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Chapter 1 - The Battle - Page_4

On reporting disconsolately for duty, the Captain had explained that the damage had been very severe and that the repairs had taken much longer than planned. Functionary was not the only person to have found the journey across space to Kontrol_36 onerous and while they had managed to press gang some persons from the space station and from amongst the refugees seeking the escape the turmoil of the war zone, they had had to await the arrival of trained men and officers and also spare parts which could not be manufactured locally. Unaware of the true emotions of Functionary, the Captain explained that he was lucky that the ship was delayed in its departure as he would not now have to cool his heals in the station awaiting its uncertain return.

After another week of refitting, the ship had left for the furtherest reaches of system space, there to join with a Service battle fleet engaging the Voracious. While physically large by the standards of many military vessels, The Protector did not have a particularly sizeable official complement of personnel and now, with the difficulties of obtaining replacements, there were actually only two hundred souls on board. Despite the gradual augmentation of his rank, Functionary felt that his current posting was one of the easier positions he had had during his career as an officer of the Service. The time of Functionary will filled with many tedious and annoying trifling incidents rather than with any testing demands upon his abilities of leadership and management. The source of most trouble on the ship came from those men and women pressed into service on the Ship. These individuals tended to have a deep resentment for what the Service had done to them, forcing them to stay in the war zone and removing them from their family and friends. The Service was not their career and they were cognisant that there was a significant chance that they would soon die. As a consequence, the men and women who had been pressed into service would often fail to co-operate willingly and, instead, had to be coerced into adhering to military standards of behaviour. But, more generally, for several weeks, life on board the warship was fairly uneventful and very monotonous. Two hundred souls crowded into a relatively small space, into a ship designed to make war and embodying few compromises to the needs and frivolities of day-to-day human existence. For the ranks, there was little personal space beyond a narrow bunk. There was perilously little entertainment or distraction. There was alcohol and also a range of illicit drugs, the existence of which, was largely ignored as long as usage did not get to out of hand and detrimentally impact upon the functioning of the ship. There were regular videocasts in the junior mess space, but there were only so many films one wished to see, no matter how violent and pornographic. So, Functionary and his small team  of marines had to control a crew which was generally bored and lacking in distraction and often full of resentment but devoid of incentives to behave and impress. Therefore, Functionary was kept reasonably busy running disciplinary tribunals, handing out a growing number of increasingly brutal punishments under the pressure of the Captain who cared for nothing but that his war machine ran at optimum efficiency.  The brig was alway full, but incarceration had limited impact on behaviour on a ship where many individuals were effectively suffering imprisonment on a daily basis. Appreciating this dilemma, the Captain reviewed the files of those individuals about to come before the tribunal and named a few of the persons, who had the misfortune of being less immediately necessary to the fighting capacity of the ship, as deserving of the death penalty. After the apparent rigour of a tribunal hearing which considered the specifics of their offence, these individuals were so condemned. The shock and horror on the faces of these individuals at the sudden ramping-up of the ship’s disciplinary code was to remain in the visual memory of Functionary, for long after the hearing. Allowing several days for a full awareness of these judgements to spread amongst the  crew, these individuals were bustled along the corridors by a deliberately roundabout and abruptly bundled into an airlock. After the air was quickly sucked from the air lock, the external door was opened. The sorry occupants of the airlock were flushed-out into outer space as though so much effluence. It was not so much an execution as the ship throwing out its garbage. The Captain insisted that the whole process, from trial to the individuals being dispatched, was broadcast across the ship’s network and inescapably shown on every available video screen. While the decision were formally veiled in military law and judicial process, everyone received the message that any misconduct might receive a very brutal response. In a war zone, those in command could do what they wanted.

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