Odyssey: Finding Home 1 Ch. 10byjennyb2492©
This is the last chapter, folks, but it's only a pause in Liz's story, so don't worry. Her story continues in the next book. There is no more non-consent in this chapter, but I am keeping all the chapters together in the same category.
Just like other things in the Finding Home world, the legal system is a little different than ours. Not unfair, just different.
She awoke when the breakfast tray clattered through the bars. She took stock of her her head -- OK right now. Butt -- not too bad. Pussy -- wet.
Oh. My. God. What had she done?
She had broken rules #1 and 2 -- again. Did she think that just because she was not at Master Daniel's estate she was a free woman?
Well, she thought, maybe she wasn't free in reality, but what happened today was going to dictate her life for a very long time. She was not going into that room with her head lowered like a slave. For today, she would act like a free woman and talk like a free woman.
And she would sit up tall in her chair no matter the pain.
She ate quickly then washed up at the sink as best she could, and called to a guard for clean clothes.
"Sorry, lady, new set every three days."
She sighed and leaned back against the bars. Guess she wasn't going to dress like a free woman.
"Don't worry, you won't go in there today looking like a vagabond."
Master Michael's voice behind her scared her enough to jump. She flashed back to her transgression and felt her face color. She hoped the guilt didn't show.
Put it out of your mind, girl. There are more important things going on today. She shook off her thoughts and smiled at him.
He carried a bag in. "Since you can't go in there wearing your usual 'house' dress," his eyes twinkled at that thought, "here you go." He held up a cream-colored sweater and a blue-and-cream patterned skirt.
"Where..?" she asked wonderingly.
"Contrary to your experience, slaves do need to go off the estate now and then. Greta keeps a small wardrobe for that." He pulled out a pair of blue flat shoes that matched.
She had never been so happy to get dressed. Totally oblivious to her surroundings she stripped naked and donned the new clothes, barely noticing the stunned guard who had just happened by. Michael noticed the fading lines of the bruises across her stomach and wondered how she had hidden them all these weeks.
He sat down with her for a minute. "The judge is going to go over all the facts to make sure they are right. You can correct her or him if needed. Captain Sloan is representing the state, unfortunately. It's a fairly fluid proceeding -- either the judge or the state can ask any questions at the beginning, or call someone back up -- there is no set pattern to who testifies when. And the state can ask you any questions he wants, within reason, but the judge will give him lots of latitude, because she or he will want to observe you. I will warn you -- Sloan's going to get nasty. It's normal to get angry at what the he says, but you have got to keep yourself in check. OK?"
"Yes. I understand." Free, but respectful, see?
Then fortified with a pain pill, she took his arm and they were escorted down several halls to a courtroom by the still red-faced guard.
It could have been any courtroom anywhere. Defense on one side, state on the other, judge up front, spectators behind the rail. Liz had been to a trial once before. She never imagined she would end up on the other side of the rail.
Mr. Alexander was already seated at the defense table.
Master Daniel was there (Chairman Weiss, she reminded herself), sitting carefully between the two sides, and sitting next to him was Chief Brandeis. The courtroom was filled with spectators; apparently word traveled fast.
"Sir -- um, Mr. Andrews -- Chairman Weiss has to remain neutral, doesn't he?"
Michael nodded. "But he's pulling all the strings he can behind the scenes to get the best people involved. He was on the phone last night trying to convince a judge to come back from her vacation."
"Did it work?" she hoped.
The bailiff interrupted his answer. "Please rise. Court is in session; the Honorable Sandra Loring presiding."
Michael smiled and he saw his shoulders relax a little bit. It must have worked.
"All right, we're here to get the facts out and get them straight. I might, or might not, issue judgment today. But we will get through all the testimonies." She looked down at her sheet.
"Miss Peltier, until August 25th last year you were a citizen of Edwal?"
"And on that date you were taken as one of a group of hostages to the militia base at New Bergain?"
"And you were the only hostage not ransomed because Chancellor Palm refused to ransom anyone whose family had not volunteered to fight, and that was just you?"
Softly, "Yes, ma'am."
"So you came to Daniel Weiss' estate on....October 5th?
