Chapter One: Dead!!
The air was hot and wet, making the gray sky seem almost like a suffocating blanket. The clouds thinned out in some places, taunting him with their faint glow but refusing to show him true sunlight. A long time ago this would not have bothered him -- he much preferred being indoors, where he could focus and work in peace. All he could feel now, though, was anguish. Manfred von Karma was not a man of emotion, but even his steel resolve was cracking under the pressure. His thoughts turned to his daughters -- would they be all right? Franziska had grown into an enduring, headstrong woman, of course she'd be all right... but her sister was lacking in judgement, if her husband was any indication. And she had a family to take care of! He sighed, trying to quell the sickening despair settling within him. It hung in his chest like a cold, dead weight, and he pressed his hands against the bars of the cage, gripping them tightly and staring up at the dark sky.
One more time, please! He wanted to beg, to drop to his knees and cry up to the clouds, but kept his face stern. Over a year had crept by like an eternity, and through it all he had kept his dignity. His gaze remained icy, and did not waver from the sky once for that entire hour -- the final hour of fresh air he would ever have.
Please, one last time, let me see the sun...
The lab table was cold against his back -- he could feel it even through his orange prison uniform. The air in this room was cool and still, stinking heavily of disinfectant and almost making him gag. That, combined with the buzz of the lights overhead and the glossy white finish all around, gave the moment an artificial feel, as if he could stroll outside and visit his granddaughter when it was all over. Keeping his gaze on the ceiling, von Karma tried to clear his mind, but the thoughts of what was to come were too great to ignore. I shouldn't be here, he thought with a scowl. It should be Edgeworth in this jumpsuit, stripped of his reputation and honor, waiting to join his feeble-minded father like a lamb in a slaughterhouse!
von Karma's thoughts were interrupted by a prickling in his wrist. He looked over just as the needle was being pulled from his arm, not even wincing as he did so. Numbly, von Karma glanced at the clock. This is it, he mused, After all my hard work, all the good I've done for this world, it will all mean nothing in three minutes!
Miles Edgeworth... why couldn't that brat have lain down and taken his fate like a man? For fifteen years he had molded and cared for that wretched boy, and now... Damn that Miles. Damn that Phoenix Wright! If he could get out of this, he'd track that spiky-headed ninny down and strangle him! It's because of him that I'm here. I only did what I had to! I am not a criminal. I am not one of THEM!
The left side of his body was completely numb. It wouldn't be long now. Edgeworth... Wright! I swear, I will find a way-- His thoughts were interrupted by a sudden movement. His peripheral vision was fading but he was sure he saw something...
And there it was. A man, standing by the table casually as if he had always been there. Yet he wasn't there -- he was hard to see, at least he had been, but was now fading into his vision and becoming more solid to the second. The details were fuzzy as his eyes began to fail, but he was sure of the blue skin, the black horns, the glowing red eyes...
"Dear God..." von Karma sputtered. Dignity be damned, he was suddenly scared out of his wits.
The visitor smirked. "Finally see me, do you?"
Why wasn't the doctor doing anything? Couldn't he see this... this monster? What about the witnesses? Surely one of them could--
"You have no reason to be frightened, Manfred. I'm simply here to discuss a possible... business endeavor with you." His voice was thick, deep and laced with a sort of fake sweetness. "My name is Vlad Plasmius, and I have had my eye on you for a very long time."
Their eyes locked. His vision was going black, clouding over and fading with every passing moment. Those blood-red irises were not only the most terrifying things he had ever seen, but the last thing he ever would see.
Plasmius gave a smug grin, showing of his sharp, glittering fangs. "You seem a little stressed, Manfred. I suppose we can discuss the details later. It would be best to wait..." he leaned in close, lowering his voice, "until you're on my side of the divide." Plasmius chuckled, stepping back and crossing his arms.
And then von Karma died.
"Wisconsin, Colorado, and now California?" Danny Fenton's head slammed into the table in exasperation, spilling his unkept black hair everywhere. "How many houses does that guy need, anyway?"
"Hey, at least you get to see it." Sam took another sip of soda, smearing black lipstick on the straw. "It's a big city, there's lots you can distract yourself with when you're not fighting evil. Besides, San Francisco really seems like Vlad's sort of place..." She wiggled her eyebrows, "if you catch my drift."
Danny lifted his head to stare at her with a twitching eye. "I just... it... ow. Ow." He pushed his burger to his left, toward his second companion, a black boy covered in various gadgets. "Tucker, you can have this, I just lost my appetite. Sam, never put an image like that in my mind ever again."
Grinning, Tucker eagerly dug into the burger. "I d'know whas'so wrong wif' it," he managed while chewing, pausing at his friends' shocked expressions. He swallowed the bite. "I mean, Vlad doesn't really seem like the environmental type." He shrugged. "But then again, you know he'd buy some super-special-awesome energy saver just to flaunt his money."
