"Once you know, you can never go back.
I've got to take it on the Otherside."
--Otherside, Red Hot Chili Peppers
Edgeworth changed during the cab ride to Larry's house. The twisted and distorted pathways of neurons in his head suddenly warped once more. The lights in his eyes became brighter, but also dreadful, like the shine of a lion's eyes at night. The hand cupping the holster at his hip squeezed the leather holder spastically.
The taxi stopped in an upper class Westside neighborhood across the street from Larry's house. Edgeworth got out immediately, leaving a surprised Phoenix to deal with payment. The driver had either mistaken Edgeworth for a cop, or was so used to transporting men with guns that he made no fuss.
The prosecutor hammered on the front door hard enough to shake it in its frame. As Phoenix ran across the street to catch up with him, a timid voice came from within.
"What's the password?"
Phoenix began to speak, but Edgeworth simply held up the 9mm to the peephole.
"Password is: do you want to lose an eye?"
The voice from inside tittered in fear...and after a long, pregnant pause, there was a click! as the lock opened. Edgeworth shoved inside without any preamble, nearly knocking over Larry Butz himself, but Phoenix was quick and caught Larry before he could tumble.
Larry's house wasn't actually his. In his long history as a ladies' man, his tastes in a woman's personality and paycheck could care less, as long as the woman in question was beautiful. His latest conquest was a young female poet who had bought the house with her pen and paper. The poet herself was out at the moment, lecturing in Washington. Or so the story went.
The house's den was spacious but sparse. It had two large bay windows that let in the twilight, and expensive curtains that kept it out. Said curtains were now being drawn and tied shut by Edgeworth. There was a large, flat screen TV that sat prettily off to a side.
While Larry Butz was not known for his temper, Edgeworth's madness-induced rage seemed to spread through the room like a virus, and he was the first to be infected.
"Hey, pal," Larry snapped, "Watch where you're goin'!"
Edgeworth snarled like a wild animal and spun to face Larry.
"Don't tempt me, peon," Edgeworth hissed, "I'm not in control right now."
"Peon!? Does that make you King of Bastardia?"
The prosecutor stormed towards Larry. Phoenix stepped in front, arms spread to protect him. The defender snarled, and the purple curtain in Edgeworth's mind was blown open for a second, revealing the memory of the fake Phoenix's horrible fangs. The prosecutor halted, but continued to glare at them both.
"Both of you, listen," Edgeworth said, "I don't think you understand the danger that we're all in." He paused to collect himself; his breathing was ragged and unstable. "Larry. Phoenix. You two have known me since we were children. It is difficult for me to say this, so pay attention.
"I am truly insane.
"Larry, since you're a complete idiot, I will explain. The human brain is like a supercomputer on steroids. The common thought is that the brain is the best computer in the universe. I say brain because now we seem to know that there is...there are..."
Edgeworth was scared to find he could not finish his thought. His madness was preventing certain words from leaving his mouth. The experience was surreal and he began to wonder if insanity wasn't just something he could learn to live with. As soon as he thought that, his feelings took another off-ramp on his mental highway and his rage, that had once threatened to blind his old friend, released him like a bird from a cage.
"Aliens," Phoenix said, completing Edgeworth's idea.
The prosecutor sighed with relief and ran a hand through his hair.
"Thank you," he said, "In any case, these...these—"
"Thank you. They caused me to lose my mind. One of them murdered four bailiffs at the courtroom today. It enjoyed being bathed in their blood."
Edgeworth's hands rolled into fists that trembled with anger.
"I will not hesitate to exact revenge."
The room was sickly silent for a moment, then Larry broke the quiet.
"Wait," he said, "I once heard somewhere that crazy people don't admit they're crazy. You just did, so you're lying. Edgey, we have known you for a long time, so why are you lying to us?"
The female voice surprised them all, and they turned to Maya Fey.
Maya was a medium-in-training, and since her departure to her hometown to learn more two years ago, she had become even stronger in her field. Edgeworth had seen her abilities with his own eyes. She was the real deal, and a very powerful individual.
But Maya was not herself tonight. Instead of the cheerful, bubbly adult she had grown into, she was quiet and somber. She was regarding the three men with a inspective eye that spoke of years of practice. Once satisfied with her assessment, she settled on a beige leather couch that sat in front of a bay window.
