Rolando's Dilemma

Teniente Alferez Hidalgo Rolando Hernandez found his bunk space in the officer’s quarters about the Arbites Strike Frigate Judicium Pugnatus. He was sharing this space with six other officers of similar rank, but they were all part of the Adeptus Arbites. He nodded at the two who were already in their bunks reading the latest newsfeeds on the dataslates set into the bunk above them.

Rolando found that he had been assigned a top bunk, the one without a monitor or datafeed. He placed his copy of the docket in the file holder next to the head of the bunk, and then removed his prisoner overalls. He grimaced as he stowed his gear in the locker under the mattress. He then put on his duty uniform, making sure that it was in order, reciting the Litany of Uniform Code Adherence as he did so.

The two Tenientes in the bunks smiled and nodded at that, but said nothing.

Rolando picked up his docket and with a nod to the other two, left for the ship’s librarium. As made his way along the passageway, he considered his options. ‘I can work very hard at hanging myself, I’m good at that,’ he thought, ‘or I can just work hard at getting me accused of desecrating an Imperial Icon and just be flogged.’

The former didn’t thrill him, and the latter was equally bad. He was to be his own Wrath. How could he defend himself at the same time proving himself to be guilty of all charges against him? ‘They say that a man who defends himself has a fool for a client,’ he thought, ‘but what about a man who must prosecute himself?’

He entered the librarium, a vast, vaulted cathedral like structure far larger and more imposing than he had expected for a frigate, found an empty data terminal, sat down and began a search. He wasn’t very good with machine spirits, he had people to do this for him back on Sepheris Secundus. Ah Icenholm… a brisk winter wind, clear skies, and his troop by his side as they sought out saboteurs and anarchists. Was pater still alive? He invoked a minor spirit of inquiry and found Baron Hernandez still among the living, now serving as the queen’s head of the army.

He felt a chill pass through him. Father is not going to approve his flagrant spending at the pleasure domes. Not at all. Maybe successfully prosecuting himself would be advisable.

After several searches, mostly of topics regarding apostasy, blasphemy and desecrating a holy icon, he reconsidered facing his father’s wrath. What was he going to do!

Then his com unit buzzed and he answered it quietly, “Teniente Hernandez, how may I serve you?”

“Teniente, you can march yourself down to the Apothecarium for your appointment,” said a gruff voice over the com, “that’s how you can serve me!”

Rolando checked the time and mentaly swore at himself, “I am sorry sir, I’ll be there in a few minutes.” He was late for his physical therapy session. He signed off the terminal, gathered up his papers and information and headed for the Apothecarium.

He entered the room and was directed to a gizzled older man in a Naval medicae's uniform. “Teniente Hernandez, you’re late,” the man said. “I’m Doctor Smith, I’ll be working on you to help bring you back to fighting fit and trim. Go to bay 5 and strip and then lie down on the table. Recite the litany of duty and then repeat the prayer for relief of torment. I’ll be in there in a minute.”

“Yes sir!” Rolando replied and entered indicated bay. He disrobed and hung his duty uniform on the provided hangers and then put on the skintight briefs made out a paper-like fabric. He laid down on the table, recited the litanies, and waited.

Dr. Smith walked in pulling on diagnostician gloves and connecting them to the med dataport in the bay. Running his hands over Rolando’s chest, he remarked, “Took a beating, didn’t you. Lots of subcutaneous damage, we’ll have to use an E-field on that to heal them. What did you fight? A food processor?”

“Just about sir,” said Hernandez, “it was a man using xenotech weapons.”

“Nasty…, OK, roll over and let me check your backside.”

Hernandez nodded an rolled over on to his stomach. Dr. Smith almost gasped.

“By the Emperor! Boy, when were you flogged?” He was looked at Hernandez’s scarred back. There were a crisscross of scars and fresh welts on the Teniente’s back. Then, narrowing his eyes, he asked, “Son, are you self-flagellator?”

Hernandez looked up, nodded and said “Yes sir. It’s how I make obeisance for my sins against His Most Holy Emperor. I flagellate myself about twenty to thirty times each night before I sleep.”

“My God, they have you programmed don’t they?” Dr. Smith said under his breath.

“What was that sir?” asked Hernandez.

“I’ll have to see if you’ve done any permanent damage to yourself with this nonsense. This is a direct order Teniente Hernandez, you are not to flagellate yourself until I can give you a clean bill of health.”

“But sir, how shall I cleanse myself of sin?”

Dr. Smith gave him a sideways look and said, “With normal prayers son, like everyone else.”

“But I have sinned so deeply…”

“Groxshit. According to your charts you’re the son of rich noble, who’s only mistake was to say what he thought about his ruler and got punished way to hard in my opinion. Your only 30 non-cryo years old, you ain’t had the time for big sins. Or have you?”

Hernandez rolled to his side and looked at the doctor. “In investigating the illegal operations at Ysai Ydumi, I had to perform a blasphemous act and desecrated a Holy Aquila.”

“And?” asked Dr Smith.

“And isn’t that enough to make me guilty of apostasy, blasphemy, and desecrating an holy icon?”

Dr. Smith sat down and folded his arms. “Son, did you stop believing in our most holy God-Emperor. Don’t bother to answer, your back says no, you didn’t. So that’s a no to apostasy right there. You never stopped believing. Did you take the emperor’s name in vain?”

Hernandez rolled to a sitting position. “No, I didn’t. In fact I evoked him to give me strength when I stepped on the Aquila, desecrating it.”

Dr. Smith rubbed his eyes. “You evoked the Emperor… My dear boy, you’re not guilty of blasphemy. Finally, did you check the bird? Did you look for a holy seal of the emperor on it?”

Hernandez shook his head, “No, I didn’t not have the opportunity to do so. I was trying to ingratiate myself among the conspirators.”

“Was it recovered?” the doctor asked.

Rolando thought for a moment and said, “I do not know. I’ll have to find out.”

“Well, if it isn’t one, then all you did was step on a gilded eagle statue and you’re not guilty of anything. If it is, you have a huge set of mitigating circumstances I’d wager to clear your name. At worst, you’re going to get 50 more scars on your back to join couple of hundred already there. I’d say go see your Mercy and talk to them about this defense. Hopefully your Wrath won’t know about it.”

Rolando closed his eyes and laughed. “Thank you sir.”

“Don’t thank me yet, you going to spend two hours in the machina apothecaria…”

Two hours later, tired and sore everywhere on and in his body, Hernandez made his way down the passageway and stopped at a different officer’s cabin. This one was less packed, only four officers bunked here. He looked inside, saw a figure sitting on the edge of a lower bunk and said “Commissar Jamadar?…”

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