An Excerpt from The Man With Cups for Hands: The Michael Chambers Biography – Part 1

“Michael Chambers. Aliases: The Cupped Crusader. The Red Solo Smasher. Cup Hands. The Withering Touch. The Midas Touch. Prince Midas. And most recently just Cup. What would you prefer to be called during this?” The not-quite human voice came from speakers sprinkled around the room. A screen behind the four members of The TrAIbunal visualized the waveforms of the voice to give any audience something to latch onto when the AI spoke.

“I’d prefer if you’d let me just get out of here and back to my life.”  In the middle of the room stood Michael. His cups were encased in a blocky technological device designed to neutralize his powers. Below him the transparent floor showed a view of earth as they circled around it once every two hours.

Eva Davidson, more widely known as Moonglow the first director of The Citadel, spoke first. “I will remind you that this case isn’t to determine your innocence or guilt. This is merely to decide what we should do with you.”

“So you’re not even pretending to do your due diligence. There are plenty of heroes and villains that can impersonate others. Probably a whole race of aliens that can and are secretly living among us.”

Aqualion—real name Lonnie Summers previously known as Aqua Lion when he was a member of The League of Elemental Animals—slammed his hand down on the bench. The bench appeared to be made of white plastic much like the rest of the decor of the room, but the slam rang out with a metallic echo. “I will not have you make a mockery of this.”

“I just want to make sure you’ve done your research. I wouldn’t want this fine institution to make any mistakes. Especially with the computer watching.”

“Enough.” Aqualion touched a button on the bench.

Michael said something here. He could not recall exactly what was said but did tell me it was probably, “Some quips or curses.” The official transcript and the recordings do not reveal what was said inside of the silence field they projected around him. I tried to have his lips read by a professional, but in all recordings the angle is either wrong for a reading or too far away to make out in the resolution captured.

The members of the trAIbunal sat in silence while they waited for his lips to stop moving. Eva shuffled some papers in front of her. I think she didn’t want to look at him because she felt she could have stopped him from being there. Aqualion scratched his mostly bald head. The last bits of white hair easily visible on his dark skin.

Michael’s mouth stopped moving and Aqualion pushed a button on the bench turning off the silence field. “If you’re ready to take this seriously, we could actually begin.”

Michael nodded.

The waveforms blossomed on the screen and bathed the mostly white room in green light. “Will you please state the name you would prefer we use?”

“Michael is fine.”

“Michael, we need to verify that you know with what you’re being charged.”

“Can’t really call them charges when you’ve already determined me guilty.”

Aqualion scoffed and opened his mouth to once again reprimand Michael, but paused when Reggie held up his hand.

Immortal Reggie, reputation not yet marred by his mistakes and around long enough that they couldn’t have a council of elders without him, spoke to Aqualion. “He’s not wrong.” He turned his attention to the center of the room. “Why do you think you’re here?”

“For fixing crime. Maybe breaking crime is more apt. Making sure it can no longer function where I live. Is my crime that I have only broken crime in my area? Don’t worry. I can help scale it up later.”

Magic, formerly of Aegis no other aliases know, shook his head.

“How can you speak so casually of murder?” Eva’s voice was low, as if speaking the word were the same as committing it. “Maybe execution is a better word.”

“It’s all that’s effective.”

“You can’t cure the evils of the world with more evil.” Aqualion’s voice a mix of sadness and anger.

“Yes. I’m as evil as the guy kidnapping and killing children. I’m as bad as all the rapists I’ve stopped. My people love me because I’m giving them the justice that others refuse to give them. How many times did you simply arrest Fire Tiger knowing he would eventually escape and cause more harm?”

The sadness boiled off the mix of sadness and anger on Aqualion’s face.

Reggie held up his hand preemptively and shook his head. “It isn’t about some greater morality. We have to work within the law. That’s the only way they tolerate us. This uneven distribution of power only works when the ones without as much power have some control over us. Otherwise they come for us. I’ve seen it before. That’s why we have the tribunal. We keep ourselves in check so they don’t get afraid turn against us.” Eva shook her head to disagree with his words, but didn’t interrupt. “What is your endgame with this?”

Michael shrugged. “Crime’s been going down. No repeat offenders, but it also deters much better than the usual routine of handing them over to the police. I assume at some point I’d expand my area.”

“Then what? Plan to rule the whole world with fear?”

“If others helped it wouldn’t be hard.”

Aqualion scoffed. “I’ve heard enough.”

“So what are you guys going to do with me? Since killing is so taboo I assume pack me up and send me to that new place. The Mountain? I hear it’s impossible to escape.”

“Magic, you have anything you want to ask?”

Magic took a deep breath as if to say something, but merely shook his head.

“I’m ready to vote,” Reggie said.

“I’ve got a bit more before we vote.” Eva said as she stood. The bench parted in front of her, folding into itself in ways that didn’t seem possible given its smooth monolithic design. She walked towards him stopping at the edge of the circle that showed the globe beneath them. “I should have pressed harder. I can’t help but think how much good you could have done for the world if you had joined us in the citadel.”

“Because killing giant monsters is acceptable, but killing the smaller ones isn’t?”

“You’ve gone from secret identity to secret identity. You’ve been on more teams than I can remember. You would have had stability with us at least.”

“How can anything be stable around these?” Michael lifted his encased cups.

“With help. Through relationships. You can’t break those with your touch.”

Michael stared down at the earth. He could see where it all began and where he knew it would all end. He couldn’t literally see the spot due to the cloud coverage and the distance between him and the ground, but he knew it was there. The cottage where the witch cursed a five year old boy with hands that would break whatever they touched. The vision she gave him of his dying moments in that same cottage. It’s here, in that moment on that space station in lower earth orbit, that I believe he became the villain we all know now. He had always known the end, but had never known the path his life would take from beginning to end, he was always certain about that. It’s about the journey, not the destination he would say almost every episode of The Sensational Six. He said it because he believed it. He believed he had to believe it. When you know the destination if you don’t believe it’s about the journey, I think it would drive you mad. Perhaps it did. I think he looked down at the earth and saw the whole path laid out before him. It wasn’t about the journey any longer. It wasn’t even about the destination. Everything simply was.

“We try could find a way to neutralize your touch if you want. Something a bit more useful than those cuffs.” Eva offered a tentative smile, hoping her words were getting through to him.

Michael looked up from the earth. “You think these cuffs work on me? They broke the second they were put on me. You think I never tried something like this myself? If there were a solution to these cups, I would have found it.” His body shook. No matter how many times I watch the footage I can never tell whether that shake was of a sob or a chuckle. “If I hold my hands near my mouth, I can’t breath. I break the air somehow.”

Eva walked backwards towards the bench.

The other three members of the trAIbunal tentatively stood unsure of what was about to happen.

Turrets on the ceiling kept their sights trained on the man in the center of the room.

“You made a mistake when you thought you could contain my power. This tribunal is as a broken as the rest of everything”

The neutralizers exploded off his cups in a shower of metal and plastic as he crouched down and touched the floor.

To Be Continued!!!!!

 

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