"Mr. Edgeworth is indeed insane," Maya said, folding her hands together, "While I can't read minds – yet – there is something about him that is not like you or me. It's in the way he's standing. It's in his voice. It's in his eyes. Larry, look at his eyes. It's plain as day."
Edgeworth held still so Larry could snake around Phoenix and stare into his eyes. It had been years since the prosecutor had been this close to his old friend, so he took the opportunity to scan Larry's brown eyes. There was a spark in his eyes that spoke of a quick wit and a sense of survival that had kept his philandering behind on the right side of life.
This is a love attack, Edgeworth's mind spat, I know it went out but it's back.
He didn't understand what that meant, but then Larry took a step backwards, fear evident in his eyes. He had seen Edgeworth's madness, and was duly wary, but, like Phoenix, was calm around him.
After a pause, Larry said, "Okay, Edgey. I believe you. You're crazy."
Satisfied with his answer, Edgeworth addressed Phoenix. "The tape. Now."
Phoenix made a discontent noise – he didn't like Edgeworth's tone – but fetched a large, black monstrosity from beside the television. It had a large lens, a microphone, a large view port, and was littered with tiny black and gray buttons. It had to weigh about five pounds.
The defender smirked, toying with the camera. "I got a ton of money after I got someone the not guilty verdict a few weeks ago. I got this baby for a hoot. It's from the year 1990, can you believe it? It's almost thirty years old, and still takes great pictures!"
Edgeworth crossed his arms. "You should put it out of its misery."
Although that was meant as a joke, both Phoenix and Larry looked mortified at the very thought. Maya was silent. She was staring into space, disconnected with reality.
After that awkward moment, Phoenix started to hook up the contraption to the television. He was not the best at technology (the camera was older than he was), but this procedure was relatively straightforward. Soon the TV screen was a blank blue, and awaiting orders from the camera.
Edgeworth sat down where he was and Larry settled next to Maya on the couch.
Phoenix gave the group a look.
Larry timidly held up a hand, then said, "Uh, Nick? What's on this mystery tape?"
Phoenix bit his lip nervously, then replied, "You believe in aliens?"
"Yeah, sure, I'm a regular Star Trekkie."
The defender forced himself to grin. "Then you're gonna love this."
He pressed play, and the screen came to life.
Despite being twenty-eight years old, the camera did take an admirable picture.
It was a sunny day. The camera was recording an empty street, two parked cars, the buildings across the asphalt, and the alley that sat in between. Then the world violently shifted to the left and Maya Fey took up most of the view.
Phoenix's voice came on now.
"Hey, Maya, smile for the camera!"
Video Maya was a lot happier than in reality. She was beaming with joy.
"Geez, Nick, that thing's ancient! Is it really recording?"
"Yeah, it came with tape. The camera loves you."
"Really? Aw, such a good camera! What you lack in discreetness you make up for in heart. Can I hold it, Nick?"
"Yes, but be careful, it's heavy."
The picture rotated and spun wildly as the camera changed hands, and then it was Phoenix in the shot. The defender must have come directly from the courthouse; he was still wearing his suit and was carrying a briefcase. There was a row of old televisions to his left. The store they bought the camera in apparently specialized in old technology.
"It's a great picture, Nick, even if it's old."
Phoenix responded by pulling a silly face, grinning.
"That's gross, Nick. I'll be sure to show it to your next client."
The defender chuckled and reached for the camera again, and once more the picture danced crazily before settling out on Maya again. A man came up behind her and politely excused himself. The medium started to move as if to get out of the way, and so did Phoenix, and the picture violently shifted to the right this time...
Then suddenly jerked back to the left just a little bit and zoomed in.
It was recording the alley across the street.
Or, rather, what was in the alley.
"Nick? You feeling okay? You've gone pale."
Phoenix's voice was quiet and soft with fear. "Maya, be quiet, and get down."
The picture edged in a little as Phoenix stepped forward, then became still as he set it down on the hood of a car. It was still recording the thing in the alley.
The thing was a dark purple vortex.
The vortex was standing on its side and swirling with every violet shade possible. It had no apparent source or power supply. And it was certainly not a human invention.
Maya's voice was a whisper too. "Nick, what's wrong?"
There was a pause, and then a gasp as Maya saw the vortex too.
"Oh my God, what is that...?"
