"I intend to plead Sela's defense and clear her of treason," said Picard.
After a moment the Doctor grinned at him. "You intrigue me," he said. He began setting the controls, then waved Picard at the console room interior door. "Why don't you change? There's bound to be a proper Starfleet dress uniform of your size, rank and era in the wardrobe."
"Wait here until you're called," said the Doctor, and exited the TARDIS.
On the console room scanner screen Picard watched the Doctor step out into the Romulan justice hall and tip his hat. The room was all carved stonework, even the seating. A triumvirate of judges sat behind a podium. Sela stood in a box Picard didn't have to be told was the dock, at the left end of the judges' podium, facing the podium. On a bench at the other end sat several Romulan fleet officers - prosecutors and/or witnesses for the prosecution, one of them no doubt the commander of the warship that had destroyed the personnel carriers after Spock had exposed the plan for the invasion of Vulcan. Opposite and facing the podium were tiers of seating for observers. They were full. The TARDIS had landed next to the dock.
"Hello," said the Doctor.
"Doctor," said the triumvir seated in the center, from appearances the senior. She was white-haired, dressed in an elegant robe not of military cut (jurist robes?) though still with the everpresent squared shoulders. She was impassive as a Vulcan. "I trust there is a reason for your interruption of these proceedings?"
"Yes, there is," said the Doctor casually. "If I've my timing right, you've finished hearing the prosecuting arguments."
"Indeed," said the senior triumvir. "I and my fellow judges were just preparing to deliberate our verdict."
"There is a defense argument to be heard."
"You are not a relative," objected the junior triumvir. He was a young man in military uniform.
"I do not claim the Right of Blood," said the Doctor, "for myself."
"For whom then?" demanded the other triumvir, a stout, middle-aged graying man. He wore a simple civilian tunic of a fine material. "None of her family have stepped forward before now."
Picard saw where this was going. Apparently in the Romulan court system defense, outside of the defendant's Right of Statement, was not ordinarily presented; and, when it was, could be presented only by a family member, whose line and reputation could conceivably suffer for the condemnation of the defendant.
The Doctor could have warned him. The Time Lord was going to present Picard as Sela's parent.
"I presume this court is as familiar as the defendant with the entire story of the defendant's origins?" said the Doctor.
"Naturally," replied the military triumvir. Sela would had to have explained her relationship with Picard three months ago. She had, after all, met with Picard on the Enterprise just before Picard's fleet had exposed her conspiracy with the House of Duras. She'd have needed to explain away all appearance of collusion with the exposure.
The failure of that plan, however, had involved only the loss of some resources and face to the Romulans; the house of Duras and their allies in the Klingon civil war (as well as many of their enemies) had taken the brunt of the damage in that. But the failure of the invasion of Vulcan had cost Romulus lives, intelligence sources, the capture of Spock and the conquest of Vulcan. It would take more than explanations for Sela to keep her position, perhaps her life, this time.
The Doctor signalled, and Picard stepped out of the TARDIS.
There was an instant uproar, and the loudest voice was Sela's. "This human is no family of mine!"
"That's not what you said when we first met!" Picard spoke loudly but calmly, and the gallery quieted, not wanting to miss the show. "You told me that your existence is my responsibility, and I am convinced. Does not that make me your parent, as much or more than Yar and Toranus? Your honors," he continued to the triumvirate before Sela could speak, bringing to bear all his charm, "I stand before you not as the captain of the Federation starship Enterprise but as a fellow seeker of justice."
"Pardon me," said the civilian triumvir drily, "if I doubt you truly believe those are two separate things." Picard bowed to him with a smile. "But it is to the point: Stipulating your sincerity, is your justice our justice?"
"Justice," said the Doctor quietly, "is justice."
That seemed to settle the question. "You may proceed," said the senior triumvir.
The Doctor had stepped back to the TARDIS when Picard had taken, as it were, center stage. Picard turned to him and asked quietly - not that Romulan ears would miss his words - "Can I call witnesses?" The Doctor nodded. "Your honors," Picard continued, "I call as a witness Commander Sela."
"You may interrogate the defendant."
"Commander," said Picard, crossing to Sela, who was still fuming, "please cast your mind back to our most recent meeting. Specifically, to the exchange between yourself and Ambassador Spock on the subject of your literary efforts. Do you recall this exchange?"
Fury tempered by confusion, Sela answered, "I do."
"Please describe it for the court."
"I tried to argue Spock into personally reading the subspace message I had drafted for him to lull the Federation into the invasion of Vulcan."
