The day of the hearing came way too fast for anyone's liking. They hadn’t been able to see Max, but Kickbutt had ensured them that he had not been interrogated and that he had eaten and drank. He had barely spoken to any of the guards. They walked into the hearing room and sat down in the seats, Colosso sitting on Nora’s lap. He had insisted that he had to come with them, even though it could be dangerous for him as a super villain. President Kickbutt sat down next to Barb and smiled at her. She still remembered when they were younger and Barb was always there for her. Now, she would be there for her old friend. Other than them, there were the twelve jury members, the judge, five guards standing in front of the jury to keep them safe, and a few old superheroes who had come just to see Thunderman’s son being judged. The family was fidgeting in their seats, when one of the doors opened and Max was led inside. He was still wearing the black jeans and the black tank top, but Nora’s face was suddenly split by a huge smile, when she saw a small addition he had done. He had tied the black ribbon around his right bicep, making the small bow visible to everyone. The long ends of the ribbon were hanging down to his elbow. As he was led past the place where his family was, he smirked and winked at Nora, before looking straight ahead again. They noticed that he had a power suppressing cuff on his ankle, but other than that, he looked alright. He was stopped in front of the judge and the guards left to take their place next to the doors. Max stood with his back straight and his head held high. And the judge began.
“State your name, please.”
“Maximus Octavius Thunderman.”
The judge nodded.
“You are here, Maximus, on char…”
Everyone looked at him with slight shock.
“I go by Max.”
For a moment, the judge was just staring at him, before nodding.
“Of course. Max, you’re here on charges of being a super villain and working with Dark Mayhem. If enough evidence can be found you could be charged with every crime Dark Mayhem has committed in the time you were working for him. Do you understand the charges?”
They were all shocked by how calm the boy was. The judge, who must’ve seen much in his years, just nodded.
“And how do you plead?”
The juries exchanged looks, while the Thundermans all held their breaths. What was Max up to? The judge shook his head slightly.
“You do realize that, by pleading not guilty, you could be sentenced to a heavier punishment than you would if you confessed?”
“Yes. I understand that. And, if I was a super villain, I would plead guilty. But, as an anti-hero, I’m guessing the rules are a bit different for me.”
A few gasps were heard around the room. Barb and Phoebe exchanged surprised looks. They honestly hadn’t expected Max to actually do this. Meanwhile, Nora was grinning like mad. On her lap, Colosso nodded his head. This was actually brilliant. Max had done enough good things in his life to be able to claim being an anti-hero as the reason for all the bad things he did. The judge tilted his head.
“So you proclaim yourself as an anti-hero? Is that what you mean?”
Max nodded, his voice still calm and even when he spoke up.
“Yes. As both my family and some non-supers can witness, even though I do bad things, they almost always end up helping others in some way. If given some time, I could give you evidence of every time my actions have done something good. I admit that my ways may be frowned upon, but I do end up helping people in the end. Yes, I may have worked with Mysterioso for a short time and aided him in capturing president Kickbutt, but I ended up saving both her and my family, as well as capturing Mysterioso, at a great personal cost.”
He lifted his hands briefly, before letting them fall down again, the brace a stark contrast to his light skin. The judge frowned.
“And your connections to Dark Mayhem and the Villain League?”
“I don’t deny them. There is enough evidence to prove my involvement with them. All I’m going to say is that I’m still young. I’m experimenting. My involvement with the Villain League and Dark Mayhem didn’t harm anyone except maybe my reputation with my family.”
Hank had to say that he was impressed. The way Max was handling this was exceptional. He never hesitated before an answer and his voice never wavered. He kept his eyes on the judge, not once glancing over to the jury or the other spectators.
“The jury will have to discuss this. Leave the prisoner here.”
The judge stood up and walked out, the jury going out through another door. As soon as they were gone, Phoebe and Nora, with Colosso in her arms, rushed towards Max. The guards were going to step in their way, but were stopped by Kickbutt. The two girls reached him and he smirked.