"I actually don't know the date," she said with surprise. "But that is probably right."
"And at that time you believed your parents were alive?"
"Yes, ma'am. I had no reason to believe otherwise." Her eyes filled with tears. With astonishment, she felt Michael's hand squeezing hers tightly.
"How many times did you get messages about them?"
"Twice, ma'am. Once about 2-3 days after I arrived, and once in March. Chairman Weiss told me he had received word that they were fine." But they hadn't been. They had been dead for months. She barely held back tears.
"And on April 18th of this year, ...." and she quickly went through each encounter between Liz and her blackmailer, without describing in detail what was done to Liz. When she was done, Sloan said he had no questions for her yet. The judge asked Ryan to come up.
Liz saw him for the first time since she had left the hospital and he looked like hell. Over her? No, she was sure it was because she had brought so much trouble to the house and it reflected badly on his management of the slaves. She was sorry she had let him down.
The judge asked him a number of questions, mostly to clarify points, and was done quickly. Sloan wasn't.
"Mr. Benault, how can you know for sure that the defendant was actually assaulted on that first occasion? Didn't the doctor say it might be food poisoning?"
"I did not see the incident, true, but she acted... different.... for several days afterward, that didn't seem to make sense if it was food poisoning. I didn't pursue it and for that I'm sorry." He was looking directly at Liz. She gave him a wan smile.
"So perhaps she was really sick with something like the flu, for instance?"
"I am not a doctor." He slipped neatly out of that one.
"Granted. But you are a slave trainer. Is it perhaps that she was trying to get out of her duties? She didn't feel like fucking anyone for a few days?"
"Objection! Your honor!" Michael leaped to his feet.
"No, I'll answer that," said an obviously angry Ryan. "Liz has never tried to get out of anything. She had settled in to her role and was very content, given the circumstances."
"As far as you know. You didn't see her every hour of every day."
"As far as I know. And I know almost everything about my slaves."
"Except when they are supposedly being blackmailed and assaulted."
Ryan was on his feet; so was Michael. The judge banged her gavel before anyone could act.
"Captain Sloan! You are done with this witness." She excused Ryan, who looked like he wanted to twist Sloan's neck as he passed by the table on his way to the back of the courtroom.
The judge gave everyone a moment to cool down. "Does the state have any questions for any other witnesses, Captain Sloan?"
"As a matter of fact, I do. I have a few for Ms. Peltier that I want to ask now."
"Hang on," Michael whispered. Liz nodded. Sloan came over to stand in front of the table Liz was at.
"So when 'Mr. Black' threatened your parents, they were in fact already dead."
"Not to me, no. They were very much alive and in danger, to my knowledge."
"But his threat was in reality an empty one?"
"Again, not to me. It was a very real threat to their lives as far as I knew."
Michael was about to object when the judge told Sloan to move along.
"So Mr. Black used some words that scared you and that was enough for you to betray the people who took you in, fed you, and cared for you?"
"Your honor, a moment?" Michael leaned behind Liz to ask Mr. Alexander a question; they conferred for a moment.
Michael stood up. "Your honor, before Miss Peltier has to negotiate the minefield that is that question, I would like to make it plain that his description of the actions of my Family are not exactly accurate. We took her in, we fed her, we do care for her, but she is still here against her will and we acknowledge her ambivalence towards us for that reason." The judge nodded. Sloan looked like someone had popped his balloon.
Michael sat back down and leaned to Liz. "Answer honestly," he whispered. Thank you she mouthed.
"I wrestled with that for days. They do care for me and I didn't want to betray them. And there are an awful lot of people who had nothing to do with me being here who might have been hurt. But Mr. Black threatened the lives of the people I loved most in this world, the people I was ripped away from and had dreamed of being reunited with when ... when my time was done.
"And he used more than words to scare me. He ....." she couldn't say the words out loud in front of everyone.
"Miss Peltier," broke in the judge gently, "I understand that using these words is difficult, but we need to hear."
"He face fucked me until I almost passed out and then came in my mouth while I was vomiting." She got the words out in a rush.
Sloan went on the offensive again. "But you're a slave. Slaves give head all the time. Surely this was just one more time."
