For two weeks, Dave and Maddie had worked extensively with Sato’s dojo, learning everything they could from him. Maddie had shown the greatest growth of all; not only was she learning some of Sato’s most advanced healing techniques, but she was fast becoming a powerful and dangerous duelist. At least once a day, she insisted on a duel with either her husband or Riku, and each day featured a different strategy or skillset from Maddie. One day, she might be using aura techniques, but the next could feature her growing skills with the elemental katana Riku had shown them. Dave soon figured out that she was motivated by Mark’s attack on them in England. Maddie felt she had failed to protect her husband, and her redoubled training efforts were her attempt to ensure this never happened again.
Now, as the Brightons prepared to return to America, it was apparent to all that she had not only grown as a sorceress, but also as a confident modern woman. Madeleine Brighton was now a woman never to be trifled with, especially in matters pertaining to her family’s safety. They stood outside the gates of the monastery with Nimue as each of Sato’s students said goodbye to them. After they had spoken to each of them, they turned to Sato himself.
“I don’t know how I can ever repay you for what you did for us,” Dave said.
“Remain the good man you are, that is how,” Sato replied with a grin. “Oh, a parting gift from all of us. Riku?”
The young man stepped forward and handed Dave and Maddie an object wrapped in leather. “These are now yours.”
As they unwrapped the leather, they found two brand new katana hilts for them. “Sato, we couldn’t possibly accept a gift of this magnitude,” Dave protested, the surprise apparent on his face.
“You can, and you will,” Sato chuckled. “You have each proven the necessary mastery of sorcery to wield these weapons. It is only right that I allow you to have your own. And besides, I wish you to have a keepsake of your time here. Please, take them.”
Dave thought to object further, but Maddie’s hand on his shoulder quieted him. “You are too kind, Sensei. Thank you.”
“It has been my genuine pleasure,” he replied with a bow.
Nimue then said, “I’m afraid this is where we must part ways, as well.”
Maddie lowered her head. “I had hoped not… but I am not surprised.”
“Don’t worry, I am here whenever you need me,” Nimue assured her. “All you need do is think of me and ask for my help, and I shall be there.”
“Thank you,” said Maddie. “And know that we are also here for you.”
“And we won’t stop looking for a way to break the curse,” Dave agreed.
“You are too kind,” Nimue smiled. Even knowing their efforts would be futile, it warmed her heart to see their dedication. “I will see you again, my friends.”
With that, Nimue disappeared in a flash of blue light, returning to her watery home in England. A few moments later, Dave and Maddie joined hands and teleported back to Dave’s apartment in Atlanta.
“Welcome back, lovebirds!” Cindy said in greeting.
“Good to be home,” Dave replied happily.
“Hello, Cindy,” said Maddie.
“Dave, why don’t you go unpack? I’ll catch Cindy up.”
“Sounds good,” he replied, taking the bags back to their bedroom.
“Um, catch me up?” Cindy inquired. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Oh, Cindy… so much has happened over the last few weeks…”
Once he was alone in his room, Dave placed a finger on his Channel and focused his mind. “Ben? It’s Dave Brighton.”
“Dave! Good to hear from you. I trust you and your wife made it home safe?”
“Yep, no problems.”
“Good, good. So, now that you’re back on U.S. soil, we have a couple of things to go over. Namely, I have your job with us set up and ready to go. You’ll report to your new supervisor as soon as possible, pending our first order of business.”
“First order of business?”
“Dr. Iger’s trial is set to begin in two days, and both you and your wife will be called as witnesses. I believe Nimue will also be called to the stand.”
“Maddie and me, sure. But Nimue… I don’t think she’ll be available. She’s already said that she can’t get directly involved in the squabbles of Mankind unless there is a pending worldwide disaster connected in some way.”
“I thought that might be the case. The judge and the defense may not be happy, but like you said, she’s not bound by our laws. The judge should allow me to testify in her place under the circumstances. In any case, I assume you will want to be present throughout the entire trial, so I’ve alerted your boss that you won’t report for work until after it’s done.”
“Thank you, that’s very kind of you,” Dave replied, a bit surprised by his understanding.
“It’s the least I can do. The prosecutor will be coming by your apartment tomorrow at nine in the morning to prep you two for the trial.”
“We’ll be ready.”
Dave spent the rest of the day fending off his little sister. To say that Cindy was pissed at the entire situation would be a massive understatement. She was angry at Dave for nearly dying, angry at Maddie for not calling to let her know what had happened, and incensed beyond belief that Mark Iger, a man her family had known for years, would do this to her big brother. Thankfully, Maddie managed to calm her down with the photos she had taken of their journey across England.
Their trial prep the next day was interesting, to say the least. The prosecutor informed them that Mark had plead ‘not guilty’ by reason of necessity. It had been a contentious day at arraignment, but the judge ultimately granted Mark his defense upon learning that the wife of the victim was not from this time. What this boiled down to was Mark’s view that his actions, though illegal, had been reasonable and necessary given the circumstances and everything he knew at the time. The prosecutor advised both Dave and Maddie to prepare for a serious grilling on cross-examination, in particular on the motivations behind their own actions. They were not on trial, but their decisions were still liable to be called into question as a way for Mark to prove that his own actions were reasonable and necessary.
Even though she couldn’t tell them why, Cindy now began lobbying her parents to change churches altogether. The last thing she wanted was for them to come to harm as a result of Mark’s enmity towards Dave. Maddie had her doubts that Mark would ever go that far, as Sara and John were not sorcerers, but she had to admit that Cindy’s fears were reasonable. The parents ultimately decided that it was time to move on, especially since Mark had not been around consistently for the better part of three months at this point. To them, this meant that Mark was not making a priority out of his church members. With their move to another Methodist church in the next town over, Dave felt they would be reasonably safe for the time being.
“Are we sure this is the place?” Maddie asked.
“Yep. Ben’s instructions were clear: an old bunker complex directly below the Air and Space Museum. This is it,” Dave replied.
Upon opening the large metal door in front of them, Dave and Maddie were greeted by a flurry of people going about their business. The inside of the bunker complex was nothing like they expected, appearing in every way to be a standard American courthouse. Ahead of them was a familiar face waving to get their attention.
