Chapter 1: The Trial

"I have had enough!" Raquel shouted over the rants and raves of her master. "Just because you discovered our planet doesn't mean you can take charge of us!"

"You be silent this instant and do as you're told!" Shrieked Taryl. He slapped her forcefully, but she made no sound as she spun around, her auburn hair stinging her face. "You are nothing! Just a worthless little slave!" Raquel turned to face him, and looked as if she might strike him back. She had been a slave all of her fifteen years, but behaved differently than others.

"Stay right where you are! Don't you move!" He commanded, though his voice was little shaky. "I'm reporting you!" Taryl then hurried away while she glared at his fleeing form through brilliant blue eyes.

"Raquel, not again!" A girl with light brown hair and dark eyes, named Ariel, ran to Raquel's side. "Why don't you just listen to him?"

"I will not be subject to a servant's life; he's no master of mine," Raquel muttered rebelliously to her friend. "Why should I slave for him? Taryl is a coward, and a lazy one. These people should do their own work."

"Don't talk like that! What if someone hears you?" Ariel asked, a trace of fear in her voice.

"Let them hear!" Raquel spat. She looked up, unafraid, as she saw Taryl returning with two keepers. She made no move as they approached her.

"She is disobedient and violent! I can't control her!" Taryl was complaining as the two keepers nodded in pretend sympathy; they weren't there to listen to complaints, but to deal with them. Coming up to Raquel, they attempted to put handcuffs on her, but she pulled away and glared at them.

"Look, slave, you either come quietly, or we'll drag you to the judgement court," one warned her.

"I decline to wear restraints, but otherwise, I'll go," she snapped at him. Drawing back in surprise, he swiftly glanced at his companion, who shrugged.

"Fine," he answered. The three of the walked to the keeper's transport and drove away.

"Maybe they'll knock some sense into that girl," growled Taryl, a little embarrassed at being shown up by a slave. He turned and scowled at Ariel. "What are you standing there for? Get back to work!" Ariel scampered off in fright, and Taryl grunted in satisfaction.

"Foolish little girl; why isn't she like the others? They submit so willingly!"

Raquel peered out the window of the transport, watching as the buildings and people flashed by. She frowned as she noticed that the only people up and about were free citizens. Slaves couldn't go anywhere without an escort. The only people of her kind visible were working in construction sites or following their masters dutifully. Raquel glowered and turned away from the sight.

The vehicle rounded a corner and the judgement court came into view. It was only two stories tall, with one large courtroom whose ceiling was very high up. On it was a skylight, along with several large, majestic chandeliers that provided gleaming light if a session was conducted at night. The entrance was two colossal doors made of dark redwood with intricate patterns painted on by hand. Upon entering, Raquel gazed around the huge room; walking down the entrance aisle, she glanced at the pulpit with a chair behind it along with two large balconies that jutted out of the wall to provide seating for twenty each for the jury. There was a witness box, a house for the audience to sit in, and a small area with a single seat in it surrounded by a three foot wall.

This place never ceases to impress me, she mused silently. It wasn't the first time she'd been in the judgement court, but the majesty of it always filled her with awe.

The room was empty, but she was sure it would fill with enough people to charge her of some awful crime. Some misgivings of her actions crept into her mind, but she pushed them away, not wanting to feel as if she was the one in the wrong.

The two keepers escorting her brought her to the enclosed box. There were handcuffs already there, which were attached by a thick cord to the chair. Raquel knew what was going to happen; as the keepers attempted to harness her, she surprised them both by kicking the first and smacking the other over the head with her fist. She had never been taught to fight, but years of hard labor had made her strong. The first gasped in surprise and fell to the ground, clutching his leg in pain. The other staggered backward a little, dazed.

Raquel took off, running out of the court and down the street. Masters and slaves alike saw her going, and recognized her servants clothing. Most were not sure what to do, and called for keepers or guards to apprehend her.

"Look at that little slave!" Raquel heard some servants shout as she ran past a construction site. "She's escaping!" She turned and waved to them as she passed.

"It's Raquel!" One recognized her. The slaves shouted encouragement to her as she sped by keepers that had been dispatched to capture her.

"Dang!" Raquel picked up her pace as keepers started taking potshots at her with their small guns; the bullets weren't designed to kill, but to wound. She tried to run in a zigzag pattern to make a difficult target, but there were too many after her.

"Ach!" She cried out, getting hit on the back of her right leg. She attempted to keep running, but it hurt too much, and her leg gave out. She fell and rolled, gathering numerous scratched and scrapes on her arms and knees.

She curled up into a small ball on the ground, hugging her injured leg to her stomach. She looked up through tear-filled eyes to see a few keepers gathered around her. One had a syringe, and he stuck it into her shoulder, injecting her with a drug. She flinched, and then her vision started to blur.

