A few moments passed in silence, then the screens came to life. The central one displayed a stern female face, older, perhaps in her early 50s, with fine silver hair and features that might have been grandmotherly if they were not so cold. The left one showed a grouping of seat holding several big name political figures. Circe recognized a few. The Special Crimes Division Secretary Steven Lang, Metroplex Vice Minister of Internal Affairs Rachel Montgomery. She also saw Paragon among those assembled as well as Ivy, her clothing of foliage drawn close to her as she looked out over the proceedings with some disdain. Also seated was a slim woman dressed in all white. Her face was veiled, but Circe could sense she was Willow. The third screen displayed the jury. All ages and sexes were represented, chosen by blind computer program. Some looked fascinated, almost star-struck, others angry or bored. A quiet voice beside them pulled their attention from the screens. Looking up, they saw a young man in a conservatively cut suit.

"Hello, sorry if I startled you. I have been assigned as your attorney in these proceedings."

Circe gave the man a wry smile. "Who did you piss off to get this job?" she asked softly.

Warp snickered in amusement. Good one, Mary… Circe… Damn, going to have to figure out something else to call her to keep it straight. Should be interesting to see which ones they convict me of.

"Actually I volunteered for the position… metahuman law has been an interest of mine for some time." He smiled pleasantly, taking a seat. "As I understand it… you are both going for the Purgatory Project offer?"

Circe looked at the man with wry amusement. "That's a rhetorical question, right? Yes, I'm going for the Project. Have you ever seen an empath that's been forced into psychic isolation? It's worse than anything I've ever done." She took a deep breath and wiped the slight frown from her face. "I suppose that at some time you'll tell us your name, so we won't have to call you Mr. Attorney-Sir." She smiled.

An apolgetic look crossed the man's face. "I'm sorry… I thought you had been told. My name's Karl Greene." He offered his hand to Circe.

"Glad to meet you, Mr. Greene." Warp held his hand out to shake the lawyer's. He shook Warp's hand with the same firm grip he had with Circe but seemed to let his hand linger a bit then blinked and apologized.

"This is only an initial hearing to discuss your plea and the charges. The details will round out here, I assure you." He smiled pleasantly, then turned to face the screens.

"All rise," a voice called out via intercom. "Special Crimes Court 124A is now in session, Justice Minister Alyce Stone presiding."

Are they that afraid of us that it all has to be done remotely? Circe thought as she rose to her feet. And a jury of my peers? Somehow I doubt it. Contempt stirred in her behind her calm mask. This is all just a show. A mockery. Handed a lawyer without any warning. Why even bother. Look at them staring at me like a monkey in a cage. She closed her eyes and took in a slow breath, reigning in her instinctive anger and hate. They see what they want to see, Circe thought, falling back into the litany she wrote for herself all those years ago. What they expect to see. And so it should be.

Circe opened her eyes and focused on the main screen, once again in control of herself.

Warp pulled his hand back and wiped it off on his pants under the table. He sat up straight to give a good impression.

"Please state your full name for the court," the voice requested.

"Mary Saunders," Circe said in a clear, strong voice. Show no weakness.

Warp waited for Circe to proceed, then when she was finished, answered, "Douglas Jordan." And the show begins. They probably think one of us will go psycho. No point. Why let them get rid of my powers? There are some who would like that more then anything else. Wonder if they're still monitoring what we're thinking? Warp kept a smile off of his face. Better not appear to arrogant or knowing them it will make the sentence longer…

"Mary Saunders, you have been brought forward today to answer to the charges brought against you by the Los Angeles Metoplex and its citizens." The accusations against Circe were read off one by one, a litany of lives she had taken. "How do you plead?"

Calm and cool. Circe glanced over at Willow, wishing she could see her face. She turned her attention back to the judge. "Guilty, your Honour." Her voice was still clear. I am taking a big risk. What if they decline the offer to let me join the Project?

"Douglas Jordan, you have been brought forward today to answer to the charges brought against you by the Los Angeles Metoplex and its citizens." Warp's thefts were listed, not many, but high profile ones. "How do you plead?"

"Guilty." There, to the point and that's all.

"Noted," the voice replied.

The Justice nodded. "Your pleas have been noted. Mr. Greene, you wished to address the court?"