Sam snorted, and Danny smeared his hand down his face, but neither pressed the issue. Danny glanced around the restaurant. It was early Sunday morning, not a time when many people would be up for fast food. The empty tables around ensured nobody would overhear. "So," he leaned in, voice at a whisper, "Think you guys can handle taking over for the resident superhero?"
Sam smirked. For a goth, she certainly smiled a lot. "Danny, get over yourself. We can handle renegade ghosts for a few days."
"Especially since you'll be with the worst of the bunch at his summer home, anyway." Tucker finished off his second burger as he said this. It was a wonder how he stayed so scrawny. "You just worry about stopping whatever Vlad's planning in San Francisco."
Danny nodded, expression falling. "Probably some half-assed scheme to try and adopt me as his son."
"Or kill your dad," Sam piped.
"Or feel up your mom."
"Knowing him, it's probably all three!" Danny's head hit the table once more. "This spring break is going to suck. I just know it."
The courtroom was alive with hustle and bustle as people filed out into the lobby. The defendant lingered a moment, turning to face his lawyer with a wide grin. "Mister Wright, I can't thank you enough for all you've done."
Phoenix looked up from gathering his things and smiled. "The pleasure is all mine, Mister Silverspoon." He brushed a stray black hair from his eyes, tucking it behind his ear.
"Please," He extended his hand in a friendly gesture, "Mister Wright, call me Alan."
Phoenix accepted the handshake readily. Alan couldn't have been younger than thirty-five, but his ropey build and bright eyes gave the impression of a ch ild. Combined with his generally perky nature... This guy could really give Maya a run for her money, he thought with an inward chuckle. Unlike many of his clients, who were oftentimes eccentric or unnerving in one way or another, Mr. Silverspoon seemed to be a normal, genuinely nice guy. How someone could accuse him of murder, Phoenix really didn't know. After packing the rest of his things into his briefcase, he stood and started toward the lobby.
"Rest assured, I'll have the money wired to you by tonight." Alan's grin widened, as he walked in stride with Phoenix. "But I am forever in your debt after this. Come into my restaurant any time, of course you and your friends eat free."
"I..." Phoenix blinked in surprise. "Mister Sil-- Alan, you really don't--"
"Sounds great!!" At the mention of food, Maya was at their side in a flash, with Pearl trailing close behind. Her long black hair and loose clothes fluttered behind her as she walked briskly to match their pace, fallng around her shoulders as they stopped in the lobby. "Maybe we can head over tonight and try a sample, hmm?"
"Maya..." Phoenix muttered, Jeez, girl, give him some time to recover! "Aren't you being a bit, uh, forward?"
Alan laughed. "Don't worry, Mister Wright. My wife can be the same way too, sometimes." He smiled down at Pearl. "Though I must say, not even my daughter is as cute as yours."
Pearl stared up at him with with her soft gaze. Phoenix had to agree, she was the epitome of all things cute. Her quiet voice and small features only added to that, topped off with the pigtails tied in back of her head. Even at her worst, the girl was irresistable. Phoenix didn't wonder why even Alan's own daughter couldn't...
Wait a second.
Wife...? Phoenix turned white as Alan's words registered. Daughter?! I-I'm only twenty-five! "No! It's... it's not like that!" Phoenix laughed nervously, putting his hand on Maya's shoulder. "Maya is just my assistant." For that matter, just how old does he think Maya is? She was eighteen, but looked way younger.
"Just your assistant?" Maya huffed, ducking out of his grasp. But she was turning rather pink, as well.
"And a close friend," Phoenix added. "Her older sister taught me everything I know about law." He glanced down at Pearl. "And little Pearls here is her cousin." He reached down to ruffle her hair.
Alan chuckled, brushng a few blond strands from his eyes. "Really? The way you two acted around each other... I could have sworn you were an item!"
"I think their love is like a river," Pearl's soft voice broke in. "I once asked Mister Larry about it, and he started talking about a river in... what's it called? A river in a jipt."
Phoenix's eye twitched. "Did he, now? Looks like I'll have to..." Punch? Kick? Strangle? "...correct him, then."
"Suffice it to say," Alan said with a flash of that million-dollar grin, "I am very grateful to you all for your help. I've got to go, though... wanted to have a word with Miles before he left." He glanced around the lobby. "There he is!" as he started off, he gave a last wave to Phoenix. "Remember, Mister Wright, drop in any time!"
Phoenix waved back, but something was bugging him. How in the world does that guy know Edgeworth? No... he didn't just know him, either. I've known Edgeworth since third grade, and not even I call him by his first name!
If Alan was close with Edgeworth, it would suddenly explain a whole lot. The prosecution had seemed rather... off, today. Usually in court he was forward and confident, a very sharp contrast to his quiet, subtle, everyday persona. Today, Edgeworth was still just as forward (he had almost won the trial) but his confidence seemed... lacking. As if today his job was nothing but a chore. But even prosecuting a friend has never broken his resolve before, Phoenix thought with a grimace, remembering the last time he'd sat in the defendant's chair. Then again, was I even his friend at that point?
