Phoenix held his breath as the envelope was opened.
Pausing dramatically, Trixie pulled out what looked like a series of large glossy photographs and began slowly floating them around the courtroom in a moving circle like a slideshow, giving everyone in the gallery a good look. As the images registered, pony and human jaws fell open all around the courtroom…
And then the equine audience exploded with laughter.
“Wow! Rainbow Dash, who would have thought!” a unicorn mare called out, leaning over the rail and nearly dropping out the stands, consumed by the laughing disease that seemed to afflict everypony in the courtroom.
“I didn’t know you were into THAT kind of stuff, Rainbow Dash!” an pegasus pony piled on, wiping tears from her eyes.
“M-My sides hurt!!” a guffawing earth pony stallion exclaimed from where he was rolling around on the aisle, having literally fallen out of his seat.
“My word… these are… c-certainly…” The Judges cleared his throat, trying admirably to maintain a sense of decorum. “Interesting… photographs…”
“Oh… dear…” were the only words came out of a shocked Phoenix, whose mind had nearly ceased functioning at the moment the contents of the photographs registered. He had felt his heart, brain and soul go straight down to the soles of his feet when Trixie had opened the envelope, certain it was the end of the case, but now… nothing in his entire career had prepared him for… the pictures!
“P-poor Rainbow Dash…” Twilight agreed, blushing furiously again but unable to keep from giggling herself as the images floated by.
For her part, a mortified Rainbow Dash sat very rigid, her eyes wide and cheeks flushed scarlet as she heard the ridicule rain down on her. “MY LIFE IS RUINED!!!” she wailed, forced to watch as her carefully cultivated image of ‘coolness’ was utterly obliterated in front of all her friends and fans.
“As you can see, the defendant has some very… bizarre tastes!” Trixie stated gleefully as she added fresh pictures to the magical slideshow, humiliating the cyan pegasus further as the laughter and comments erupted anew.
“Uhh… wait!” Phoenix snapped out of his reverie, reaching out to snatch a picture out of the air. His hand tingled as it disrupted her blue aura. “What was the point in showing these pictures? How do they relate to the crime in question?” he demanded to know, waving the crumpled image at Trixie.
As the guffaws from the gallery faded to scattered titters, Trixie turned her attention back to Phoenix, snatching the picture back from him and floating him and Twilight a complete set in a separate envelope. “They were in the victim’s bag, weren’t they? They are important evidence! Do you think Trixie would be so low as to show these pictures for the sole purpose of humiliating the defendant?” the mare magician asked, putting on a hurt look.
That’s EXACTLY what I think you did! Phoenix was all but certain, trying to force his mind back to matter at hand, certain he’d never get those images out of his head. ”What were pictures… uhh…” Phoenix hesitated to say it, “like… these… doing on the victim anyway?” he asked, motioning towards the envelope he’d been given.
“How should Trixie know?” the show mare shrugged, looking very pleased with herself.
You said these pictures were important evidence, and you’re not going to explain why? Now I KNOW you brought them out just to embarrass Rainbow Dash! Phoenix glared at her.
“In any case, uh… the court accepts these… um… photographs as… evidence,” The Judge said formally as he received his own copies of the pictures.
A dozen pictures of Rainbow Dash…
Why in her right mind would she be doing this…?
Photos found in the bag of the victim.
“After that little sideshow… can I declare my verdict now?” The Judge asked.
“Most certainly your honor!” an immensely satisfied Trixie said, sitting back and leaving Rainbow Dash to face her fate.
“Phoenix, do something QUICK!” Twilight pleaded, sensing the looming outcome of their case.
Phoenix looked sandbagged, his shoulders starting to slump. “To be honest, I don’t know WHAT to do! I’ve never encountered first degree murder with a storm cloud before!” he told her, feeling his last threads of hope starting to slip away. Every trick he knew, every objection he’d made, everything he had tried in the trial had been ineffective against Trixie, whom he was increasingly forced to admit was the equal or better of many prosecutors he’d known from home.
This time, it was Twilight who gave Phoenix fresh strength, putting a hoof over his hand as it rested on the rail. “You said you wing it all the time, right? Well, WING it!” Twilight implored him, her efforts and tone of voice suddenly and very strongly reminding him of Maya.
Remembering his teenaged assistant and knowing how disappointed she—and her older sister—would be if he gave up now, the human lawyer stood up straight again and squeezed Twilight’s hoof in gratitude, vowing one final, all-out effort to save Rainbow Dash. He took a deep breath, and…
“What is it Mr. Wright?” The Judge asked, ready to bring down his gavel for the final time.
“How are you so sure my… um… my client was at the scene of the crime? If I recall correctly, she was picked up at her house… not on location,” Phoenix groped, knowing this one slim thread was likely his last stand.
“Trixie already told you that, you imbecile! Her hoof marks were on the cloud and her feathers were all over the place. You don’t think that’s incriminating enough?” the show mare stood her ground, her insults pushing the the defense attorney's already-abused buttons more and more.
