Judgment Bore

She stiffened. “I would never trade his life for the life of an enemy.”

She looked down at her unknotted scarf, a moth-eaten mass of yellow yarn. She pulled at the ends and brought them even with each other. Neither of the two men in the passenger car looked her in the eye. The old man at the far end of the car slept, the tips of his worn leather shoes poking out from beneath a stained, threadbare blanket. The young man stared at the window behind her head, as if to count the shadows on the tunnel wall.

He sighed. “All right, Snowflake, tell me what the problem is again.”

“Like I said, the problem is the new security system…”

“The Tide of…something…”

“The Tide of Judgment. Look, names don’t matter. After our last rescue, they put in a new layer of protection. It’s a SHIN-RA product. It uses Mako energy to link a particular prisoner to certain personnel…”

“Like your friend, the judge?”

“Yes, the judge, the guards, even the cleaning crews. If anything happens to any of them, it happens to the prisoner.”

“So a guard punches another guard in the arm…”

“He’s going to feel it in her hand and in her arm.”

“The judge slips and falls?”

“He’ll feel that, too.”

“And if I shoot the judge in the head?”

“He’s never coming back.”

He scratched his neck. “That does make it complicated.”

“Really?” Snowflake paused. “I’m sorry, Shem. I’ve put so much planning into this. I can’t fail now. I need him back at headquarters and I need that damn judge dead.”

Shem nodded and put a finger to his lips. He glanced to the side. The train pulled out of the tunnel and slowed as it neared the station.

Snowflake walked through the doors of the white stone building for the third time, asking for directions as if it were the first. Two guards stood outside the courtroom, resplendent in ceremonial dress. They stepped to either side to let her pass. An attendant opened the door; he craned his neck to feel some of the courtroom’s cool air on his face before he sealed the door behind her. She took a seat on the aisle, near the middle of the gallery, and never looked at the vent where her ally was hiding.

The judge droned. Snowflake glanced at the others in the room. The bailiff slapped at an insect on his cheek, and the prisoner recoiled from the slap. She put her head down and waited for the old man to reverse the Tide of Judgment.

The judge gasped, and the guards gasped with him. They stared at their hands, not at the defendant, who pressed his fingernails into his palm. He pulled his hands as far apart as the chain between them would allow.

The judge and the guards gasped again. The spectators stared at one another in bewilderment. Snowflake flipped her yellow scarf around her neck. In the vent, Shem lined up his shot at the judge, but lost his aim as the judge fell to the floor. The prisoner clasped his hands behind his head. He could not breathe, but neither could the guards, and they choked in unison.

The bailiff fumbled with his gun. He half-aimed at the prisoner and fired. Three bullets struck the prisoner’s chest, and the judge bled with his bailiff. Panic spread in the gallery, and a mob rushed for the doors. An old yellow scarf fell to the floor and lay there, trampled by many feet.

Only one man could run in the courtroom, and he kicked out the grate. He rushed to the prisoner’s side and pulled a bracelet from his pocket, an old iron bangle with two dull green stones. He knelt next to the prisoner and slipped the bangle on his wrist. He lifted his hand into the air.

“Stop,” the prisoner wheezed. He drew up his knees as he lay on the floor. “Don’t heal them.”

Shem stared blankly at the defendant. The manacled man coughed. “Kill them.” Another cough. “Kill them all.”

Shem cast a guilty glance at the other dull stone. The defendant groaned and feebly put a hand to the worst of his wounds. “Kill them while you can.”

The mercenary touched the prisoner’s forehead gently and stood. He polished the stones on his sleeve and let them gleam. He fixed his gaze on the dying man’s chest and lifted his hand into the air. He looked away as he dropped his hand.

All That Glitters Is Cold 3 Fanfic Competition

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