Justice League of America: 1983: Trial by Hellfire, Chapter 2: Demonic Contempt of Court

by Martin Maenza

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Byron Davis proceeded to call the remaining Justice Leaguers in turn, first Green Arrow, then Superman, and finally Black Canary.

The questions for each had been similar. They were asked if they had responded to Firestorm’s call, to what state they found the penthouse in at the time of their arrival, and to the extent their interaction with the defendant. Each hero outlined the details of that night in question and the battle that had ensued.

Black Canary finished answering the question posed by the cross-examination. “I distinctly heard the voice identify itself as Sataroth, daughter of Satanni. That was just before the demon released its hold over Miss Sultress.”

“So, it’s your testimony that you believe that Miss Sultress was in fact possessed by a demon?” asked Molly O’Toole, the female attorney.

“Yes,” Black Canary said. “The demon was driven out of her body with a magical spell by our teammate Zatanna.”

“No further questions,” Molly said as she took her seat.

The judge looked to Byron Davis, who responded, “No further questions of this witness.” As Black Canary stepped down, Byron looked around the courtroom. He then turned to Sabrina. “That’s our last witness. I’m not too concerned, though. Having four heroes come to your defense is very helpful to our case.”

Sabrina looked back at the heroes and stared for a second. She then turned quickly back to her lawyer. “Put me on the stand,” she said.

“What?” Byron asked. “Why? You aren’t required to testify in your own defense.”

Put me on the stand!” Sabrina insisted in a louder voice. A few heads turned in her direction, having heard the tone but not clearly the words.

Byron was about to protest, but all thoughts of doing so vanished when his eyes made contact with hers. “Uh…” he said, then paused for a moment. “OK. Fine.”

Once Sabrina Sultress swore her oath, Byron Davis approached the stand where she sat. “Did you have anything to add to the testimony we’ve heard already?”

“Yes,” the woman said. “That creature that possessed me was using my beauty to lure men into a trap. By transforming them into living shells, it wanted to create an army of bodies for its demonic underlings to inhabit and control.” Sabrina glanced to the row where the Justice League sat and focused her gaze on Firestorm in particular. “If it were not for the efforts of those heroes, and particularly that one…” She pointed to Firestorm, and her expression changed, hardening. “…I would have succeeded!” This last statement, while coming from Sabrina’s own mouth, was in a deep, wicked voice that rattled about the room.

“Uh-oh, Ronald,” came the voice of Professor Stein inside Firestorm’s head.

Suddenly, a number of the lights overhead exploded, sending shattering glass downward and sparks into the air. The sparks lead to flame that seemed to expand on contact with the air, growing larger, soon combining into a single, large, ghastly form of burning energy. The room erupted into a panic of screams as people dived for cover or exits.

The creature raised a fist of fire and was about to bring it down upon the plaintiffs’ table.

A blue blur rocketed in front of the blow at the last second, taking the brunt of the attack on his S-emblemed chest. Superman slammed into the ground hard, clutching at where the blow struck him. Unnhh! he thought to himself. I so dislike facing magically spawned creatures. But despite his weakness to magic, he had distracted the enemy long enough for the initial targets to get to safety.

“Hang on, Superman,” Black Canary called as she leaped over the benches with acrobatic ease. Firestorm took to the air under his own power.

“Backup’s been called, and the cavalry is here!” Green Arrow said as he notched one of his special arrows.

Black Canary opened her throat, summoning forth her trademark canary cry. High-pitched tones filled the courtroom as she projected a blast toward the flaming monstrosity. While it wasn’t enough to cause any damage to the fire demon, it was sufficient to limit the thing’s movements.

“Good job, pretty bird,” Green Arrow encouraged her. He let fly a group of shafts with special arrowheads on them. As the projectile weapons circled the fire demon, they released a spray of chemicals. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the effect desired. “I was afraid of that.” The extinguishing foam did put out the fire being started by the creature, but they did not hurt the creature directly.

“Maybe we need a little bit more, is all,” Firestorm said. He used his molecular reconstruction powers to alter the air molecules around the fire demon into those of the chemicals. Professor Stein helped him get the chemical formula right. “One fire-resistant cocoon coming up!”

For a moment, there was no further movement. Then the fire demon broke through the trap with a loud roar.

Green Arrow turned to Firestorm, who looked on in surprise. “Don’t get so down, kid,” the archer said. “It was a good idea to try. Maybe you can make a barrier to protect the people or something instead.” The nuclear man nodded and went to work.