"'Coerce' might be a more accurate term than 'argue', mightn't it, Commander?"
"All right, I tried to coerce him."
"And were you successful?"
"No, I wasn't," Sela snapped.
"And why not?"
"Because of that damned Vulcan stubborness! He refused to make things easier on himself by doing as I asked, just because his 'logic' told him that it wouldn't make any difference in the long run."
"You responded to his objurateness with a deprecation against Vulcans in general. Is it accurate to infer that you've had dealings with others of them?"
"Yes." Now Sela was wary. She probably thought he was trying to trap her; no doubt any interactions she'd had with Vulcans constituted acts Picard wouldn't approve of. But that wasn't where he was going.
"How would you rate Spock's Vulcan behavioral characteristics against those of the other Vulcans you've met?'
"Oh, he was easily the worst of the lot."
As Picard paced back to the center of the open area, the military triumvir said, "I fail to see the relevance of this line of questioning."
Picard spun back to face Sela. "Commander, are you aware of Ambassador Spock's genetic heritage?"
The military triumvir, the room, went perfectly silent. Even Romulans knew the answer to that.
"He's half human," whispered Sela.
"Thank you, Commander, no more questions. I call as a witness the Time Lord known as the Doctor."
The Doctor looked up, startled. He'd been watching the floor, affecting disinterest for his own reasons, or just not caring whether people knew he was paying attention. Picard knew better of course.
"He's no witness," the civilian triumvir objected. "He was nowhere near -"
"Allowed," interrupted the senior triumvir. That settled that.
The Doctor had obviously deduced Picard's line of argument and was not happy at being called into it. But he joined Picard in front of the judges' podium, so that they were facing each other as if at the beginning of a duel.
"Doctor," asked Picard, "how would you characterize the members of your race?"
"Boring," said the Doctor, prompting more than one laugh from the gallery. "The Time Lords sit on their one planet in their one system, spouting their non-interference doctrine, and watch the universe pass them by."
"Do they never extend their influence beyond their planet?"
"No," said the Doctor. "Never. Absolutely never. Unless, of course, it suits them."
"When does it suit them?"
"When it preserves their monopoly on time-travel," said the Doctor. "Or pushes such as the Daleks to the outer fringes of history. Or preserves the natural course of history of the universe. Of course, most of this is accomplished through their meddling with my own navigational controls, that they needn't get their own hands dirty."
"So it wouldn't be far off the mark to say Time Lords concern themselves with the dispassionate maintenance of history - at the cost of manipulation of others?"
"Not far at all."
"What warning did you give me at the start of our investigation of the Commander's origins?"
"That it would likely turn out a predestination paradox."
"And when did you tell me this?"
"After you were aboard the TARDIS."
"When I couldn't have backed out if I'd wanted to."
"How would you compare this behavior to that of more typical Time Lords?"
"They would have scooped you through time without warning, without even showing their faces. I know."
"Whereas yours is a more hands-on, do-it-right-yourself approach."
"Yes," said the Doctor. He was not enjoying this. As a rule he despised his fellow Time Lords as hypocrites. To have his behavior shown so similar - something that, however, couldn't have been done so easily or at all with his other personalities - had to grate. But he stood calmly meeting Picard's eyes and answering Picard's questions.
"Doctor," Picard asked, "what is your genetic heritage?"
The silence in the hall was tangible.
"I am," said the Doctor, "half human."
"No more questions. Your honors," said Picard, raising his voice to drown the sudden chatter, "I have made myself familiar, since first meeting the Commander, with such of her military record as Starfleet Intelligence is able to make available to its officers. The youngest cadet in your fleet's history at twelve, youngest to ship out at fifteen, youngest commander at twenty-one. A most precocious career.
"Does it not speak of a formidable aptitude, even instinct, for the talents and skills required in the highest caste of Romulan society? Does this speak not merely of exceptional merit in the actual skills required for such a career, but also for the 'office politics', the 'system', the unofficial 'networking' of the Romulan fleet, which is the apex and epitome of Romulan society saving only the Senate and Praetorship?"
Picard risked this praise of the Romulan military, knowing the odds were that none of the triumvirs had risen to their position without military service. It seemed to pay off; the military triumvir preened, the civilian triumvir nodded to himself. The senior triumvir, of course, merely remained inscrutable. "Make your point," she said.
Picard turned clockwise as he spoke, addressing the triumvirate, the prosecutors, the gallery in turn. "Ambassador Spock," he declaimed, "- half human, yet more Vulcan than the Vulcans. The Doctor - half human, yet more Time Lord than the Time Lords."