“So happy to see me?”
Without a word, Nora hugged him, only to hear Colosso's voice from between them.
“Oi! You’re crushing me!”
Max laughed quietly as he stepped away from Nora and crouched down to be at the same level as Colosso.
“You good with this?”
The bunny tilted his head.
“Why wouldn’t I… Wait. You actually mean it? That you’re not a super villain?”
Very slowly, Max nodded.
“Yeah. I actually mean it. We still good?”
Colosso seemed to seriously think it through, before he nodded.
“Yeah. Yeah, we’re good. You’re my best friend, Max. Even if you’re not a villain.”
Max smiled, an honest smile this time.
He looked up at Nora and tilted his head.
“Thanks for your gift.”
She smiled at him, before running back to the rest of their family. Max stood up and faced Phoebe. The girl frowned when she noticed the slight worry in his eyes.
“What is it, Max?”
“The fact that I pulled the anti-hero card doesn’t change much. I worked with Dark Mayhem. They are putting me in prison.”
Phoebe felt shock.
“Wait. What are you talking about? They can’t. Not if you’re an anti-hero.”
“They can. I admitted myself that I was experimenting with the super villain gig. The whole anti-hero thing may lessen my sentence but I’m not getting out of this so easily.”
He glanced towards their father before turning back to Phoebe again.
“Take care of Colosso for me?”
She nodded quickly.
“Of course. But…”
“No. No buts. Now go back. People are staring.”
She wanted to argue with him about that but, right then, the door opened and the jury came back inside. Quickly, she ran back to her seat, while Max turned back to the judge who had just entered and sat down. The man looked at him for a long moment, clearly trying to get a reaction out of him, but Max didn’t even flinch.
“Max Thunderman. For your crime of aiding in capturing president Kickbutt, the jury has decided to drop the charges considering your anti-hero status. Every small crime you may have committed in your life, has been wiped out because of said status.”
Four of the Thundermans exchanged happy looks, while Phoebe just kept her eyes on the judge. She remembered what Max had said and understood that now was the most dangerous moment.
“Which leads us to the heavier charges. Your connections to Dark Mayhem and the Villain League can not be explained away with your anti-hero status. Had this been any other case, the jury would have just sent you to prison without a thought. But, as things are now, they have decided to take everything into consideration. Especially the fact that no one got hurt while you worked with Dark Mayhem and you did not do any big crimes at his bidding. Therefore, as a punishment for your crimes, the jury has decided to put you on house arrest for the next six months. You are not to leave the house under any circumstances, unless your life is in danger. You will be allowed to keep your powers and use them. Every week someone from the prison will check in on you. Of course, sensors will be placed to make sure you stay in the house. Everyone is dismissed.”
He stood up and left, along with the jury. A guard walked up to a shocked Max and took the cuff off his ankle, before walking out. Still in shock, Max didn’t have time to react, before he was being hugged by Nora and Phoebe, Colosso once again between them. They let go of him when they noticed that he wasn’t moving to hug them back.
Nora’s voice snapped him out of it. He quickly bent down, picked her up with his left arm and hugged her, ignoring her squeal. Phoebe smiled at that, just as their parents and Billy were approaching. Max put Nora down on the ground, only to be hugged by Barb just seconds later.
“I’m so happy that you’re coming home.”
He nodded into her shoulder.
“You dealt with this very good, son.”
Max pulled away from Barb and looked at Hank with cold eyes.
“Now I’m your son, huh?”
He shook his head and stretched his left hand out to Nora. She hesitated and he smiled at her.
“It’s alright. The scars don’t hurt anymore.”
She grabbed it carefully and went along when he pulled her towards the exit. Phoebe and Billy quickly followed them, while Barb turned to Hank.
“You need to talk to him when we get home.”
Hank nodded. He knew that.