Sam smirked at the parade on the TV. The President followed the three mutants. Sara was showing off the enclosure in a parody of a real-estate agent. The security attachment was following the President, and several aimless incarcerees were following the goons.
He gave the rest a handfull of minutes before they were all trailling around to see what happened next.
"Hm? Oh." He managed to laugh. His boss would see him now. "Thanks, Em."
The office hadn't changed. Greg Abernathy rarely changed any kind of decoration in his office, save for a cycling of the occasional kid's drawing that looked particularly interesting.
"Sam!" Greg grinned wide. "I thought you'd be on family leave."
"Considering where my family is, I thought I'd talk with you," said Sam. "That's my daughter on the news, right now."
Greg's face fell. "The greenish girl?"
"Sort of aqua," Sam corrected. "But I wasn't thinking of stopping at Sara. All the assumed mutants need help."
"You can't defend all of them, Sam... There's enclosures like that all over the country."
"That's why I need your help," said Sam. "It so happens that we have law firms all over the country... a change in policy, a few ground-breaking cases... we'd make history."
Greg leaned on his desk. "Damn, Sam... this is more than a handshake on the news."
"That's why it needs to be done," said Sam. "The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step... but it needs more of them in order to finish it."
"It's economic suicide," Greg argued. "Once word gets around that we're sympathetic to muties--"
"The mutie market will come to us. So will others who sympathise with muties. In the end, we only lose the bigot population. Did we really want them?"
"The bigots have the money, Sam," said Greg. "It's what keeps you in a job."
"It's also why I'd be good at this one," argued Sam. "I help people not to be afraid of the other guy. Give me thirty cases, Greg. Thirty cases and I'll bet the courts just open the gates and let them walk away."
Greg looked away. He always found it hard to look at Sam when he Believed in something. "Thirty cases at random. Someone else defends Sara."
"As if I'd let anything else happen."
Sam seized his hand. "Done."
"I certainly have been..." Greg sighed. "How do you always talk me into these things?"
"And these are the spacious, open-plan bedrooms," said the tall one.
The green fellow had stuffed his sleeve in his mouth to stifle the giggles. The one-eyed woman provided the real-world additions.
"It gets cold in the night," she pointed to the corrugated iron. "No insulation means no protection when the temperature drops. And more than a few of us are sensitive to low temperatures."
"You should see Mr Toynbee first thing in the morning," said the tall one in a rare moment of seriousness.
"Yeh. Not exactly at the helm," he tapped his head. "Sara's gettin' the same way."
"I only forgot my shoes once, dear."
"Yeah, but you need a minder in the snow," said Callisto. "If I had a nickel for every time I had to herd you and your breakfast back indoors..."
The tall one shrivelled in place. "I've never been good when the cold gets to me... it's just - never been this bad before. Mayhap a lack of insulation?"
"We're all lacking insulation," said one-eye. "And when you look at it, most of us wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for their physical appearance. That's discrimination above and beyond the call of duty."
"Well, I have some good news on that front for you," said the President. "A law firm recently elected to defend you."
"Abernathy Worthington Incorporated?" said the tall one.
One of the security men reached for the security of his weapon.
"Yes," said the President. "Are you...?" he gestured at his head.
"I keep getting that question," said the tall one. "It's just that I know someone who works there... He's very persuasive when the mood suits him."
The green one looked intensely jealous. "Friend of yours?"
"Lifelong," the tall one grinned. "He's my Dad."
 Rehashed _Goon Show_ joke. Look 'em up. They funny.
There was a game of pok-ball in progress when the tour party emerged. The President watched with a mixture of confusion and delight.
"I've seen this on the news," he grinned. "How do you play, exactly?"
Callisto clapped Sara on the shoulder. "Show the man, sky-high. You, too, Mort." She waited until they were both out of earshot. "Mr President - a private word?"
The leader of the free world gave a nod to his security guys, who gave them space. To anyone else, it looked like she was explaining the game during a moment of relaxation. But this was more urgent business.
"Strictly between you and me, sir, some of us aren't doing too well in the cage. Sara's about the worst," she said.
