Steel Instinct

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Chapter 9

A heavy wooden gavel slams a podium several times. The confused chatter of the crowd dies down. Sitting at the podium is a judge. Kalama Ijsbrand stands in front of the judge.

“Peoples of the court,” the judge begins, “We are here today on account of this young lady, Kalama Ijsbrand.”

The court begins murmuring again. Kalama looks up at the judge. She then looks at the audience. Seated in one of the front booths are Abby, Frederik, and Tacoma.

“According to the records, Kalama is guilty of numerous counts of murder, including the most recent massacre, forgery, unpaid taxes, theft, kidnapping, road racing, and tampering with the Silverarc control panels. Kalama, is this true? Are you guilty?” the judge asks.

“Your Honor? It is true,” says Kalama, “All of it. I am guilty.”

“N-no!” objects Abby, standing up abruptly, “That’s not true!”

Kalama signals for her to be quiet. Abby slowly sinks back into her seat. The judge looks at Abby for a moment. Then, the judge turns back to Kalama.

“Since you have declared yourself guilty, then, by order of the law, you will face a penalty as the court sees fit. Ms. Ijsbrand, you may head back to the holding cell to await your sentence,” the judge says.

Kalama lovingly stares at her sister. Without a word, she turns and heads back through a door where she was brought from. Abby attempts again to get up and follow Kalama. Tacoma gently pushes her back into her seat.

“Court? What do you say the sentence should be?” the judge asks, “In light of the list of crimes committed and her self-claim of guilt.”

“Kalama is innocent, she should be set free,” Abby says.

“That’s... That’s not how this works...” the judge says, “If a suspect claims themself guilty, they are guilty.”

“If puni’men’ has to be inflict’, how ’bout a small fine?” suggests Frederik.

“I agree with Frederik. A fine will do as punishment,” Tacoma says.

“I say we publicly humiliate her,” another person says.

“I agree,” a fifth person says.

There are fifty people in the court aside from the judge. 10% of people recognize Kalama’s innocence and suggest freeing her. 12% want fines ranging from small fines to outrageously high fines. 12% want public humiliation.

18% of the court wants Kalama to be sentenced to death. 8% want community service. 10% want prison time. 6% want house arrest.

4% of the court wants Kalama to be branded. 6% want torture. 4% want life sentences. 2% want whippings. The last 2% want a forced illness.

Of the 11 people who want Kalama dead, 3 people want her to be suffocated. 2 people want torture until death. 1 person did not specify, they just want her dead. 3 people want her to be eaten by animals. 2 people want her to be electrocuted.

“Alright, the decision has been made!” the judge says, slamming the gavel into the podium again.

Kalama is escorted back out of the holding cell. By now, almost an hour has passed as the court argued over what the punishment should be. Kalama silently stands before the judge once again. The judge sighs.

“Kalama Ijsbrand. In light of your long list of crimes, the court has decided your fate. In 26 days, you will be executed,” the judge says.

“26 days?” Kalama asks.

“Until then, you will remain in prison,” the judge says.

“Who will take care of my sister? I am her legal guardian,” Kalama prompts.

“Your sister is Abby Ijsbrand, correct?” the judge asks.

“Yes,” Abby says.

“Yes,” Kalama confirms.

“Abby Ijsbrand will be sent to a group home for as long as she needs,” the judge decides.

“And... Will she be well cared for?” Kalama asks.

“Yes, Ms. Ijsbrand. We’ll make sure of it,” the judge says.

“Then I have no regrets,” Kalama says with a nod, “It is what it is.”

“Peoples of the court, you may be dismissed,” the judge says, slamming the gavel against the podium once more.

Almost everyone clears out. Abby, Frederik, and Tacoma stay behind. Kalama approaches them with permission of the judge. She hugs all three of them tightly, hugging her little sister for the longest.

“Abby... I know this is tough for you, but I want you to know, I love you. You are my sister. I will always love you...” Kalama says.

“Isn’t there any way we can save you?” Abby asks, years in her eyes.

“Actually, maybe...” Tacoma says, “But even that is highly unlikely.”

“I am here on my own. I put this on myself,” Kalama says, “What happens, happens.”

With that, they part ways. Tacoma, Frederik, and Abby leave the courthouse. The judge takes Kalama’s hand and escorts her back to jail. Having 26 days left to live, Kalama is placed in a cell on death row until the time of her punishment.

The other inmates laugh and gawk at Kalama. Most of them are large and intimidating in comparison to tiny little Kalama. Some of them are covered in tattoos of skulls and curse words. Kalama glances wearily at them.

“HEY, REDHEAD!” one woman shouts, “YOU’RE IN THE WRONG PLACE!”

“Quiet down, guys,” the judge says.

“I BET YOU THINK YOU’RE SO CUTE! YOU LITTLE SOULLESS REDHEAD!” another woman shouts, banging on the bars with her foot.

The noise grows louder and louder. All the women join in on taunting Kalama. Eventually, they reach an empty cell. Kalama politely nods a “thanks” to the judge as she is locked in.

“Of all the dark and lonely hallways I’ve ever tread, I never knew I’d walk this one. But it’s all over in 26 days,” Kalama whispers to herself, “After that, no more.”

“Hah hah hah, good one!” the woman in the cell across from Kalama says, “That’s a funny joke!”