The lawyer stepped forward and was about to speak when the door opened. Stepping in with two guards, Jennifer entered, her soft glow filling the room. She looked mildly abashed as she found seat behind the defendant's bench.

Greene nodded, then continued, "If it please the court, I'd like to put forth my clients' request for admission to the Purgatory Progam. Douglas Jordan has demonstrated, as his records will show, a lack of overtly violent tendencies and action." He paused, reaching into his case. "Mary Saunders, while a violent offender, has a steady psychological profile and possibly mitigating circumstances due to her background."

The Justice replied, her voice steady and cool, "I have looked over both perpetrators' files, and while there is some support for Douglas Jordan I find admission for Mary Saunders highly dubious… at best. She is a murderer for hire, pure and simple, not the type to be paroled into society."

Wonder if I'm going to lose her now that I found her? Warp took a quick glance over at Mary.

"Your Honour, may I speak?" Circe spoke up just as Greene was about to speak. He gave her a curious look, but the Justice nodded.

"I have no intention of denying what I have done in the past was, and is, reprehensible. I will accept the judgement and sentencing of this court, but I respectfully request my desire to enter the Purgatory Program be given consideration." Circe paused, desperately fighting to keep her powers in check, to keep from lashing out with the frustration and despair. She hadn't realized how much she wanted this chance until it was being snatched away from her.

The lightest of mental caresses touched her. Willow smiled and nodded slightly. Her pride was plain in both her face and "touch".

"I was lead to believe the purpose of the Program was to rehabilitate metahuman criminals. You have seen my file, and with the information Willow has about me, you know what started me on this path. I ask for neither pity nor sympathy because I do not have any right to those emotions, but for chance to change." Circe closed her eyes and stopped speaking. Her hands were clasped in front of her, her nails digging into her palms. She renewed her efforts to control herself, to continue to appear calm, unaware her nails had bitten into her skin and were drawing blood.

Greene turned to the face the Justice. "It seems that my client has spoken my appeal with an eloquence better than I could manage your honor."

For a moment there was silence. "Ms. Saunders, your words, while eloquent, are not deeds. Your past stands clear and plain, but I feel your desire for change is sincere. I have spoken at length with Minister Willow on your case and, on that basis and other factors I am granting your appeal."

Well done Mary. Doug looked over at Mary.

Circe released the breath she hadn't realized she was holding. "Thank you, Your Honour." Her voice was barely over a whisper. She felt light-headed, and found she was trembling slightly. Now there were just two things left that worried her, that frightened her. That the implant would have some unforseen affect on her, that it would interfere with her powers and cause her irreparable harm. And that her parents would learn of what she had become. As Circe, hidden among the filth and scum on the street, they would never have found her. But now….

"This is not an acquittal or a parole, you will serve your sentence as part of the Project to the best of your ability, and at the first sign of trouble you will be remanded back into custody of the Special Crimes unit," Stone said, looking Circe directly in the eye even through the screen. "In addition, you will be fitting with additional control measures and for a period of 1 year subject to level 1 monitoring."

"Your Honor, I must object. As a subject of the Purgatory program, Ms. Saunders is granted certain rights, among them a degree of privacy," Greene interjected, sounding honestly angry.

"Certain conditional freedoms. Mr. Greene, your objection has been noted," Stone replied, not glancing in his direction. "The Program was never intended to deal with perpetrators such as your client and these additional measures are warranted."

Doug raised his hand to see if he could speak. Sorta like school, but last time I was in school was when I was 14.

"We will get to you in a moment, Mr. Jordan," Stone said, sparing him a glance. Willow was frowning, while Ivy had gotten a vaguely smug look on her face. Her hatred of mentalists was well-known. Something to do with her son and a lunatic called Psiphon.

Circe turned her head to look at Greene. "What is Level 1 monitoring?" What could be worse than them implant Engrid said we'd have?

Greene frowned. "Total monitoring via the implant and neural link. More or less a VR recording of your life." Managing to keep the frustration out of his voice, Greene addressed the Justice. "If I may suggests an alternative…? In the Esper case a precedent was set. A telepath may be linked with another, as precaution… the process does not interfere with the subject or the volunteer but can alert the monitor to certain emotional and mental states."