He came to a stop facing Sela in the dock. "Commander Sela - half human."
He turned to the judges again. "I submit, your honors, that human blood is not a dilutant but a catalyst! I submit that the defendant embodies the people of Romulus as has none ever before her. Sela is the Romulan people...
"And if you condemn her for treachery," Picard pronounced, "you condemn yourselves."
After a few seconds the gallery burst into applause.
The senior triumvir waited until the noise had spent itself before speaking. "A most unusual defense, Picard. I had not thought when awaking today to be lectured in this court on what makes a Romulan, by a human - nor to discover that the essential element is humanity."
"Then perhaps, in a figurative rather than literal sense, your honor," conceded Picard.
She regarded Picard expressionlessly while the translators processed that, then nodded. "Your defense is ended. The Right of Blood no longer lends you protection as a seeker of justice, and even the Doctor cannot persuade me to suffer a Starfleet captain in this court for any longer. You are dismissed; you may discover the outcome of your defense by means of your vaunted Starfleet Intelligence."
Picard bowed. "Most fair, your honors. I thank you for your attention, and beg only a moment more of your indulgence to take leave of the defendant."
Picard wondered what he was going to say to this foster kinsman he'd suddenly acquired, but she didn't allow him the luxury of deciding for himself. "Why did you do this?" Sela demanded as he approached.
"Because I believe that the human way is justice," said Picard.
Sela stared at him a moment, then sat back in her chair. "Hah," she said scornfully.
"And you know that I do," he added, "or you wouldn't have attempted to use my sense of responsibility as a weapon against me at our first meeting."
"Your argument here was specious. I told you, all that was human in me died with my mother."
Picard ignored what she said and addressed what he believed the real issue. "Sela, you were a child. Your mother's death was not your fault."
Sela only glared back at him, but somehow Picard sensed a shift from defiance to a vulnerable confusion. "I don't understand what you want."
"What every parent wants," said Picard without hesitating. "I want you to be happy."
Again, with no visual cue, Picard sensed a shift in her mood, this time to urgency. She leaned forward and spoke tightly in a low voice. "Then tell me: Is Spock still on Romulus?"
It was either a plea for help - for the mentor Picard could not, for astrographic and political distance, be - or a test of Picard's loyalties, a challenge to trust her with information that would be most useful to her superiors. Picard couldn't tell which. Even if it was a plea, Sela must make it sound a challenge, for despite her conspiratorial whisper Picard had no doubt everything they said was being overheard.
"Yes," he said.
"... Not that I don't personally believe the entire Roluman government and military deserves to be condemned for treason against the other powers and by extension against its own people," Picard summed up, "but to say so would have been neither politic nor to my purposes."
"What do you think Sela will do?" Guinan asked.
"I don't know," said Picard frankly.
This time Guinan had joined Picard in his ready room. But she had brought the tea (fresh again).
"My intent," Picard explained, "was to create for Sela the maximum number of options for her future. I think in the main I succeeded. Even if she were stripped of her honors, I hope I suggested that Romulus is not the whole quadrant. But I don't know her well enough personally to say which option she will choose."
"Then it was a pretty big risk letting her know Spock is still there."
Picard shook his head. "The Romulans know Spock of old - I only confirmed what their high command must already have guessed. In asking me about Spock, Sela was really saying something else. Or at least I hope so."
"That with my arguments before the triumvirate I'd made her see Romulan society the way the rest of the galaxy has seen it for the last hundred years - treacherous and duplicitous, with their cloaking devices, conspiracies and sneak attacks. That she sees it's truly time for that to be put aside, and then for Vulcan-Romulan unification. That she's willing to embrace her human half after denying it all her life, just like Spock. That she's ready to understand that a four-year-old child wasn't responsible for her mother's death. ...One or more of the above."
"Perhaps," said Guinan. "What if she doesn't? What if she hunts Spock down, like a good little Romulan soldier?"
Picard shrugged. "Spock can take care of himself or I wouldn't have allowed him to stay."
Guinan shook her finger at him. Picard knew that wasn't what she'd been asking; but he just sipped his tea, and she didn't press.
The Doctor had warned him there would be consequences, and had been right, and Picard was going to need some time to adjust. Picard hadn't known what he was getting into, but he had known he hadn't known and done it anyway. That, a lifetime of outside observation had already suggested to him, was how parenthood usually worked.
There's a sequel to this story called Tasha.
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