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Starbase 173: Sector 23, Federation Border with Romulan Neutral Zone

Stardate: 53402.3

Crestia sat nervously with her palms flat on the wooden surface of the defendant's table. Lanassa, Jion, and the Tigranians sat behind the wooden railing separating the dock from the rest of the newly refurbished hearing chamber in the heart of this space station. The black-robed civilian magistrate loomed from his bench as he examined some of the particulars of the case on a set of PADDs provided by the courtroom clerk. A few meters away, three Romulan advocates in grey and blue robes sat with arrogant smirks on their faces. Normally, it would be offensive for them to expect such an easy victory, but just as Tigranian feared, Crestia's advocate inspired absolutely no confidence. The pasty human from Alpha Centauri couldn't have been more than 25 or 26 years old. He wore a cheaply stitched, replicated suit that he somehow still had wrinkled. Even worse, he hadn't said more than three words to Crestia since he first met her twenty minutes ago.

"I thought you said you had a guy," Laria whispered to Phil angrily who was sitting in the row behind her with Katie, Alex, and Annabeth. Scharr and T'les had been left in charge of the Pershing's "repairs." Tigranian thought it better to keep them at a distance just in case.

"Sir, are you sure Admiral Murphy said the ship would arrive from Earth in time?" Phil asked desperately.

"Starfleet's not late without good reason, Phil," Tigranian replied with concern. "However, that ship doesn't have you at the helm."

Lanassa and Jion shifted nervously as they waited for the proceedings to begin. Laria's did everything within her powers to keep her parents from causing a scene. If things went badly for Crestia, there was no telling what they would do. She now understood how dangerous they could be when provoked.

"Starbase operations to Lieutenant Lexington," Phil's communicator chimed.

The magistrate glanced over the top of his PADD at the offending officer. Normally, he would have thrown anyone out of the courtroom for failing to silence their communicator, but since the proceedings had not yet begun, he let it slide.

"This is Lexington," Phil whispered in reply.

"The starship Oriskany just docked in Bay 3. There is a passenger here who says he is waiting on you."

"Go, Phil, go!" Tigranian ordered his helmsman. Phil jumped to his feet and charged out the back doors of the courtroom. He had not been gone one minute when the judge banged his gavel. A large bailiff began speaking.

"This hearing of the Federation 43rd Circuit Court is now in session, The honorable Magistrate Tarano Pemberley presiding."

"Alright," Pemberley said dispassionately. "Today we will begin hearing arguments in the case of the Romulan State versus Federation Trade Commission. We will be examining whether Article XXVII of the Treaty of Algeron takes precedence over the legal claim of the defendant to remain in the United Federation of Planets."

Tigranian leaned forward over the railing and whispered loudly into the ear of Crestia's advocate.

"Aren't you going to object to the classification of this case under trade law? By the hand of Kahless! She's a sentient being!"

"Listen Starfleet," the advocate responded angrily. "The Diplomatic Corps assigned me to this case. You might know starships, but I understand the legal code!"

The magistrate banged his gavel.

"Advocate Haley, is there a problem?"

"No, your honor," Haley replied nervously.

"Good, I actually care about people paying attention while I speak in my own courtroom."

The Romulan advocates held back laughter as they smirked in their opponent's direction.

Suddenly, the back door flew open and Phil hurriedly stepped inside. The judge banged his gavel again.

"Lieutenant!" he said very upset. "Do you mind explaining why you cannot seem to refrain from disrupting this proceeding?"

"Please forgive my nephew, your honor," a refined voice boomed from the back of the courtroom. "He was merely escorting me from my ship to this courtroom as quickly as possible. The Oriskany ran into an ion storm that delayed us several hours."

The older gentleman who walked down the central corridor towards the railing wore an impeccable black suit with white pinstripes. The neatly folded silk square in his lapel pocket perfectly matched his tie, and his pressed shirt with silver cufflinks looked starched enough to cut paper.

"And you are?" Pemberley asked incredulously.

