One never feels as safe as one does as a child, bundled up in their covers in a deep sleep. It is perhaps because of this why Adam awoke in such a start when a strange voice said, “You are needed, Agent Amari,” in the middle of the night.
In a flash, Adam was Concord and pointing a shaky finger of Compassion in the direction of speaker. As his senses started to come into focus, he took stock of his surroundings. He in his room, completely dark except for the lights he and intruder made. As his Concordance senses spread out, he could feel Jordan and his mother still deep asleep. And standing over him was Agent Truth.
“Sloppy,” Truth said, his tone carrying just a hint of distain (Adam noted that he was getting better at that). “If you are truly worried about attackers in the night, you should rely on the Regenerative State Methods. It would allow you remain alert while–”
“No, we’re not doing that right now,” Concord said, affecting a tone his mother used when he and Jordan were being overly excited. He was standing now and appreciating the fact that his Concordance form allowed him to loom over Truth, if only a bit. “You’re in my house. You shouldn’t be. It is—"
“4:12AM,” Truth interrupted. “And I will finish my business here as soon as you stop trying to feebly act menacing.”
Concord’s raised arm seethed in blue-tinted energy. His mind raced through the facts: Truth was trespassing and acting especially creepy. He could take the shot and it would most likely knock the Concordance out of Truth (for at least a little bit) at this close a range but there was no way the house wasn’t coming down around them. And he’d be putting Jordan and Mama into danger for no good reason.
“Fine,” Concord said, the Compassion dying back down. His voice was flat and without a trace of kindness. “What do you need?”
“You are needed, Agent Amari,” Truth repeated. “For Tribunal.”
“Tribunal?” Concord asked. “What, like a trial?”
Truth sighed impatiently. “Your Shard truly was defective if it did not imprint these important concepts upon you.”
Concord started to raise his voice, but quickly checked himself. Jordan and his mom were still asleep and he didn’t want to wake them. “You are trying to make me mad, aren’t you?” Concord said, trying to keep the anger out of his voice.
“Yes,” Truth answered bluntly. Concord paused in dumbfounded confusion and Truth took this as his opportunity to continue. “This is a minor issue at best and while I do not feel the need to include you in our decisions, Courage and Compassion disagree.”
While Adam would still have been groggy from just waking up, Concord was quickly getting up to speed. “So you thought if you made me mad, I wouldn’t come?” Truth didn’t answer, but Concord wasn’t waiting, still putting the pieces together aloud. “Because… I’m important to this Tribunal for some reason? That it?”
Truth paused for a moment before he, as if compelled, answered, “As the senior-most Concordance agent in the sector, you would both preside over the Tribunal and pass the final verdict.” Concord was a bit stunned at that. Sol or no Sol, the Concordance apparently still recognized him in some fashion. But as a judge in some sort of trial? Adam wasn’t sure he wanted to be involved in something like that, especially if Truth was going to be this argumentative.
Truth piped back in with his usual level of contempt. “It should have been your Shard, but as we’re all aware…” Concord waved him off; he didn’t need this condemnation again.
“Okay, so when and where is this Tribunal?”
“You are the senior-most Concordance agent. It is your duty to find a suitable location and time for the Tribunal.”
Concord glanced at his window into the darkness. Adam wasn’t sure if the nighttime visit was part of Truth’s plan or due to the urgency, but he was going to assume the former.
“Let me guess,” Concord asked, “you’re the next most senior Concordance agent, aren’t you?”
“Of course,” Truth answered, “why else would I lead the official Concordance agents of Earth.”
Concord pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration. He wasn’t going to fall for Truth’s plan and bow out of this, but Truth wasn’t making that an easy decision. “Okay, I’ll meet you guys at 10 at the Quill Compound, unless this Tribunal needs special… Weird whatever.”
Truth paused for a moment. Concord couldn’t see his face for Truth’s helmet, but something about his posture shifted in surprise at the mention of the Quill Compound. “I don’t think that would be the best course of venue.”
“Duly noted. I’ll call Jason in a couple of hours and make sure things are okay, but unless something comes up, I’ll meet the rest of you guys there.” Truth gave a grunt of acceptance and then disappeared.
Adam checked his bedside clock–4:17AM. He knew he wasn’t getting back to sleep at this point and started making a game plan. He had no idea what this Tribunal entailed and he most likely wasn’t going to get a straight answer out of the Concordance agents and they were the only people who could. Most of his friends would be asleep at this point—getting used to Charlotte not being awake all hours of the day was finally starting to set in and, for everything he’d originally held against Alycia, being around her had kept Jason from one of his manic, up-for-days-at-a-time episodes for months. This left adults and Adam knew exactly which one would know the most about trials.