Phoenix bit his tongue to prevent a particularly ugly retort from escaping his lips. The human lawyer had never wanted to defeat someone—somepony—so badly in his life, but he forcibly reminded himself the object was not to beat Trixie but prove Rainbow Dash innocent, and that would be a little harder with the contempt citation his comment would have been certain to garner. “Yes, but the cloud could have been move by someone else and feathers could have been gathered from anywhere just as hair falls from your head. I may not have proof yet, but it is a possibility!” Phoenix insisted, making his appeal directly to The Judge. He might be fickle, but he’s also not one to leave any stone unturned before he pronounces verdict…
Seeing that The Judge was wavering again, Trixie let out another theatrical sigh. “Looks like this is going to drag out a bit longer,” she rolled her own violet eyes. “Trixie has another witness that can confirm that the defendant was indeed at the scene of the crime on the night of the murder.”
“This one HAS to be Fluttershy,” Phoenix guessed, wondering why she wasn’t summoned earlier.
Twilight nodded. “I wonder what she saw?” the violet unicorn asked, curious what her timid friend had been unable to tell them the previous night.
“We’re about to find out at any case…” Phoenix said, eagerly awaiting her entrance—as things stood, the case was all but lost; he knew his only chance was to find new contradictions in fresh testimony.
“The prosecution will bring out their next witness…” The Judge instructed, and Trixie again nodded to the unicorn bailiff.
It took several minutes of coaxing before Fluttershy finally came into the courtroom. Escorted by a large earth pony guard, she reluctantly entered the witness box, looking very afraid and uncomfortable to be the center of attention of so many other ponies.
“Witness, state your name and occupation,” Trixie directed.
Fluttershy didn’t respond. She was all but cowering under the stand, greenish-blue eyes barely visible over the podium.
“Witness! Get out from under there and state your name and occupation!” Trixie ordered more sharply, getting annoyed again.
“Fluttershy. I’m an animal caretaker.” Fluttershy’s reply was but an inaudible whisper.
“Can you please repeat that, young lady? I couldn’t hear you…” The Judge requested, cupping a hand to his ear.
“My name is Fluttershy,” she spoke again, and in fairness her reply was a little louder… by one or two decibels.
“Nope… still couldn’t hear you…” The Judge shook his head.
Watching painfully as Fluttershy struggled to speak, Phoenix got an idea. “Maybe I can milk this situation to our advantage,” he told Twilight in an aside.
“What do you mean?” she asked, uncertain what he was planning next.
Phoenix addressed The Judge directly. “Your honor! This witness clearly doesn’t have the ability to testify. Perhaps we should suspend the proceedings of this trial for another—”
Fluttershy instantly perked up on hearing his voice, suddenly standing up straight and speaking in a loud, clear tone. “Oh, Mr. Phoenix, you’re here! You haven’t died yet? There must be something very wrong… you look so frail and seem to be suffering more than ever right now...” she looked on him in concern, as if she was expecting him to burst into flame at any moment.
Phoenix couldn’t believe it. “You got the last one right…” he all but whimpered, wondering what he’d done to anger the trial gods.
“Mr. Wright, tell her to state her name and occupation, please,” The Judge asked Phoenix.
To Phoenix, that was just salt in the wound. “But that’s the prosecutions job! It’s her witness…”
“This witness was being difficult when Trixie is preparing her earlier as well,” Trixie noted, and for once Phoenix had no doubt the mare magician was telling the truth.
“Given the circumstance… just do it Mr. Wright…” The Judge ordered Phoenix.
Phoenix let out a heavy sigh, feeling incredibly put upon. “Fluttershy,” he accidentally addressed her by name. “Uh, I mean Witness—state your name and occupation please…” Phoenix directed, taking on the role of prosecutor. Never thought I’d be saying THAT line!
“I’m Fluttershy. I’m an animal caretaker,” Fluttershy introduced herself, smiling at Phoenix, who might have been taken with her anew if he was in a better mood.
“Is it true you saw Rainbow Dash leave the Everfree Forest two nights ago?” Trixie asked, but Fluttershy hid again at the sound of the show mare’s voice.
“Mr. Wright…” The Judge prompted.
Phoenix couldn’t believe what he was being made to do, already and seriously not enjoying it one bit. “Is it true you saw Rainbow Dash leave the Everfree Forest two nights ago?” he repeated the question in an almost groggy, punch-drunk voice. This kind of backfired on me… he noted. But then again, how was that different from anything else he had tried so far?
“Yes, she seemed to be in a hurry!” Fluttershy answered him, more serious now.
“So the defendant was indeed at the scene of the crime on the night of the murder. Witness! You will—” he trailed off when he saw her duck back under the podium again.
“Hrm… Mr. Wright, tell her she has to testify…” This time, it was The Judge who asked him to act on his behalf (Good Grief…)
Now I have to do YOUR job too, your honor? Phoenix wanted to scream. “Fluttershy…”
“Yes, Mr. Phoenix?” she perked back up instantly, smiling again and leaving Phoenix’s mind oscillating between the incredible awkwardness of the whole bizarre situation and her undeniable adorability and beauty.
He gathered himself carefully before speaking. “Can you please testify as to what you saw two nights ago when you saw Rainbow Dash leaving the forest?” Phoenix asked, thinking he should at least have a gavel in his hand if he was going to pretend to be The Judge.
“Umm… I don’t know what ‘testify’ means…” she said timidly.
Phoenix was ready to turn around and repeatedly bash his head against the wall behind him. “It just means, tell us what you saw last night.” he explained patiently, amazed he was able to keep his voice even.
“Oh yes, I can do that! Anything for you, Mr. Phoenix!” she promised, eager to be helpful to the human lawyer.
But would she be?