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"All rise!" the bailiff shouted as Pemberley exited his chambers and headed for the bench. The entire assembly of the court room rose to their feet in unison. Tigranian couldn't help but notice that Nonclus was absent. Only his two assistants were present at the plaintiff's table.

"Please be seated," the magistrate said quietly as he adjusted his black robes over his chair. As everyone took their seats, Pemberley nervously rubbed his chin. "This case," he began slowly, "has been extremely difficult in both content and execution. Slavery is completely illegal in the United Federation of Planets, and I want the record to show that I find it personally repugnant. However, the current legal precedent does force this court to concede that treaty stipulations can take priority over even the Articles of Federation in regards to interstellar disputes. That is why they exist…"

Crestia grabbed the sides of the table till her knuckles turned white. Sir Arthur reached out his hand and wrapped it around hers. He wanted to let her know she was not alone.

"Providence, by the luck of it, seems to have given me an easy out," Pemberley continued. "As a result of his egregious lack of decorum yesterday, Mr. Nonclus has been asked to leave the United Federation of Planets immediately. Normally, when this happens, a case would be summarily dismissed. However, the consequences of this decision are surely to be so profound, it would be irresponsible for me not to fulfill my sworn duty. Therefore, I have decided to issue a ruling anyways. Will the defendant please rise."

Crestia and Sir Arthur rose and faced the judge. Lanassa and Jion followed suit and placed their hands on her shoulders. Laria and Tigranian were next. Soon, the entire crew of the Pershing was standing together to hear the magistrate's decision. It was not lost on Pemberley who paused before continuing.

"Tolerance," he began, "for other people, for other nations, for other ways of belief…is a principle so dear to the Federation that we have enshrined it in our charter of government. The First Guarantee, known by some as The Prime Directive, clearly states that the Federation has no power to influence the domestic affairs of other societies. However, in our sometimes aggressive and frankly, misguided, attempts to enforce tolerance, we lose sight of why it is actually important. Though a virtue, it can also be a terrible vice.

Tolerance exists not as a means to itself, but as a means to an end. It represents the sacred idea that every sentient being has the right to live according to their own beliefs and convictions without interference. If we lose sight of this fact, then we become the tyrants we so claim to loathe.

The institution of slavery, by its very nature, is antithetical to our way of life. If I uphold the Romulan State's claims on Ms. Crestia, than I am implicitly stating that a nation's laws and customs are more important than the rights of the individual, and that is a legal precedent that I will neither write nor have my name attached to. Therefore, I issue the following ruling:

In regards to Romulan State versus Federation Trade Commission, I, the honorable Michael Pemberley, being a recognized officer of the Federation 43rd Circuit Court in good standing, do rule that:

The petition of the Romulan State to claim Crestia, Daughter of Lucretia as improperly salvaged property is hereby denied.

That recognized sentient beings cannot be classified as "property" within the United Federation of Planets in accordance with the Fourth Guarantee of the Articles of Federation.

This court does uphold Crestia, Daughter of Lucretia's claims for political asylum as it has been established that her return to the Romulan Star Empire will likely cause significant harm to her.

Advocates," Pemberley said turning to the Romulans, "Go back to Romulus and tell your superiors that if they wish to own slaves, do it your own turf, because the United Federation of Planets will always be free." Sir Arthur couldn't help but smile at the magistrate's last barb. It was a wonderful reassurance that his life's work was still worth it. "And Ms. Crestia," Pemberley said turning back to the Elohsian still frozen in disbelief, "Good luck at Georgetown. This court is adjourned." Pemberley banged his gavel and the court room erupted.

As the well-wishers gathered around Crestia to congratulate her, she merely smiled and placed her hands over her face in relief. The two remaining Romulan advocates looked so pale they were wondering if they should ask Pemberley for asylum as well. They made a quiet exit through a side door.

"It's over! It's finally over!" Lanassa shouted as she wrapped her arms around Crestia.

"Mama," Laria whispered firmly into her mother's ear while holding out her hand. Lanassa rolled her eyes and clandestinely passed a small hand disruptor to her daughter. She then whispered in Bajoran:

"The Prophets help those who help themselves, Child."

"Thank you!" Crestia said throwing her arms around her gentlemen attorney.

"My girl," he said returning her embrace. "All I did was add emphasis to your voice. You did the real work."

"You're free now," Tigranian said to Crestia. "Really free."

"Not yet," Crestia said shaking her head. "There's one more thing I need your help with."

****

In the Pershing's sick bay, Crestia slowly removed her shirt. Then, she slid the strap of her bra down over her shoulder.

"I'm ready now."

Alex nodded and picked up a dermal regenerator. With an experienced hand, she erased Selonia's mark. In less than a minute, all evidence of her previous servitude was replaced with smooth skin.

"I can easily do this for you as well, Dan," Alex quipped as Crestia pulled her shirt back on.

"No," he said shaking his head. "It's a reminder for me every time I look in the mirror why a warrior must keep himself dangerous. Besides," he said pulling Laria closer. "Chicks dig scars."

"Not those," Laria muttered rolling her eyes. Alex laughed as she walked back into her office.

"All my children together for once," Lanassa said with a sigh. "It's a pity it always takes a crisis for it to happen."

"I don't know," Laria replied, "The Peldor Festival happens pretty close to Georgetown's fall break. We might be able to organize a little reunion on Gault."

"Don't put ideas into your mother's head if you can't follow through," Jion said firmly. "I have to live with her. With the house empty again, it won't be easy."

"Well, I just have to ask my captain for permission," Laria said looking over to Tigranian.

"He'll see what he can do," Tigranian said reassuringly. "However, your shuttle leaves in an hour and we have that dinner with Alex and Annabeth tonight that we have to get ready for."

"What dinner could be more important than family?" Lanassa chastised him as she helped Crestia down from the biobed.

"Mama," Laria said switching to Bajoran in case Alex could hear, "this dinner is also about family. Remember what I told you about General Torlek?"

"We understand," Jion said as he embraced them with his goodbyes. "Besides, we have to get back to Gault to get this one ready for school."

"Yis chat lave tus ganne," Lanassa said hugging Laria and Tigranian.

"Au'tan," Laria said back to parents.

"Thank you for being here," Crestia said as she hugged the Tigranians.

"Study hard, Kid," Tigranian said tussling Crestia's hair. "College is full of temptations if you know what I mean."

"Oh, Son of Tigranian," Crestia said shaking her head. "You don't have to worry about me. However, I'm a free woman now. You won't be the last man I ever touch."

Suddenly, Tigranian turned bright red. Laria glared at her adopted sister who shrugged it off.

"What is she talking about?" Lanassa asked Laria in Bajoran.

"Nothing, Mama," Laria said. "Nothing at all."


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