Today's Reading

A door opened in the courtroom wall, just a few feet away. Through it stepped a young woman wrapped in chains, with a black hood over her head.

She was sandwiched by a pair of marshals in their black-and-tan tacticals, one young and burly and the other old and wiry, but both with the eyes of trappers. Each held a stretch of the clanking alloyed link that encircled the prisoner's elfin body and locked onto the shackles around her wrists and ankles. You wondered how she moved, until you noticed the way the marshals held her.

Broyles made an imperious gesture with his hand. The older marshal pulled the hood from the girl's head. And suddenly you could sense why they were afraid of her.

They had clothed her in the red jumpsuit of non-compliance, a message that was also sent by her haircut, the kind of exclamatory coif that could get you pulled over in some of the outer suburbs. That and the way she carried herself locked in this steel sandwich of mean-ass white guys projected an aura of defiance so strong you could feel it roll through the room. She was barely as tall as the shorter marshal's shoulders, but she had her chin up, and after glancing at Donny she looked right at the famously temperamental Judge Broyles, making sure he could see the burn mark on her cheek, which matched her jumpsuit.

"Miss Rocafuerte," said Broyles. "While I have your full attention, may I ask if you know why you are here on this rainy Monday morning?"

He said that knowing she probably hadn't seen the outside for days. "Because you are afraid of us," she said. Her voice betrayed the uncertainty she was trying to hide with her poise. They never told them why they had taken them in, because the not knowing made them more scared. And usually more glib.

"Your Honor—" said Donny, standing.

"Let us talk," said Broyles. "You're not her counsel, yet."

"You don't have to answer him," said Donny, speaking to Xelina.

"Sit down, Mr. Kimoe," said Broyles.

"He's just trying to trick you," said Donny, refusing to sit. "Save it until after you and I can talk."

The look in her eyes was an intense mix of anger, intelligence, and fear.

"Miss Rocafuerte," said Broyles, leaning forward a bit, to where the forelock of his wiry grey widow's peak flipped over. "You are here because the government has identified you as a rebel. A subversive. A conspirator against your own government. A traitor against the People. Do I have that right, Ms. Kelly?"

"That's correct, Your Honor," said Bridget Kelly, standing sharply at the prosecution table in her creased blue suit, blond hair pulled back tight. Bridget was one of the lawyers they had recently transferred down from D.C. to handle the case flow coming out of the crackdown. She was a true believer, with the Old Glory lapel pin to prove it, and a flair for the official narrative. "Our investigators have identified the defendant as a member of the Free Rovers Organization. She is a leading producer of their terrorist recruiting videos."

"I'm a journalist!" said Xelina.

"The defendant will speak when spoken to," said Broyles.

"The Rovers are not an 'organization,'" said Donny. "That's an invention of the government. It's like being an Astros fan."

The court ignored him.

Bridget approached the bench and handed a thick stack of papers to the judge. She then gave a copy to Donny. The top page was a charge sheet—a government form filled out with the defendant's name, date of birth, alleged aliases, and the laundry list of crimes with which she was charged. It was signed at the bottom by one of the senior prosecutors detailed to the tribunal, Deputy U.S. Attorney Jack McAuley, to whom Bridget reported.

"The defendant participated in the FRO's illegal infiltration, occupation, and sabotage of industrial properties in the Coastal Evacuation Zone," continued Bridget. "She documented their raids on several petrochemical facilities, including two on the national defense registry, and the drills in their paramilitary training camp."

Bridget was just getting started, and Donny was already having trouble keeping up. Attached to the charge sheet he had just been handed was a stack of exhibits. Almost all of them had been redacted with the thick black bars of the censor. Donny looked up at the court security officer, an executive branch employee who sat at a bench just below and to the judge's right, near the clerk and the court reporter. He quickly turned away, after being busted watching Donny digest his work.

"I believe I may have seen one of those," said Broyles. "Kalashnikovs, burning cars, and targets made to look like certain elected officials?"

"That sounds right, Your Honor," said Bridget. "Government's Exhibit A- 17, at page 73, has some screen shots."
...

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