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From Inside the Flap
Lucinda Monticello, co-anchor of Your World News, stood outside a federal courtroom in Washington, DC, waiting amongst a pool of correspondents to report on the most anticipated trial of the decade. To most, the trial represented the opportunity to finally put former Vice President Harper behind bars, but to her, it represented much more.
"I have two daughters," she shuddered. She clutched her heart when she discovered her fetus had been stolen from her womb and cloned. She felt completely numb when she saw her daughters for the first time, so tiny and frail.
She patted her stomach out of habit and recalled how, nearly a decade ago, Vice President Harper and his co-conspirators were accused of stealing her fetus from her womb, cloning it, and then bringing to life her two fetuses via artificial wombs. She felt thankful that her daughters, Valerie and Sally, who were now twelve years old, had survived the experimental womb technology when so many lives had been lost in the process of perfecting the medical breakthrough. Ironically, she thought about how artificial wombs were now producing lives to boost the population, despite the way it illegally came about when her daughters were treated like rats.
Inside the courtroom an overflow of spectators were assembled in a space that had recently been constructed to provide temporary housing while a permanent, weather proof federal courthouse was being built underground to escape the ever-daunting weather that continued to transform the earth. Tornados flattening the Midwest and hurricanes colliding into the coasts were as abundant as sunny days.
Towards the front right side of the room, a jury assembled, waiting for the proceedings to begin. Even though the trial was taking place in a temporary courtroom, it was ornamented to resemble the original courtroom that had been flooded beyond repair, making it difficult for the viewers across the globe to distinguish between the original structure and the temporary one.
Lucinda's cloned daughter, Valerie, was sitting in between her bodyguard, Miranda, and her father, Alex Bennett. She and her father were summoned to the courtroom to serve as prosecution witnesses against Harper for his alleged role in his previous trial of stealing and breeding fetuses in which he wasn't convicted. Intently, Valerie watched as her father eyed the witness stand, eager for justice to be served to the man he believed was once in cohorts with his former boss at the National Science Institute, Darrell Bearden, when he was employed as a geneticist. Alex felt certain that they coerced him into utilizing his fetal genetic expertise to evaluate stolen fetuses that were being groomed to repopulate a climate changed world. Later, he discovered that two of the fetuses caught up in the scandal were actually his offspring.
Valerie watched as Harper sat completely still, and in coordinating dark conservative suits, his dream team of lawyers surrounded him, eyeballing the prosecution as if they were waiting to slash their prey. Although their client's case appeared to be a losing battle, they exuded a sense of confidence that intimidated even the most optimistic opponent. The dream team had effectively kept him out of prison for his first alleged offense.
Atypically, the evidence in this case seemed overwhelmingly incriminating, which sent conflicting messages to both his critics and supporters alike. How could he have allowed such blatant evidence to surface after he had been so careful to conceal his illegal actions the first time? So much so, that he was acquitted even after supposedly helping fellow conspirators, Varuni and Samar Pali escape from prison a decade ago.
As the trial was about to open, Valerie teetered back and forth in her folding chair, sensing that she was being watched by everyone in the courtroom, especially the security guards who were positioned around the perimeter. In return, she studied their freshly laundered uniforms that appeared as if they had never been worn. Their shiny boots mimicked their inquisitive eyes that glared steadily at her. She counted a total of six pairs of boots, which matched the number of faux pillars that they were standing against.
She shifted her gaze to Harper and began to wonder what might have happened if her artificial womb had not been discovered and saved by the FBI. She tried to imagine herself living under his authority, which in an odd way, often seemed more appealing than her life at home with a family in which she struggled to relate.
There's more to life than just sitting in your room doing nothing…but Mother, you won't let me fix all that's going wrong in the world…Honey, I know you're frustrated, but it has to be this way. Please try to understand.
Finally, the judge entered the courtroom, and she expected all eyes to shift to him; however, she quickly realized that she, too, remained a key attraction. As America's sole clone with genetically enhanced intelligence, she was unlike anyone else, and because of that, her parents rarely let her out of the house for fear of what she might do or how she might be perceived. Although her parents claimed that they did everything possible to make her living situation at home bearable, her genetic enhancement perpetually separated her from everyone, especially her sister, Sally.