“Dave, there you are!” said Ben.
“Dr. Carson, thanks for escorting us around today,” Dave said, shaking his hand.
“My pleasure. Come on, we’re about to begin in a few minutes.”
Ben led the way down a hallway, eventually opening a door labeled “Courtroom 7.” The trio made their way down the aisle and took their seats behind the prosecutor’s desk. All the while, Dave was entranced by how identical everything was to courtrooms everywhere else in America. He wasn’t sure if he had expected something similar to the Harry Potter series, but this certainly wasn’t what he was thinking he’d see.
“Different than you thought, eh?” Ben asked with a grin.
“Yeah, you could say that,” said Dave.
“Remember, one of the stated goals of the Masons is to coexist as Americans first and sorcerers second. A courtroom like the one I bet you had envisioned would defeat that entire goal.”
“I guess that makes sense. But why can’t I sense anyone around me?” Dave wondered. “Normally, my passive defenses allow me to basically see in all directions.”
“See those things up there?” Ben replied, pointing to four tiny satellite dishes in each corner of the ceiling.
“Those devices operate on the same principles as the handcuffs we use when we have to arrest sorcerers,” Ben explained. “They emit an inaudible resonance that does just enough to disconnect a sorcerer’s mind from their Channel, rendering one unable to perform sorcery. They’re heavily regulated and used only in specific instances of security and law-enforcement that require them.”
“Huh, that makes sense,” Dave nodded.
“All rise!” shouted the bailiff. “Dockett ending 2187, the case of The People vs. Mark Iger, the Honorable Judge Christopher Ramirez presiding.”
“Be seated,” said Ramirez. “Court is now in session.”
The opening statements were unremarkable, with each side basically listing off the things they would show in their respective arguments. Dave couldn’t help but notice that Daniel Masters, the defense attorney, appeared to be cut from the same cloth as was Mark. Both dressed exceedingly well and had an incredible gift of gab, the latter of which was already playing well with the seven men and five women of the jury. They smiled and nodded with almost everything Daniel said, drawn in by his buttery smooth voice. All the while, Dave gave an intense glare in Mark’s direction; he would not be fooled by the man’s pleasant demeanor.
The prosecution then began its case against Mark with Dr. Carson taking the witness stand. His questions were straightforward and consisted of detailing the events that led to his discovery of Dave and Maddie Brighton. He also accounted for his various communications with Mark at that time, specifically the instructions he had given Mark on which actions were acceptable to their investigation and which ones weren’t. Finally, the lead prosecutor, Charlie Larusso, asked the golden question.
“Dr. Carson, did you ever instruct Mark Iger to intervene directly in regards to David and Madeleine Brighton?”
“No, I did not,” said Ben. “In fact, my orders were for him to have zero direct engagement with them. I made this decision upon learning that they were on their honeymoon in England; I had no authority to sanction any sort of operation on foreign sovereign soil without the permission of the United Kingdom.”
“Thank you. No further questions.”
As Daniel Masters approached, he asked, “Dr. Carson, how long have you and the defendant known each other?”
“For over twenty years.”
“Would you say that you two are friends?”
“Yes,” Ben said.
“Would you say that you trust Mark Iger?”
Ben hesitated. “Up until a couple of weeks ago, yes.”
“A couple of weeks ago? Do you mean to say that one day broke all trust you had in this man?”
“Yes. Someone disobeying a direct order tends to do that.”
“I see.” After leafing through a manila folder, Daniel continued, “I have here a copy of your professional record, Dr. Carson. You’ve had a remarkable career, but there was one blemish in your younger days. Would you please read the highlighted portion?”
Ben read aloud, “Mr. Carson went against a direct order and erased his classmate’s memory of an altercation between them against the classmate’s will. The spell was strong enough that it could not be reversed without revealing the existence of sorcery to this classmate, leaving us unable to restore his memory.”
“Who wrote that, Dr. Carson, and when did this incident take place?”
“It happened in my first year as an official Mason, while I was still in medical school. My supervisor at the time is the one who wrote that report.”
“And what were the circumstances of the altercation mentioned in the report?”
“Objection, Your Honor,” Charlie said. “The witness is not on trial and is also an upstanding member of the Masons. This is nothing more than a cheap character assassination.”
“On the contrary, Your Honor, I have the utmost respect for Dr. Carson,” Daniel replied, “but I must establish a pattern of similar behavior in other sorcerers to show that my client is not an uncontrollable rogue as is being suggested.”
After a moment’s thought, Ramirez said, “I’ll allow it, but you had best behave, Mr. Masters. You may answer, Dr. Carson.”
Ben replied, “The altercation was between me and one of my classmates at the time. He and I had… differing opinions on a number of topics, medical and otherwise. One particularly heated debate between us resulted in a flare-up of aura energy from me for a moment.”
“A flare-up? How did that happen?” Daniel asked.
“I had… a bit of a temper as a younger man. It’s something I’ve worked on over the years. Anyway, as my classmate was not a sorcerer, I feared I had exposed myself to him, but I wasn’t sure from his reactions if he had noticed anything. After informing my boss, he advised me to do nothing and simply cease contact with my classmate, since memory spells are so dangerous. Still, I was paranoid that he had seen something. So, I went against orders and erased his memory of the incident. I felt I couldn’t take a chance that I had been discovered.”
“And you were disciplined for this action?”
“I was,” Ben replied. “Community service and a loss of the general practice of sorcery for six months. It was rough for a young man so reliant on sorcery.”
“Now, are you still in contact with your boss from that time? That is, would you say you are still friends?”
“Yes, I see him a couple of times every year.”
“And he trusts you?”
Ben’s eyes narrowed as he realized where this was going. “Yes.”
“Hmm… I find it most interesting that your former superior still trusts you after you disobeyed his orders, yet you cannot extend the same courtesy to Dr. Iger.”
“Is there a question here, Your Honor?” Charlie interjected once more.
“There is,” said Daniel. “Do you see any problem with that difference between you and Dr. Iger?”
“I don’t,” Ben replied. “I was punished for my actions… and I never tried to kill anyone.”
