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Chapter 1 - The Battle - Page_5

After the executions, the work of Functionary became much easier. However, it was also the case that the vessel quickly joined the battle fleet to which they were assigned and entered an area of space where the prospect of hostilities was ever present. Daily drills and preparation for hostilities increasingly filled the time of the crew and left considerably less temporal space to trouble resulting from the idleness of hands and minds. At same time, the imminence of mortal danger provided a immediate incentive to attend to the processes of fighting and survival, even for those otherwise pressed into service and uninterested in supporting the war machine of which they were now an inescapable part. The interests of the individual and of the ship became inseparable.

Having reached the outskirts of immediate zone of hostilities, the senior officers of the ship were called to a briefing of the entire battle fleet in the Captain’s Day Room. The Captain sat at the head of the table with the small team of senior officers compressed tightly around the small conference table. More to fill time than to fulfil any other real purpose, the Captain explained what he knew of the hostilities and of the immediate operational future of The Protector. Functionary sensed that the Captain was actually privy to little new information which had not already been widely published across the videocaster network.  Then the whole team averted its gaze to the large videoscreen on one of the walls as it flickered into life. After a momentary graphic indicating that the screen was displaying a broadcast using the Secure System-wide Service Military Network (the SSSMN) and that it was an offence to view the broadcast unless one was authorised to do so, the head of a senior officer on the Flag Ship appeared to introduce the session, explain its structure and introduce the Fleet Admiral who appeared next. The Admiral talked in generalities, explaining the history of the conflict and preaching the importance of resisting the Voracious. Like the Captain before him, he related little information which was new or, at least, that was not obvious. But after the Admiral, the session shifted towards the important details of the campaign, as a series of officers from the Flag ship took over to explain in turn; where the next battle was likely to take place; the numeric strength of the Voracious; the nature of their ships and military technologies; and then, of most immediate interest, the roles that individual vessels or groups of vessels would fulfil in the forthcoming engagements.

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