There was a pause in the trial being held in the starship court Serendipity just before the cross-examination began. If the wall behind the Alpha Nebula circuit judge’s chair had not been filled with stars, the room could have been anywhere. Only the judge and lawyers were present; the teenage plaintiff and her mother, the defendant and the witnesses for the prosecution were all isolated in other cabins on the ship, each visible via the feed to the screen on the left wall of the court. The two defence lawyers had switched off their mikes and Shard was running over the case with Hughes, mindful of his role as mentor to the younger man.
– We need to give the impression that we have this in the bag, so take that anxious look off your face.
– But it’s not looking good for the Admiral. We weren’t able to find any link between the defendant and the main witness that would show collusion. Their description of… events… matches to an extent that is alarming for our case.
– Yes, but it will take balls of steel to convict our client. All we have to do is sow doubt as to the moral fibre of the prosecution’s star witness.
Shard stood and moved to stand before the wall of faces. The face of Elena Price expanded and the other faces shrank back into the wall.
– First Officer Price, you claim that you ran away from the Defiant seventeen years ago to, I quote, “escape my father’s control and abuse”?
– You claim that he mentally and physically abused you, and that the abuse became sexual when you were twelve?
– You stowed away on a trading vessel that had docked onto the Defiant, the Jumping Jack?
– And as a fifteen-year-old runaway, you offered yourself to the captain of this vessel as payment for your passage?
– Is this a normal behaviour for a victim of abuse? You claimed to have been paralysed by fear of your father and sexually abused, yet you sold your sexual favours at the age of fifteen to a man twenty years your senior?
– It was desperation, a desire to live. My father had begun choking me when he raped me. I lost consciousness the very last time. I wasn’t selling anything that had not already been taken from me. And it didn’t go quite as you are suggesting.
– Please explain.
– Captain Price refused the form of payment I offered and suggested another. I had successfully circumvented the security of his ship, he wanted to know how I had done it and how to close the loophole.
– Yet you shared a cabin with him from that day, just barely fifteen.
– Affirmative, and we slept in his bunk together. But there was no sex. He would hold me when I had nightmares, but that was all.
– We have statements from former crew members stating that he made it clear that anyone that touched you was out. He was also described as being tactile in front of the crew.
– Affirmative, but his touch was never sexual.
– Is this not the control you claimed to have been escaping?
– No, it was protection and affection. He refused to touch me sexually until I was eighteen, and then only when I initiated it.
– You expect us to believe that a much older man gave you that amount of control?
– Affirmative, he said some things were sacred, not taken but given.
– Sacred? So your father’s reputation as a decorated Admiral is not sacred to you?
– I couldn’t care less about his reputation. I tried to forget him, I did not want him having any power over me, even in my memories. I am only here today because the prosecution tells me he was abusing my half-sister in the same way. All the reports have been read out now and… I can tell you something that is missing from them.
– Please enlighten me.
– Ask my sister to type out what our father would say when he choked us. I will type it too and we will press send when the judge instructs us to.
The words on the screen from both read: “Lo decido yo”.
– It means “I decide what happens” in an old Terran language. He meant, “I decide whether you live or die”.
The case was lost, but Shard found he did not mind too much. Waiting in the hangar to board his craft afterwards, he saw Elena Price talking to a tall, grizzled man that he recognised as Captain Price. Shard watched him reach out his hand and touch her face, and there was reverence and care in his touch.