“No, you instead meddled with another person’s free will. A crime many would deem worse than attempted murder.”
“Withdrawn. Nothing further,” said Daniel.
Dave clenched his fists at this exchange. This was not going as he had hoped. At the next recess, he asked Charlie to put him on the stand next, but Charlie had actually changed his mind and would not be calling on Dave to testify, knowing the defense would put him on the stand regardless. This was due in large part to Dave’s inability to contribute any facts to the case; anything he could say about Mark’s actions was nothing but hearsay and would be tossed out. Instead, Charlie planned to focus on the only eyewitness to the crime itself: Maddie.
“Please state your name.”
“Mrs. Brighton, are you of relation to the victim of the attack in question?” Charlie asked.
“Yes, he is my husband.”
“Where were the two of you on the day in question?”
“We were on our honeymoon in England,” said Maddie. “We had stopped for a while at a lake that we were familiar with. It holds a special place in our hearts. Whilst there, my husband was spending a quiet moment remembering an old friend long gone. It was at that moment that I saw a bolt of lightning strike him in the back.”
“What did you do?”
“I first rushed to his side to see if there was anything I could do to help him,” Maddie continued, choking back her tears. “He was alive, but just barely. After a moment, I heard another person nearby and turned to see who it was.”
“Is that person here in this courtroom today?”
“Yes, that’s him. Dr. Mark Iger,” Maddie said, pointing at the defendant. “His hand was still smoking from firing the bolt of lightning at my husband. I knew in an instant that it was he who had done this.”
“Did he say anything to you?”
“He said that he had to ensure that Dave and I did no further harm to the world, that he would do what had to be done. That was when he attempted to kill me. I fought him off as best I could, but he was more experienced in direct combat than I, and he soon overpowered me. It was only due to the timely intervention of a friend that we were able to escape with our lives.”
“Mrs. Brighton, I am terribly sorry for the danger you experienced. I am pleased that you were not harmed.”
“Your witness, Counselor.”
Remaining seated at his desk, Daniel asked, “You said your name is Madeleine Brighton, is that correct?”
Maddie squirmed a bit in her seat. “Yes, that’s right.”
“I see… then why, when you first met the defendant at his church, did you introduce yourself as Elise Madison Adams?”
“Objection, Your Honor,” said Charlie. “As Mr. Masters is aware, we have already discussed this aspect of the case in chambers. He is referring to a lesser crime that we have declined to file charges on, and this witness is not on trial, besides.”
“Sustained,” Ramirez agreed. “Jury will disregard the question. We’ve been over this, Counselor. Move on.”
Seeing he would have to come at it from a different angle, Daniel asked, “Mrs. Brighton, would you please tell the court under what name you were born?”
With a defiant glare, Maddie replied proudly, “I was born Madeleine of Saxon, daughter of Lord Byron of Saxon.”
“And what was your year of birth?” Daniel grinned.
“I was born in the Year of our Lord 910.”
“So, it’s true? You are not of our time, is that correct, Mrs. Brighton?”
“Yes,” said Maddie with a slight grimace.
“How exactly did you come to be in our time? Are you aware that time travel sorcery has been outlawed around the world for over a century?”
“I am aware of this, yes.”
“And in spite of this, you used one of these time travel spells to come here to the year 2017, is that right?”
“Certainly not!” Maddie growled, feeling her anger rising.
“Ah, if it wasn’t you, then it must have been your husband, an accomplished sorcerer in his own right, yes?”
“You are mistaken, sir,” Maddie insisted, staring daggers at Daniel.
“Then, please enlighten us. How is it that you came to live in a time over a millennium from the year in which you were born?”
“My husband and I were sent here by an immortal water nymph,” she replied. “Her name is Lady Nimue, though you would know her better as the Lady of the Lake.”
“The same one from the legends of Camelot?” Daniel clarified.
“Indeed. She had brought my husband back in time against his will to complete a task, one that only he was capable of completing. Once he had succeeded, she appeared to him and asked for what he would desire most as a reward. Dave answered that he wished to return to his own time.”
“With you in tow?”
“Thank you, Mrs. Brighton. Nothing further.”
“If I may clarify-”
“I have no further questions for her, Your Honor,” Daniel said, sauntering over to the defense table like he owned the place.
Maddie began to sweat, but Charlie calmly stood and said, “Redirect, Your Honor.”
“Continue,” said Ramirez.
“Mrs. Brighton, why did your husband wish you to return to 2017 with him?”
Maddie answered, “There were two reasons. First, we had fallen in love. We wished to marry and spend our lives together, no matter where that may be. Second, and most importantly, I had to return with him for the sake of history.”
“For the sake of history? How do you mean?”
“My father was Lord Byron of Saxon. As I am sure everyone in this court is aware, he lived in the same time as King Arthur of Camelot and had been in talks to bridge a peace between Saxon and Camelot, aiding Arthur in his war with Mordred. In exchange, I was to be married to Sir James, one of the Knights of the Round Table.”
“Is there a relevant point, Your Honor?” Daniel heckled.
“There is, if Mrs. Brighton may be allowed to continue,” Charlie countered.
“Continue, young lady,” Ramirez said, waving Daniel off.
Maddie then said, “As you know, history tells us that the talks between Saxon and Camelot fell apart when an attack resulted in the deaths of Sir James, Lord Byron… and his entire family.”
“His entire family? Does that mean you, Mrs. Brighton?”
“Yes. Or, it would have, had Dave not intervened. He saved my life from the last of Mordred’s men. It was only afterward that he learned who I was and what history tells us should have happened. I should have died in that attack, and my mere survival placed the entire timeline in jeopardy. As Dave explained it to me, my survival could result in me bearing a child one day that would otherwise have never been born. This could possibly have resulted in another child that should have been born never being born. The implications of this paradox are dangerous and far-reaching.”
“And Dave decided to solve the potential danger this paradox presented by removing you from Camelot’s time altogether, bringing you back here to the present?”
“Exactly,” Maddie smiled.
“Thank you. Nothing further.”
“Your Honor, may I re-cross? I have one further question,” Daniel said.
Ramirez sighed. “Fine, but make it quick, Mr. Masters.”
