecution. There is a palpable tension in the air.

As Judge Autumn enters the court, his role today is merely a facilitator and not a final arbitrator. Tribunals such as these have sentencing meted out by the ICC, not by a judge. As Autumn takes his seat and everyone else in the gallery settles in, Kotch and Jan both look tense.

“Good morning,” Judge Autumn says with a look down to paperwork in front of himself. “Judge Rabemananjara of the ICC has delivered his sentencing decision,” Judge Autumn says as he holds a letter up in one hand. “It was delivered to me this morning following fax from the ICC’s office in Madagascar.”

Quietly, Judge Autumn unseals the envelope and removes a document from within and unfolds it to its full size. He reads the paperwork over, then nods to himself and looks over to first Prosecutor Rundell, then over to Kotch as he offers a show of support by placing a hand on Odessa’s shoulder.

“As the defendant has pleaded guilty to all but one of the charges leveled against them, the International Criminal Court has accepted Ms. Price’s guilty plea and taken that into account for their sentencing decision…” Autumn flips to the second page, clearing his throat and adjusting his glasses.

“On the charge of attempted genocide,” Autumn says with a heavy pause, “the ICC has ruled Odessa Price… not guilty.”

The courtroom erupts with murmuring voices, and Kotch is quick to squeeze Odessa’s shoulder.

At the touch at her shoulder, Odessa is quick to reach up and rest her hand over the one resting there, clinging to it like a lifeline. Her gaze is focused on Judge Autumn, expression hollow. She’s terrified of what the verdict might be.

When it’s passed down and she’s pronounced not guilty, she gasps audibly and turns to look at her lawyer. “I don’t know why you did this for me,” she posits in a soft hush. “Maybe you just believe in the system, and that everyone deserves representation… But no one else believed I deserved that.” Blue eyes close heavily for a moment, relief starting to flow through her tense limbs. “Thank you, Mr. Kotch.”

“Don’t thank me yet,” Kotch replies in a low grumble, his attention fixed on Judge Autumn. The judge looks down to his paperwork, then sets it down and takes off his glasses.

“In the letter from Judge Rabemananjara, I have also been given sentencing details.” Judge Autumn folds his hands together, then looks once more at the paperwork. “I will state here, today, that in my forty-nine years as a Supreme Court Judge and in the years I’ve overseen the Albany Trials I have never disagreed so resolutely with a ruling by the ICC.”

Judge Autumn shakes his head and picks up his glasses and puts them on again, then frustratedly retrieves the documentation. “Odessa Price, for the crimes that you have pled guilty to you have been sentenced to life in prison with the possibility for commuted sentencing as part of a work-release program. Time to be served out at the Plum Island SLC-Expressive Center, effective immediately.”

Then, with a final strike of his gavel, Judge Autumn sets into motion the rest of Odessa Price’s life.

In prison.

For a moment, she’s certain she’s about to hang. Life in prison sounds like a relief after that, even if it’s second on her list of worst fears. She’s already spent a lifetime in prison. New walls, same living situation.

She’s still feeling numb when she turns back to her lawyer once again. “Commuted. What does that mean?” She knows the term, but she’s afraid to believe it. “They’re going to let me… work it off?” Can she possibly work off a lifetime of misdeeds? What work could the government possibly want?


New walls, same living situation.

Bitter laughter bubbles up from Odessa’s lips. They’ll call this deserved imprisonment, they’ll call it a mercy, but it’s the same life she’s always known. “Should’ve seen that coming,” she mutters to herself. Then, she lifts her head again and gives Kotch a confused look. “Why did you take my case?”

Kotch looks down to the table, gray brows furrowed, then up to Odessa as the noise of the court drowns out the awkward sound of his tense swallow. She nearly misses his answer as she feels the hand of the court bailiff on her shoulder urging her to stand and the jingle of handcuffs.

“It was a favor…” Kotch says quietly as he stands.

“A favor for an old friend.”

A Desolate Road

Staten Island

March 30th, 2019

9:47 pm

There are no street lights out on Staten Island, not west of the Greenbelt, not outside of the Rookery.

The headlights of a black sedan cut across the broken asphalt of an abandoned road, accompanied by the crunch of gravel under new tires. The car comes to a stop behind another black sedan, both engines idling. The rear driver’s side door of the newly arrived car opens, allowing a well-dressed man in body armor carrying an assault rifle ample space to step out. The private security officer looks into the car as Bryant Kotch slowly steps out, straightening the collar of his wool jacket.

Kotch walks behind his bodyguard, approaching the rear passenger window of the lead car. His security officer steps further out into the road, rifle held close to his chest and attention flitting up and down the street. As Kotch approaches the rear window, he watches as the tinted glass rolls down with an electric buzz, making his muted reflection in the glass slowly cut away.

“Mr. Kotch…” A man calls from inside, and Kotch takes one step closer to the window. “As per our arrangement,” he says, sliding an envelope out of the partly open window. Kotch takes the unsealed envelope, flexing it open to reveal the small key on a chain inside. “You will find your payment at the Williamsburgh Savings Bank in safety deposit box 1417.”

Kotch nods, tucking the key and envelope away into his coat. “Was… there anything else?” He asks of the man in the car, who leans just a little closer, allowing Kotch to see his tired eyes.

“No, Mr. Kotch. I think it’s best if you take your payment and… lie low for a little while.” His benefactor says with a calm assuredness. “Maybe get out of the city,” he adds as an informal recommendation.

Kotch nods, taking one step back from the car. “Thank you, Sir,” is said with both tension and fear. “Thank you…”

Mr. Sharrow.


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