-Chapter 22: In Your Court-

"Ladies and gentlemen! Viewers from around the globe!" The cheerful voice of the announcer echoed from every TV screen that lined Studio 3 in the Network 66 skyscraper. There were no chairs, save for the one in which Judge Adams was to be seated. Instead, two platforms jutted out from that which the judge's seat and desk occupied. On one of these platforms, Bryce stood accompanied by Alison and Edison. The other was empty. But it was not to be so for long.

"Welcome," the announcer continued, "to tonight's thrilling episode of "In Your Court! Let's meet this episode's defense attorney. You all know her from the night time drama "Porky's Landing". Ladies and gentlemen Sarah Jackson."

Sarah Jackson joined Bryce on his platform. "I can only promise to do my best," she apologized to the young genius. "I must confess, though. I am the worst attorney here."

"Being the worst doesn't necessarily make you bad at what you do," Bryce replied. "If you have three A+ students, they must range from best to worst. But they're still all A+."

"I'm a C at best," Sarah admitted.

Grossberg shuddered in his office. Sarah Jackson. What a joke. There was no way she could win the case for Bryce. She was the Network's worst attorney. He understood what was going on and he was already working on what to write in his letters of condolence to Edison's team as well as Bryce's parents, even if the latter hadn't been in contact with their son since he'd gone to college when he was ten.

His fears were doubled when the announcer continued.

"And now the prosecuting attorney! From the critically acclaimed show "Trial and Tribulation" Mark Halloway!"

"It's a kangaroo court," Theora growled. "There's no way Bryce can win with a lineup like that. I wish we could just..."

"...storm the trial and rescue him?" Edison asked. "I'm afraid we can't do that."

"There's still hope," Murray reminded them. "Once they find out what Parker did to Bryce, the audience won't be so quick to prosecute. There isn't a single good person who doesn't hate a child molester."

"How are we going to prove it?" Edison asked.

"Max," Theora asked.

Max appeared solely on the screen beside her.

"I won't even ask how you managed to get onto Network 66's screens,"

"Phone line," Max explained anyhow.

"Max, can you get the securicam footage of when Parker attacked Bryce?"

"Quicker than you can say jackalope," Max replied. "Done."

"Now put me through to Sarah Jackson's private phone." Theora said. "Miss Jackson. I want you to call Max Headroom as a surprise witness. He has evidence that will help your case."

On the defense platform, Sarah Jackson closed her phone and replaced it in her pocket. "Looks like you might get that reprieve after all. "

"And now," the announcer said, "the man you've all been waiting for! That most jurisprudent of judges! Judge Adams!"

The judge approached the seat amidst much fanfare and gave a king's wave to the court. As the canned applause faded, he took his seat and began to speak. "Before me today stands Network 23's former head of Research and Development who has been placed before this court on grounds of murder in the first degree. Miss Jackson. How does your client plead?"

"Not guilty, your honor." Sarah Jackson responded.

"Your honor," Mark Halloway put in. "Miss Jackson's claim that her client is innocent is a joke. We will show this court that on the night in question Bryce Lynch deliberately and with malicious intent did in fact cause and indeed did personally inflict grievous and fatal injury upon John Parker."

"Miss Jackson how do you respond?"

"Your honor. We will show this court that my client, Bryce Lynch, acted in self-defense in response to a malicious and potentially deadly crime that was being committed upon him at that time."

"You may present your evidence," Judge Adams said, directing this statement to Mr. Halloway.

Jenny looked down at her feet. She knew what was coming. The securicam footage that she had given the judge. The donation had been anonymous, to avoid the ban on employee evidence. A tear ran down her face as she fully realized for the first time she'd condemned Bryce to death.

Halloway gestured to a screen on the wall behind and above the judge. All eyes and cameras fell upon it as the gruesome scenario was replayed upon it: Bryce nude and dripping wet slashing viciously at Parker's face and neck with a small razor that was dripping with blood until he suddenly dropped the razor, gathered up his bathrobe, and ran from the studio, fumbling the robe on as he fled.

"I'm sorry, Bryce," Jenny whispered to herself. "I'm so sorry." she knew that even if the truth about the evidence came out, even if it was rendered inadmissible, the audience had already seen it. The damage was already done.

"That's pretty condemning evidence, Miss Jackson," Judge Adams told her. "Do you wish to change your plea?"

"No, your honor," Miss Jackson replied. "I have proof that my client acted in self defense."

"By all means. Present your evidence."

"Bryce, can you tell me what happened in that bathroom before the events we just saw?"

Bryce swallowed. Although he had mentioned the event in passing to Alison, he had not spoken of it in length to anyone not even to his counselor. But now he had to. His life literally depended on it.

"I was taking a bath," he said. "It was quiet finally and decided to bathe and relax for a bit. I had just closed my eyes when I was dragged out of the tub by Mr. Parker. I tried to break free, but my feet were wet and the floor was slippery from all the water that was dripping off me. So no traction. No way to pull free. He forced me over the counter where the sink was and then forced himself into me for the third time."

"Third time?" Miss Jackson inquired.

"He assaulted me twice when I was eight," Bryce explained. "That was why I had asked Cheviot not to hire him."

"Go on, Bryce," Miss Jackson encouraged. "What did you do when he penetrated you?"

"I wasn't a weak little eight=year=old this time," Bryce replied. "I had just changed the blade on my shaving razor that morning. I'd only just started shaving a few weeks ago. I hadn't thrown away the old one because I thought it might come in handy as a spare for my VHS/Betamax/8MM video splicing kit. I grabbed it and cut his eye. I don't remember what I did after that. My mind was full of memories from when I was eight. The pain of the first attack. The shame of the second one as he held me against that window and went at me until I blacked out."

"He raped you in a window? Where everyone could see?"

"He told me they couldn't see his face, only what he was doing to me. That it was my punishment to be disgraced in that way. I never saw a single person walk by. He was still going at me when I lost consciousness. I guess the cop saw me, that's how he found me when I was rescued."
The judge turned to Mr. Halloway.

"Your sob story is really touching," the attorney smiled. "But can you prove it?"

"We can," Miss Jackson replied. "I would like to call a surprise witness to the stand. "

"Objection!" Mr. Halloway declared.

"Overruled," Judge Adams replied.

"Probably for ratings," Murray muttered to Theora, who nodded in agreement.

"I call Max Headroom," Miss Jackson stated.

Max appeared on the screen where Halloway's evidence had just been shown.

"I understand you have some evidence you'd like to share with this court?" Miss Jackson asked him.

"Forgive me, Bryce," Max told him. "If we are to save your life, then they must see this."

"Max..." Bryce pleaded.

"I'm sorry," Max apologized as he ran the securicam footage of the rape that had taken place in the bathroom on the night of Parker's death.

Bryce lowered his head in shame. This was the last thing he'd wanted anyone to see and now the whole world was watching it happen.

Miss Jackson put a hand on his shoulder.

"You have nothing to be ashamed of."

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