JUDGEMENT

“Just tell me what I want to know. I’m not mad.” The Arbiter appeared relaxed.
“But sir, you…you just ripped an arm off of...” The Dragoon quivered and stuttered just a bit but finally muttered the location of the warehouse.
The Arbiter’s green eyes narrowed. “I said I’m not mad, as in, `not crazy.’ However, I am extraordinarily upset with you. And it is time for you to be judged.”
**********
Matthew Stone’s life had been far from ordinary. Star athlete, class president, law degree by age 23. Assistant District Attorney, age 27. He was a brilliant young prosecutor, and by age 35 he had received his first appointment to the bench. It was only to a low level criminal court, but it didn’t take long for him to make a name for himself. Not long at all.
It was a cool spring morning in Paragon City, and the trial of Marcus Talbot was set to begin. Talbot had been arrested for allegedly killing an eight-year old child, Sarah. She was an only child. The young girl’s parents waited on the steps of the courthouse for a glimpse of their baby’s killer. Matthew, Matt to his friends, and Stone to his country club friends, almost made it past them before Sarah’s mother stopped him. Aware of the cameras nearby, he gave her his best smile.
“Are you going to put this bastard in jail?”
“You must be little Sarah’s mother. I’m very sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you. Are you going to put this man in jail?”
“I’ll do what I can,” he said, and hoped he sounded sincere. A flash went off. I hope he got my good side, he thought.
The trial lasted for three weeks and saw countless hours of testimony. The prosecution’s case was airtight. Talbot’s DNA matched samples found on the lifeless child, his fingerprints were found on Sarah’s Hello Kitty backpack, and two witnesses had observed Talbot lurking near her school. The police obtained a confession by Talbot which was questionable, but Stone had allowed it to be read into evidence. He was a parole violator. The District Attorney was expecting a conviction, and court watchers all expected a victory for the young girl’s parents. The jury didn’t disappoint them. After four hours of deliberation they returned with a conviction. Guilty. Talbot was guilty.
On sentencing day, Stone knew it was his chance to make an impression. During a trial, the judge can not make his opinion known, but he can make a statement during the sentencing. Stone had practiced his speech for hours the night before, and thought he sounded convincing. “Years in jail can not bring back that tender young life…Society demands justice and I hope with this conviction there can be some small comfort…yes, I think I’m ready.”
The courtroom was packed as Stone began to read his speech. In impassioned tones he criticized the parole system for letting Talbot out of jail. He lashed out at Talbot for snuffing the life of an innocent child. By all accounts, it was the speech of a Man Who Cared. Stone sentenced Talbot to the maximum…25 to life.

Talbot was released from prison eight years later. While in prison he had learned to do machine work, and he was recruited by Nemesis to repair Jaegers. On the side he stalked playgrounds, and eventually struck again. And again. Seven times. One of the young victims had her father’s green eyes and was dropped off at school by her nanny because he was too busy that morning. Her name was Elizabeth.
When the news got to Matthew he was in his study, reading past cases ruled on by a rival for a State Supreme Court position. He felt hollow. Disconnected. Elizabeth was his only daughter, and until that moment, he hadn’t realized how much he had loved her. All of the years wasted on politics and ambition. He stood up from behind the desk, hands trembling, and the legal brief fluttered to the ground. He began to weep.
**********
“I dunno, Mikey, it looks like it mighta been a helmet.”
“You ever seen a helmet the size of a thimble?”
“No, but I also ain’t never seen anybody actually twisted like a pretzel either.”
**********
Beads of sweat rose on Matt’s clean-shaven head as he struggled to raise the bar overhead. He closed his eyes and concentrated. He reopened them as the rage took over and he threw the barbell where it lodged in the cinderblock wall. He stood staring at the damage as his body cooled and he shook just a little from the cold. Six hundred pounds. I can do better.
**********
“More. Hit me again.”
“Look man, you’re tough, but you got to realize you got limits!”
“More.” Jimmy recognized that look. It was dangerous. It was the look that you saw on the dead...glass eyed and without feeling…but he knew better, Jimmy knew it was a mask. Jimmy weighed his options and decided it was safer for Jimmy to just hit the man like he asked. Gambling debts are a bitch to pay off, and this fool paid well.