She took a moment to calm herself down before answering. Mr. Alexander actually placed a hand on her leg and pressed hard, and she flashed him a grateful smile.
"Yes, as a slave I have given oral sex many times, to men who have been approved by Chairman Weiss to have me. I know that when I am 'giving head' to any of these men, I will not be rendered unconscious with lack of oxygen. I will not have cum shot into my mouth while at the same time I am vomiting, causing me to choke and require medical attention. If any man did that to me, I am fairly confident that Chairman Weiss would never let him have access to any slave again."
"So the next time you had a rendezvous with him, you had plain old sex?"
"He bent me over the back of a bench and fucked me so hard I had bruising on my stomach."
"But the clothing you wear would have surely revealed that, if it really happened."
"As it happens, the dress sash lays across the area and I have been able to hide it."
"And you say it happened again? And you hid it again? Surely this is more than you can manage."
She leaned over and whispered to Michael, who nodded.
"Ma'am, may I come up to the bench?" The Judge nodded.
Liz walked up and said quietly, "I can show you. But could I please not show everyone?"
She considered. "All right."
Liz lifted the hem of the sweater. Lying across her abdomen were two yellowish green lines, the fading evidence of the assault. The Judge nodded.
"The evidence is there," she declared.
"I would like to see the evidence myself," complained Captain Sloan. "Why is she so shy? It's not like the slut doesn't take her clothes off for anyone who asks."
Michael was halfway out of his seat before Mr. Alexander managed to grab his sleeve.
The judge was livid. "Captain Sloan! I will not tolerate disrespect for anyone in my courtroom, slave or free. You will refrain from inflammatory comments like that or I will toss you out on your ass! Do you understand?!"
The head of the SSB was on his feet. "Ma'am, if you will pardon my interruption, I will do the job for you." He marched through the break in the railing, grabbed Sloan by his collar, and hauled the screeching, protesting man out the door. From the fading noise it sounded like he hauled the man all the way to the street.
The courtroom was silent save for the paper shuffling and pen-scratching of Sloan's lieutenant; whether he was frantically trying to figure out how to step in or quickly writing his will was uncertain.
Chief Brandeis returned with a satisfied look on his face. He marched back up to the front and looked down at the man.
"Henderson, I am not going to toss you out; don't worry. But you are too inexperienced to go solo." He looked up at the judge. "I am truly sorry for the interruption. The State is ready to proceed." He sat down in Sloan's old chair.
The judge was trying to hide a smile. She cleared her throat. "Now, just for the sake of finishing this little drama up, Miss Peltier, will you lead us through the events of two days ago in your own words?
It had only been two days? Time flies when you're having fun, Liz thought irreverently.
She described in detail what had happened, from hiding in the library to waking up in the hospital. Thank god Michael had taken her hand again.
At last she could stop talking.
They took a break, then the judge called Chairman Weiss forward.
"First, I would like to comment on something said earlier, though the man it is directed to is no longer here. Having slaves at my house is a responsibility I take very seriously. Their well-being is a priority with me. If any man did any of the acts that Miss Peltier is describing, I would not only deny him access to any slave ever again, I would throw him face first onto the gravel driveway and call the police, something I should have done to someone else a while back," he said softly. He was looking at Liz, and she flashed him a smile and nodded her understanding of what he was saying.
"Chairman, have you been able to find this Mr. Black?"
"No. He had a head start of several hours. We don't think he has crossed the border, but we cannot find any evidence of his whereabouts in Alaine. We will find him." The last was said almost as a promise while still looking at Liz.
"Chairman, what can you share about the fallout from what Miss Peltier did?"
Liz leaned forward; she had actually not heard any of this.
"I was able to get to Chairman Adams' house quickly, and though it took a little encouragement," like grabbing his shirt and threatening to remove parts of his anatomy, "I convinced him to divulge the reason he was going to make a deal with Palm. Once I knew, I placed calls to all the other Heads and within two hours we had gotten together a deal that would keep Idris out of bankruptcy until the oil money came in," or else Daniel had threatened to blow up the oil fields, and the other provinces stood ready to assist in that.