"She seems in fairly high spirits to me..."
"That's the problem. It only seems like high spirits, but - she makes her own entertainment... usually at other people's expense. I give her half an hour, tops, before she realises exactly who she's been wisecracking to and implodes."
A sidelong look that barely concealed alarm. "Please tell me you don't mean that literally?"
"It's a mental thing. She's stressed out beyond belief, sir. Please. You have to be here to forgive her when she wakes up to herself. We've been lucky, keeping her seizures out of the public eye, but--"
"Not... exactly. It's hard to explain without knowing her, sir. All I'm certain of is that they're stress-related. Giving her something to do... a method of play... they're stopgaps and everyone here knows it. She's done a lot for everyone here and she's completely unaware of it and... damnit... She needs better help than we can give."
The President nodded. "I'll see what I can arrange," he said. "And now, the press expects me to join in. Basic rules?"
"Keep the ball in the air. If you must use your hands, use the back, like you'd punch a volleyball. You break the ball, you owe Mort a dollar."
"He expects to collect?"
"He's keeping a tab."
The President boggled briefly, but boldly stepped forward and had a go. The cameras loved it.
"Thanks for seeing me, Professor."
"Thankyou for coming," said Xavier. "It's rare indeed that we meet parents with a tolerant nature."
"Parent," Sam corrected. "My wife has... Views."
Xavier nodded. "Quite a few parents have Views... most of them based on misconception and myth that are... somewhat hard to dispel."
"I've tried the DNA primer, myself," said Sam. "Genetics and You. It worked right up until the X-gene got into the mix... but we clearly digress. I'd like to place my daughter in your school. As soon as possible after she's cleared."
"Of the mutant conspiracy," Sam was momentarily distracted by the contents of a bookshelf. "Sara was one of the many scooped up in the initial panic... as if every mutant alive was responsible for the attack." He tisked and rolled his eyes. "Those who failed to learn from history have more or less repeated it," he sighed. "And will probably continue to repeat it for quite some time until someone hits them upside the head with a clue."
Xavier laughed. "Some have learned, Mr Adrien. The nation admits that the initial sweep was an error. Many even regret contributing to it."
"But a very rare few are willing to defend them... so far."
"Another thing we have to thank you for," said Xavier. "We were beginning to lose hope of finding someone to help free them legally."
"I'm used to pushing boulders uphill," said Sam. "Sara needs this place. Somewhere she can just - be... without judgement. Somewhere she can expand to the limits of herself, not the limits someone else puts on her. From what I've seen - this is the best place for her."
"We'd love to have her here," said Xavier.
"Ah. You haven't seen her permanent record, then."
"On the contrary. I've examined it with great interest. The gelatin cameo gallery rather stands out in my mind."
"Really? Most people pick the July ice capades... or the Noodle Incident." Sam found delight in a small tchotchke lurking amidst the accumulated tools of academia. "The Noodle Incident's remarkably popular."
"I was considering the event in context," said Xavier. "The school counsellor sent a note?"
"Ah. That one." He quoted, "'It would be sooner possible to carve jello and nail it to the wall than it would be give Mr Essel--' long story '--the psychological help he so clearly requires.' Well, I suppose Sara did her part..."
"Mutants regularly make the impossible... more than likely. Finding a student willing to accept that from the beginning is a rare and cherished gift."
"Sara's the sort of girl who'd do ten impossible things before breakfast," Sam smiled at the memories. Then realised that others might not find it so endearing. "You'd better consider that a warning."
"I think we're more than prepared."
"Good afternoon, Miss Adrien. I'm Jenny Adler, your attourney." They shook hands.
"Nice job covering the flinch," said Sara. "I can understand it completely."
Ms Adler sighed. "I'm still... getting used to a lot of things."
"Am I Thing One, Thing Two, or somewhere down the list?"
She blushed. "I don't keep lists. Um. Okay..." she shuffled papers. "Prosecution's going to have trouble proving the whole conspiracy plot... they'll probably bury it in the middle somewhere. The charge we should be worried about is Incitement to Riot."
