Tigranian was in an unusually happy mood as he stepped onto the bridge the next morning.
"Captain on the Bridge!" Annabeth shouted. However, the captain noticed she was starting to have a difficult time lifting herself to standing under the weight of her belly.
"Carry on," Tigranian replied as he walked towards his chair with another mug of raktajino. "You know, Number One," he whispered as he plopped down next to Annabeth, "I don't think anyone would say anything if you stopped standing up every time I walked in the room. You kinda have a mitigating circumstance going on."
"Dan," Annabeth replied flatly pointing to her belly, "the day I let this thing get in the way of performing my duties is the day I need to retire. Tracking?"
"Yes Ma'am," he said taking a sip of coffee and looking back towards the viewscreen. "I assume we've let Mr. Scharr have a little time off in the duty roster to keep talking to home?"
"I did take him off the roster for the next week," Annabeth said rolling her eyes, "but he flat out refused. Said he would call home in his off-time and that his twelfth child with a warp core still needed him. Then, he went right back to his damned engines."
"Remind me to have a talk with him later about balancing work and family life," Tigranian grumbled.
"Like he would listen to you, Dan," Annabeth chuckled.
"When you right, you right…" Tigranian muttered.
"Captain," Katie's voice sounded from Tactical.
"Yes, Katie?" Tigranian responded.
"Incoming subspace transmission from Admiral Murphy. It's coded personal, Sir,"
"Personal?" Tigranian said surprised.
"Yes Sir," Katie replied awkwardly. "The Admiral also requests you have Lieutenant Tigranian with you when you respond."
The captain looked over his shoulder to Laria at Science. She looked just as surprised as he did.
"In my ready room, Katie," Tigranian said rising to his feet and crossing to his office. Laria followed him.
"What do you think this about?" Laria said nervously walking up to his desk.
"I don't know," Tigranian said taking a seat in his chair and keying up his computer terminal. He input his access code and the somber face of Admiral Murphy greeted him.
"Pete, what's going on?"
"Is Laria with you?" Murphy asked.
"I'm right here, Sir," she said stepping into screen.
"This concerns both of you," he said. "Yesterday evening, the Federation Diplomatic Corps received an official petition from the office of the new Romulan Proconsul…"
"Our helpful friend, Senator Semachs?" Tigranian asked.
"The very same," Murphy replied. "It was about the woman you brought back from Romulus fifteen months ago, Crestia."
"My sister?" Laria asked in shock.
"Your sister?" Murphy replied equally surprised. "I wasn't aware your parents adopted her."
"Not by law, but it's complicated, Sir," Laria said shaking her head. She didn't want to get into the exact family dynamic, but she knew her parents loved her like she was their own.
"Part of me wishes they had, Laria," Murphy said. "The Romulans are demanding her immediate return under Article XXVII of the Treaty of Algeron."
"She's been granted asylum, Pete," Tigranian said shaking his head. "Not to mention the Romulans invaded our space last year trying to steal her back. I think that means they can pound sand."
"They've never officially admitted to the incursion on Gault…" Murphy replied.
"Of course the bastards didn't!" Laria said. "Luckily my parents are good shots."
"Regardless, now they're trying the legal route," Murphy continued. "They say their claim supersedes political asylum."
Tigranian pulled out a PADD and accessed the text of Article XVII. As soon as he saw the title, he nearly smashed the device.
"RETURN OF ILLEGALLY SALVAGED PROPERTY!?" Tigranian shouted loud enough to be heard on the bridge. "The Diplomatic Corps cannot be serious!"
"They're diplomats, Dan," Murphy said with a sigh, "They're job is to preserve the peace at all costs, even when common sense doesn't apply. To the Romulans, she's not a person. She's property that you stole. They're going to try to make a legal claim based on Prime Directive Concerns."
"The Federation doesn't permit or tolerate slavery!" Laria shouted.
"The Federation doesn't, but Romulus does," Murphy said. "They're trying to say it's not our business how they classify Crestia. If they can get the Federation to admit that she was improperly taken from their space, we'll have no choice but to return her."
"She wants to stay in the Federation, Sir! Doesn't that mean anything?" Laria asked.
"Not if she has the same legal rights as a cargo container," Murphy replied.
"I will appeal this directly to the Council. If I have to stand on the President's desk, I will not allow this happen!"
"The Council Foreign Affairs Committee already ruled this morning. They're calling a hearing on Starbase 173. That's the nearest post with a Federation Magistrate certified in Admiralty Law. Crestia will be required to appear. The Romulans are sending a legal delegation to argue their case. It convenes in five days."
"That's only twelve lightyears from here," Laria said stroking her chin.
"I've already spoken with Admiral Paris," Murphy said. "The reason I'm calling is that we both agreed that we think it's a good idea for the Pershing to put into port to check out your warp core for a week or two."
"Our warp core is fine, Admiral. I can't pry my damn engineer away from it," Tigranian said balling his fist and staring at the wall."
"Obviously, you're not hearing me, Dan. THIS IS NOT A STARFLEET MATTER. There is no reason for you or your ship to be at that hearing. However, Starbase 173 has a full repair facility that can be at your disposal FOR AS LONG AS YOU REQUIRE."
"Tracking, Admiral," Tigranian said nodding with understanding. "Our warp core could use a good overhaul." He was already trying to formulate a plan to swing the proceedings in their favor.
"The Diplomatic Corps has already dispatched their security service to Gault to escort Crestia. I would appreciate it if you let your parents know not to shoot them when they arrive, Laria," Murphy said. "We don't want to make this any worse."
"You're asking me to tell my parents to let the State take away someone they love without a fight, Sir?"Laria said incredulously. "Obviously, you don't know Bajoran history very well."