Superman, meanwhile, had recovered from the first attack and was ready to try again, despite the minimal odds of his succeeding. “As long as I breathe, I won’t let innocents be harmed!” he pledged as he flew directly into the demon. His fists could not connect with anything solid behind the flames, and the mystic fire singed his knuckles. Still, the Man of Steel stood his ground. “Must… look past the pain…”

“Superman, stand back!” a female voice called from behind him.

The Kryptonian hero pulled away, knowing the voice well. He turned to see a woman with long black hair tied back, dressed in a light blue outfit with a red cape. The tide was about to turn now that Zatanna had arrived.

Daughter of stage-magician John Zatara and homo-magus Sindella, Zatanna Zatara was well versed in all matters of the arcane. She grew up around magic and had practiced the art of reverse spells since she was a young girl. In the courtroom she faced this new mystic menace as she would any other — with strength and confidence.

“Cigam erehps, part ym eof,” the sorceress said. “Laes eht nomed yawa morf edistuo secrof.” (*) Mystic energy flew from Zatanna’s fingertips and swirled around the flaming energy creature. The forces then converged and encircled the chaotic form. In a moment, the energy demon could only pound against the magic energy that had captured it.

[(*) Editor’s note: Read Zatanna’s spells backwards to find out what they mean.]

Black Canary approached her teammate. “That’s just what we needed, Zee,” the blonde bombshell said. “Got a plan for that thing?”

Zatanna nodded and then spoke another incantation. “Erehps, ecuder ni ezis, ecrof eht nomed ot hsiugnitxe flesti.” Once more, the mystic energies obeyed her every command, and soon the sphere and the demon inside it were no bigger that a baseball. The demon inside roared out in anger, throwing all its power into the shield. Its attempt to escape was pointless, and soon it burned out the last of its energy and vanished. Zatanna then turned to her comrades. “Where did that come from?”

“Three guesses, lady,” Green Arrow said, “but you’ll only need one.” He pointed to Sabrina Sultress, who remained on the stand the entire time. Oddly enough, she remained nearly motionless and silent since the attack occurred.

Zatanna cast another spell toward the woman, then frowned.

“Problem, Zatanna?” asked Superman.

She turned to him. “I thought I put a safeguard in place the last time we faced her,” the young heroine said. “One to prevent her from being possessed. When I tried to do so again, I realized those mystic barriers were still holding.”

“Odd,” the Man of Steel replied. “Maybe the fire demon just used her to manifest itself.”

Zatanna bit her lower lip. “Perhaps. But we have no way of knowing for sure.”

Meanwhile, the judge rose up to the bench, retrieved his gavel, and pounded it loudly. “Order. Order. I want to see counsel in my chambers now.” And the man in the dark robe headed for his room to the side, followed by the two attorneys.

***

In his chambers, Judge Herstworth met with the two attorneys.

“Your honor, I move for a retrial,” Byron Davis stated.

“Why? On what grounds?” asked Molly O’Toole. “I think your client’s actions illustrate plainly to the jury that she is a dangerous individual.”

“It wasn’t her doing!” Davis protested. “Another demon possessed her!”

“Yeah, sure,” O’Toole countered sarcastically.

“Enough!” Judge Herstworth said. “I make the decisions here, and it is my decision that this case will be turned over to the jury as we stand. Are we clear?” He looked at the two attorneys. O’Toole beamed silently, while Davis looked like someone had just run over his dog. “Good.”

The lawyers were given opportunity to present their closing arguments before the jury retired to their lounge.

Firestorm leaned over to Green Arrow. “What do you think?”

“Hard to tell, kid,” the archer said. “Hard to tell.”

The jury was gone a total of forty minutes before the court was reassembled. The foreman presented the verdict, one that the plaintiffs should be awarded the damages requested.

“What?!” Sabrina exclaimed. This was the first word out of her since the battle had ended. Byron Davis tried to calm his client. The crowd in the court all began to whisper.

The judge pounded his gavel. “Order! Order in the court!” When the sounds had subsided, Judge Herstworth told Sabrina Sultress to stand. “The jury has found for the plaintiffs. The defendant is to pay them one-point-five-million dollars.” Sabrina’s jaw dropped. “And further, in light of the events of today, I order the defendant to be admitted to a psychiatric institution for further evaluation.”

There was a great murmur in the court once more as the case completed. Byron Davis did his best to restrain his quite angry client. Superman nodded to his teammates, and the four heroes left the courtroom.

As they headed out the back door of the courtroom, they passed a man with long blonde hair in a dark green suit and tie. The man was focused on the person of Sabrina Sultress, who had taken the verdict and the sentence very hard. He merely nodded and smiled.

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