"Why? It's not as if I stood in front of a crowd with my face off and said 'victim here'."
"No, but you were in a very public arena when your face *did* come off. Considering the negative atmosphere regarding mutants... it doesn't look good."
"It was an accident," Sara protested. "I didn't go out there and tear my face off. It came unstuck. That's the difference between an episode of Tourette's in a church and a KKK march through the 'hood."
"And speaking of episodes..." Adler flipped a page. "Are these seizures of yours in any way preventable? The last thing I want is for you to -ah- succumb in the middle of a courtroom."
Sara went stony-blank. "You saw that."
"Half the country saw that. The President was heroic. You... are a potentially unstable mutie threat."
"Perhaps, but only to myself." Sara shrugged. "My steam-valves have been clogged since they incarcerated me. I can't vent. Just let me play... four hours a day. I think I can cope, four hours a day, even without the sun. Just let me have a harp, please. I think I can degauss with just a harp." Her fingers, unbidden, trembled for strings that weren't there. She stilled them with great effort.
Adler blinked and stared. "Oooohhh... kay..." she drawled. "We might even be able to use this. Maybe. If I had a handle on the Prosecution's strategy..."
"They're going to use my past against me. Dangerously unbalanced element... kick in a few unprovable mutie myths for flavour, and definitely reference a few of the more colourful episodes from my permanent record. Paint me as black as they can, because they don't have a real case to prove."
"How--? How did you know that?"
"Wouldn't you? If you were prosecuting me?"
 Obligatory Calvin and Hobbes reference.
 I think it's in Alice Through the Looking Glass that the Red Queen believes in 'ten impossible things before breakfast'.
 Complicated and obscure side-fling. There is an ancient, ancient comic called Jenny and the Pirate(s) which I'm sure only my folks remember by now. Now, since I couldn't find any good synonyms for 'pirate' on thesaurus.com, I made the same 'mistake' as the nurse in Pirates of Penzance and looked up 'pilot'... which I then translated into German for a nice-sounding last name.
 Seuss reference. If you don't get it, go read The Cat in the Hat.
It was tough enough to find someone who hadn't seen or heard of the news, given its ability to pervade society at large. It was harder to find someone who didn't express some kind of opinion about it. The toughest thing was finding someone who knew the right answer to Sam's killer question.
"Are you afraid of mutants?"
It was the sort of question that had most potential jurors walking out the door with a firm thank-you and a neutral farewell.
It was the sort of question that had the Prosecution seriously considering people who turned up in Starfleet uniform or Jedi robes.
It was the sort of question that the Prosecution attempted to get him to stop bloody asking, damnit.
"Your honor," said Sam. "This is a case of a mutant being on trial for being a mutant. We have to make sure that the jury is not going to be afraid of the defendant."
Judge Scheindlin raised an eyebrow. "Considering the racist nature of the case... not to mention the American Constitution... I'll have to allow it. Proceed."
The Prosecution saved him the trouble of asking on the next potential juror.
Sam smirked. He had to wonder if Jenny was having this much trouble.
She called the harp 'Lorraine'. Jenny had found out that it was never a good idea to ask why. Whys never got good answers. Whys multiplied. Questions like, "Why do I have to observe a four-hour solo harp recital?" got answers that involved a psychologically unstable defendant and a rich source of long, string-like objects that formed a potential source for in-custody suicide.
Pointing out the fact that this was the same prisoner who altered most, of not all of the unitards by unpicking every single available thread and re-sewing them in a different configuration - got a long, hard glare.
Asking why the hell the judicial system was interested in potential suicide now was just damn pointless.
On the upside, at least, was the fact that she could play. It provided a pleasant background for the necessity of ploughing through the relevant documentation and readying a viable defence.
Hello... Witness for the prosecution is her mom... Step one, bring up the restraining order. Step two... Jenny paused to think. Ah yes. Hostility against the defendant, history of mental abuse that has caused the current psychological instability and stress-related seizures. Motion to exclude said witness on the basis that she may even endanger her client's health... Step three... if all else fails, treat witness as hostile.