Suddenly, three black tendrils erupted from the vortex. They loomed in the alley like apocalyptic monsters, then extended forward with blinding speed to snatch up three fully-loaded garbage cans. Their grip on the containers was shockingly powerful. The centers of the cans were being crushed, and garbage oozing from the top like a volcano. Then the three tendrils swept back inside the vortex with their booty, and it was over.
The camera kept recording even though Phoenix and Maya were stunned silent.
What happened next became a hallmark of humanity's next great era.
An alien leapt from the vortex.
It was a dull greenish gray in color, and was entirely coated in scales. It had four long legs that ended in feet with two toes and an opposable thumb, a long whip-like tail, and a long neck. Its head was an oval with a squat bird beak. It had a shell-like structure on its back, though it was too flat to be of any purpose. Overall, the alien looked like a large evolutionary disaster of a tortoise, but there was a grace and power in the way it held itself that screamed big cat.
"Oh my God," Video Phoenix murmured. Video Maya whimpered.
Then two more aliens were ejected from the portal, which vanished. They all looked at one another, then spoke. Their language was indecipherable, but they seemed to have reached an understanding, because they rose on their hind legs.
Then all three were enveloped in their own columns of green numbers.
Back in reality, everyone present was dead silent. Larry's jaw hung open, eyes wide in horror. Maya was not watching the tape; she was still staring into space. Phoenix was watching, but there was a minute shiver in his body.
Edgeworth showed no emotion. He was too shocked to do anything.
He recognized what the green numbers were.
They were binary code.
The camera recorded the three aliens as the numbers began to affix themselves to their bodies. Each number changed color and texture. Some became human skin, some became hair, eyes, and ears, still others became cloth.
When the transformation was complete, there were no aliens in the alley.
Just three humans.
Two of them became men, the third was a woman. They all stepped out into the sun and began to compose themselves. One pulled out a cell phone, another slipped on sunglasses. The third checked the watch that had materialized along with his skin and clothing.
Then all three glanced at each other again...and grinned.
They all had rotten fangs. Not a flat tooth among the bunch.
Then they scattered in different directions. Their gait was imperfect, but to a passerby, they looked like any other human being.
The camera recorded an empty alley while Video Phoenix and Video Maya struggled to recover from their bewilderment.
"N-Nick, please t-tell me that w-w-wasn't real."
The camera kept going for a few more seconds, then the picture froze.
Phoenix unplugged the camera from the TV and the screen went blue again.
"Edgeworth," he said, "Those aliens...one of them attacked you, right?"
The prosecutor said nothing, just held his head in his hands and whined pitifully.
Larry shook his head rapidly, as if trying to shake the images in his mind away.
"Nick," Larry said, "That's unreal. That...can't be real! It's some kind of manipulation! It can be done, they do it in the movies, that's all this is! It's not real!"
Phoenix suddenly glared and cried, "Larry! Of course that was real! I was there! Maya was there! You saw me on the tape! You saw Maya! That was completely real! I have the camera right here, I have the tape, I have my own experiences, and if none of that can convince you, look at Edgeworth! He's gone mad! Do you think that was due to something unreal!?"
While Phoenix had gotten mad at Larry in the past, (many times, in fact), he had never exploded like that. Larry was stunned...but knew in his heart of hearts that Phoenix never blew up like that for no reason.
"Okay," Larry muttered, "I believe you. That was real. There are aliens on Earth."
Edgeworth gave a violent shiver, and then he was back in control. His mad eyes were stony, and when he focused them on Phoenix the defender couldn't help but flinch.
"No," Edgeworth said, "None of that group attacked me.
"The...thing that attacked me, and you...had metal limbs."
The room was deathly silent. Phoenix set the camera away and crossed to Larry and Maya. His presence seemed to comfort both of them, and Edgeworth felt a quick twinge of jealousy before shutting it down in its infancy.
"That's how they get here, huh," Edgeworth said, "Through portals."
"That seems to be it," Phoenix said, "I'm sure there are more all over the city, but I don't know if there are any right this second. I think they come and go."
"Why do you say this?"
"After that episode, I took it on myself to start to hunt the portals. I thought I was being sneaky and stealthy, but I guess I wasn't... I'm sure that's how they found out who I was. One of them saw me watching for the portals. From there, they somehow got the address of my office, and the rest is history."
Edgeworth snarled. "If they know about you, and they know about me, do they know the rest of our friends and acquaintances? Will they attack Detective Gumshoe, for instance, or my sister Franziska?" He stood and turned to Larry. "How long have you stayed in this house?"