"Sir Arthur Lexington, Esquire," the man said walking through the swinging gate into the dock like he owned the courtroom. "Chief Humanoid Rights attorney for the British Commonwealth and senior advisor to both the Federation Supreme Court and the Diplomatic Subcommittee of the Federation Council on matters of Galactic Refugee Resettlement."

"I told you I know a guy," Phil whispered taking his seat again.

"You never told me you had a 'Sir' in your family, you scheming little limey," Katie said surprised.

"You never asked," he replied before planting a peck on her cheek.

"Arthur Lexington?" Pemberley asked leaning backwards into his leather chair. "I thought you retired four years ago?"

"Sir Arthur, if you please, your honor. And you are correct. However, my credentials are valid to practice law in front of Federation Federal Benches for one more year. I have them here if you wish to examine them." He pulled a small PADD from his jacket pocket and presented it towards the bench as the rest of the courtroom looked on dumbstruck. The Romulan advocates were seething as Haley looked like he was about to faint.

"That will be quite all right, Sir Arthur, Pemberley said annoyed. I know and respect your work as well as the regulations regarding certification."

"Thank you, your honor," Sir Arthur said with an aire of British arrogance as he placed the PADD back inside his jacket.

"However, if you don't mind me asking, what are you doing here?" Pemberley added.

"Why," Sir Arthur said throwing his shoulders back confidently. "I am Miss Crestia's advocate, of course."

"Excuse me, Sir Arthur," Pemberley replied. "But the defendant has already been assigned legal counsel by the Federation Diplomatic Corps."

Sir Arthur didn't bat an eye.

"As your honor must already know, Federation Legal Code: Article 1578 Subsection A.1 states that any defendant in matters of salvage or property dispute with either Federation or Non-Federation citizens may choose their own legal counsel. Now, since Ms. Crestia is of the legal age of majority recognized by the Federation for her species, I believe the choice is hers…" he turned to glare at Haley, "…and the Federation Diplomatic Corps has nothing to do with it since they have done so little to defend her already."

"Ms. Crestia?" Pemberley asked. She looked over her shoulder to her assembled supporters. All of them nodded emphatically.

"I want Sir Arthur to represent me, Sir," Crestia replied.

"Very well," Pemberley said. "Court reporter, please note it in the transcript."

"Now, hold on one second," Haley said rising to his feet. "This is my case."

"Mr. Haley, if your client wishes to change advocates that is her right," Pemberley responded. "Even our Romulan friends here understand that. Don't you?"

The lead Romulan advocate rose to address the court.

"Your honor," he said tucking a hand into his robe, "Whoever represents the property in question is irrelevant. It does not alter the fundamental strength of our case."

Pemeberley held up his hands.

"Your honor," Haley said glaring towards Sir Arthur, "Ms. Crestia is not a Federation citizen and this is no normal property dispute. I was specially appointed by the Federation Council through the Federation Diplomatic Corps…"

A hand reached out, grabbed the young man's shoulder, and dropped him back into his chair.

"Now listen here, you little shit," Tigranian spit into the counsel's ear so only he could hear. "This isn't a dispute about a shipment of stem bolts or a derelict freighter. She is a woman whose life is on the line. Now, you can either shut the hell up and let the professional with four decades of experience work, or I can take you out into the corridor, snap your piddly little spine, and watch you flop on the deck like a fish out of a water. The choice is yours…"

"Your honor," Haley said quickly. "I hereby recuse myself from this case." The advocate pulled out a cheap briefcase and started shoveling his PADDs into it. Sir Arthur stepped over and offered his own piece of clandestine advice to the young advocate.

"If I might make a suggestion before your next assignment, young man," Sir Arthur whispered, "Justice may be blind, but the judge and jury are not. Invest in a better tailor." The gentlemen grinned and patted Haley on the arm as the young man bolted for the door.

