Aas the guards shuffled him up to the defendant's stand in the Federation courtroom, Miro refused to let his smile fall from his face. He was well practiced at false levity, after nine hundred years of shouldering the galaxy's burden and refusing to let anyone else see how tired it sometimes made him. His mouth had run nonstop since he'd been escorted from his cell, and he could only hope his efforts to comfort Eeris were working. From the way she stared at the floor instead of him as she was ushered into the front row of the audience, Miro suspected they weren't.
He honestly didn't blame her. When she'd agreed to join him on the Challenger, there was no way she could have thought they'd end up here. He'd seen the look in her eyes—it was hope, simmering just below the surface, barely daring to burn bright. She had listened to him talk and believed he was her ticket to freedom. How ironic was it that they'd just spent the past twenty-four hours in Federation security as he waited to face charges to the fullest extent of the law? He couldn't help but think he was letting her down. Eeris had dared to believe that just one person in the universe might turn her life around. And now she was going to be shown just how fallible he was.
Miro was left alone in his seat, and he took a deep breath as he tried to calm the staccato of his heartbeat. He was only moderately successful.
The chatter within the courtroom swelled as the hour drew closer to the mark. He could practically feel the jury's energy—it was something stuck in limbo between anxiety and excitement. Excitement, because soon enough his case would finally be closed—and face it, everyone in the room knew who they were bringing to justice. He wasn't exactly the backwater nobody he'd been when he'd escaped home. And anxiety, because knowing his reputation meant knowing how hard Miro Dax was to contain. He could imagine the question everyone was asking—was he about to make this hell for them?
Truth be told, Miro hadn't yet decided.
The gavel suddenly descended overhead, and Miro flinched at the noise, wondering if this was the sole reason he had avoided the courtroom for so long.
"Order!" Simler called. "This court is in session!"
A hush fell over the crowd. Miro's heartbeat cranked up a few notches. He concentrated on breathing—in through his nose, out through his mouth. That's it, Miro. Doesn't matter what memories they're gonna bring back—you're not going to lose it today. Not in front of Eeris."
His eyes fell on Simler as she swept her gaze over the courtroom. Well, here went nothing.
"Miro Dax stands accused of the following charges," Simler said, voice carrying across the courtroom. "Sabotage of Federation technology, assault of Starfleet personnel, disregard of martial law, and theft of a Federation vessel. This trial seeks to determine whether the accused is guilty."
"Wait, wait, wait," Miro said. "Theft? Where'd that one even come from? The Challenger's mine, fair and square."
Simler frowned. "We'll address that later. First, the charges of sabotage, assault, and disregard of martial law. Prosecution, you may call your first witness."
A chair creaked nearby, and Miro looked up as his prosecutor stood and called him to the stand. Sighing, Miro picked himself up and forced himself to move. The quicker he got this over with, the better.
"Miro Dax," the security officer said, "I'm sure everyone in this room is well aware of your reputation. You've been all over the galaxy, making friends and enemies alike. Could you clarify for the jury why that is?"
"I'm Dax," Miro said, going for the simplest answer. "I have experience I can offer."
"And that's the only reason?"
Miro stiffened, bracing himself against the stand. "Not quite."
"Then please do elucidate."
"The galaxy's falling apart," Miro said. "That's no secret to anyone. You don't have to be twelve hundred years old to see there's border conflicts everywhere, no one can reach peace. And the Romulan empress's moves certainly don't help anything."
"And you believe you can offer a solution?"
"I hope so," Miro said. "I mean, you Federation people sure haven't."
Miro didn't miss the officer's smirk.
"Dax, you stand accused of sabotage, assault, and disregard of martial law. Did you commit these crimes?"
"Please answer the question," his prosecution said.
Miro shut his eyes and took a deep breath. "I committed them, alright. But I've gotta say, I don't blame me for wanting to get outta there. Martial law on a planet being bombarded by Klingons? You're lucky I'm the only one who tried to escape!"
An agitated rustle swept through the audience. Miro couldn't help his self-satisfied smirk. Even if it was about to work against him in court.
Simler banged the gavel. "Order! Order!"
The audience hushed, and Miro forced himself back to the present.
"Dax, may I remind you of the rules of this court," Simler said. "Prosecution, continue."
"You admit that you sabotaged the Federation's security sensors so as to escape undetected?" the security officer asked.
Miro smirked. "Yeah, well, would've been a little hard to get off Trill if I hadn't."
"And you admit that you knowingly and willingly assaulted Starfleet officers in order to continue on your way?"
"I think of it more like necessary damages," Miro said. "Bit hard to cause trouble without anyone getting hurt."
"And you admit that your actions were in disregard of martial law?"
"Suppose they were," Miro said.
"Your Honor," the prosecution said, "I submit that the accused is indeed guilt."
Simler nodded and banged the gavel. "Defense, you may question the accused."
Miro's lawyer, a heavyset man who had thus far proven extremely unhelpful, stood and approached. He nodded at Miro, who took his cue and retreated from the stand, relieved to be out of the limelight for the moment. Miro might have been well known across the galaxy, but that didn't mean he liked standing out. It was why he loved Nebez—even with his distinctive features, he blended right into the crowd.