Or better yet, let her bury herself in anti-mutant furforal, exercise the right to re-call the witness, and then put a genetics expert on the stand to blow Mommy-dearest's statements the hell out of the water. Preferably in laymen's terms. Then re-call the mother and ask her if she wishes to stand by her former testimony. Paint her as a bigotted, abusive bitch.
Note: check out the household help and ask for dirt... but ask nicely.
Sara, still improvising on the harp, said, "If you want some really nasty footage, you'll have to tell Ray I said 'it's time for the truth to come from the woodwork out'... those exact words. Ray's been trained to be discrete - but I know where his sympathies lie."
"Are you absolutely sure you're--"
"Not a telepath," said Sara. "Why does everyone keep asking?"
"Because you're acting a lot like one. How the hell did you know what I was thinking?"
"The restraining order's the only legal document in my permanent record," said Sara. "And since you have two thick folders with only one legal document..."
"It could be someone else's permanent record."
"Not when you're humming snippets from the Mommy Dearest musical."
Okay. The kid had a point. And she could read people like a book.
 A parody of the line, "a firm handshake and a fond farewell"... something I picked up from somewhere or other.
 No relation. Honest. Really. snrk Pfffftttt... BWA-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA...
 South Park side-fling. Remember the episode with the underpants gnomes?
 My future is a sick, sad world.
Sam had had to come for this part. He needed to see. Jenny had told him about the secret footage. The footage Jaquelline had ordered destroyed. The footage Ray and Sara both kept secret.
Sam remembered insisting upon the best securicams money could buy, for the safety of his family. Full audio. Full colour. Motion activated.
It had captured every foul word coming from Jaquelline's mouth. Every abuse. Every nasty psychological ploy... until Sara nearly cracked her head open on the tiles from a severe stress-induced fit.
"An accident," Jaquelline had said at the time. "She slipped and fell."
When the lights came back on, Jaquelline was looking supremely flustered, Sara had turned to a statue, and not one member of the jury were willing to believe a thing she said any more.
Jaquelline found him with her eyes. Was the fear in them true? Was anything true?
You hurt our only child, he thought in her direction. Our beautiful baby girl... WHY?
She was no telepath and neither was he, but she winced and put on her best pleading face.
He swore he heard her whisper his name.
Sam shut his eyes to her, turning away quickly. Walking away with leaden feet and wet eyes.
He'd known that there'd been friction between the two of them, that had been hard to miss... but this? This was heinous.
No wonder she referred to "the Gorgon" in her blogs... this woman turned little girls into stone. Tore grown men's hearts out and split them in two.
To think... he'd loved Jaquelline for being the least extreme of her sisters. For *overcoming* most of the foibles of her family.
...a whole family of Gorgons... God...
Well. That had been intense.
Sara let herself come up for air during the genetics and mutation primer, doodling gene chains on the legal pad she'd been given to doodle on. Interesting that, while partially submerged, some part of her had drawn her mother as Medusa. Toxic symbols filled the speech bubble.
My what an interesting subconscious we have. Papa Freud would have a ball.
Behind her, completely unheeded, a bald man in a wheelchair smirked.
The expert was putting on a nice show for the plebs in the jury box. It would have gone better with a catchy jingle. For some reason, she riffed on the Duff Beer For You song from an ancient Simpsons episode.
The X-gene is cool... the X-gene is fun... the X-gene means no control for an-y-one... Nah.
The man behind her made some effort to wipe the smile off his face. Sara caught the motion in her peripheral vision as she shifted in her chair and looked.
He waved. An almost subliminal 'hello'.
Sara raised an eyebrow. An Englishman, a Scottsman and an Irishman walk into a bar, she thought. You'd think one of them would have seen it.
Hand over the mouth. Stifled snort.
AHA! Now you, sir, are a telepath.
Yes, said his voice in her head. I'm Professor Charles Xavier. I just dropped by to see how you and some of your fellow mutants are doing.
Just the mutants? Sara 'said', careful to turn back to her doodles and half-bored posture. Or are you only after the partially guilty?
