A column of pure white light shone down on Phineas T. Phoenix, illuminating the assembly of witnesses and lawyers, all of whom had come to see him pay for his crimes.
A second beam of light appeared. The prosecutor entered the view of the court, lowering the hood of his white robe, revealing his pale, bald head. He stared at the criminal, savoring the moment. The singular most menacing temporal criminal was finally going to receive judgment.
The prosecutor held his hands high to the gathered assembly. “Honored members of the court, I come to hear your perfect judgment that is to be placed on this despicable criminal. I do hereby—”
Thunder echoed from the front of the courtroom. The looming silhouette of the judge arose, covered head to toe in a black robe and wielding an iron staff. “Silence!”
The prosecutor cowered before nodding obediently.
“Phineas T. Phoenix stands accused of high crimes against…time.”
The prosecutor cleared his throat. “The technical charges are listed as Temporal Inference of the Fifth Order, as laid out in the treaties of Algernon and—”
The judge slammed his staff against the steps, echoing to the furthest corners of the chamber. “High crimes…against time.”
The prosecutor genuflected before the judge.
“I would hear the list of crimes levied against the accused.”
“Your eminence, these crimes have been discussed at great length…”
The judge slowly turned his gaze to the prosecutor, who wilted beneath the piercing stare. He pulled a scroll slowly from his robe.
“Phineas T. Phoenix stands accused,” the prosecutor stammered, “of theft and abuse of time crystals. Specific abuses include painting, ‘This Space 4 Rent,’ on the highest levels of the Great Pyramid of Giza, after which he is believed to have stolen the mummified body of an ancient Pharaoh and replaced it with the replica armor of a fictional character known as the Darth —excuse me—Dark Vader.”
The assembled masses murmured, expressing their disgust. Phineas rolled his eyes.
“His crimes also include intervention in historical events, including but not limited to smuggling a Hercules-class grenade launcher onto the RMS Titanic and destroying the iceberg with which the ship was due to collide. The accused then stood at the front of the vessel, shouting repeatedly ‘I’m the king of the world!’ after which he dropped the grenade launcher and accidentally blasting a hole in the deck of the ship, nearly sinking the vessel he had been attempting to save.”
Phoenix grunted. “That part was definitely an accident! Not my fault the Marine Corps didn’t design it with a safety switch.”
“And finally…” The prosecutor ground his teeth. How dare the accused interrupt? “Shortly before being apprehended, the accused traveled to a theater and averted the assassination of an ancient American president by striking the would-be assassin over the head with an oversized wooden hammer. He then proceeded to shout, ‘This is Sparta!’ and kicked the assailant off the balcony.”
The prosecutor closed the scroll, satisfied with his presentation. “As was stated during this pathetic wretch’s trial, these actions show flagrant disregard for the purity of time. Even if they could be justified on the grounds of lives saved, the unknown changes and damage to the timeline pose far too great a risk to let this heretic go unpunished.”
The judge reached out his gloved hand, pointing to Phoenix. “What has the accused to say for himself?”
Phoenix stood up straight, crossing his arms. “Only that the prosecutor left out the best part of the assassination story, in which the hero—ahem, that being me—grabbed ole’ Honest Abe by the shoulder and said, ‘Looks like it was time to give John Wilkes the boot!”
“Well spoken.” The judge nodded slowly before taking his seat again.
The prosecutor glanced at Phoenix, allowing a satisfied smile to creep across his face.
“Phineas T. Phoenix, this court finds you guilty of your crimes.”
The court broke out in restrained celebration, gently applauding the judge’s decision. Many turned their praise to the prosecutor, who gave a modest bow, suppressing the jubilation billowing in his chest.
“However…” The judge lifted his staff high above his head. “The finding of this court has little bearing, since this court… well, kinda sucks.”
Agitated cries erupted from the crowd. The prosecutor turned towards the judge, staring up in dismay.
“For instance,” the judge continued, stepping down from his high seat, “this court failed to recall the singular greatest deed of Phineas T. Phoenix—that of breaking out of prison with the help of a few inmates whose great-great-great-grandparents he’d saved, stealing back his old time crystal, going back in time, and…”
The judge pulled down his hood, revealing a face identical to that of the man on trial. “Rescuing himself from his own trial!”
The quiet murmurs of the court dissolved into utter chaos. The formerly condemned Phoenix laughed joyfully at his black-robed counterpart.
The prosecutor glowered at the Phoenixes, fury boiling in his chest. “You shall not make another mockery of this court! Not again!”
He grabbed the iron staff, attempting to pull it away from the judge Phoenix. After a moment of slight resistance, the judge Phoenix released his grip, sending the prosecutor sprawling backwards and crashing to the floor in a heap.
The two Phoenixes stood back to back as the gathered throng of the jury and audience members rose up to seize them.
“Well, you came in here,” the condemned Phoenix said. “Did you have a plan for getting out?”
Judge Phoenix grinned, drawing a vial of churning black liquid out of his robe. “Get ready for another adventure, Phin!” With a wink, he smashed the vial against the floor, filling the courtroom with thick, oily smoke.
The prosecutor searched through the choking cloud, waving the iron staff in an attempt to find the criminals. The mist slowly disappeared, but all that was found of either Phoenix was a black robe and a message scrawled on the floor: “Phineas T. Phoenix wuz here!”