"Well," Pemberley said as Sir Arthur took a seat at the table next to Crestia. "This has certainly been the most interesting opening moments of any case I have ever been a part of. Perhaps we can conduct the rest of it with a bit more reserve? Advocate Nonclus," he said looking towards the Romulan delegation. "Your opening statement?"

The Romulan rose to his feet.

"The Romulan State waives their right to an opening statement, your honor. We will present all our evidence as part of our case and testimony."

Pemberley cleared his throat as the Romulan sat back down.

"Very well, Sir Arthur, your statement."

The gentlemen gave a reassuring squeeze to Crestia's hand before rising and walking out towards the bench.

"Ex turpi causa non oritur actio," Sir Arthur projected out towards the courtroom in a booming voice. "From a dishonorable cause an action does not arise," he said pacing back and forth with a commanding presence. "This legal doctrine has been precedent for a millennium. The Romulan State cannot possibly expect the United Federation of Planets to honor their claim over this young woman, seated right here in front of you. She is not a piece of property to be negotiated, she is not an object to which we can attach ownership, she is not an item that can have a monetary value affixed to it. She is a living, breathing sentient being with all the rights thereof.

The Fourth Guarantee of the Articles of Federation is completely explicit:

We, as a nation dedicated to the freedom and prosperity of all sentient beings, and being hereby resolved, state that all forms of slavery, indentured servitude, and forced labor except as punishment for a crime where the party has been duly convicted are prohibited within the United Federation of Planets or any place subject to its jurisdiction.

This is not law, Ladies and Gentlemen," Sir Arthur said crossing his arms. "This is guiding principle enshrined in a sacred document that all civil servants are sworn to uphold and protect. The fact that we are even entertaining the suggestion that the Federation return a sentient being in our territory to a state of slavery stands in opposition to all that we hold dear. I implore the court to remember its oath. For if it does," he said holding up a finger and turning towards Pemberley's bench, "it will see that there is no other decision but to deny the petition of the Romulan State."

Sir Arthur returned to his seat next to Crestia. The assembled gallery's confidence rose after hearing his stirring oratory.

"Advocate Nonclus," Pemberley said. "Present your case."

The Romulan slowly climbed to his feet with a devious smirk on his face.

"The Romulan State completely agrees with Sir Arthur," he began pacing back and forth across the open floor in front of the advocate tables. "Slavery is prohibited in the United Federation of Planets…"

Laria leaned across the railing and whispered in Sir Arthur's ear.

"Where is he going with this?" Sir Arthur begged her to remain quiet with a brush of his hand.

"However, the crux of our claim is that this defendant should never have been allowed to enter the Federation from the Romulan Star Empire where her legal status is recognized as property," Sonan continued in a grandiose voice. "Federation records show that she first appeared in your space on Stardate 53327.1, a mere 48 hours after the Dacen Slave Revolt. The property in question was last registered in Romulan records as belonging to the Lady Selonia, wife of our Praetor Neral.

Our laws are quite explicit, when a wife dies, her property passes to her husband. Therefore, she belongs to Praetor Neral until either emancipated or death occurs." Nonclus paused as he glanced in Tigranian's direction. "We may never know how she crossed the Neutral Zone and entered the Federation…"

Tigranian balled his fists. His kidnapping was still a sealed state secret in both the Federation and Romulan Empires.

"However, it is obvious that her escape was the result of the actions of criminal servile insurrection. When she was accepted by Starfleet in Federation Space, it constituted a gross breach of Treaty. No Romulan private party may be claimed by any citizen or government organization of the Federation as per the Treaty of Algeron…"

"Objection," Sir Arthur said boldly. "Ms. Crestia was not claimed by anyone in the Federation as salvaged property. She was granted asylum and refugee status."

"Advocate Nonclus," Pemberley corrected. "Sir Arthur is correct. Under Federation law, salvage law and political asylum are completely different statutes."

"Correct, your honor," Nonclus said confidently gesturing with his right hand, "however, the property in question does not fall under the jurisdiction of Federation Law. She never did."

Lanassa leaned over to Jion and Laria and whispered in Bajoran.