"Will you ever learn?" Raquel heard one of them say before she lost consciousness.

"Come on, it's her again," one keeper said to the other.

"I remember having to catch her last month or so ago. Just about all the other earthlings are adequately obedient. It must me a wild gene or something that makes her so resistant."

Can't see...what's this fog in my head...? Pain... Raquel dragged herself out of her thoughts and tried to open her eyes. There was a bright light overhead, and her vision swam as her eyes watered. She blinked several times and rubbed her eyes with one hand.

Finally regaining her sight, Raquel surveyed her surroundings. She was lying on a cot with a white sheet over her in what appeared to be a hospital. The scrapes and other small cuts on her arms were crudely bandaged, and she noted that she had a larger, more complex bandage wrapped around her leg where she'd been shot. Obviously, the drug she'd been infected with had had a small amount of anesthetic in it, so they probably had already removed the bullet. Her leg still hurt badly, though.

"What I wouldn't do for a painkiller right about now," she grumbled to herself. Flinging off the sheet, she swung her legs around so that she was in a sitting position. For a couple seconds, she held still as she waited for the sharp flash of pain in her leg to subside. Then, she carefully stood up, testing how much weight she could put on her injured leg, and how much she needed to rely on the other.

Suddenly, the door opened, and Raquel's head jerked up in surprise. A man flanked by two keepers came into the room. Steadying herself with a hand on the cot, she said nothing as he sized he up quickly before speaking.

"For someone so young, you sure cause a lot of trouble," he remarked. After having said that, he introduced himself. "I am Rimna, the judge for your session in the court. I thought I might get to know you a little before you're sentenced."

"How very thoughtful of you," Raquel replied, sarcasm dripping from her voice. "But there's not a lot to say; this isn't the first time I've been to the courts. I believe this is my..." She did a quick count in her head. "This will be my fourth time this year." Rimna seemed shocked.

"Fourth time?" He said incredulously. "What kind of a slave are you? Do you fancy yourself a revolutionist or something?"

"Actually, yes," she answered, a spark of defiance in her eyes.

Rimna sighed. "The jury will only keep on transferring you to crueler and crueler masters, trying to break you. I've read your work record; if you only stopped these ridiculous rebellions of yours, you could work your way up to an overseer rank. Wouldn't that be better than the level of a servant?"

"Higher rank, but I'll still be considered an inferior," she spat. He shrugged.

"Just plead guilty and don't argue; maybe the one who buys you from Taryl will treat you better," he said. "That's the only advice I have to give you." He waited for a moment, expecting a reply, but Raquel met his words with silence. "Come, you have to come now that you're awake."

"Can I have some painkiller before we go?" She questioned, the dull throb in her leg making her flinch every so often.

"You're not entitled to it," he replied.

"Of course not." Raquel forced herself to stand, and hobbled along after Rimna, flanked by the two keepers. They left the hospital and got into a transport vehicle, heading for the judgement court. Raquel said nothing to her captors, keeping a neutral look on her face as she considered her actions.

Not that I want to listen to these people, but maybe I should think through my plans a little more, she supposed. They came upon the judgement court and went inside.

Raquel didn't look at anyone in the court, ignoring the jeers of the seated congregation of somewhere around fifty people. She kept her head up and tried not to limp, though her leg felt as if it were on fire. Rimna went on to sit behind the pulpit while she was taken to the criminal box and shackled to the chair.

Don't these people have anything better to do? She thought angrily, finally taking the time to glance out at the audience. Most were masters, some with slaves. Maybe just to show their servants what happens when a slave steps out of line...or maybe one of them is actually to purchase me...

"This court will now come to order!" Rimna shouted, with a surprisingly loud voice. Everyone quieted down, and Raquel watched as Taryl made his way to the witness box. He looked as if he was pleased to be getting rid of her.

"Raquel, property of Taryl Kindsman, is to be auctioned off momentarily. But first, we will hear the reason so any potential buyers will know what to expect," Rimna said. He motioned for Taryl to speak.

"She is headstrong, insubordinate, and outright disrespectful to her superiors," he voiced to the congregation. "I suggest that if any of you buy her, don't take her lightly; she's very intelligent, strong, but lacks necessary subjection to her masters." Having said all that, Taryl sat, satisfied that he had accurately informed all of her condition.

"I object!" Raquel shouted. Overseers in the crowds and keepers nearby shrieked at her to be silent. Slaves weren't allowed to speak during trials, and she had infuriated them.

"Shut your mouth, slave!"

"Be silent!"

"Inferior rabble!"

"ORDER!" Rimna yelled, his voice slicing through all the others, silencing the protestors immediately. A swift hush filled the court.

"This is not a group conversation, and all will be quiet during the proceedings," he commanded, his tone suggesting that no argument be issued. Some still glared at Raquel, but didn't raise their voices against her.