“Mrs. Brighton, did you at any point consider an even simpler solution to this paradox, such as ending your own life?”
“Objection!” Charlie shouted.
“Overruled. It’s a legitimate question,” said Ramirez. “You may answer, young lady.”
Maddie closed her eyes, fighting back tears. “I did. Once, I was so close to taking my own life, but Dave stopped me. He told me that there had to be a better way, one that did not result in loss of life. That was the first time he told me that he loved me.”
“So, you were prepared to do what had to be done, but he prevented you from doing so based on his own hunch?” Daniel asked.
“Objection, calls for speculation,” Charlie said.
“I’ll withdraw. No further questions, Your Honor.”
By the time Maddie’s testimony had finished, court adjourned for the day. Dave had sat by and watched the entire time, helpless as Mark’s asshole attorney assaulted and accused her of everything he could think of. It was only due to Ben’s calming presence that he hadn’t leapt over the railing and charged the lawyer when he had asked his final question. Through this, Dave was beginning to realize just how much his time in Camelot had changed him. Before that, outbursts of anger or a desire to assault someone were unthinkable to an intellectual like him; fighting for one’s life tended to put things in a different perspective. It didn’t help that it was the love of his life that was being attacked, not to mention that she was usually the one to calm him down and prevent him from acting rashly. He wondered if that’s something Daniel Masters had been counting on. As the courtroom emptied out for the evening, Dave saw Charlie Larusso walking out on his own. He appeared exhausted, his stocky body hunched over as he shook his bald head. Dave hung back at the exit to the courtroom as Charlie approached.
“You have to let me take the stand tomorrow,” Dave said.
“There’s nothing you could say to help the case that hasn’t already been said.”
“Come on! You can see where Iger is going with all this, but you aren’t doing anything to shut down his necessity defense!”
Charlie sighed. “The fact that the judge granted the necessity defense puts us in at a severe disadvantage, Dave. I fought like hell during arraignment, but the judge allowed the defense. This isn’t over, but we’re fighting an uphill battle. The jury likes your wife, but they believe Dr. Iger’s fears were likely justified. When the defense calls you to the stand, you’ll need to be at your best.”
“How do you know they’ll call me to testify?”
“The defense can’t make their case without you. I’m betting you’ll be their final star witness unless Dr. Iger takes the stand himself. That little song and dance with your wife today was all about establishing that others have done similar things as Iger did with the same or lesser concerns. That’s their play, and it’s a hit with the jury, by my estimations.”
“So, how do we stop them?” Dave asked.
“You let me worry about that; I’ll be ready on cross. Just keep calm and be friendly and personable when you’re called to testify.”
“Defense calls Dr. Megan Powers to the stand.”
A moment later, a petite woman with graying hair strode down the courtroom aisle, taking her seat on the witness stand. After the bailiff swore her in, Daniel approached with a warm smile on his face.
“Dr. Powers, will you please state your occupation for the court?”
“Senior Professor of Theoretical Physics at Stanford University with specialties in String Theory and Loop Quantum Gravity.”
A smattering of oohs was heard in the courtroom. Even Dave’s eyebrows shot up at hearing her credentials.
“Dr. Powers, you have published a number of theoretical essays regarding the nature of time travel. Would you say that you have any expertise in this area of study?” Daniel continued.
“Well, nobody is truly an expert in something that is illegal and unpracticed across the world,” Dr. Powers replied, “but I would consider myself an enthusiast for the subject.”
“An enthusiast? Could you please elaborate?”
“Since the formation of the United States, when the original Freemasons decided to outlaw time travel, one of the most fascinating areas of study for most any sorcerer has been the potential effects of time travel. Such fascinations are theoretical at best, but that has not stopped sorcerers from trying to comprehend the greater reasons behind the decision to outlaw time travel.”
“And what are some of the highlights of these studies? In layman’s terms, if you would.”
Dr. Powers said, “One of the earliest theories, particularly among conspiracy theorists who disagreed with the outlawing of time travel, was that there was no such thing as traveling through time. Instead, the thought was that one traveled to an alternate universe which happened to be at the specific point in time one wished to travel to. In this theory, the number of alternate universes was infinite, which resulted in the idea that history, so to speak, could not be damaged.”
“This theory was the subject of one of your earliest essays, was it not?”
“It was. I delved into the alternate universe theory intensely but came to the conclusion that the idea of being unable to damage history was not plausible. Our actions always have consequences, no matter how many universes there may be.”
“Is it your opinion that the reason for outlawing time travel was as simple as that: to prevent history from being damaged through someone’s reckless actions?”
“It is,” Dr. Powers nodded. “In the course of my research, I managed to find some documents long thought lost: Merlin’s records of time travel.”
“The subject of your second published essay, yes?”
“Indeed. Merlin’s deions of his journeys through time make it clear that his actions would have consequences on his own time, regardless if he was in the same universe or an alternate universe. I tend to place tremendous faith in these accounts. Not only were they written by the greatest sorcerer the world has ever known, but they also are one of the few firsthand accounts we have of time travel.”
“Thank you, Dr. Powers. Now, turning our attention back to this case, what was your reaction to Mrs. Brighton’s testimony yesterday?”
Her eyes brightened at this. “Oh, I found Mrs. Brighton’s testimony quite exciting, to say the least. This is an unprecedented opportunity for us to actually speak with someone from another time altogether. The possibilities for further knowledge from her experiences are too numerous to count!”
“I take it that you believe her testimony to be truthful?” Daniel asked.
“I do, not only from the perspective of being under oath, but also in respect to the detailed account of her father’s death. Based on everything we know of Lord Byron and his attempted alliance with Camelot, I believe she is his daughter.”
“Thank you. Now, I realize that much of this testimony is theoretical, but I have spoken to Judge Ramirez, and he has decided to allow some speculative testimony from you, largely due to your lifetime of research on the nature of time. With that said, let us suppose that you had only the information that Dr. Iger had at the same time he had it. You had learned that Mr. Brighton had traveled back in time to Camelot and returned to this time with Madeleine in tow. Given that information alone and none of the testimony you heard yesterday, would you feel you had enough to reach a reasonable conclusion about the situation?”