"He made a dozen unanswered phone calls to Chairman Adams," Daniel's men had blocked the calls, "and arrived about an hour after I did. He was not permitted to enter the gates, and was escorted back to the border." Daniel's men were heavily armed and together with Adams' men, outnumbered Palm's about 5-to-1.
"And what would have been the result if Miss Peltier had not been blackmailed into giving this information up and events proceeded without interruption?"
"Unless my tech guy had uncovered the same information within two or three hours of when I ended up meeting with Adams, he would have signed a deal with Palm. They were supposed to do just that yesterday morning, about six hours after I got there. We would never have known until it was too late, and Palm would control about 75% of all available oil. Miss Peltier forced me into action, and thank god she did. She inadvertently did us, all of us, a great favor."
"And what is the result of Palm knowing that you can intercept and decode his communications?"
Daniel said reluctantly, "he has changed codes and methods and we are unable to monitor him any longer."
Liz put her head down. She was sunk.
The judge dismissed everyone while she deliberated. As Liz and Michael and Mr. Alexander made their way into the hall, she spotted Master Ryan waiting against the far wall. He launched himself towards her and grabbed her hands, pulling her onto a bench.
"How are you?" he asked with genuine concern on his face.
Liz looked at him for the first time since she had been assaulted. "I'm so sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone, I just didn't know what to do, I tried not to tell him but he hurt me so bad and I'm sorry I never told anyone but he kept saying my parents were dead if I did...." and she finally broke down weeping, letting it all fall out of her. Ryan gathered her in his arms and just held her.
"What do you think?" he whispered to Michael as she lay sobbing in his arms. Michael shook his head. Ryan's head fell back against the wall. They had all let her down, especially him, and once again, she was going to pay the price. Just like the day before, he wanted to put his fist through something but he just held her until she quieted.
When she had calmed down to just the hiccup stage, someone produced a washrag and Ryan helped her clean her face. No one felt like eating. Daniel stood off to the side, talking with the Chief. The courthouse was silent save for the ticking of a large clock over their heads.
Sometime after they had entered their second hour of waiting, the bailiff opened the door, causing everyone to jump at the sudden noise. The knot of people around Liz rose as one and supported her back in, past that railing, and into her chair.
The judge entered and sat down, all business. "Miss Peltier, please rise." Liz stood on shaky legs, about to throw up.
"There is no doubt you were blackmailed and repeatedly assaulted, thereby making your participation in these events involuntary. Nonetheless, you should have come forward. There were two parts to the information you revealed; that Chairman Weiss knew about the impending deal and was going to try to stop it, and that Alaine Province could intercept and interpret communications. While the end does not justify the means, it seems we owe you a debt of gratitude for the first one. The second one, though, is a serious blow to our security, and I regret that I must convict you of revealing state secrets."
Liz's legs gave out and only the hands of Michael on one elbow and Mr. Alexander on the other kept her from going down to the floor. Remarkably, the room stayed quiet.
"I hereby sentence you to one year, four months, and seventeen days imprisonment," Liz's mind went numb and she almost missed the next part, "to be served either in the women's prison or as a slave on the estate of Chairman Weiss."
Liz's head flew up. "What? I can go back with Master Daniel?" Surely she had heard wrong.
"You may go back to the estate to serve your sentence if you desire. The choice is yours. But young lady, I imagine Palm is seriously pissed at you. I think Chairman Weiss would protect you a whole lot better than prison could." Liz nodded rapidly.
Judge Loring banged the gavel and dismissed the court. Liz turned to Master Michael and Mr. Alexander and without any embarrassment, sank to her knees in front of them.
"Thank you. Thank you both so much. I was so scared that as a slave I would just be written off and convicted without anyone coming to my defense or caring too much what happened to me."
Michael took her hand and pulled her up to stand. "Later, back at the house, you can kneel. But right now, I want to look you in the eyes and tell you that we would never do that. Slave or free, you are a person, and we care very deeply what happens to you. I am so sorry that your whole life has been irrevocably changed by us. Though Palm set the events in motion and we were unwitting players as well, we were tasked with protecting you and we failed."