“Alright, this is the last round. And you owe me for the two aluminum bats you broke.”
**********
The last Jaeger stopped twitching and a figure emerged from the debris, dusted itself off and calmly walked away.
**********
“Look Matt, I know it’s been rough on you these last few years-“
“Five years.”
“Five, sorry, since Liz died-“
“She was murdered.”
“Yes, terrible thing it was. Look, Matt, I know the last five years have been rough, but you need to get yourself together.” Larry was the unlucky one. He drew the short straw and was slowly sweating through his shirt in the big man’s presence. “They’re going to take you off the bench.”
“Fine.”
“Maybe you could just take a little time off, you know, take a vacation or something? Hit the gym, perhaps. Ha ha. Ha.” Matt was already opening his briefcase. “I mean, you’ve worked so hard to get here, maybe a little time off would do you good. Nobody could blame you.”
“You’re right. I could use a little free time. See you around.” His few possessions tucked away, Matt dropped the key to his office on the desk and walked out.
Larry breathed. That went well.
**********
Matt turned the corner and scanned the warehouse room. Sniper, hmm. A couple of hunter robots. Hmm. He cracked his knuckles and walked towards the unlucky Tirailleur.
**********
Five years.
It’s been five years.
Matt tucked the little Pooh bear into a pocket inside his black suit jacket.
I’ve found you Talbot, and it’s time…
**********
“…you were judged!” Flames from Nemesis rifles roared around him as he pounded his way towards the 10 foot tall suit of steam-powered armor.
Talbot’s laughter was tinny through the suit’s speakers as twenty Jaegers scuttled across the concrete floor to block Matt’s advance. Bullets sizzled the air and danced a line towards him. Coldly, methodically, Matt smashed the robots with his incredible strength. Gouts of steam flew from holes torn open by the avenging father’s fists, and he slowly marched forward.
“You think you can take me? Come and get me!” A bolt of energy flew from the Nemesis staff and crashed into Matt, knocking him back into the debris from the robots. Pieces of metal were lodged in his back. He was bleeding badly. The world started to close in and turn gray.
“I remember you...you’re that judge who put me away. I remember your little girl too. We had a good time until I broke her.” Matt heard the dull thud of the armor’s footsteps and felt himself being picked up by cold metal hands.
“What’s this? Aww, a widdle bear! What’s the matter, big boy needs his dolly?” Dazed, Matt watched as Talbot’s Nemesis armor held the little bear in front of his face. Talbot threw Matt. He crashed through a wall and slid across the rough floor, finally coming to a rest face up. Talbot broke through the hole in the wall made by Matt’s body and stood over him. He tossed the little bear and it landed on Matt’s chest. Wracked with pain, Matt rolled on his side and stared at the little doll. Talbot raised the staff high overhead. “And now you’re going to die, just like your little bitch did.” The staff was aimed at Matt’s head and descended in slow motion as the image of his daughter rose.
“No.”
The staff struck the ground and sent a shockwave through Matt, knocking him into a pile of crates. The world was beginning to come back into focus. Slowly, the battered man stood up.
“Her name was Elizabeth.” Matt wiped at the blood and tears in his eyes and felt the rage build. “And you, Marcus Talbot, are about to be judged.”
**********
“10-13, sounds like we got meta-human activity in this warehouse, I need backup here forthwith!”
**********
Over Cast was the first to find him, sitting on a wooden box, the mask of a Fake Nemesis in his hands.
“Are you okay friend?”
“Yes.”
“Want to tell me what just happened here?”
“He got away.”
“Who got away?”
“Talbot.”
“Oh, I see.” The mists swirling around Over Cast faded and the man became more visible. He sat down on the box next to Matt. “You know, we could help you find him.”
“Who is `we’, and who are you?”
“My name is Over Cast. I work with a group called Top Ten. You might say we’re heroes.”
“Top Ten. I’ve heard of you.” He looked up. “Can you really help me find Talbot?”
“Yes, I think so. And what should I call you, friend?”
Matt looked at the mask in his hands. He crumpled it into a tiny ball and dropped it.
“Call me The Arbiter.”
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