Dr. Powers cocked her head a bit. “I’m afraid I don’t understand what you’re asking, Counselor.”
“Of course, I’ll rephrase. Given the information I described and without the benefit of Mrs. Brighton’s testimony, Dr. Iger reached the conclusion that David Brighton’s decision to bring Madeleine into a time in which she did not belong placed the entire world in danger of a paradox. Would you, a lifelong enthusiast on the topic of time travel, also reach such a conclusion under the same circumstances?”
“I suppose I would, yes,” Dr. Powers nodded.
“And with such a conclusion being reached, what would be the next course of action?”
“I don’t know for sure, but it would certainly be a dangerous situation that would require a swift and decisive response. There would still be missing pieces to the puzzle, of course, but in my theoretical opinion, the top priority would have to be ensuring the world was not in danger of a paradox.”
“And why is this, Dr. Powers? What could happen due to this paradox?”
“A damaged timeline, as Mrs. Brighton so succinctly explained yesterday. Her mere presence in this time could inadvertently cause something to happen that alters the intended course of history. Perhaps she had been destined to bear a child back in the time of Camelot. It is possible that this child could have ended up being a key ancestor of someone vital to history.”
“For example, Winston Churchill?” Daniel asked.
“Yes, that’s quite possible. Any child she might have birthed in her time could have been vital to the birth of one such important person in history. This is the sort of danger that the threat of a paradox presents.”
“Thank you, Dr. Powers. No further questions.”
Charlie then stood and approached the witness stand. “Dr. Powers, are you saying that you would have taken the same course of action as Dr. Iger and attempted to kill David and Madeleine Brighton?”
Shaking her head, she replied, “I don’t think I can answer that question.”
“Dr. Powers, you have provided speculative testimony thus far with the permission of the court. Why can you not answer this theoretical question?” Charlie pressed.
“Because I consider myself a pacifist,” she explained. “I have never taken a human life and I am thankful for that. I hope I never will. But under extraordinary circumstances, such as the one that led to the events in question, none can say with any accuracy how they would respond until they are placed in such a scenario. It is possible that such a situation would cause me to renounce my pacifism in that moment for the greater good, but it is also equally possible I would endeavor to find a peaceful solution at all costs. I simply cannot say with any certainty.”
“I believe this court deserves to hear if you would have done the same as Dr. Iger,” Charlie responded.
“You have my answer, Counselor.”
Turning to Ramirez, Charlie continued, “Your Honor, I would ask that you instruct the witness to give a direct answer to the question I have asked. She has provided theoretical testimony for the defense, so it is only fair that she does the same for the prosecution.”
Daniel stood to protest, but Ramirez waved him off. “Denied, Counselor. If the witness truly doesn’t know the answer to a question, even theoretically, she cannot be forced to give an answer under oath. In this court’s opinion, her response is sufficient. Move on.”
Pursing his lips in frustration, Charlie returned to the prosecution desk. After Dr. Powers had returned to her seat, Daniel Masters stood and announced the moment Dave had been waiting for.
“Defense calls David Brighton to the stand.”
After receiving a peck on the cheek from his wife, Dave strode to the front of the courtroom and took his seat. The bailiff swore him in, and Daniel Masters stood.
“Mr. Brighton, according to your wife’s testimony yesterday, you were sent back in time to the year 932 against your will, is that correct?”
“Yes, that’s what happened.”
“She also made mention of an event that inadvertently altered history’s intended path, is that so? Can you elaborate on said event?”
Dave replied, “As soon as I had arrived in Camelot, though I didn’t know at the time that was what had happened, I heard a ruckus nearby. As I peered through the trees, I saw an overturned carriage in a clearing and two men on horseback approaching it. Two more men emerged from the carriage but were soon killed by the riders. The last remaining rider then dismounted and pulled a lady from the wrecked carriage. I would later learn that this was Madeleine of Saxon, but at the time, all I saw was that this girl was about to be raped and murdered by the last of the riders. So… I did what I had to.”
“And by that you mean?”
“I killed the man attacking her.”
“How did you do this? These riders had already killed two other men, so how did you manage to best them?”
“One of the riders had already been struck down by the two men from the carriage. As for the second, I had my bow and arrows from archery practice with me when I first tumbled back in time. I’m pretty much a crack shot. Hit him square in the temple.”
“My, my, that must have been traumatic for you.”
Though it wasn’t exactly a question, Dave replied, “Maybe a little bit, but I was more concerned for Maddie at that point.”
“So, to summarize, you tumbled into an unfamiliar situation with limited information at your disposal and came across something terrible about to happen. Even without knowing everything that was going on, you felt you had enough information to ascertain that you were the only one capable of stopping said terrible event, but only if you acted immediately. Would that be a fair assessment, Mr. Brighton?”
Narrowing his eyes, Dave said, “Yes, but-”
“Thank you. Now, when did you first learn who this girl you rescued actually was?”
Dave had to work hard to remain calm; he could tell where all this was leading. “It was about an hour later. After I saved Maddie, a group of King Arthur’s knights rode up and found the wreckage. Since the man I had killed was one of Mordred’s men, the knights of Camelot brought me before their king as thanks for my actions. In the course of that conversation with Arthur and Merlin, I realized who it was that had been killed and who I had saved from death.”
“A death that history says was supposed to happen, yes?”
“What happened then?”
“I explained the situation to Arthur and Merlin, and we together took steps to ensure that no damage would be done to history as a result. Maddie was quarantined in her room to be sure she wouldn’t have any incidental communication with anyone she shouldn’t have, but that was only a temporary solution.”
“You needed a permanent solution, is that right?”
“Yes,” Dave nodded.
“And why did you feel bringing her to 2017 was the optimal solution?”
“Well, from the moment I saved her life, Maddie didn’t belong in the year 932 any more than I did. She was completely out of time, even if she didn’t seem it. The only solution was to somehow remove her from the timeline to prevent her existence from doing any damage to history. That said, I refused to kill her or to allow her to commit suicide.”
“Because you had fallen in love with her?”
“I had, but even if I hadn’t, I would have still refused to give in to something barbaric and unnecessary. If there was any possible way to resolve the situation while keeping her alive, I felt I had a responsibility to find it. Thus, our decision to return to 2017 together.”