Larry recoiled, surprised, and said, "Little over a week."
The prosecutor spun back onto Phoenix. "Why is Maya here?"
Phoenix also flinched. "I sent her here four days ago. I was worried she would get hurt if she tagged along with me while I was portal hunting."
"You were locked in the closet for two days, those being today and yesterday. You sent her away in the nick of time, Wright. I know you have a knack for being lucky, but I don't believe you had a hunch this time."
Phoenix glanced at Maya, sighed, and said, "She told me to keep her here."
Edgeworth turned onto the medium. "Why?"
Maya looked up at him sullenly and said, "I sensed him coming."
It was Edgeworth's turn to be surprised. He stepped back and glared at Maya. "You sensed...that thing!? You can feel them coming!?"
"Yes. They have a strange aura around them. I don't know if I can read their minds, but I can sense what they're feeling. Four days ago, I felt a really bad sense of foreboding. It was terrible. I knew then that Nick was in danger."
"Why didn't you tell him?"
"I did." She looked at Phoenix. "You cared more about my safety than your own."
Phoenix blushed and looked down. "Maya...sometimes I feel like you're a sister to me. We're eight years apart, but...you seem to be just the kind of person a little sister would be. You know...uh...I'm not sure how a big brother should act, I'm kinda flying blind, but...yeah. Sorry. I never thought I had to explain this to you."
Maya finally cracked a small smile. "Oh, Nick..."
Edgeworth groaned, breaking the loving atmosphere. "You make me sick. There are man-killing aliens roaming around, and you two are gushing romantic over how brother-sister you are with each other. This is disgusting, I think I need to throw up. Where's your bathroom, Lar—"
Maya suddenly gasped, hands flying to her face. Phoenix was at her side in an instant, while Edgeworth nimbly stepped away, surprised. The medium grabbed onto Phoenix's shirt and used her own weight to knock him over.
"Everyone get down!"
A split second later, something came sailing through the window and curtain, splattered against the far wall like a rotten fruit, and rolled to a stop in the middle of the room. It was a pinkish red object that looked similar to an enormous jelly bean.
Then it exploded.
Edgeworth was thrown against the TV. While it broke his fall, it toppled over with a loud whumph that was accented by the growing roar of the fires set by the explosion. The curtains, couches, and carpets were blazing.
Maya was screaming. Her shirt had caught aflame as well, and Phoenix was violently swatting at the flames to put them out.
Then the prosecutor realized that he was alone on one side of the den, while Larry, Maya, Phoenix, and any means of escape was on the other, blocked by a wall of blazing heat.
Once Maya was extinguished, Phoenix turned to help Edgeworth, but he reached the same conclusion as the prosecutor. Unlike Edgeworth, he still tried to assist him, but Larry managed to restrain him before the defender could rush into the flames as they grew higher and hotter.
"Edgeworth!" Phoenix howled, struggling against Larry.
"Phoenix!" Larry cried, holding firm, "The house is on fire! We gotta go, now!"
The defender continued to yell as Larry dragged him out.
Edgeworth was alone in the burning house.
His madness was screaming in every shade of emotion, and he felt like crying and screaming and laughing all at once. His brain was playing tricks on his eyes, and the rising flames started to look more like fanged monsters with metal legs from the shoulder down, ending with horridly sharp talons. The flames were eating away at the purple curtain in his mind, and Edgeworth knew then that he was going to fall into shock again, it was inevitable, and there would be no singing nurses to bring him back from the madness.
Then a voice in his head, ancient and commanding, came through clearly.
Get away from my son!
It was not Edgeworth's voice, he could not place where he had heard it, but it was a memory, an old, dark memory that spurred his feet and hands to get his body off the TV and back into the present time.
The prosecutor scanned the room madly. There seemed to be nothing that was not on fire. The flames were licking the ceiling, and somewhere a smoke alarm went off. The blaring screech was joined by several others until the whole house seemed to have sunk into Hell.
Then he realized there were two windows. One was broken.
The other was not.
While Edgeworth wasn't an interior decorator, his sense of survival decided that the two windows had to match.
He backed off, took a running leap, and crashed through the window.
Edgeworth wasn't a stuntman either. His landing was awkward, and while he had protected his face instinctually, he howled in agony as a long splinter of glass dug into his arm and drew a river of blood. Several other shards had bitten into his legs and torso, and he regretted leaving his armor in Phoenix's office.