The presence in her mind seemed momentarily taken aback. I must admit, I had only thought of offering the shelter of my school to those who needed it...
There are 'normal' humans inside the cages, too, sir. Those who walk out may not have any place to go when they're released. Mutant-human relationships have to start somewhere... and why not begin with the ones who automatically have sympathy?
A silence both profound and deep.
Your father was right, Xavier 'said'. You are a very rare individual. Thank you... for helping me see.
His presence left. Sara didn't need to peek to see that he was leaving the courtroom, though she did take a good glance at his entourage. And what an interesting entourage he had.
Birds of a feather, indeed.
In a quiet little cafe, usually chosen by discrete people for discrete purposes, one man speaks too loudly - thus gaining momentary attention.
"You can not be serious!"
The gathered discrete stare at the man with the red sunglasses, then turn back to their own business when no further theatre occurs at the table.
Xavier merely tented his fingers and waited until Scott sat back down. "We have to allow for the possibility that some more... open-minded humans may wish to work with our students. We shouldn't turn anyone aside just because of their race."
"Why?" said Scott.
"Why not?" Kurt took the words out of Xavier's mouth. He was currently at extreme ease and sliding into boredom, judging by the way he was balancing cutlery on his fingertip. The holographic disguise he wore should have made him unnoticeable... except he'd figured out the controls in a scant few seconds and set it to a cross between Cary Elwes and Errol Flynn. "I worked with humans my entire life. Stopping now seems such a shame, ja?"
"Life ain't like a circus, flyboy," grumbled Logan.
"No? So why are there so many clowns?"
Ororo laughed behind her hand.
"It's dangerous," Scott persisted. "Who knows if we're letting in another Stryker?"
"Ah... That would be me," said Xavier. "You seem to forget that you're sitting next to the best background-checking source available."
"Not to mention the fact that a few of our students would test their resolve," added Ororo.
"Some of 'em been testin' mine," said Logan.
"Really?" said Kurt. "They never give me any trouble."
"That's 'cause you're the entertainment," the burly man snarled.
"Is it written anywhere that I'm not allowed to do things with a little flair?" said Kurt. He flipped the fork in the air and caught it neatly. "Atchung. Lunch."
Sara watched, emotionally numb, as her mother stumbled and fumbled into a complete breakdown in the court.
This is how our Dragons die, she thought. Not with a bang, but a whimper.
On the stand, her mother tried in vain to throw all the blame on 'that girl' - Sara. How it was Sara who deliberately and purposefully became the antithesis of a perfect daughter. How Sara destroyed all of Jaquelline's dreams. One by one.
How it was Sara's fault that she, Jaquelline, couldn't give Sam a male heir like she was supposed to.
"I tried and tried," Jaquelline sobbed, "four years... and every time, SHE did something that... that... caused a miscarriage..."
All the hospital visits. All the effort of being a brave little girl for Mommy. Neither she nor Daddy had said a thing about why she was sick in hospital.
Ms Adler whispered in her ear, "You know anything about this?"
"Not before today. I always thought her alcohol problem lead to interesting ulcer complications. I know she enrolled in the AA when I was four... without much success."
Ms Adler requested a recess to gain evidence for the court and to round up a counter-witness. Sara told her where to find the relevant journals from Sara's point of view, where mother's record-box was, and the number of their family doctor.
After that, she was dragged back into her holding cell until recess was over.
The only positive point to that part was Mort was there. Daddy had evidently paid for a very nummy suit. She'd hold him, and snuggle in that delicious outfit and the arms of the man who wore it... except they were in separate cells and there was a hallway between them.
"You're takin' your time," he said. "I came in and you were waitin' for some court thing. Tell me the jury's out?"
"Mother's making things awkward." Sara leaned on the bars. "Dragons never go down easy. You?"
"No witnesses for or against, a waterlogged booklet that may or may not 'ave been me passport. Legal argy-bargy back an' forth. Bit of a mess on the witnesses - I was the only one. Done and sold in a day, luv. Me jury's out righ' now."
"Luck and fortune find you, dear," she said. "Mother sprung some dirty laundry on us. She claims I sabotaged all potential siblings in utero."