“I see,” Daniel said, turning to the jury. “So, to summarize, no less than twice during your little time jump, you took actions that might have been considered wrong, but you took them anyway. Why? Because given the information you had at the time, these actions were… necessary.” He glanced at Dave over his shoulder. “Is that right, Mr. Brighton?”
“Yes,” Dave managed through gritted teeth.
“In fact, wouldn’t it be fair to say that you went even farther than Dr. Iger did?”
“I don’t understand-”
“Think of it this way, Mr. Brighton. Dr. Iger took the actions he did because he believed they were necessary for the greater good. He was even prepared to kill because of this belief. You, Mr. Brighton, actually did kill someone for the very same reasons, isn’t that right?”
“That’s not a fair comparison!”
“Yes or no, Mr. Brighton? Did you or did you not take a human life out of necessity for the greater good?”
After several long seconds, Dave growled, “Yes, I did.”
“You did, indeed. And curiously enough, you were not immediately threatened with the worst possible punishment, instead being welcomed as a hero, by your own account. I find it laughable that you are unable to apply the same standard to Dr. Iger.”
“Is there a question, Your Honor?” Charlie asked from the prosecution desk.
“There is,” Daniel replied. “Mr. Brighton, what were your personal feelings regarding Dr. Iger before the events in question? Did you believe him an honest and trustworthy man?”
“Objection! The witness’ emotions are irrelevant to these proceedings!” Charlie protested.
“They have a great deal of relevance, Your Honor, which will become apparent once I call my next witness,” Daniel said calmly.
Ramirez eyed both attorneys for several long seconds before replying, “I’ll give you this latitude, Mr. Masters, but keep your questions respectful and to the point. You may answer, Mr. Brighton.”
Dave did his best to remain calm, but his face certainly gave him away. “I have not trusted Dr. Iger for several years,” he at last said.
“Because he believes in God and you don’t?” Daniel asked.
“Sustained. Behave yourself, Mr. Masters.”
“My apologies,” Daniel said with a smile. “Why is it you do not trust Dr. Iger?”
“Past experiences. He claims to be a humble servant of his church congregation but plays favorites as to who he visits in person when they’re hospitalized. When my grandmother was ill some five or six years ago, he could never be bothered to visit her himself, always sent his assistant in his place.”
“And these feelings of discontent came to a head at your grandmother’s funeral, is that right?” Daniel asked.
“They did,” Dave nodded. “When Mark… Dr. Iger… showed up and pretended like he was so concerned for me and my family after her death, I had had enough of his lies and told him off in front of everyone.”
“What specifically did you say to him?”
“I called him out for what he was: a hypocrite. I believe that’s what he still is to this day.”
“Move to have the witness’ last sentence stricken on the basis of speculation,” Daniel said to Ramirez.
“Granted. Jury will disregard the witness’ last sentence.”
“Thank you.” Turning back to Dave, he continued, “Is it fair to say that if Dr. Iger had come to you and revealed himself a sorcerer to ask you about your wife, you would not have trusted him?”
Dave paused, expecting Charlie to object on the basis of speculation, but no protest came. As Dave had been explicitly instructed by Charlie not to make any objections on his own, he answered, “Yes, I would not have trusted him.”
“No further questions.”
Dave glared at the defense table as Daniel strode back to his seat. Charlie did the best he could on cross, but the damage had been done. There was no distinction between Dave and Mark that he could draw that would resonate with the jury. By the looks on their faces, every last one of them was on Mark’s side.
“If you’ll state your name for the record.”
“Dr. Mark Iger.”
Daniel began, “Dr. Iger, have you ever been convicted of any crime, either here in the sorcery community or otherwise?”
“No, I have not.”
“I see. Have you ever been charged with any felonies in either society?”
“No, sir,” Mark replied again.
“Yet here you sit, on trial for your freedom with charges of attempted murder being brought against you. Tell me, Dr. Iger, have you ever once denied your actions that have led to this trial here today?”
“I have not. I stand by my decisions, for they were my only course of action in those moments,” Mark replied with a warm smile.
“In other words, they were necessary?”
“Now, in determining that these actions were necessary, did you consider any alternative choices? For example, did you ever seek a peaceful alternative?”
Mark grimaced at this. “It was my deepest desire to resolve this situation peacefully and without violence, but it was apparent to me that this would not be possible.”
“Why do you say that?” Daniel asked.
“I have known David Brighton for many years. While he has grown into a confident and intelligent young man, I have no delusions about our relationship. He and I have never seen eye-to-eye on a great many issues, as Mr. Brighton attested to in his previous testimony. I knew he would not have trusted my intentions had I approached him peacefully about this; even he admitted as such. But more important to why I could not negotiate a peaceful solution was the presence of Madeleine Brighton. Once I had confirmed the fact that she was not of this time, every second was precious; each moment she spent here put the world in danger of a paradox. Thus, I had to act swiftly and decisively, as Dr. Powers attested would be necessary. It was my only option, especially with Secretary Carson’s refusal to intervene officially.”
“And you stand by that even with Mrs. Brighton’s testimony yesterday?”
“I do,” Mark nodded. “Given the information I had at the time, it was the only reasonable assumption I could make. I regret that the situation necessitated the use of violence, but I do believe my actions were justified.”
“Thank you, Dr. Iger. Your witness.”
Charlie approached the witness stand and stated, “Forgive me, Dr. Iger, but the actions you took on the day in question don’t seem to match up with the deions you’ve given to this court. You stated that every second Madeleine Brighton continued to live put the world in danger of a paradox, yet you didn’t attack her first. Instead, you attacked her husband, David Brighton. Why should we believe that this action was based on your concern for the world and not due to the animosity between the two of you? I’ll remind you that both you and Mr. Brighton have admitted to said animosity.”