"The prosecution has shown that Miro Dax is guilty," his lawyer announced. "We do not deny this. However, I submit that Dax was unaware of his actions at the time and cannot be asked to serve out a sentence for them. I call Eella Kirel to the stand."
Miro took a deep breath and closed his eyes as he heard the approaching footsteps. He didn't need to see this witness to know exactly who it was—it was impossible to forget that name, and he'd even begrudgingly agreed to this beforehand.
Miro forced his eyes back open just as a wiry old Trill woman took the stand. She had silvery gray hair that was brushed back from her face and secured in a bun. Her blue eyes were kind and soft, too soft, and Miro clenched his jaw against the ire that rose within him. This was absolutely unfair. Why did she have to be his only defense? She was about to dismantle his reputation before the entire court.
"Kirel," Miro's lawyer addressed her, "please state your occupation for the jury."
"I'm a therapist with the Symbiosis Psychiatric Committee on Trill," Kirel stated.
"And what is your connection to the accused?"
Her eyes found Miro's inevitably, and he railed against her compassion as she smiled at him. "I worked with him when he was first joined…quite extensively."
Miro ground his teeth. There it was, stated before the entire court. Miro Dax, galactic hero, was a mental case.
"What was your impression of Miro Dax?"
"Determined," Kirel said. "Driven. He was one of the best initiates I ever had the pleasure to work with. I want that clear, before any of his mental health records are brought before the court. I'm joined myself and I've known Dax for some time, though not personally. Miro here is the best choice for the symbiont there is."
Miro blinked in surprise.
"More to the point," Miro's lawyer said, "how would you describe the condition in which Miro Dax came to you?"
Now, Kirel hesitated. "I really would say that Miro's brilliance is part of the point—"
"Kirel," the lawyer said, "please answer the question."
Kirel sighed. "He wasn't in a good place."
"You have to understand," Kirel said, "joining with a symbiont, especially one as old as Dax, is no easy undertaking—"
"Your Honor," the lawyer said, "I request that the witness be ordered to answer the question directly."
"Kirel," Simler said cooly. "Please answer the question."
Uncertainty flickered in Kirel's eyes. "Miro…was troubled. The symbiont…overwhelmed him. His mind…"
Images of a hundred therapy sessions flashed across Miro's mind, and he gripped the edge of the table as he forced the memories away.
"Continue," the lawyer said.
Kirel's eyes met Miro's across the room as she spoke, as if in apology. "He struggled to find his sense of self. Dax's memories consumed him. The symbiont had been subjected to trauma that should have been treated early on—about nine hundred years ago."
Miro shut his eyes, willing the memories away. Even now, they were still intense, still threatened to roll over him like a tidal wave.
"And when did this trauma begin to affect Miro?" the lawyer said.
"Oh, immediately after he was joined," Kirel said. "He didn't stand a chance—even as a trained initiate, exposure to the sort of raw trauma the symbiont had endured was liable to cause brain damage. But you have to understand, Miro wasn't the first—"
"Irrelevant," the lawyer said.
Miro turned, seeking out the voice, and his heart plummeted. The man who had spoken was the security officer he'd had the most run-ins with in the past. This was a man who knew full well what Miro thought of the law, and had been through so much grief chasing after Miro as a young renegade that he wouldn't hesitate to bring Miro to justice now.
"Sustained," Simler said. "Kirel, you may continue."
"As I was saying, Miro was far from the first Dax host to have trouble," Kirel said. "He's the only one I've personally worked with, but the symbiont's trauma has been on record since the early 2400s. Like I said, Miro is a brilliant young man and is fully deserving of the Dax symbiont. His reaction is hardly a poor reflection on him."
"Perhaps not," the lawyer said, "but this trial concerns Miro alone. Wouldn't you say that his trauma impeded his judgement? He could not have been responsible for his actions."
"Objection, Your Honor," the prosecution said. "He's leading the witness."
"Sustained," Simler said.
Miro sighed. This was what he got for never making enough platinum for a decent lawyer—even now, as his lawyer tried to embarrass him before the court, he was losing his case.
"Kirel," his lawyer said, voice strained, "please describe Miro Dax as you knew him for the jury."
"I would say," Kirel said carefully, "that Miro came to us lost, confused, afraid. His reason was lost within a deluge of memories he'd never been trained to deal with. That's what we helped him with, and he showed promise throughout our sessions. I could always see the determination that made him fit for Dax. He wanted to be better. He wanted to make himself into a man befitting of Dax, and it was his doubt in himself that spurred him on. He left our care not the disgruntled, frightened young symbiont host that I first met, but a young man full of confidence. He still had a long ways to go, that's certain, but we would not have discharged him had he not exhibited great promise."
Miro's lawyer looked like a kicked puppy. "No further questions."
Miro let the tension drain from his body, head thunking the table. This was going even worse than he'd imagined. And now Eeris had gotten an earful of how helpless, how lost, he used to be. That was no how he wanted her to see him—she needed someone to guide her, and the picture his therapist had just painted was not that person.
Simler nodded and banged the gavel. "This court is in recess."
"Recess?" Miro cried. "Aw, come on. There's only one charge left and I'm innocent—let's just get this over with!"
Simler might as well have told him to shut his mouth, for all the disinterest in her eyes.