Crestia sat on the edge of her bed in the starbase's guest quarters quietly sobbing to herself. Lanassa and Jion sat on either side of her. Her adopted mother slowly rubbed her back as the tears streamed down the young woman's face. Laria and Tigranian silently stood across the room staring out the window. Despite their best efforts, the memories of Alex's debacle with Kival kept pushing their way back into their consciousness.
"You don't worry," Lanassa whispered into Crestia's ear. "It will all be alright."
"How?" Crestia paused just long enough to look skeptically into Lanassa's face. "How does this turn out alright?"
"Because," Lanassa said calmly. "I'm going to kill him."
Everyone in the room new she was serious.
"And I'll help," Tigranian said not taking his eyes off the stars. He wouldn't risk another Alex Hunter. The last time he had put his faith in a Federation magistrate, he had nearly lost one of his family and it was a miracle they ever got her back. He wasn't going to take that chance again. At least his crew would not be affected this time. "We'll figure it out. We'll plan out an escape route…"
"YOU'LL DO NOTHING OF THE SORT!" Sir Arthur bellowed from the dining room table where he was seated. "Nothing changed today. Not a single thing. They know they don't have a case legally so they're baiting us. They're trying to goad us into doing something stupid and aggressive so we lose the legal advantage. If we do that, they win no matter what happens."
"Are you willing to risk her life on that?" Lanassa asked forcefully.
"Madam, I would risk my own life on it," Sir Arthur paused, "Your battlefields may have filled with phaser fire and blood, but mine has been the courtroom for over forty years. I know it very well." He rose up to his feet. "I have fought endlessly to win justice for victims of atrocities like this poor young soul has endured. I believe in what I'm doing," he said pounding on his chest. "Now, I ask you give me the courtesy of believing in me as well. Surely, you understand tactics, Mr. Tigranian?" he said turning to the captain. "Learning to think like your enemy?"
"I've never wanted to think like one of them…" Tigranian muttered still staring out the glass.
"Regardless of what you want, Sir," Sir Arthur continued, "you must. When backed into a corner, a Romulan will lie their way out of it every time. I've seen it before. Do you think that showing those ghastly images to the judge strengthened their case? Of course not! The magistrate was horrified."
"Then, why did they do it?" Laria asked skeptically.
"Because they know they are dealing with dangerous people who have lived by their ability to take the law into their own hands. That's exactly what they think you'll do and then they win the propaganda victory they have sought this whole time. They don't want this poor girl! They want their prestige back."
Tigranian shut his eyes as he remembered the late Promagistrate Kival's words to him on Cardassia. Though it sickened him, he knew that Sir Arthur was correct.
"What are you going to do?" the captain asked.
Sir Arthur took a deep breath as he walked over and kneeled down in front of Crestia. He gently took her hand in his and stared into her eyes.
"My dear child," he began softly. "I cannot imagine the pain or fear you are suffering through right now, but I do understand the strength and courage it has taken for you to get this point. If you trust me, I promise that you will never be returned to those terrible people. However, I need you reach down inside and find just a bit more valor. Can you do that?"
"How are you so confident?" Crestia asked as her voice cracked.
"Because tomorrow the magistrate will hear from the most important voice in that courtroom. Once he understands, he will do what is right. I feel it."
"And just whose voice is that?" Jion asked still rubbing Crestia's back.
"Why Crestia's, of course," Sir Arthur said with a smile. Once she saw his resolve, Crestia slowly felt her faith start to return.
"Sir Arthur," she said with a deep breath. "No matter what happens tomorrow, thank you."
"No child," he said reaching up and placing a hand on her cheek. "Thank you."
"Words!" Lanassa shouted staring at Sir Arthur. "Just words! I have heard them all before. There is no guarantee that the court will decide correctly. We have one last chance to ensure her freedom. We must get her away from here as quickly as possible. Better to live free as a criminal than as a legal slave! That is the way of the Prophets!"
"No," Crestia said still staring into Sir Arthur's eyes.
"No? No what?" Lanassa asked still extremely upset.
"No, I will not run," Crestia said looking into the eyes of her adopted mother. "That is what they expect me to do. What they expect a slave to do. But I am a free woman, and I will face them as a free woman. No court can change that."
"Please state your name for the record," the bailiff said as Crestia took a seat on the witness stand.
"Crestia, daughter of Lucretia."
"And do you swear that your testimony will be the truth and nothing but the truth?"
The bailiff nodded and stepped back to the wings of the courtroom as Sir Arthur wearing another impeccable suit stepped forward.
"Before we begin I understand congratulations are in order. You were just accepted in Georgetown University, were you not?" he said interlocking his fingers and leaning on the railing of the witness box. Pemberley raised an eyebrow at that surprising revelation.
