“How do you justify your existence? Nay, do not answer straight away. I will clarify for those lower beings in the room:…” This was said with just a hint of sniggardly derision. “How do you, an officer of the law in the High Order of the Most Righteous Sect of Her Lady On High, praised be Her Name, justify your disgusting existence?”
The defendant swallowed hard. The light was too harsh for his eyes, unused as they had become to such pure and undefiled photonic assault. The darkness was too dark; he could not penetrate it. In the cone of brilliant white light, faced with the mere silhouette of the judges’ panel and that loud, booming voice, he felt utterly alone and naked. This was, of course, the purpose of the overly dramatic and mostly theatrical lighting.
The defendant cleared his throat, an awkward and uncouth noise in the quiet of the patiently waiting court room.
“I forgot where I parked, Your Honors.”
There was silence. The assembled judges, twelve of them from around the Glorious Celestial Realm, were shocked that this simple statement could be the defendant’s sole defense. Most of them thought him definitely insane, both for not hiring an attorney, and second, for daring such an absurd defense.
“The court will indulge your obvious and momentary insanity. The defendant will be allowed a single re-statement of his defense, but I warn, do not tread lightly on the leniency or the patience of this court. Your charges are neither few nor inconsequential.”
“I understand, Your Honors. I will restate my defense.”
The defendant stood up even straighter than before, and with a clear and ringing voice that filled the court room, stated,
“I, Second Lieutenant Silas Harrious of the High Order of the Most Righteous Sect of Her Lady On High, praised be Her Name, did, on the fourth of the Most Holy Month Belarious, utterly and completely forget where I parked my official vehicle: the planet upon which it was parked, and the population therewith being deemed hostile and unfamiliar, it was summarily rendered invisible in all known light spectrums and was, as a result, utterly devoid of the possibility of being thereafter located except through precise memory, upon which time said memory utterly failed me.”
The silence was even more shocked than before. In couching his defense in the language of the court, the defendant was stating as emphatically as possible his utter lack of insanity, despite his clearly absurd defense. The court was in no mood for games, but such a statement would not be enough to satisfy those that would inevitably review this court case. An explanation would be expected, indeed, by all the law and precedent of the land it was demanded, and that, the court supposed, was why the defendant decided to pursue such a maddening defense. The court endeavored to keep the rising anger and frustration out of his voice, and almost completely failed.
“The defendant will provide this court with a full explanation of your defense in as timely a manner as possible. Do not waste our time or good graces, else it will go even much more harshly in your sentencing. Does the court make itself clear?”
“Perfectly clear, Your Honors.”
“Then proceed.” And Silas Harrious did so.
“In the course of my duties, on this particular occasion I was pursuing the most nefarious heretic Paulus Klautus through the Outer Explored Territories, we both emerged from hyperspace in a backwater system, barely charted and explored, which possessed only one planet known to be inhabited. Our vessels had emerged on the outer edges of this system, yet my pursuit gradually wound through the outer planets, through an intermediary field of asteroids, and we closely approached the inhabited planet. It was at this time that an undetected solar flare caught us both unaware was we emerged from behind that planet’s sole moon. Klautus’ ship was completely destroyed -”
“Can you provide proof of that to this court?”
“In addition to my own personal testimony as an officer of the High Order, my ship’s log, which remains intact, includes a visual and sensory record of the event.”
“Very well. Proceed.”
“I, myself, had just enough time and wherewithal to raise my ship’s solar shields in the wake of Klautus’ destruction and avoided a similar fate. As it was, the turbulence from the flare served to knock me in to a deteriorating orbit around the inhabited world. I had only the barest control over my vessel and it seemed necessary to set down for repairs before attempting to break the gravity hold. My onboard diagnostic system, as well as my own intuition, told me that breaking orbit may have been possible, but there existed a significant chance of catastrophic failure should I attempt to do so.” Here the defendant was interrupted again.
“Most officers of the High Order would find death a more worthy fate than defilement. Your thinking represents an aberration. Do you wish to enter a plea of insanity? The court will be lenient.”
“Is it insanity, Your Honors, to cling to life and the hope of continued service to Our Lady On High, praised be Her Name?”
Caught in his own game, the court deigned not to reply directly, choosing instead to merely state,
“I found a sparsely populated and small city in which to land, figuring that I might need to manufacture replacement parts from local material, and proceeded to do so under the cover of night. As I have stated, I forget exactly where that was, but as protocol and my own caution dictated, it was no doubt somewhere discreet.” Again, an interruption.
“But your presence in this courtroom, and your therefore obvious escape precludes your remembrance of your parking location. Will you not reveal it straightway?”
“I will not, Your Honors – ”
“I remind you that you are under oath, both as a defendant and witness in this court and as an officer of the High Order. You will tell this court the truth!” His righteous and personal outrage was evident.
“I am aware of my oath, Your Honors. I will most certainly tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me, Our Lady On High, praised be Her Name. It remains, however, my prerogative to tell the truth in such manner as I deem appropriate. My defense rests upon the fact of my forgetting and my subsequent remembrance, and should I reveal the latter before the former, it would color my defense in a manner which would erroneously indicate my guilt, and in so doing I would possibly incriminate myself further in the eyes of the court. I have rights, Your Honors.”
The court was about to answer, but the judge seated beside him covered their shared microphone and whispered briefly to him. Following the exchange, the court was not pleased, but was cowed.
“The point is conceded. The witness has rights. But the truth will be known.”
“Of course, Your Honors. In due time.”
“After completing a safe landing of my spacecraft, I secured the vehicle as per the flight code, and after reviewing the collected and available data on the planet on which I was now a refugee – ” The court, it seemed, could not help but interrupt whenever possible.
“Is the defendant wishing to claim Refugee Status and enter a plea of guilty under the Uniform Code of Refugees?”
“No, Your Honors. I used the word descriptively, not lawfully.”
“The court will remind you to exercise caution throughout your testimony to avoid further confusion.” The court cut off the defendant’s polite reply with a curt,