"If he keeps referring to Crestia-ga-ne as property, I'm going to kill him."

"Mama," Laria replied. "Please remain calm." Tigranian took a deep breath. He hated legal maneuvering. It was like watching an imminent disaster unfurl that he had no control over.

"Romulan State Exhibit A," Nonclus motioned towards a holoscreen erected on the side wall of the courtroom. "Article XXVII of the Treaty of Algeron."

The text appeared in bold black letters in Federation Standard which Nonclus read aloud:

"Article XXVII: All conventions of private salvage law between the United Federation of Planets and the Romulan Star Empire are hereby abrogated by this treaty. Any private property, defined as property owned by individuals or private organizations, recovered on the opposite side of the border will be immediately returned to the nearest Romulan or Federation outpost or consulate for immediate repatriation across the Neutral Zone. Property recovered in the Neutral Zone will be returned to a neutral party for arbitrated negotiation. This provision does not apply to any public or state property owned by government organizations or military entities…"

"Your honor," Sir Arthur said flippantly. "I believe everyone in this courtroom understands the text of Article XXVII. However, opposing counsel has yet to state why it is relevant here."

"Sir Arthur is correct, Advocate Nonclus," Pemberley said. "I understand that the treaty exists, but not how it applies to your claim that it allows Federation participation in slave trading."

"Very well, you honor," Nonclus said steepling his fingers in front of him. "Romulan State Exhibit B." He nodded to his partner who changed the display on the holoscreen.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," Nonclus continued with confident arrogance, "What you see before you is the printed text of the Federation Magistrate's decision from Federation Vs. Kernath, a legal decision issued by the Federation 12th Circuit Court on Stardate 40356.2.

For those not familiar with the case, On Stardate 40023.6, a Klingon prisoner named Kernath, Son of Tenpar escaped the Klingon penal asteroid Rura Penthe. He had been sentenced to life imprisonment by a Klingon court for publicly insulting K'mpec, Chancellor of the Klingon High Council. He was able to barter passage on a freighter to the United Federation of Planets, where he was arrested one month later for public intoxication.

When it was discovered he was an escaped fugitive in the Klingon Empire, Federation authorities prepared to return him, however, he challenged the ruling on the grounds that he was a political prisoner. Insulting a public figure was not a crime in the Federation and therefore he deserved to stay.

The Federation magistrate stated in his decision:" Nonclus motioned to his partner again who highlighted a portion of the written ruling. The words expanded and filled the screen.

"Though Freedom of Speech is enshrined by the Articles of Federation, the Federation's treaty obligations to the Klingon Empire in this matter are clear. The Second Khitomer Accords unequivocally state that prisoners wanted in either the Federation or Klingon Empires will be extradited to face trial in their own respective country. This is usually interpreted as a protection for Federation citizens in the Klingon Empire, however, it applies equally as strongly to Klingons in the United Federation of Planets. Nowhere does the Khitomer Accords state that any crimes are exempt from extradition. Therefore, I am ordering the defendant's immediate return to Klingon authorities as the treaty supersedes Federation law…"

Nonclus turned towards the assembled court room audience and grinned. His expression sent a shiver through the audience.

"The Treaty supersedes Federation law…" Nonclus repeated slowly for emphasis.

"Your honor," Sir Arthur said climbing to his feet. "That case is completely different. Kernath was a convicted criminal and Ms. Crestia has not committed any crime."

"I can assure you, Sir Arthur," Nonclus said crossing back to the center of the floor. "A slave murdering their master and then escaping is a crime in the Romulan Empire..."

"She didn't kill anyone!" Tigranian shouted as he rose to his feet.

"No, she didn't…" Laria said standing next to him. Pemberley banged his gavel.

"The audience will withhold all outbursts or I will clear this courtroom!"

"Sit down!" Sir Arthur said turning to both of them. "You are not helping anyone."

