34 Years ago

The smell of burning and the heat of flames forced Miriam to draw in a shallow breath and she opened her eyes to find that she was staring up at what used to be the ceiling of a court room and was now a giant hole that let her see the second and third floor and part of the fourth.

She had to get out of here but any attempt of moving sent waves of pain and nausea down her body.

She'd failed.

Something crashed close to her and Miriam turned her head and looked towards the entrance of the building and saw a fireman walking right towards her.

He leaned over her and asked something that she couldn't hear. Her ears were still ringing from what she guessed was some sort of explosion.

"What?" she yelled.

The fireman picked up what was left of her purse and stared at her half melted I.D. Without any words, he grabbed her arms and forced her to stand. She grunted in pain when he forced her over his shoulders and carried her out the door. She gasped as soon as the cooler fresh air hit her face. She coughed violently and buried her face in the shoulder of her rescuer so that the wind didn't hit her burns on her face.

She gave a grunt when he dumped her hard on a gurney and two paramedics that she immediately recognized lifted her into the ambulance and shut the door.

"Oh no…," she muttered.

"Why were you there?"

She looked to her right where Starkson lowered his newspaper.

"I got bored," she tried to sit up and then grabbed her head in pain, "You wouldn't happen to have any aspirin would you?"

"This isn't the place for games," he folded the newspaper and grabbed side of the ambulance as it started up, "Trinidad told me that he had you confined to your quarters for fighting in the cafeteria."

"I'm 15 years old; I think I'm a little too old for grounding."

"You're a child with no control of your ability and even less control of your temper."

"Diana didn't get confined and she was the one that started the fight," Miriam said angrily.

"Diana isn't a Guardian. You are."

"She's not a Guardian, yet," Miriam reminded him.

"And you're one now, which means you set the example."

Miriam scowled, "You've been telling me that for a year since you had I brought into the Guardians. It still means about the same thing that it did at that time."

"Why were you in the courtroom?"

She looked away.

"Miriam," he leaned forward, "You have the potential to be a good Guardian. Maybe even a great one. However, the way you're acting now, you won't live to be eighteen. I made…I made a deal with your father to make sure that you were safe in exchange for him working for us."

"Yes well we all saw how that worked out today, didn't we?"

Why were you there today?"

"I liked the architecture."

"Either you can tell me or you can tell the interrogators."

She looked at him angrily, "You know why I was there today."

"Yes I do," he said, "I just want to hear you tell me."

She lay back down and stared at the ceiling, "I came to see my father and try to get him out before he lost control of his ability. Worked out great."

Starkson actually looked sorry for her, "You know if he was meant to die today then he was going to die today."

She stared at the ceiling, "You got that aspirin?"


Present Day

Miriam wrapped her blanket around her shoulders and stared at the insipid grey wall. Starkson hadn't put her in a cell like he did for others about to wait trial, he'd put her in her old room that she'd stayed in from ages 13 to 17. She hadn't figured out if that was a good thing or a bad thing. She would've preferred the jail cell; it had far more personality there.

The lights came on thanks to the automatic switch that controlled everything on this floor. They came on 7 in the morning and went out at 10 at night. And for nine hours she had time to think about her life in the pitch black of her quarters.

"Hello Miriam," Starkson said as he walked into the room, "Sleep well?"

How long was he waiting out in the hall?

She hadn't slept. This wasn't her bed. It wasn't her home. She was used to being lulled to sleep by the sounds in the woods or the fireplace, "I would've preferred to have a room with a window and preferably one that doesn't smell like cigarettes"

"Well that didn't take long"

"What?"

"You always go to this…defense mechanism whenever you're scared or angry. You've done it since I took you in. Your children either inherited through genetics or they learned it by watching you. I haven't decided which; the behavioral analysts and geneticists are all divided."

She rolled her eyes and stared at the wall ahead of her, "When's the trial?"

"Noon today."

"No one wants to wait long to string me up, is that it?"

"Don't turn us into your enemy, Miriam. If you get that mentality then it won't do you very well today. I can protect you from them, but I can't protect you if you choose to hang yourself. Remember this is a jury of your peers, and if you think that they're all out to get you then they'll pick up on that and treat you as such."

She didn't say anything.

He leaned forward, "I'm giving you a chance to survive this, Miriam."

"Don't call me that," she stood with the blanket around her shoulders, "It's over Starkson, you can just call me by my real name now."

"You haven't been Phoebe Montgomery since you were 13 years old," Starkson said. He had changed it when he got her. She never understood why really. He claimed that it was to make a 'new beginning' but she believed that he was just trying to make her 'his.' Somehow by giving her a name and turning her into some sort of daughter figure, "Miriam Montgomery-Braun is who you've been since your father gave custody of you to me. You'll keep the name of Miriam. Not doing so will further convince your jury that you're trying to set yourself apart from them."

"I'll be sure to remember that," she whispered.

Starkson walked towards the door, "Be ready by noon."