"This isn't the Romulan Empire, Laria," Murphy replied. "Just because there will be a hearing, doesn't mean they're giving her up to those animals."
"Tell that to my medical officer, Admiral," Tigranian said still fuming.
"Trust me. Current events have evolved since you got Alex out of that Reman hellhole. The Federation is a lot more skeptical about building good will with the Star Empire. But Laria, I'm serious, if Crestia runs or your parents try the cowboy routine, it's over. They'll hand her straight back across the Neutral Zone."
"I'll do what I can, Sir," Laria said.
"Stay frosty, Tigranians," Murphy said. "Just because this isn't our show doesn't mean we don't have resources we can spare. Whatever you need, call me. I'll make it happen."
"Believe me, Pete," Tigranian said. "I will take you up on that."
"VOS! VOS NAV LAT!" Lanassa screamed in Bajoran at the subspace monitor. "I will never allow anyone to take her anywhere. The only place she is going is Earth for school."
"Mama," Laria begged for her mother to understand. "The decision is already made. The only chance we have is to beat this in the courtroom."
"If you think after the life we have lived, that I will ever trust a courtroom to dispense to justice, you are very wrong," Jion said nervously rubbing his hands together.
"With respect," Tigranian replied, "This is the Federation, not the Cardassian Empire. Justice can be done here the right way."
"Oh, Daniel-gos-ne," Lanassa said looking at a terrified Crestia sitting on the couch beside her, "That is so na´ve. Only the Prophets can dispense true justice. All mortals can and will fail."
"We've had a plan our entire lives in case something like this were too happen," Jion continued, "We thought once Laria became an adult, we would never have to use it, but it looks like we might not have a choice."
"Dade, vos," Laria pleaded with her father. "If you become fugitives, any hope of ever giving Crestia a normal life disappears. The Federation and the Romulans will hunt you for the rest of your lies."
"I've been a fugitive before, Laria-ga-ne," Lanassa said confidently. "The Obsidian Order and two Cardassian divisions could never find me."
"But you will never be a fugitive again," Crestia suddenly spoke. "I am going to the tribunal."
"Crestia-ga-ne…" Lanassa said desperately on the screen.
"The decision is mine and I've made it," Crestia continued. "I came to the Federation to be free and make my own choices. Now, I'm making one. You all have been too kind for me to destroy your lives."
"Crestia, we are doing this FOR YOU," Jion pleaded. "We want to help."
"And I'm doing this for you," she replied more resolutely. "Lady Laria and the Son of Tigranian are right. I've seen that the Federation can be righteous. However, if it is not, than it doesn't matter whether I hide here or in the Romulan Empire. Tyranny doesn't change."
"Then, we are coming with you to the tribunal," Jion said. "She will not go through this alone," he commanded Laria and Tigranian across subspace.
"No, she won't," Tigranian replied. "We'll be there as well. I'll contact Starfleet Command. I'll make sure you get to Starbase 173 as soon as possible."
"Daniel," Lanassa said resolutely. "Understand this, if the magistrate rules against Crestia, they are not sending her back. I will not allow them. Do you understand?"
"Lanassa please," Tigranian continued to plead. "Let's not cross that bridge until we have to."
"Family is everything to Bajorans," Jion said. "Without it, there is no point to live."
"Then I must be Bajoran as well as Klingon," Tigranian replied. "Because I agree."
"We will see you in three days," Lanassa said. "Yis kezza shad les lave."
"Uya au'tan," Laria said kissing the index and middle finger on her left and hand and holding them towards the screen before it went blank.
"So, what are we gonna do to help her?" Tigranian said with a deep breath. He slid the desktop monitor aside and looked into his living room. Annabeth, Alex, Phil, Katie, Scharr, and T'les stared back at him.
"There's no way the Federation sends her back to those animals," Katie said in disbelief.
"Are you so sure about that, Katie?" Alex said nervously rubbing her upper left arm with her right hand.
"I don't take anything for granted anymore," Annabeth said staring out towards the window.
"Who is her legal representation?" T'les asked with a hint of concern breaking through her Vulcan calm.
"I don't know," Tigranian said shaking his head. "Probably some dumbass public defender fresh outta law school that the Diplomatic Corps has on retainer. In any case, it's probably not the best legal mind in the Federation."
"No," Katie said rubbing her eyes. "The Federation only reserves those for news talking heads and the kids of Council members."
"Are we off the record right now, Sir?" Scharr asked as his antennae straightened.
"Of course," Tigranian said nervously spinning an old-fashioned pen through his fingers.
"If the magistrate screws this up, do we let them take her?"
"What do you mean, Tren?" Laria asked.
"We have one of the most powerful starships in the fleet and I swore an oath to uphold and defend the Articles of the Federation against all enemies: foreign AND domestic. One of those articles prohibits slavery."
"You're talking about a coup, Tren," Tigranian said. "No, I will not allow that to happen.. Disobeying Starfleet is one thing, but openly defying a civilian court goes against the fabric of our society. There has to be some way to save Crestia that doesn't involve us taking the law into our own hands. Not to mention, you all have families counting on you as well, especially you 'father of the year'" Tigranian said starting back at Scharr.
"There is another way," Phil interjected. "The right way."
"And what exactly do you mean by that, Phil?" Katie asked skeptically.
"I know a guy," he said confidently. "I just need to make a subspace call." He turned to Tigranian. "And, Sir, I'll probably need Starfleet's help to get him to the tribunal in time."
"Does anybody else have any other ideas?" the captain asked. One by one, everyone shook their heads in the negative.
"Alright Phil," Tigranian said shrugging his shoulders. "Tell us about your guy."