"God I could fucking kill that woman..." Mort snarled.
"Don't. The best fate for her is to let her lie in the hole she dug," Sara traced an interesting patina on the bars with a fingernail. "Once Dr Nemertea gets on the stand about the whole thing, the bubbles shall mark where she sank." Sara sighed. "No more deceptions. No more vitriol. No more rants... soon."
"Luck and fortune find yer, luv," said Mort. "You've needed it for a bloody long time."
"Twists and turns," said Kitty. "This trial's becoming a soap opera."
"Naw, it's only this witness," said Jubillee. "The woman's a dog's mother."
"It's worse than the OJ trial," said Hank.
"The... what now?" said Avery.
Hank sighed. "I feel so old..."
"Mr Adrien. Once again, I see your smiling face next to yet another suspected mutant terrorist... I'm starting to wonder if you'd rather send roses."
"I just like to keep busy," said Sam. "It prevents boredom."
Judge Scheindlin drummed her fingers on the desk. "Well, I'm starting to get bored. Does the prosecution have any hard evidence?"
"Um. No, your honour."
"Not even a positive indicator for the X-gene?"
"No, your honour."
"Arresting officers, Ma'am."
Judge Scheindlin sighed. "Fine. Call them up. I'll ask the damn questions. Let's hope it streamlines things..."
Jenny had a stack of medical reports with executive summaries on her desk. She had journals neatly piled nearby. She had Sam notified should his presence be required.
And she still had to face the Gorgon.
Great. Now the kid has me doing it. "Mrs Adrien. You remember Sara's birth?"
"Of course. It was extremely difficult. I sweated and strained for hours to give life to that ungrateful girl and--"
"Your honour..." sighed Jenny. "Permission to treat Mrs Adrien as a hostile witness?"
"Please." The judge levelled a glare at Mrs Adrien. "You will constrain your answers to 'yes' or 'no', or find yourself in contempt. Understood?"
The woman seethed. "Yes."
"According to these records, you spent sixteen hours in labour... not including the day and a half of early contractions that were too far apart to admit you to hospital. Is that correct?"
"Was Sara a big baby?"
"And yet you refused a caesarean."
"I'm proving state of mind, your honour."
"Overruled. Answer the question, Mrs Adrien."
"Yes. I refused a caesarean."
"Please read from your private journal, dated the day after Sara's birth." Jenny handed her the book. Handily open at the right entry.
"I did it," Jaquelline read. "I fought the odds and I won. I have the most beautiful baby girl in the whole world, and I bought her into the world. Not the doctors. Not some surgeon. Me. Every time I look at her, I feel so proud. My lovely little trophy. My prize..."
"Thank you," said Jenny, taking the book back. "Do you recall what the doctors told you after you finished writing..." she checked for show, "five pages like that?"
"Did they give you bad news?"
"They told you that, if you wanted to have a second child, you had to be extremely careful... didn't they?"
"Yes." Smoke almost curled from her ears.
"Do you remember the precautions they gave you?"
"Please list them for the court."
"I couldn't... try... for two years. I had to stop drinking. I was on a special diet and a regime of pills... and I had to avoid stress."
"And during this time, you had to submit to physical exams to ascertain your health, am I correct?"
"How old was Sara when you started drinking to excess?"
"She was... eleven months old, wasn't she?"
"Was Sara a talented child at eleven months?"
"Yet I have here a number of reports saying that even at that age, she was precocious. Walking, trying to talk, working things out... I ask again, and remind you of the penalty for perjury... Was Sara talented?"
"Was she talented enough to unlock the liquor cabinet?"
A long, slow-burning pause, during which Mrs Adrien glared burning liquid death at Sara. "No."
"Was she talented enough to make you a drink and bring it to you?"
Were the laws of physics different, Mrs Adrien's restrained fury would have caused her to spontaneously combust. "No."
"Could you read another journal entry, Mrs Adrien? Dated two weeks before her first birthday."
"I'd like to plead the fifth."
"Mrs Adrien, you are not on trial," said the judge. "Read the journal or a bailiff will."