Nassir was pulling into a McDonald’s parking lot when the text came in. He hadn’t planned on cheating on his diet, but the morning shift had asked him to pick up coffee and it was on his way back to the precinct house. Instead of the drive-thru though, he pulled into a parking spot to check his phone. It was from Adam but far too early for him to be awake.
It was about ten minutes after Adam sent his dad the text that he got a response. It was one word: “Now.”
Concord grabbed onto his father’s emotional tether and in and instant he was in South Halycon, across the street from his old high school. Corvus Construction had been slow in the rebuilding but there had been some modifications to the floor plan since the Vyrotovian invasion. For one, had gone from a two-story structure to a four-story. Something about the shape looked oddly familiar, but Concord couldn’t pinpoint why in the dark.
“Hello Concord,” his father said in that tone he always took around this part of his son in public. It’d always reminded Concord of someone trying out for a play who didn’t want to be there. “What can I do for you this morning?”
“Uh, Detective,” Concord said, subconsciously shifting the tone of his own voice despite the fact that just being Concord made his voice a couple octaves lower and sound like three separate people were speaking in unison, “I wanted to talk to you about court cases.”
Nassir gave his son an incredulous squint at that. “Well, I can’t talk about any active cases-“
“No, no, not like that,” Concord correctly. “Like court stuff.”
“Did- Did you get a summons?”
“Nooo, uhm, the Concordance wants me, uhm, to be a judge in some trial.”
Adam recognized that pinch to the bridge of the nose and tried to motion to his father to keep from shouting but the amount of anger Nassir put into his voice would carry even at a whisper. “Children should not be deciding anything that requires a trial!”
Concord raised his hands in a pleading motion. “I understand and would back out in a minute but there’s something.” Nassir raised any eyebrow and Concord tried to put it into words. “Agent Truth woke me up. He was trying to make me mad so I wouldn’t go along with this.”
“Did he come into our house? If he-“ Adam tried to interrupt, but Nassir’s face was red with anger. “What was his name again, Kirkpatrick? If he was trespassing, I can- he’ll-“ Nassir fumbled through words, but he knew there wasn’t anything he could do. Even if he did get some charges to stick, he’d out his son in the process.
Nassir turned away from Concord and rummaged in his pocket. He didn’t find the cigarettes he’s wanted–he’d given them up years ago—but did pull out a pack of gum. A bit of struggle and he was more grinding his teeth against the gum than chewing it, but it was having the desired effect. Concord watched as the anger in his aura burned away, growing tighter and more focused. When most of it has burned away and was replaced with that white energy that made up the center of the Concordance symbol, Nassir turned back and asked, “What’s this trial for?”
“I don’t know. He was being a jerk and trying to talk around it. He said it was something small, but I don’t believe that.”
“Where the trial?” Nassir made a vague motion upwards, but Concord waved him off.
“I get to choose when and where. And I said later this morning at the Quill Compound.”
Nassir sighed. “Jason okay this?”
“Not yet, but I was going to give him a call in a couple hours to clear it with him. I just wanted some place where it wasn’t the three of them and me alone, even if I’m the one who gets to make the decisions.” Nassir gave a thoughtful nod to that.
“Well, I need to get back to the station but we’ll talk about this later. Does anyone-” Nassir stops and pauses for a moment. “Did they call it a trial or did they call it something else?”
“It’s a Tribunal,” Concord said.
“And you said Kirkpatrick didn’t want you involved?” Concord nods in agree. “This is starting to sound more like arbitration than a trial.”
“Does that make a difference?” Concord asked.
“A lot,” Nassir said. “Trial law follows precedent and can be overturned by a higher court. Arbitration is usually final and can be… well, arbitrary. Also…” Nassir paused for a moment in though. Concord started to say something, but Nassir raised a finger to quiet him until his thoughts were in order. “Arbitration can sometimes be used unfairly, especially when whoever organized the arbitration has something to lose and can select an arbiter who is favorable to their side.”
Concord frowned. “Do you think that’s why Truth was acting like a jerk?”
“Maybe, but that kid is a real a-” Nassir paused for a second and gave Concord with a discerning look. “That kid is a real asshole.”
Concord fought to hold back a smirk. Adam had never heard his father curse before (at least when he was aware Adam was listening) and it was odd to see him be so candid. Nassir shot him a look and Concord knew he failed to keep the smirk from showing.
“Can you get ahold of those other kids?” Nassir asked. “The other Concordance agents? They might be able to give you the whole story.”