Well, if anyone knew the hidden details about Edgeworth's life, it was definitely detective Dick Gumshoe. The bulky, rather scruffy detective worked very closely with Edgeworth, and had developed a sort of hero-worship for the young prosecutor. Sometimes it's pretty creepy, too, Phoenix noted with a grimace as he scanned the room. Catching sight of that familiar olive trenchcoat, Phoenix strode through the thin crowd just as Gumshoe finished talking with a police officier. "Hey, Gumshoe!" He called cheerfully.
Gumshoe turned and grinned. "Hey, pal!" He clapped a friendly hand on Phoenix's shoulder, "Great job in court today. You were really on fire, like one o' those mythical things or something." With a strong pat on the back that left Phoenix without air for a moment, the detective added, "Though you could've gone a bit easier on him, considerin' the circumstances, don't you think?"
Phoenix perked up. "Circumstances?"
Gumshoe froze, with an expression not unlike a child with his hand in the cookie jar. He pulled his hand away to scratch the back of his head regretfully. "I guess you didn't know, then?"
Bingo, Phoenix thought, and I didn't even have to pry. "Know about what?"
"I s'pose you ain't exactly the type to check the obits, anyway..."
The obituaries?! That set off alarms in the attorney's head. "What? What happened?"
"The execution of Manfred von Karma, pal."
Phoenix gasped, eyes going wide. For a moment, he almost felt guilty. After all, he was the one who exposed von Karma's crime to the world. But he quickly shook it off -- von Karma was the one who murdered, and almost gotten away with it, too! The man was evil, as far as Phoenix was concerned, and had gotten exactly what he'd deserved. "But why is he so... emotional about it? Edgeworth is better off without him!"
"Yeah, I know. Pretty stupid thing for him to be so upset about, right?" Gumshoe huffed, "I mean, the guy was a jerk, no question about it. But you didn't see it, pal -- you weren't there when Edgeworth started out, but I was. Man, Edgeworth did everything he could to try and impress von Karma. I mean, the guy was his foster-father and all that, y'know?"
Numbly, Phoenix nodded. Suddenly he did feel guilt pressing in his chest. A man is dead because of me. But the man had committed murder, even admitted to it during court. He had deserved to die. But isn't that what von Karma thought of Gregory, too, at the moment he fired the gun? How many other people had died because of him? Finally, with an inward chuckle, he decided it was a stupid thing to be worried about. Exposing the truth was his job, after all. He didn't choose their punishments, nor did he dish them out. Von Karma is dead, and he brought it on himself.
"I mean, it's almost like Edgeworth had a sort of hero-worship for that prick. I tell you what, pal, sometimes it got a little creepy."
Phoenix turned. "I'm going to go talk to him. Thanks, Gumshoe." If there was a reply, Phoenix didn't hear it. Edgeworth was just about to leave, and he strode through the lobby quickly, meeting the silver-haired prosecutor right at the threshold. "Edgeworth!"
Edgeworth turned his head sharply, meeting his gaze. He was no more than twenty-five, and yet the stress and exhaustion in his eyes made him look decades older. "What?"
Their eyes locked, and Phoenix tried to look cheerful. "I was thinking, maybe tonight, we could head out and have a few drinks. I could call Larry up, have him come along." He grinned. "It could be just like old times, only with more alcohol."
With a short huff, Edgeworth turned away. "Not interested."
"Aw, come on!" Phoenix forced a chuckle. "It'll get your mind off von Karma f--" The words caught in hs through as he realized what he'd just said. "That is, uh, I mean..."
Edgeworth's head snapped around. His glare was so sharp Phoenix could feel it piercing him. "Gumshoe told you, didn't he?"
"No, it just..." Phoenix started weakly, "I happened to check the paper this morning..."
"Liar," Edgeworth spat. "That loudmouth. The answer is no, Wright." And with that, he was out the door.
"Edgeworth," Phoenix called, starting forward. "Edgeworth, wait!" He grabbed one of his friend's burgundy sleeves. "I just..."
"Leave me alone!" He whirled, almost sending Phoenix spinning. "I don't want to hear it!"
"Edgeworth!" He placed a hand firmly on his friend's shoulder, staring him straight in the eyes, only then noticing the faint glimmer of tears. "Edgeworth... I'm sorry."
His pained expression slowly twisted into one of disgust. Edgeworth slapped Phoenix's hand away. "No," he spat, "you're not."
Phoenix opened his mouth to protest, but no words would come. It was true. He wasn't sorry. Quietly, he averted his gaze to the floor.
"Hmmph." Edgeworth turned on his heel and strode away, managing to regain his air of confidence after that sudden break.
This time, Phoenix didn't try to follow.