"I suggest the both of you both take his advice," Nonclus said to the Tigranians while raising an eyebrow. "Otherwise, the Romulan Empire might request the extradition of other criminals known to be at Dacen Prime…"

Tigranian then understood he knew the truth. Slowly, he and Laria took their seats, but the captain subtly raised his right hand and dropped his two middle fingers into his palm. He remembered it as a particularly forceful and obscene gesture from his time with Romulans. Nonclus grimaced as he recognized it.

"What was that?" Lanassa asked.

"Call it cultural exchange…" Tigranian said still glaring at Nonclus.

"Getting back to the matter at hand before I was rudely interrupted," Nonclus continued, "the legal precedent is clear. Crestia must be returned to the Romulan Empire."

"I would also like to state," Sir Arthur said clenching his jaw from his seat, "That Kernath died less than two years after his return to Rura Penthe."

"That is a matter to take up with the Klingons, Advocate," Nonclus answered him bluntly. "Not us. However, I can assure this court that Crestia will only be returned to servitude. She has already received a pardon for her crimes."

"Never the less," Sir Arthur said slowly rising to his feet, "The precedent Advocate Nonclus cited relates to criminal extradition, not property exchange. Article XXVII still does not apply in this case. Ms. Crestia is not property…"

"I can assure you, Sir Arthur," Nonclus countered, "She is. In fact, she has never been anything else. Romulan State Exhibit C: The slave rolls of the House of Vreenakii." An image appeared on the holoscreen. It was the picture of an Elohsian infant wrapped in a white cotton blanket. Romulan text scrolled down the side of the screen. Crestia began shivering. Hands from both Lanassa and Sir Arthur steadied her.

"Slave Crestia, Female, born at the Aranax Estate to Slave Lucretia, House Maid, and Slave Nerophon, Stable Attendant on the 157th day of the 32nd year of the Reign of Her Imperial Majesty, Empress Ronaria," Nonclus spoke as if he was describing the lineage of a piece of furniture.

The picture changed to an Elohsian girl roughly ten years of age. The girl was gaunt and pale, streaks of tears ran down her face and set of freshly carved Romulan initials bled from underneath her left clavicle.

"Marked with the House brand on the 248th day of the 3rd year of the Reign of Her Imperial Majesty, Empress Vexaria…"

Crestia felt herself crying now. Jion and Laria's hands had joined the others offering her support. Tigranian shivered with rage.

The final picture was of Crestia in a simple white dress. Her eyes were bleak and hopeless.

"Transferred to the House of the Neralii upon the marriage of Lady Selonia to the Praetor Neral on the 84th day of the 10th year of Vexaria…"

Nonclus walked over to his table and flared his robes out for dramatic effect.

"Your honor, would you please have the property rise to her feet and pull down the left collar of her shirt," he said.

"What does that have to do with anything?" Lanassa shouted. Pemberley banged his gavel while holding back his own revulsion.

"We must confirm for our case that this is the property in question," Nonclus said not taking his eyes off of Crestia. "Your honor, if you please."

"Objection!" Sir Arthur said looking up towards the bench. "This is merely a thinly veiled attempt by the plantiff to demean the defendant!"

"I'm not demeaning anyone, your honor," Nonclus replied calmly. "I merely want to confirm that this is the slave on the holoscreen."

Pemberley covered his face with his hands and shut his eyes.

"Ms. Crestia," the magistrate said trying to hide the shame in his voice. "Please rise and pull down the left collar of your shirt."

Crestia gritted her teeth.

"You don't have to do anything," Lanassa whispered firmly in her ear. Crestia turned her wet face to Lanassa.

"Remember what I said about the Federation being righteous?" she said before pushing the others away from her. Crestia reared back from the table and rose to her feet defiantly. In a fluid motion she ripped her collar away from her shirt. Beneath the torn fabric were the three Romulan letter carved deeply into her skin. Tigranian knew them well. He still bore the horrible scars on his own skin where they used to be. They stood for:

Selonia Venanatra Vreenakii

Nonclus grinned again as he spoke:

"The Romulan State rests."

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