Willow spoke quietly, "If I may address the court." Stone nodded. "Mary has opened her mind, her very inner being to me. I know it is something that is difficult to understand but we have communicated on a soul-deep level. If she is willing I would further this bond. Justice Stone, she asked for and needs this opportunity, as do we. Her abilities can be a great boon… no one's gifts should be wasted… isn't that what this program is about?"

Doug watched the proceedings. She might get away from having the implant and monitors? Wonder if anyone will speak up for me?

Willow, are you sure? Circe's mental voice was small and scared, completely at odds with the outer image she projected. What if I can't do it? What if something goes wrong? The thought of that implant in my brain terrifies me. I don't care about being tracked, or even locked up when we're not on missions. Has the implant been tested on psychics? Do they know for sure it won't damage or harm… I mean, my control is sometimes so thin. Will it interfere? What if it does something to me and I can't stop…

Justice Stone thought for a moment. "As you are the psychological expert for the Project, Minster Willow, I will accept your linkage instead of the level 1 monitors."

Willow nodded. "Thank you, Justice."

"Mary Saunders, you are hereby remanded into the custody of the Purgatory Program and its directors." She turned to Douglas. "And you wished to address the court earlier?"

"The matter resolved itself, your Honor," Doug said.

God, I wish I could talk to you, Willow, Circe thought as she waited for the guards to take her away. To thank you. To ask for your help.

The doors opened and two guards entered. They stepped up to Circe. "If you will come with us, please?"

Circe nodded. "See you later, Doug. And Mr. Greene? Thank you." She wasn't exactly sure why she thanked him, but then again, would someone else have protested as he had about the monitoring? She turned to accompany the guards.

Thanks for what, you made your point far better than I could have. "Good luck, Ms. Saunders."

Doug watched Mary leave. Wonder what implant they're going to give me?

"The matter of Mr. Jordan seems much more straightforward, unless he or his counsel have anything to add?" Stone said.

Greene glanced at Warp, questioningly.

"Your Honor, I was wondering what conditions applied to my joining the Purgatory Project."

"Due to your overall nonviolent record and criminal history the standard admission procedure will be used for you, Mr Jordan. A level 3 tracking implant and monitoring program as well as controlled living conditions," Stone replied.

"And my client's required length of participation, your honor?" Greene asked.

"Will be based on the prospective sentence for his criminal activities to be decided at a sentencing hearing tomorrow at 11:00 AM," she replied. "Is there anything more?"

"Your Honor, what are the controlled living conditions?" Doug asked.

Greene spoke up. "It means you will remain on Project grounds and facilities when not actively on a mission." You've been reduced to an answering machine, Greene… I guess its only fair after being so unprofessional earlier… but damn he's cute.

I don't like the way he looks at me… be civil, Doug, he is helping you keep your powers. "No other questions at the moment, your Honor."

"Then we will adjourn for the day." Two guards came in to escort Warp from the room.

Greene nodded to Warp. "I will contact you later this evening to go over the particulars."

"OK," Doug replied as he left with the guards, keeping his eyes on the doors ahead of him.

He was walked past Jennifer, who glanced up at him.

"Catherine said she'd be willing to help, if she can," Jennifer murmured to him. Catherine was one of the sisters at the orphanage. Jennifer must have dropped off the package.

"Thanks, Jen," Doug whispered back as he left the room.

He was lead back to the elevator banks and taken further down. His room this time was a small dorm-like area with a bed and simple furnishings. No windows. A sense of oppression hung over the room. The door closed behind him and he heard the lock click into place.

I wonder where Mary is? Almost figured they would keep us together, Warp thought as he looked over the furnishings and security arrangements for the room.

There were no obvious security measure beyond the lack of windows. It almost seemed more a small dorm room than a cell.

Well, wonder if I'm supposed to sleep in this suit? Doug started looking to see if there were pajamas here. Looks like I'm supposed to entertain myself here.

There was a selection of clothing in the nightstand, pajamas and underwear mostly.

Doug started taking off the suit and arranged it neatly over the back of the chair. Don't know if I'm supposed to wear this again. Wonder if they would mind if Mary and I talked? No, they'll probably keep us apart until we are both in the project. You're not in jail but we still have you. After he had taken all of his clothes off he started looking over his body for any bruises or other signs of them putting the implant in already. Wonder if I already have the implant?