"Yes, I was," Crestia said. "I was very nervous about it though."
"Well, it very much speaks to your abilities," Sir Arthur continued conversationally. "It's quite a difficult school to get into."
"Thank you," Crestia said slightly averting her gaze. "I hope I still will get to attend."
"Don't worry," Sir Arthur said glancing over to the judge. "I'm sure you will."
"Objection!" Nonclus shouted angrily. "Irrelevant as well as presupposing the outcome of this case."
"Advocate Nonclus," Sir Arthur said glancing over his shoulder. "If I didn't presuppose that my client would win her case, I wouldn't be a very good attorney now would I?"
A chuckle echoed across the courtroom much to the chagrin of Nonclus and the other Romulans. Pemberley banged his gavel.
"Order, please. Advocate Nonclus, after the leeway granted to you yesterday, I think you can afford to grant Sir Arthur the same courtesy."
"Thank you, your honor," Sir Arthur said gratefully.
"However only a little leeway, Sir Arthur. Please get to a relevant point."
"Of course, your honor," Sir Arthur replied as Nonclus slowly sank back into his chair. "Ms. Crestia, if you applied to University, you must have idea of what you want to study?"
"I wanted to study both economics and political science," Crestia said.
"Those are two interesting subjects. Why?"
"Because," Crestia said glancing over to Lanassa in the audience. "I made it out of the Romulan Empire. There are millions more still suffering under enslavement. I wanted to dedicate my life to changing that by becoming a diplomat and an advocate for change."
"Why?" Sir Arthur asked.
"Is there a point to this indulgence, your honor?" Nonclus asked angrily.
"Sir Arthur," Pemberley warned. "Please ask a question relevant to this case."
"Your honor," Sir Arthur said standing up straight. "I assure you, her answer could not be more relevant. Crestia, please," he said turning back to her.
"The Federation is a wonderful place," Crestia said. "At first I thought it was a dream, but then I realized that freedom is the norm. My life before…" Crestia said turning towards Nonclus and his two companions, "…was the nightmare. I was denied education, I was forced from the day I was born to serve a woman with no soul or conscious.
"Objection!" Nonclus shouted angrily. "Slandering a fallen martyr of the Empire is offensive to us!"
"And you are offensive to me…" Sir Arthur muttered.
Pemberley banged his gavel.
"Overruled, but please maintain diplomatic decorum, Sir Arthur. Ms. Crestia, continue."
"I was never allowed to know my father. He was mated with my mother and then sold to another family. As soon as I was old enough to be marked, I was taken from all I loved and trained to be a handmaid. I was told that was all I would ever be. Selonia commanded me every day never to hope, never to have dreams, because I was just an object to be used and discarded. I was beaten, I was abused…" Crestia paused as she gathered strength to say what she must. "…and I was repeatedly violated because Romulans have no regard for any lives besides their own," she spit out not allowing herself tears. She refused to show anymore weakness in front of the Romulans. Not today…not ever again.
"Objection!" Nonclus said. "These continued attacks on the Romulan State are completely irrelevant. It is established under imperial law that slaves are property and have no rights to their own bodies. That accusation is also utter slander or does your Prime Directive not matter now?"
Before Pemberley could rule, Crestia shouted directly at Nonclus.
"I am a free woman. I am no one's property and I am no one's slave, no matter what this hearing says."
Pemberley banged his gavel but couldn't bring himself to speak. Luckily, Sir Arthur answered for him.
"Your honor," Sir Arthur said stepping away from the witness box. "I'm sure that Advocate Nonclus expects me to try some legal maneuvering or pull out some precedent or regulation that discounts Article XXVII." He stopped dead and stood up straight. "I'm not going to do any of that. This is the easiest case I have ever been a part of. The immortality and horror of the Romulan State's claim speaks for itself.
On one end, we have a young, intelligent, kind woman who only wants to improve the lives of others still trapped in bondage. On the other, we have a government on the verge of collapse desperately grasping at any straw that can restore some glimmer of past glories. Now, the Federation can either uphold the bedrock principle of individual freedom or we can sacrifice this girl on the altar of diplomacy with the disgusting and pitiful excuse of 'It's none of our business.' The choice is yours, your honor." Sir Arthur said sitting back down at the defense table. "The defense rests. Your witness, Advocate Nonclus."
Tigranian leaned over the railing and whispered in his ear.
"You're taking an awfully big gamble. Principle has failed to win over courts before."
"It's not gambling if you know you're going to win, my boy," Sir Arthur whispered back. "I never throw the dice unless I know exactly how they're going to land. Just watch."
