The heroes escorted me to a hospital, and I was given a room all to myself, two heroes guarding me; Hekatonkheire, the one who’d found me and Gunk, the poorly named foam sprayer. After a few medical test and two scanners, I learned I had three cracked rib, a dislocated shoulder and a whole lot of bruising but the danger had passed. I’d survived my own stupidity.
I was lying in bed somewhere after sunrise, only partially conscious, my senses dulled from the sweet embrace of painkiller given to me after they’d reset my shoulder, when a man with that G-man trademark looks came into the room. I tried to sit but a mix of pain and weakness prevented me from. He seemed to notice and inclined the bed, allowing me to sit.
“Paige Louise Flores, female, aged thirteen, born on February 13th 2021. Currently in eight grade.” He enunciated. “Declared divergent on November 21st 2032, triggered during the night of the 20th to the 21st, after getting lost in the woods, the ability you’ve developed is a reflexive cryokinesis based armor. Are those information exact?”
“Yes.” I coughed out. Breathing and speaking with broken ribs was an agonizing process, even with opiate painkillers.
“My name is Jeff Hanson, Department of Divergent Affairs, or the DDA if you prefer. I’ve been assigned to your case. If you don’t mind, I’d like to go over the charges levied against you; One charge of trespassing, one charge of destruction of property, three charges of aggravated assault and battery with a divergent ability one leading to serious injury, eleven charges of aggravated assault with a divergent ability as well as one charge of vigilante activity. Do you understand the nature of these charges?”
It was pretty amazing how quickly charges could pile up from one fight… If you could call it that.
“Yes. You said severe injury, How severe are we talking about?”
“You fractured the outside guard’s skull, at minimum he will have a concussion, possibly moderate to severe brain damage. The latter is the most likely outcome, but we'll have to wait until he wakes up, if ever, to confirm.”
A knot formed in my stomach. I hadn’t meant to hurt him...
“Your mother has been contacted and advised of your position, she’s informed me that she has contacted a lawyer. They should be here within the hour. Questions will be asked then. I'm to inform you that you have the right to remain silent as per your fifth amendment rights and that everything you now say could be used against you in a court of law.”
He was right as my mom arrived only a few minutes later followed by a man in a gray suit whom I'd never met. Lawyer guy and DDA guy exchanged greetings while my mom rushed to my side.
“Paige, what did you do?” She was furious, but as she came closer her expression softened a bit, I must have looked really beat to make her change expression in a heartbeat.
I didn't answer her question, I didn’t really need to and even if I had I couldn’t have found the words to do it. All I wanted to do was hide beneath the sheets.
The DDA guy gave a dossier to the lawyer guy and he began to read it as they talked legal things.
“Are you alright?”
“My chest hurts…” I whined. “But I’ll live.”
She lifted by hospital gown to check, I didn’t like being exposed but I didn’t protest. Most of my belly and chest had turned red with select spots already changing to a dark bluish purple, with the color, you could barely see my normally visible ribs. My mom hugged me, her arms hurting a bit as she squeezed my injuries, I let out a pained whine and she let go.
“How bad is it?”
“Doctors said my bruises should be healed in two weeks, I have three cracked ribs, those should be healed by mid spring. They already fixed my shoulder even if it’s still sore. They gave me something for the pain, it works so long as I don’t move, breathe too hard or get touched.”
She lightly passed a hand through my dirty knotted hair, I’d sweat a lot and hadn’t washed up since the previous morning.
“I just couldn’t stand it all anymore… Being worthless... I had to something before I hurt myself for real…” She hugged my neck his time, dragging my head into her wool sweater.
“Oh baby, I’m sorry.” She took me in her arms lightly, my head against her shoulder. “Listen to me, we’ll fix this, okay? Everything is going to be alright.”
“Since this is a priority case, we have arranged for her to see a judge in roughly four hour, at one this afternoon.” DDA man said, louder to our intent.
“Can’t the hearing wait until her father is in town? He’s been contacted and he can be there by thursday.” My mother asked. I would have preferred that she didn’t inform my dad, I didn’t want him to be disappointed in me.
“This could be arranged but If we move the date to another day, Paige will have to be transferred to a juvenile detention center until then.”
“Please, I don't want dad to see me in jail, don’t delay the hearing mom… Please...”
“Alright, we’ll have the hearing today.” She said, kissing my forehead.
“I’ll leave you to discuss it then.” DDA guy said.
My mom and the lawyer began talking and I zoned out, letting them talk about the legal stuff. I must have fallen asleep because my mom shook me awake after a few minutes.
“Listen, I’ll go home and prepare some things, I’ll be back in a hour or two. Okay?”
“Yeah mom.” She took a step. “Wait, can I take your phone for a minute? Mine is at home”
She gave it to me and I texted Kenzie, it was dumb but I needed someone…
Kenzie, it’s Paige. <
I did something dumb... <
I’m at Mercy Hospital, room 317. <
I gave my mom her phone back, not waiting to see if she’d answer. I went back to sleep and woke some time later, getting lightly shaken and hearing a familiar voice.