Mrs Adrien growled under her breath, and refused to take the journal.
He took it and read, "I don't know how she does it, but Sara Louise found every cushion in the house and piled it up in front of my drinks. She almost buried the cabinet, this time, and fell asleep on one of the big ones before I found her. Sara woke up just as I finally got it open and said, 'No, Mommy. Yucky.' So I told her I needed it to settle down and she said, 'You drink milk'. She was so sweet, like a little angel looking after me. I had to add milk to my glass to make her calm down."
"Thankyou." Jenny took the journal back. "You added milk to your alcohol."
"Yes," Mrs Adrien growled.
"At which point did Sara make you drink alcohol? When was it her fault?"
"I-- She was always doing things..."
"When did Sara make you disobey your doctor's orders?"
"I NEEDED IT! I could never cope with whatever she was doing! She was a little freak then, and she's an even bigger freak NOW!"
The entire jury was glaring venom at the woman.
"No further questions," said Jenny.
"We have no questions."
"Witness may step down."
Mrs Adrien had to be escorted away from Sara by a bailiff. "If you think this is the end..." she hissed.
Sara looked her in the eye, almost emotionless, and said, "You have no power over me."
Jenny half expected the Gorgon to melt.
The gavell slammed, making Sara jump. "This court is in recess until tomorrow morning," said the judge. "I think we all need a break."
"Amen," whispered Sara.
 ...but they call him Dr Worm ;) They Might Be Giants obscure side-fling #44958...
 _Labyrinth_ fling.
Detective Goren proved to be almost entertaining. He seemed to believe that Sara was innocent of all charges and showed no remorse for mangling the Prosecution's case to hell and gone.
Sara wanted to hold up score cards, but she satisfied herself by drawing them in cartoonish form amongst her doodles.
"And you had a chance to examine Sara's journals?"
"What I could read of them, yes," said Goren.
"What you could read of them?"
"After a certain point, Sara became aware that her journals were being read by -ah- unwelcome eyes... so she encoded them. Once she got accustomed to one code, she further encoded her workings until we had to stretch our resources just to decode them."
"And you saw nothing... nefarious in that?"
"Every teenaged girl desires a certain level of privacy," said Goren. "Most rely on those lockable diaries... Sara just took hers to an extreme."
"So... This page, for example, could mean anything?" the Prosecution showed a diary apparently full of gibberish and an interesting representation of the solar system.
"Actually, that is a treatise on the fractal nature of the universe," said Goren. "The picture nearby is a drawing of a molecule based on the known planets and their orbits around the sun. The actual personal stuff's on the next page, with the scarecrow figure."
The court laughed.
"And how can you actually tell?"
"There's a few levels of encoding. Theories and ideas are encoded at a low level, daily events usually turn up at mid-level, personal thoughts are high-level. I asked some encoders and the US military asked me if they could pay her for her high-level codes... Interesting work for a kid in Remedial Ed."
Glare. Goren had obviously digressed again. "And how can you tell that the -ah- high-level stuff isn't part of an elaborate plot to assassinate the President?"
"Sara's almost completely non-violent," he said. "If she was the sort of person who committed murder, we'd have been investigating a matricide years ago."
"Detective..." warned the Judge.
Goren put on his best I'll-be-good smile. "That is," he corrected, "an intensive psychological profile revealed Sara to be the least likely to kill anyone. She may... investigate the idea as a purely mental exercise - a thought-game... but actual physical violence?" Goren shook his head. "You'd have to really push her buttons to get her to even defend herself."
"I refer you at this point to the defendant's 'perfect crime' journals... how many of these match unsolved mysteries on the books of the NYPD?"
"Actually... none of them." Goren smirked. "None of the unsolved cases anywhere match the situations mapped out in these books."
Sara let out her breath. That had been her biggest concern after dealing with mother.
"And on a further note, they're hardly perfect," Goren added. "In each 'case', Sara's written down possible flaws, including the fact that the plan is written down. She's more thorough than most detectives I know."
Sara twitched. Praise... why did she have so much trouble with praise?