Nonclus climbed to his feet and threw the ends of his robe behind him.
"Are you the same slave we viewed on the holoscreen yesterday?" he asked angrily charging towards the witness box.
"Crestia," the Elohsian said not breaking eye contact with him. "My name is Crestia, and as I said, I am not a slave."
"That is not your decision to make," Nonclus spit back at her. The judge paused expecting an objection from Sir Arthur, but none came. Instead, the gentlemen merely settled into his chair to watch the show.
"Actually it is," Crestia said looking back into Nonclus's eyes. "And I would have made it a lot sooner if I had the education Romulus denied me."
Nonclus opened his mouth to counter, but Crestia beat him to the punch.
"It's a decision that's being made all across the Empire by brave men and women who will no longer be held in chains. I know, Advocate, I know!" Crestia began shouting at him. "I know that thousands of troops are being withdrawn from Cardassia because the revolt is growing every month and Romulus is terrified. I know that half the Imperial fleet is stuck in port because they have no fuel!" Crestia looked over to Pemberley. "The rebels destroyed the deuterium mines and liberated the workers."
"Are you going to get in any trouble for sharing those intelligence reports with her?" Laria whispered into Tigranian's ear.
"Maybe," Tigranian replied shaking his head. "But it was for a good cause. In any case, I know a decent attorney," he said looking towards Sir Arthur.
Crestia then looked back at Nonclus who was now so shocked he couldn't find words to speak. "I also know that your own cousin, the Imperial Governor of Franovost, had his throat slit while he slept by his own house servants. They then escaped to follow the banner of Rellas!"
"Be quiet," a shaken Nonclus ordered, but Crestia didn't listen.
"Honestly, I pity you," she continued. "Because you don't know your way of life is dying…"
"I said be quiet!" Nonclus shouted, but Crestia spoke even louder.
"And I will always fight for its death!" she said slowly rising up onto her feet and turning to Pemberley "Either with words from the Federation," she then looked back at Nonclus. "Or with a disruptor rifle on Romulus. Either way, I will never be anyone's slave ever again."
"I SAID BE QUIET!" Nonclus screeched as he leapt towards Crestia with a raised palm. Just before he swung down at her, a figure flashed over the railing and a clenched fist grabbed Nonclus's wrist, pulling him back from the witness box. Tigranian slowly placed the muzzle of a phaser into the Romulan's temple.
"Do your job!" Tigranian shouted at the bailiff who was frozen in shock at the attempted assault that just transpired in front of him. "Or I'll do it for you," Tigranian said pressing the phaser deeper into Nonclus's skull.
"Captain Tigranian, release him now!" Pemberley said still trying to regain a grip on his senses. "Bailiff, escort Advocate Nonclus from the room."
Without another word, Nonclus disappeared with the guard into the hallway. The other two Romulans jumped up and ran out after him. Pemberley had no idea how to process what had just occurred.
"Since the Romulans have left the court room…" he stammered. "I believe that means they have nothing further for this witness. Court is adjourned until tomorrow at 9 a.m." He banged his gavel and disappeared into his chambers.
Tigranian adjusted his uniform as Lanassa ran towards Crestia.
"You were amazing, Yis chat lave! You were so strong," the Bajoran said wrapping her arms around her.
"I've wanted to say those things my whole life," Crestia said shaking her head. "I just never thought I'd have the chance."
Tigranian replaced the hand phaser into the concealed holster under his jacket.
"You know, you could be arrested for carrying a concealed weapon into a courtroom," Sir Arthur said with a smirk.
"I never leave home without it," Tigranian said shrugging his shoulders.
"There's no way you could have known that he was going to snap like that," Alex said walking over to the defense table with the rest of the crew behind her.
"Instinct, my dear doctor. Always trust it," Sir Arthur replied.
Tigranian and Laria started laughing.
"And just what is so funny?" the gentlemen asked haughtily.
"Nothing, Sir," Tigranian said wrapping an arm around his wife. "It's just have heard that advice a few times before."
"Well done," Laria echoed.
"You were spectacular, Uncle," Phil said with pride.
"It's not quite over yet," Sir Arthur said adjusting his coat and grabbing his PADD from the desk.
"Pretty sure it is actually," Katie said. "I've never heard of the prosecution being escorted from the courtroom."
"My girl," Sir Arthur said smiling, "If you're going to be a Lexington, always be prepared for the unexpected.
Oh that reminds me," Sir Arthur said suddenly becoming very serious. "Philip, call your parents. A wedding doesn't plan itself and they have some important questions to ask about the guest list."
"Yes Uncle," Phil blushed as Katie groaned.