He got up just in time to see a shadowy paw dash around the burning house.
An alien paw.
Edgeworth had the gun in his hand in an instant, and gave chase, ignoring the blasting furnace beside him as he dove through bushes and shrubs. His madness shut down any emotion other than outrage and a bitter need for vengeance.
But it wasn't enough. The cat-like grace the aliens exhibited in Phoenix's video apparently gave them enough power to outrun any human. All Edgeworth could see of his quarry was dark glimpses that he shot at anyway, even if all he hit was the asphalt.
Phoenix, Maya, and Larry suddenly came into view, but Edgeworth ran past them without a second glance. The three of them were shocked at the once withdrawn and quiet prosecutor's reappearance. Then they began to follow him, sprinting just to keep him in sight.
Phoenix started to scream Edgeworth's name, but it hardly registered. The alien had turned onto a large street, and while the moonlight could not fully illuminate it, its whole body was visible, and that was enough for the prosecutor to get a target on.
But then the vortex appeared.
It winked into existence in milliseconds, a large purple portal to another world, a place that could be the very bane of humanity's existence, a place were the air could be toxic or the inhabitants hostile or the home of alien disease that could wipe out the human race—
Edgeworth only had one thought in his mind.
Dear God, please don't let me miss.
He held the gun up at the alien just as it began to leap into the portal, and fired.
Both alien and bullet traveled through, and then the portal started to close.
Edgeworth hit the brakes, but his momentum kept him going, and he dropped the gun and started to scream as the purple vortex grew larger and larger in his sight—
And then he too went though the portal.
Phoenix, Maya, and Larry all tumbled in like dominoes just as the portal slipped shut and vanished from the Earth street.
The inhabitants of the neighborhood, awakened either by the smoke alarms or the gunshots, later told themselves that what they had witnessed could not have been real.
The first humans on a different planet entered very dramatically.
They fell all over each other.
Edgeworth was squished on the bottom as Phoenix, Maya, and Larry fell on top in a large dog pile that pushed all the air out of his lungs and dug the glass splinter harder into his arm. He cried out in pain, and shook them off. The sudden shock snapped his mind back into some kind of order.
Larry rolled onto his back and placed a hand over his eyes, moaning.
"Geez, what the hell was that?" he whined, "I feel like I was hit by a truck."
"You aren't the only one," Phoenix agreed, stretching his limbs.
"Me three," Maya piped up. She sounded much more like her usual self.
"I think my lungs exploded," Phoenix continued, sitting up, "What about you, Edgeworth? Edgeworth? Hey, Miles, what's the ma—"
The defender stopped in mid-sentence. His jaw dropped open and his eyes grew wide as he took in the sight that had already captured Edgeworth's attention.
Maya crawled to his side and also began to stare.
Larry was still oblivious, even though he got up and was by the others. "Hello! Hey, guys, can someone explain to me what happened? I mean, my girlfriend's gonna be so mad when she finds out her house burned down—"
Edgeworth suddenly struck out, grabbed Larry's chin, and forced him to look.
Larry became the fourth human to see an alien city.
The group was standing on a cliff hundreds of feet above the ground below, and in the distance was the city. It was dark, but they could make out large buildings that rivaled any human skyscraper. The structures seemed to be made out of stone, but gave the impression of incredible strength.
The entire city was nestled in one of many trenches in the earth. The massive crevices were easily Grand Canyon scale, perhaps even bigger. Some of these trenches had huge, navy blue columns stretching up to what appeared to be a black, starless sky.
The humans simply stared at the alien landscape for what seemed like hours.
It was Larry who broke the silence.
"Eew, the floor is sticky."
Edgeworth looked down and noticed that the ground was indeed sticky. A dark liquid had been spilled here, and the way it was positioned indicated a gunshot wound.
His shot had not missed after all.
The dark fluid made a trail down the steep slopes of the cliff face.
Edgeworth looked at the city beyond, and then a breeze brushed past his face. The air was not toxic, it seemed, but had a damp scent in it, like after an Earth rainstorm.
Smells like an adventure, he thought, not without some amusement.
The prosecutor began to follow the trail of alien blood down the cliff. Phoenix, Maya, and Larry in turn followed him, securing Edgeworth's new and permanent title of Expedition Leader.