“I understand what you’re suggesting, Counselor, but it’s simply not the case,” replied Mark. “I attacked David first not because of our past but because he was the greater threat in that moment. During my work with Secretary Carson, we had learned that David was not only a sorcerer, but one of the most powerful sorcerers on the entire planet. Moreover, my own studies had revealed that David was a student of Merlin, as he stated in his testimony. Remember, Merlin was one of the most prolific users of time-travel sorcery in the history of the world, so it was reasonable to assume from Madeleine’s presence that David had mastered such sorcery. Yes, I could have eliminated Madeleine Brighton straight away, but then I might have been defeated by her husband, who would then reverse my actions by traveling through time. Thus, I had no choice but to eliminate David Brighton first.”
“Even with all your assumptions being proven dead wrong, you still believe that?” Charlie asked incredulously.
“I do. Make no mistake, I am glad to have been proven wrong. I am happy that the world is not in danger of a paradox. But that does not change the fact that my assumptions, incorrect as they may have been, were reasonable. My actions in those moments were justified based on the information that was available. It’s that simple.”
“Shooting a man in the back with a bolt of lightning is justified? More like cowardly,” Charlie countered.
“Your Honor!” shouted Daniel.
“Withdrawn. Nothing further,” said Charlie.
Charlie’s closing statement brought no real surprises. He emphasized the criminality of Mark’s actions and focused on how wrong his assumptions and suppositions ended up being. The jury nodded and understood for the most part, but it was clear they were only being polite; most of them seemed to have already made up their minds. Once Charlie finished, Daniel Masters stood to deliver his closing statement.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, let me make one thing clear: Mark Iger’s actions were illegal. We have never once disputed this. But the legality doesn’t matter given the context of the situation he found himself in. His actions were necessary.
“Now, it’s important to remember that there are several key elements to a necessity defense. There must be a specific threat of imminent danger which requires immediate action to prevent. A major paradox qualifies as such, as per the testimony of Dr. Powers. There must also be no practical alternative. Both Mark Iger and David Brighton admit that the situation could not have been resolved peacefully. The accused must not have contributed to the threat. The threat Dr. Iger perceived was one born of David Brighton’s actions alone. Finally, the damage done must be less than the damage that would have been done otherwise. A major paradox could have caused many people to never have been born that should have been born. Two lives are certainly less damage than that.
“Make no mistake, we are fully aware that Dr. Iger’s perceptions and assumptions proved to be incorrect, but that does not change the reasonability of said assumptions. And let us not forget that my client is not the only person we have heard from in this trial that has made reasonable assumptions before then acting upon them, only for the circumstances to change. David Brighton killed a man having made such assumptions but placed the timeline in jeopardy by doing so. Ultimately, it is his actions that have brought us here today, not my client’s.
“Of course, in the end, this trial is not about David Brighton, Secretary Carson, Madeleine Brighton, Dr. Powers, or anybody else. This trial is about Mark Iger and whether or not you good people believe he was justified in his actions. You have seen the requirements for a necessity defense laid out for you. You have heard testimony from several witnesses pertaining to each part of such a defense. Now, you must ask yourself one question: were Mark Iger’s actions necessary? And if you think not, I would ask you to pause and ask one further question: what would I have done differently in the same situation?
“The simple fact of the matter is that if you cannot think of any reasonable alternative he could have taken that has not been covered in this trial, your answer is clear. You must acquit Dr. Iger of all charges. This man is not a bloodthirsty criminal. He is a good man, and a pillar of his community. He has served as a man of God for his entire life, always seeking to help better those around him. He has a family that he loves dearly, and it was out of concern for his family and community, I would even daresay the world, that he took the actions he did. Do not punish him for trying to do the right thing in an imperfect situation.”
While the members of the jury watched Daniel intently, nodding along with most everything he said, Dave could only stew in his seat. His blood boiled with anger at hearing Daniel’s lies, and his fists were clenched so tightly they almost drew blood from his palms. It was only due to the calming presence of his wife, as well as the magic jammers in the courtroom, that he did not jump the railing and take matters into his own hands. By the time Ramirez dismissed the jurors to deliberate, there was little doubt in Dave’s mind what their verdict would be.
The Brightons arrived at the courthouse the next morning, having been informed that the jury was back from deliberations. While Dave felt certain of what that meant, Maddie still held out hope that they would return a conviction. After the couple took their seats with Ben, the jury filed in and awaited Judge Ramirez’s arrival. Once he entered the courtroom, Ramirez turned to the jury.
“Members of the jury, have you reached a verdict?”
“We have, Your Honor,” replied the foreman.
After reading the jury papers handed to him by the bailiff, Ramirez passed the papers back to the foreman and asked, “On the first charge of attempted murder, how does the jury find?”
“We find the defendant not guilty by reason of necessity.”
“And on the second count of attempted murder, how do you find?”
“Not guilty by reason of necessity.”
There was a rumbling amongst the attendees, but Ramirez silenced it with a bang of his gavel. “This court thanks the jury for its service. The defendant is free to go.”
At this, Maddie collapsed into Dave’s arms and sobbed into his shoulder. Dave did what he could to comfort his wife, but his own anger was nigh uncontrollable at this point. All he wanted was to ensure his family’s safety from Mark, but it was not to be, at least not through legal means. Ben, having anticipated this result, whisked Dave and Maddie out into the hall and to a private room a few doors down, giving them some privacy and a chance to cool down.
“I can’t believe this,” Dave grumbled.
Ben replied, “I know this isn’t the result we wanted, but-”
“But nothing!” Dave snapped. “That asshole nearly killed me AND my wife! And he just gets to walk?!”
“Calm down, David,” Maddie said, drying her eyes. “I am also upset, but we have done all we can.”
“We charged him, we tried him, and a jury sided with him,” Ben chimed in. “It’s over. I’m sorry, Dave. Still, I hope this won’t change your decision to join the Masons?”
As Dave was about to lay into Ben once more, Maddie placed a finger over his lips to silence her husband. “Dr. Carson, may we have a few minutes to ourselves?”
“Of course,” Ben replied, exiting the room.
As soon as the door was closed, Maddie said to Dave, “I understand your anger, but you will not fly off the handle and do something rash.”
“You seriously think I should still join these people?! That entire trial was a joke! Something is seriously wrong for Iger to get off that easily!” Dave protested.
“And further… wait, what?”