"The accused is not to talk during this court session. Is that clear Raquel?" Rimna glanced over at her. She shook her head.

"If I can not even defend myself, why have me here at all?" She shot back.

"It is not your place to question the dealings of the Alliance..." He started to say, but she cut him off with a quick hand motion.

"The Alliance is a self-serving band of dictators who enslave entire worlds to their benefits," Raquel declared, enraging many of the spectators so that they rose to their feet in anger. "I only wish that the rest of earth could act as I do and oppose this fascist empire!" The nearest keeper hit her over the head, and she fell back into her chair, momentarily stunned.

"That defiant slave should be shot!" A cry came from the congregation, inciting more cries and shrieks of instant punishment. Shaking off her daze, Raquel felt her first trace of fear as she heard all the calls for her death or imprisonment.

Maybe I've gone too far this time... She thought grimly. Rimna held his hands up for silence, not even trying to speak over the tumultuous noise. After a few minutes, the court was quiet enough for him to address the congregation.

"Before any action is to be taken against the criminal, we must first hold the auction. Only if no one concedes to purchase this servant, then a sentence will be decided by the jury," he told them. He turned to Taryl, who stood.

"I am sure that you all perceive the defiance of this slave, so I warn you that only if you are sure you can handle her, don't buy her. I wish merely to get her off my hands." He glanced around the entire room before continuing. Raquel glared at him, and he averted his gaze from hers. "The bidding will start at two hundred currency slips. Any takers?" All was silent. No one seemed willing to take charge of her.

Please, oh please, I would rather be sold again than imprisoned, Raquel silently lamented. That way, I at least have a chance of escape, she added to herself.

Knowing that he would get rid of Raquel either way, Taryl still hoped that he might make a little profit out of it. He was slightly annoyed no one seemed to be willing to purchase her.

"Fine, if not for two hundred, what about one hundred fifty?" He inquired. He was satisfied to see two hands go up. One he recognized as Jannegist, who was notorious for being especially cruel to his slaves, while the other, Lori, was infamous for being particularly kind and soft-hearted to all who served under her.

"Bidding at one hundred fifty, and raised to one seventy," Taryl said. Neither hand dropped. He smiled; maybe he would get something out of this.

"One eighty," he called out.

"Taryl, stop this nonsense; I will buy her from you for one hundred ninety- five," interjected Lori.

"No, I want the opportunity to tame such a wild spirit; I'll give you two hundred and thirty," said Jannegist. He glanced over and Lori. "She'll only take advantage of your kindness."

"Maybe that is what will convince her of the error of her ways," replied Lori delicately. Addressing Taryl, she said, "I'll pay two fifty."

"Two seventy-five," countered Jannegist. Lori wavered a little, not sure that she was willing to pay so much for just a young girl slave. Raquel's gaze flicked back and forth from him to her, knowing that one of them would be her new master. She hoped desperately that Lori would take charge of her, but knew that it wasn't likely. Jannegist was a forcible man, and usually always got what he wanted.

When Lori didn't give an opposing amount, Taryl announced, "She's all yours, Jannegist. For two hundred seventy-five currency slips, though I do think I'm getting the better bargain."

"If no other wishes to place a sum, this slave will be put into Jannegist's custody, and the court will be adjourned," said Rimna. There were traces of conversations circling through the audience, but no one made an announcement. He nodded and concluded, "Court is adjourned. Jannegist, you pay Taryl the currency you owe him before taking charge of the criminal."

As the congregation left, several slave-owners jeered at Raquel as she sat, shackled, in the criminal box. Staring at them all defiantly, she ignored their words and concentrated on loosening the handcuffs. They cut into her wrists, and she was itching to get them off.

She watched as Jannegist counted out currency slips to Taryl. Rimna was heading towards her, but she busied herself observing the jury breaking up and exiting the court.

"Raquel, standard procedure is that I deliver you to Jannegist restrained, but I think you're too wounded to run away on me," he told her as he unlocked the handcuffs that tethered her to the chair.

Massaging her wrists and flexing her fingers to restore circulation, Raquel replied sardonically, "I'm forever in your debt."

Sighing at her obvious sarcasm, he brought her over to Jannegist, who was standing by Taryl.

"Thank you, Taryl, I will leave with my property now," said Jannegist in parting. He left at a swift pace, and Raquel tried desperately to keep up. She gave a single glance back, and thought she saw a small spark of respect in Rimna's eye.

No, it can't be that, she assured herself. Her leg was killing her, and Raquel was sure that she'd collapse at any minute.

As soon as they came upon Jannegist's transport vehicle, Raquel collapsed onto the backseat. Pulling herself into a sitting position, she gently felt her leg, which made her flinch. Jannegist sat in the front and ordered his chauffeur, another slave, to take him home. They rode in silence, and Raquel made use of her time planning on how she would escape.