“Want to tell me what happened? Your guards were very suspicious when they saw me come in.”
“Do you remember what Buzzkill said about how Hedron joined you? Well, I kind of did that. I kind of picked a fight with the russian mafiya.”
“You what?” She seemed more incredulous than angry. “Why did you do something so reckless?”
“Because I don’t want to be left behind. You’re this super smart, talented and badass chick who gets to be a part of something amazing and I’m just plain old me, unremarkable with more mental problems than smarts… I don't want to lose my only friend.”
She cautiously wrapped her arms around my frame and gave me a soft hug, it hurt but I didn’t let it show. I was just happy that she wasn’t angry.
“I don’t want to lose you either Paige. You’re the only friend I’ve had outside of the guardians in a while and that means a lot to me. And you’re an amazing person, even if you don’t know it. I wouldn’t be cutting classes if you weren’t, wouldn’t I?” Her words made me smile.
“I have a court hearing at one. I’m scared of what’s going to happen.”
“I’ll be there. I’m sure everything’s going to go well. Now, try to get some sleep, you look dead tired. I’ll try to be there when you wake up.” She said, sitting down next to me, holding my hand.
I fell asleep in a just a few minutes, the last thing I thought of was Kenzie’s hand on mine and how nice it was...
I sat quietly in court waiting for things to start, wearing a very conservative dress and blouse my mom had brought for me to wear, the absence of my hoodie weighed on me, I felt so exposed with it. The opiate I’d been given were starting to wear off and the ibuprofen my mom had given me weren’t cutting it, making every breath an agony.
Kenzie sat in the virtually empty audience, they hadn’t allowed anyone but my mom, Kenzie, the DDA guy and two of the Guardians to attend; Kickback and Palisade who wore their costume. Kickback had a light blue body armor with a stylized ‘KB’ emblem on her chest, her face was covered by a black mask with the exception of the mouth and nose area and closing back just below her chin which left her black skin and braided hair visible while her eyes were hidden behind tinted goggles. Palisade’s costume was equally simple, gray armor with black pauldrons, gloves and boots with jagged spikes, her lower face was covered with a scarf tied around the back of her head.
After what seemed like an eternity, Judge Clarance, an elderly black woman, arrived in the room and the clerk called us to order, my lawyer silently intimating me to stand. The Judge sat down and began going through the documents left for her. After a moment she looked at me, not looking too particularly happy.
“Will the accusee stand?”
I stood back up.
“State your name for the court.”
“Paige Louise Flores.” The clerk noted everything down.
“Do you understand the nature of the charges levied against you?”
“You stand accused of vigilante activity, how do you plead?”
“Guilty, your honor.”
“How do you plead to the three charges of aggravated assault and battery with a divergent ability, one leading to severe injury?”
There was no sense in denying any of it. I’d been caught in a russian mafiya hideout wearing a mask and going to trial would have only hurt my case, all I could hope for was leniency for sparing the taxpayer a costly trial and avoiding bankrupting my parents with attorney fees.
She went through the other charges and I plead guilty to all of them.
“Very well.” She said. “With knowledge of the accused's lack of criminal record and her cooperation on this case, I sentence her to two years parole on the young guardians program provided she is deemed psychologically suitable for it, Guardian Kickback here present has volunteered to be appointed as your parole officer. Should you be proven unsuitable or break the terms of your parole, you will serve the remainder of your sentence in the Lockwood juvenile detention center for divergent delinquents. I hope you will learn to use your energy and abilities in a constructive and lawful manner, Miss Flores. Case is closed and court is dismissed.”
Kickback came to my side and unlocked my handcuffs. At the same time, Kenzie came over and hugged me tightly, I squealed from the pain of her embrace.
“Would you like to explain your connection to Miss Flores, Kenzie?” Kickback asked.
“We’re friends from school.”
“Of someone who just happened to be convicted for vigilante activities and inducted into the guardians program. Should we be bringing up charge of conspiracy to commit a crime?” Kenzie looked livid for a moment. I’d been stupid, dragging her into this.
“Kenzie didn’t do anything… She only learned what I planned and did when I was at the hospital.”
Kickback looked at me, even though I couldn't see her eyes I could feel her scrutinizing me.
“I’m inclined to believe you for now, Miss Flores. Since you’ll be joining us, have you thought of a name?”
“I was thinking of Shell.” I declared.
“Very well. I expect you to be at our headquarter by nine am tomorrow, You will probably be out of school for a few days. Go home and get some rest, I strongly suggest keeping our appointment.” Kickback walked away with Palisade at her side.
Kenzie stayed silent for a moment before talking. “This could have gone a lot worse, isn’t that right Louise?” She said with a mischievous smile. “You have the worst middle name in like ever.”
“Shut up, it was my grandma’s name and she was super cool.” I said, pouting.
“Dude, that’s like even worse. You have an old lady’s name.”
My mom put a hand on my shoulder and gently pushed to move forward and toward the exit.
“I’ll see you tomorrow?” I asked Kenzie.
“You can count on it. Rest well, Louise.”
I had a feeling she wouldn’t let it go until it stopped being funny.