“I said, I agree,” Maddie repeated. “I can’t explain it, but I cannot ignore my intuition on this, Dave. I feel something is terribly off about this.”
“Maybe foul play,” Dave nodded. “I mean, there was a softball objection during my testimony that even I saw coming, but Charlie said nothing. How could a hotshot prosecutor like Charlie Larusso miss an opportunity like that?!”
“I don’t know if suspecting the prosecutor is the right thing to do,” Maddie replied, “but I do agree that this seemed all too easy for Iger to win. And with that said, I think that’s all the more reason to join the Masons.”
“You can’t be serious,” Dave grumbled.
“It comes down to one simple question: do you trust Dr. Carson? If there was foul play in this trial, do you think he was involved?”
Giving a heavy sigh, Dave admitted, “No. No, I don’t think Ben would be involved.”
“Neither do I, and the fact remains that we will not be able to discover the truth of all this if we go it alone. At this point, I think starting your work with the Masons is our best chance to gain insight into what might have happened to cause this verdict. I would suggest that you keep this to yourself, of course, but to run away now would be foolish and shortsighted.”
“I guess you’re right,” Dave nodded. “We need intel, and we won’t get that on our own. Maybe I could convince Ben to help me… under the right circumstances.”
Kissing her husband on the cheek, Maddie said, “I think that is a wonderful idea.”
“Why are we still sitting here? I thought I was free to go?” Mark asked.
“Patience, my friend,” Daniel replied.
The two sat in a private room in the courthouse, but for what reason, Mark couldn’t say. Daniel appeared to be waiting for something or someone. Still, the man had just gotten him acquitted, so Mark couldn’t really complain that much. After a couple of minutes, the door opened to reveal two men that Mark recognized in an instant.
“Judge Ramirez? Charlie Larusso?” he asked in confusion.
Ignoring Mark for the moment, Daniel asked, “Were either of you followed?”
“Not a chance,” Ramirez grinned.
“We pulled it off,” Charlie said with a small laugh.
Mark’s jaw dropped as the three men shook hands and congratulated each other on a job well done. They spoke to each other not bitter rivals fresh off a highly contested legal trial, but as old friends. Their pleasantries exchanged, the trio now turned to face Mark, his face still one of awe and confusion.
“What is going on here?” Mark finally asked.
“Our superiors told you they’d take care of everything, didn’t they?” Daniel replied.
“Are you saying… whoever contacted me influenced the trial verdict?”
“Exactly,” Ramirez said. “They ensured that Daniel, Charlie, and myself would each be the defense, prosecutor, and judge. With the three of us working in tandem to steer the direction of the trial in subtle ways, that increased the odds of acquittal in your favor.”
“Of course, that alone isn’t enough,” Charlie continued. “Yours was still a trial by jury, and we had to convince those twelve people to go along with what we wanted. Nice use of the Words of Influence, by the way, Daniel.”
“Hold on, Words of Influence?” Mark asked, standing with a start. “You mean the spell that can give one’s words powerful weight over whomever hears them? How could that have been used in the courtroom with the magic jammers in place? Did you disable them, Judge Ramirez?”
“Of course not,” Ramirez replied. “The jammers are secured in such a way that they can only be disabled on the authority of the Security Council. No way would they have ever agreed to that. Instead, we had to… bypass them.”
“Bypass them? How?” Mark wondered.
Without a word, the three men held out their hands, displaying the rings that held each of their Channels. But instead of glowing with an ethereal light, the stones began to emit a thin black smoke the likes of which Mark had never seen. Normally, this would not have been possible anywhere in the courthouse, not with the jammers present, but all the same, it was clear the three men were drawing on their power.
“As you have likely surmised,” said Daniel, “we three are part of a secret society of sorcerers dedicated to the ideals of Divine Right. Though our ancestors operated in open defiance to the Masons at one time, we have found it necessary to exist in secret in today’s world. Thus, we had to develop a means of practicing sorcery that the Masons could not detect. And if they can’t detect it, they can’t jam it.”
Mark protested, “B-But the jammers don’t block sorcery, do they? They just disconnect one’s mind from one’s Channel.”
“How right you are,” Ramirez said. “Fortunately for us, our method of practicing sorcery doesn’t rely on our intellect, at least not directly. Instead of channeling the entirety of our brains into our channel to perform sorcery, we allow our intellects to merge with our emotions. That combined energy then flows into our enhanced Channels, allowing us to practice sorcery even when jammers are present. And best of all, it’s untraceable by the Masons… which means they won’t detect a thing if the three of us decide to use our power to rip you to pieces here and now.”
Before Mark could react, he found his wrists and ankles bound by black tentacles rising from the floor around him. He struggled for a few seconds, but the tentacles soon pulled his limbs tight, ready at a moment’s notice to end his life.
“Wha… what do you want from me?” he asked, the terror apparent in his voice.
Charlie replied, “It’s simple, Dr. Iger. With our actions during your trial, we managed to secure your release. As a result, you are now indebted to our superiors. They have need of you, and you’re going to agree to help them with whatever they wish. Unless, of course, you’d prefer an excruciating death right now. It’s your choice.”
“Now, hold on a minute! I never asked for any of this! You and your superiors, whoever the hell they are, thrust this upon me!”
“Chaos is a fact of the universe, Dr. Iger,” Daniel said without emotion. “You have five seconds to decide.”
“Four… three… two…”
“OK, OK! I’LL DO WHAT YOU WANT!” Mark screamed, tears now streaming down his face. A moment later, the tentacles released him and he fell to his hands and knees, now a whimpering mess of a man.
“I knew you’d do the right thing,” Daniel grinned.
Charlie and Ramirez then grabbed Mark’s wrist roughly and held it out towards Daniel, who withdrew a thin metal ring from his coat pocket. The ring was pitch black, with what appeared to be etchings of flames all around it. As Mark’s hand trembled, Daniel placed the ring on Mark’s finger, slipping the material underneath the signet ring that held Mark’s Channel. After a second, Mark felt a strange power grip him. It seemed to make him stronger, but also felt as though it was watching his every movement. He looked up once more at the three men standing over him.
“Dr. Mark Iger,” said Daniel, “welcome to the fold of the Illuminati.”