The Coldest War

Hospitals and Trials

Rhyme woke up. She was lying on a hospital bed in a hospital gown. The sunlight was filtering in through a window. Birds were singing. There was a lunch on a tray nearby, and a strange metal box with moving pictures (a tv) was showing some people talking about stuff on low volume. Outside the window, she saw the Seattle skyline, whole, unblemished, gleaming buildings rising into the sky, cars in the streets… she saw a world she had never seen with her own eyes before, the world before the Madness.

A doctor entered. She was wearing a white lab-coat with “Dr. Cassandra” on the tag. It was Cass, but strangely not-Cass. She asked how Rhyme was feeling today, but called her “Ann” instead of Rhyme. She asked if Rhyme would like to see her family.

Cynthia Stockton walked in, but a young version, a Stockton thirty years younger, alongside a somewhat rumpled, androgynous-looking man who resembled Silver, and a younger man, about Firestone’s age, who was Firestone but with a mullet, and named James. The family, along with the doctor, informed “Ann” that she was having a rare lucid moment, and that they wanted her to agree to accept a new medication for her condition, a mental condition that caused her to believe that she lived in an awful, post-apocalyptic world surrounded by horror and ancient, evil beings.

This new family was not perfect. Apparently Ann’s mother and father were now divorced, and James was a college dropout who would rather work on cars and worked in a warehouse down near the waterfront. Still, they seemed to genuinely love Ann, and wanted her to accept the new medication and come home to live with them. Rhyme obviously found this a bit hard to take in, and ultimately, when handed the medication, crushed it, refusing to take it. Her family looked on, sadly, as they faded away and Rhyme found herself lying at the base of the Hoard with a bemused Smith looking on.

The time for Rolfball’s and Smog’s trial was at hand. Stockton and some of her Regents interrogated the weakened prisoners and discovered that the Academics weren’t necessarily totally behind the attack on the tower, but when Rolfball approached them, they did strike a deal wherein IF Rolfball succeeded in seizing the tower, he would “continue” to pay the Academics the “usual” tribute (not realizing that Stockton had recently enforced more favorable terms from the Academics). The Academics, obviously, looked fondly on the notion of going back to the old way things were, and cut the power during the attack, but didn’t otherwise interfere.

The Electrician and the Mechanic had created an elaborate execution device, but Mizz Stockton disapproved, preferring that any execution be done by hand, to reinforce the seriousness of such a sentence. The Ringmistress wanted a show, but Mizz Stockton disapproved, indicating this wasn’t a gladiatorial spectacle. The Angel and the Enforcer gathered the accused, and the citizens of the Tower came to see the trial. Accusations were voiced, eyewitnesses were questioned. Rolfball’s guilt was obvious, as he had been previously exiled, and his mere presence in the tower was proof enough of his guilt. Smog was harder to convict, but not by much. A sentence of death seemed imminent. The Ringmistress proposed to Mizz Stockton that the sentence be trial by combat, with the loser dying, and the winner being exiled. Mizz Stockton grudgingly agreed, and the Ringmistress started the show. The crowd was rallied, and she threw random weapons into the arena.

Rolfball, with his gimp leg, and Smog, starved and filthy, fought desperately, but Smog ultimately prevailed. He was declared the winner, and exiled.

As Rhyme escorted Smog from the tower, they encountered, on a streetcorner, Silver. Smog realized that exile was not, in fact to be his fate. Silver executed him with her sword-cane, and for a moment there, his corpse became possessed by the spirit of Dustwich who thanked Silver for avenging her. Dustwich then, finally, passed on to her final rest.

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