“As I said, after reviewing all available data on the planet upon which I had landed, both the flight code and common sense told me to cloak my vessel and ensure its undetection by the local population. I did so. With a list of the materials needed to enact a repair of my vessel, I headed out into the city. That was the last I saw of my ship for a very long time. Fortunately a common biology allowed me to – ” This time the interruption was hardly surprising.
“Blasphemy! The defendant is aware that to equate equality with lower forms of life is an affront to Our Lady On High, praised be Her Name, and that such statements are themselves a punishable offense! I hold you guilty of Blasphemy and in Contempt of this Court! How do you plead?”
The defendant smiled briefly, which only served to infuriate the court even more.
“I plead not guilty, Your Honors. I – ”
“Not guilty?!” The court was outraged. Again, the judge to his left put a hand on his arm and whispered. The court sat fuming. There was a moment of silence before the defendant continued speaking.
“Yes. Not guilty. I was speaking commonly, not religiously. I meant only that, in the roughest form, we and the beings of this planet are roughly analogous. That is all. I would never presume to profane the Name of Our Lady On High, praised be Her Name. The court is mistaken.”
The court couldn’t bring himself to speak, so he motioned for the defendant to continue.
“A similar form allowed me to pass among the local population undetected, and after securing temporary lodging, I was quickly able to locate the parts I needed to repair my ship. Doing so only took a few days, and I assembled the replacement components in my place of lodging. I then undertook to return to my ship, effect a repair, and leave the planet, but that was when I discovered that my ship locator beacon had not been activated and that I no longer had any memory of the location of my ship. The – ”
The court had recovered from his apocalyptic anger, and was now deliciously sardonic.
“How could such a highly commended, and decorated, officer of the High Order not remember such a simple thing as where he parked his ship? Are you pleading lowered intelligence? Given your current state and crime, the court would understand and perhaps be lenient in its sentencing.”
“Does the court remember what it had for breakfast yesterday?”
“How is that relevant? You are treading close to being held in contempt again. This court will only be so lenient with your manner.”
“Well, one would certainly hope that this court would be able to remember such a simple thing was what it consumed for breakfast one day prior, otherwise, one would be forgiven for surmising that this court is unfit for prosecution, and any current case would be in danger of being thrown out as a miscarriage of justice and any defendants would be released immediately with the courts deepest apologies, or so it states in the Code of Judiciary Matters, unless this officer of the High Order is mistaken.”
“The defendant is mistaken. This court is not on trial for its dietary habits, and your grandstanding does not distract this court from your charge, or your increasing evidence of guilt. The defendant will explain his memory loss.”
“The city in which I had landed was laid out in a grid, all streets, buildings, and neighborhoods being identical and symmetrical. I wandered for days, searching every dark alley and side street for my vehicle, hoping if nothing else to spot a visual anomaly that would indicate a cloaked ship, but I saw none. With the exception of one dark alley in a more decrepit part of town, I explored everything. I found nothing. I can give this court no satisfactory answer as I have none to give myself. The ship appeared to have literally, as well as visually, vanished.”
“And if that were all that happened then this court would have no dispute with you. However, your testimony upon arrest reveals that upon your discovery that you could not discover the whereabouts of your ship, you proceeded to integrate into the local population, even to enter into a physical union with a female, to procreate, and to renounce your solemn vows to the High Order of the Most Righteous Sect of Her Lady On High, praised be Her Name, in favor of pursuing your new adopted life. Do you deny this testimony?”
“I cannot deny that testimony which I have given.”
“Then how do you justify your existence? You have not answered the court’s inquiry! How do you account for your self? You stand before us an abomination and accused of the highest crimes against Our Lady On High, praised be Her Name, and yet you have accused yourself and offered no defense!”
“I am my own justification, your honor.”
“You are? What do you mean? Explain yourself, Officer!”
“Do remember, your honor, that according to the sacred texts we ourselves emerged from that planet millennia ago. Our Lady On High led us into the stars, into the galaxy, and into our current destiny by her grace and mercy and made us to flourish. However, according to the sacred texts, there was a remnant that rebelled against Our Lady On High, praised be Her Name, and that chose to remain on our birth world. The sacred texts say no more of them, and we have chosen to forget them. But in these past fifty years I have grown from a young, brash officer of the High Order into a seasoned, experienced old man of Philadelphia. In the old tongue, that word means ‘city of brotherly love’ and those creatures that I encountered there I found to be not only my distant cousins, but also my brothers, and I grew to love them.” The court was pounding his gavel and yelling about blasphemy, but the defendant ignored him and spoke louder. “I discovered that my brothers loved Our Lady On High, praised be Her Name, though they called her by different names and worshipped her in different ways. They are not unlike us, and we are not unlike them. Therefore, as I am like them, so to we are like them, but not merely analogous, but directly related, both biologically and religiously. The saddest day in my life was when I chased my second child down a dark alley, fearing for her safety, and tripped on the invisible landing strut of my parked ship. I caught her shortly, and returned to the spot, and felt for the first time in fifty years the contours and curves of my vessel. Responding to my touch, the vessel powered on, I was transported inside, and on autopilot it returned here to the New Homeworld, drawn, no doubt, by the warrants for my arrest. I’ve stood here and offered testimony for my crimes – my only real crime being a lapse of memory, but all I can remember is the look on my daughter’s face as I vanished before her, and I am undone. I would ask this court: remember your own sons, your own daughters, your own faith, as you decide my fate. For your offspring are no different than my own beautiful daughter.”
The court continued to pound his gavel and shout and it took him a few moments to realize that the room had fallen silent, except for his tantrum. He regained his composure and asked,
“Does the defendant rest his case?”
Silas just stood, silent, with tears dampening his face.
“The court will now deliberate your sentence.”
The court and his fellow judges conferred among themselves in silence for a few moments. It became clear that the court was at odds with the rest of the jury, but he had no choice but to comply to the consensus. He stood for the official proclamation.
“The court finds that the accused, 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 willfully and knowingly violate his Holy Vows and profane the Name of Our Lady On High, praised be Her Name, and by willfully choosing to remain in outright rebellion for fifty years, did make a mockery of his office and the entire Glorious Celestial Realm thereby. It is the determination of this court that the defendant is guilty as charged and is sentenced to death according to the Holy Law. This death will be carried out by the neglect and destitution of exile to the Outer Explored Territories, effective immediately. May Our Lady On High, praised be Her Name, have mercy on your soul.”
The gavel sounded, loud in the dark quiet.
It took Silas a moment to realize that She did, in fact, have mercy. The court was exiling him to his home, and his family, which he had thought was lost to him forever. He smiled through his drying tears as he was taken into custody by two officers of the court. They marched him past the judicial bench, where as he passed the court, he heard a faint whisper,
“I do remember.”