“What do you mean?” Kalama asks.

“Torture doesn’t end here. This is only the beginning! We’re all going down below!” the woman shouts, “There is no hope!”

“...That’s not how I like to imagine it,” Kalama says, “I imagine the pain ends after death.”

“Well! Wouldn’t that be nice?!” the woman says with a laugh.

“If it’s so nice, why don’t you believe it?” Kalama asks.

“Listen, girly, I’ve been on death row for several years now. I’ve heard the screams of pain from the backroom,” the woman says.

“But it does end after that if you believe,” Kalama says.

“...I would like that... Yes...” the woman says.

“It’s not too late,” Kalama says, “You still have breath in your lungs.”

“Yes...” the woman says.

Shortly after, Tacoma returns to his mother’s first house. Ms. Gray opens the door and lets Tacoma in. He enters and sits on a long leather couch. Ms. Gray comes and sits beside him.

“So... How did it go? They didn’t harass you, did they?” Ms. Gray asks.

“Mom, I already told you, the court case wasn’t about me,” Tacoma says.

“Oh...” Ms. Gray says, biting her lip.

“And no, nobody harassed me,” Tacoma says, answering his mother’s second question.

“I’m glad,” Ms. Gray says.

“Yeah, well... Kalama wasn’t so lucky,” Tacoma says, “And to think it could have been you.”

“Yeah,” says Ms. Gray, “Well, that’s why I needed my records wiped.”

“They’re going to execute her in 26 days,” Tacoma says.

“Well. She probably was going to die anyways,” Ms. Gray says, “Death is, after all, a part of life.”

“I’m worried about Abby, though. I don’t think she’ll ever recover from this...” Tacoma says.

“Don’t worry about Abby! She doesn’t matter!” Ms. Gray says.

“I mean, yeah, she shouldn’t matter... And yet, some part of me wants the best for her...” Tacoma says with a shrug.

“I’ll find you a wealthy lady if you’re afraid of being alone. I just fear that love will distract you from your job,” Ms. Gray says.

“I’m plenty rich, why should I care about how much wealth a woman has?” Tacoma asks.

“Well, rich women are classier,” Ms. Gray says, “Honestly, Tacoma…you can have all the wealthy women in the world. They all can belong to you!”

“Yeah, I know... But Abby...” Tacoma says, shaking his head.

“She’s literally just one woman out of the billions that exist,” Ms. Gray says.

“I know... I know...” Tacoma says.

Abby is at her new group home. She isn’t adjusting very well. In fact, her overall health has declined significantly. The staff members are concerned about her.

“Ms. Ijsbrand doesn’t want to get out of bed,” one caretaker says to another.

“Oh, but she absolutely must!” the other caretaker says.

“She just lies there... Staring at the wall...” the first caretaker says.

“The poor darling has been through a lot...” the other caretaker says, “Can you believe the heinous crimes her big sister committed?!”

“I wonder if she was abused...” the first caretaker says.

“Even if it was just emotionally, you know well how bad that can damage a soul,” the other caretaker says.

“Doesn’t she understand, though, that we want her to be happy?” the first caretaker asks.

“After her trip to the court house, she’s been dead inside,” the other caretaker says.

“I’m going to have a talking to with her,” the first caretaker says.

“Be gentle...” the other caretaker warns.

The first caretaker slowly opens the door. Abby is lying on the bed and staring at the wall. She doesn’t even turn to look at her caretakers. The caretaker approaches gently.

“Hey, Abby...” whispers the caretaker.

“G-go away...” Abby says, sniffling.

“I know you are hurting...” the caretaker says, “But you have to hold on tight...”

“...y-you wouldn’t...understand...” Abby says, “Y-you don’t know...the truth...”

“I’ll listen if you feel like talking...” the caretaker says, “Talking about our problems helps us to recover and heal...”

“K-Kalama... She was innocent... I... I never...never knew anyone so...pure...” Abby says.

“What do you mean? Isn’t she a mass murderer?” the caretaker asks.

“N-no… Kalama... Kalama o-only said that because...it was t-the only way...to save me...” Abby says, “It’s all m-my fault... All of it...”

“It was a lie?” the caretaker asks for clarification.

“Y-yes... Kalama took the records...t-they belonged to s-someone else...” Abby says and sniffles some more, “A-and the one who deserved to die...she lives...”

“Oh, honey...” the caretaker says, “Why didn’t you say so?”

“The one...who did the crimes...she was going to k-kill me...if anyone knew...” Abby says.

“And Kalama’s dead?” the caretaker asks.

“In a f-few days...” Abby says.

“You know... I have some friends in high places...” the caretaker says, “I might be able to persuade them...”

“R-really?!” asks Abby, turning to look at the caretaker.

“Yeah!” the caretaker says, “If it will make you happy! But you have to promise me you will eat. If we get Kalama back, she’ll be disappointed that you refused your food.”

“I... I’ll eat! For Kalama!” says Abby, getting up out of the bed.

“Alright, come with me,” the caretaker says.

Abby follows the caretaker. She is a bit weak from not eating. The caretaker holds her hand gently, yet firmly. The other caretaker watches in amazement.

“Wow, Abby’s out of bed!” the other caretaker says.

“Not just that, but I might be able to make her happy as well,” the first caretaker says with a smile.

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