If it wasn't for her close relationship with Miranda, she would be lost. As her bodyguard, Miranda not only guarded her physically, but she also served as her emotional crutch when her family fell short of her expectations. Miranda genuinely understood her, accepted her differences, and encouraged her to do great things to help mend the environment, which was an issue that was of great importance to her. Although most people, including her father who was now a leading genetics and cloning researcher, believed in developing innovative solutions to physically adapt humans to a diminishing environment; on the contrary, she believed that the environment could be returned to a manageable state without genetically enhancing or altering humans.
She took a deep breath, trying not to allow a few uneasy glares from keeping her attention focused on the history that was about to unfold. She studied Harper's freshly groomed hairline and his expensive pinstriped suit, making him look as valiant as ever. She watched as he held steady when the bailiff read that he was accused of hoarding weapons of mass destruction at an underground site near the south side of DC. Although she couldn't see his face, she tried to imagine his expression; his dark eyes highlighting his smooth forehead while his lips molded together in his typical closed-mouth grin, concealing every ounce of possible guilt. In a way, he reminded her of the same proud and confident man she recalled from old video footage when he was sworn into office as the Vice President of the United States.
She shook herself back to reality when the charges came to an end. The words illegally possessing level four biohazardous weapons made her feel even more on edge. What was he planning to do with those weapons?
"Don't worry," Miranda whispered. "He won't get off this time. Sooner or later, he's got it coming to him."
She grinned back at Miranda, and then she slumped in her chair and listened to the dream team spout their opening remarks while she continued to fixate on Harper's neck where sweat beads were visibly forming.
When the opening remarks finally came to an end, Harper stood up as if he was preparing to take charge of his own trial; although, his straight back and broad shoulders began to give way as if he was lugging bricks. Then he pushed his hands deeply into his pockets, towering over his lawyers who were trying to interpret his peculiar and erratic moves. The spectators were equally on edge as the mood in the courtroom suddenly intensified.
"Mr. Harper, take a seat," the judge ordered sternly.
Blatantly, he refused.
With several firm hands pressing onto his shoulders at once, his lawyers tried to coach him back down in a hurry.
Unwilling to cooperate, he withdrew his hands from his pockets and maneuvered his elbows in a way that knocked the wind out of the lawyers who were standing on either side of him. At the same time, a cloud of dust penetrated the courtroom, triggered by the security guards who should have taken immediate action to restrain him.
"Bailiff!" the judge shouted out in alarm, just seconds before the courtroom became a blur and the cameras to the outside world were sufficiently fogged. Spectators inside the courtroom gasped, shielding their eyes and mouths from the unknown substance that was saturating the air. Miranda pushed Valerie to the floor in hopes of protecting her frame and shielding her from the unknown substance.
The security guards, now adorned in gas masks dispersed throughout the courtroom, locking the doors and trapping everyone inside. These so called 'protectors' perched themselves at the exits allowing no one to enter or leave the courtroom.
Valerie struggled to breathe under Miranda's heavy weight as she lifted her neck just high enough to keep a watchful eye on her father who was struggling to stand, but then she began to feel sleepy and had no choice but to rest her head on the floor. Lying still, she recognized Harper's pinstriped slacks moving swiftly towards her.
Her father recognized him, too. "You won't get away with this!" he struggled as he attempted to lunge towards Harper and grip him by his neck just before he reached Valerie.
"Alex Bennett, I already have," Harper chuckled as he called him out by name; at the same time, Miranda shifted her weight so that Harper couldn't harm Valerie.
Helpless and confused, Alex started to lose his footing as a sleepy sensation overtook his ability to stand. Then, one-by-one, everyone in the courtroom collapsed, including Harper.
Several imposter guards seized Harper, Alex, Valerie, and Miranda and carried them across the room, trampling over the fallen bodies and off to the judge's chambers.
Locked outside of the courtroom, Lucinda pounded on the door while the authorities forced her and the other distraught reporters back, witnessing only a cloud of dust on a large screen that was mounted outside the temporary courthouse. Desperately, she wanted to save her daughter who had been sucked into some sort of horrific ordeal. Instead, she felt her body jolt as an explosion sounded from inside the courtroom.
Blood Moon Publishing is an imprint of Double Dragon Publishing