FOR THE GOOD OF THE EMPIRE
Part Six of ten
"And finally, I need the answer to the greatest mystery," Wallek said. "Why did the ESS let this happen? While their primary duty is to prevent treason, are they not also charged to report inefficiency? If Axe Wielder's gunnery was the worst in the Northern Fleet, and the captain did not fix this with extra training, why didn't the ESS point this out and demand his relief?"
"Repair schedule from the base, Captain," Lieutenant Krealander said.
"Hm..." Commander Kaustin said, going over the schedule. "They've completed repairs to all primary systems and the principle backups, but have no plans to repair the tertiary or even the secondary backup systems. We are to prepare for space within two days."
"That confirms it," Lieutenant Koriyan said. "We've been patched up to go back to Klegarine. They cannot possibly send us back to combat without full repairs, so we're being sent somewhere else to complete them, and the only logical place is at the Klegarine repair station. We've had several battles, and acquitted ourselves well, and a visit home to inspire the citizens is clearly the intent. We'll all get a couple of months on the surface, time to see our families, as we deserve after what we've been through. Maybe they're planning a tour for us, to appear at public rallies in major cities and encourage more donations for the new cruiser?"
"That much seems obvious," Commander Kaustin said.
"I am somewhat concerned," ESS Lieutenant Kaltrop said, "that while it's obvious to us that we're going home, I haven't seen any preliminary movement orders. Normally, they'd have warned the captain of our movement and myself as well. Now, to be sure, given that we're being kept together as a crew and repairs are only to minimal levels, we have to be going home to Klegarine, but the lack of preliminary orders makes me nervous. For that matter, the lack of orders confirming Commander Kaustin as the new Captain is also worrying."
"You worry too much," Koriyan said. "It's wartime, and the documentation follows rather than leads the reality."
All of the officers settled in to eating their lunch, calmly discussing their plans for their homecoming.
"Captain, this is the bridge," came a voice on the intercom.
"What is it?" Kaustin replied after pressing the button.
"A group of officers is at the dock wanting admittance. Their passes are in order."
"Probably an engineering survey team," Koriyan said, "to confirm that we're ready to fly home."
"Let them in," Kaustin said. "And have their senior officer report to me here."
Everyone went back to their lunch, but two minutes later a pair of Walkurian Marines, bayonets fixed to their disruptor rifles, walked through the door and took post to either side. Before anyone could ask "What is this?", a Walkurian Marine captain strode through the door and announced: "On your feet, and salute your new captain!"
The officers in the room leapt to their feet by reflex, but before they could fully reach the rigid position of attention required by the Klingon manual of arms, they began to ask questions, all at once. "Who are you people?" "What new captain?" "Our captain is right here already!" and even "What are you people?"
"Silence!" ordered the Marine captain. "Stand to attention! Do not speak unless you are asked a question!" His hand stayed menacingly on his pistol, and both of his Marines shifted from the "Guard" position to a "tactical" one. The officers of the Axe Wielder managed to comply with the instructions. Commander Kaustin started to speak but the glowering eyes and long wild hair of the Marine captain silenced him before he could do so.
"Officers, are you?" Wallek said as he entered the room. "I am not impressed. Perhaps that will change, after I break your bad habits and get you trained." He reached for the communicator on his combat jacket. "Master Petty Officer, bring the crew on board. Every man is to report to his duty station at once and secure it. Marines are to secure the crew quarters. If anybody is on duty, leave him alone unless he argues, in which case lock him up in the brig.
"Communications, report to starbase control that I have taken command. No further communications are to leave this ship except by my order.
"Marine commander, secure all docking tubes. No one leaves the ship. No one comes on board unless they are part of the crew or have my permission.
"Now, which one of you 'gentlemen' is Kaustin?"
"I am," Kaustin replied with a tremor in his voice.
"Here are my orders," Wallek threw a data disk on the table. "I am your new captain. I am reporting aboard with a detachment of 70 replacements, including nine officers, twenty-one petty officers, and forty crewmen, plus myself. You will remain as executive officer until I say otherwise.
"Everyone else will continue doing their assigned duties until I change the assignments. Assignment changes will be made tomorrow and the ship will leave starbase for an extended combat patrol the day after.
"I understand that your original Captain was killed in your last battle. Your time to grieve for him is over. I am here, I will stay here, and he will not be returning. Nor will his relaxed standards and lazy training schedule.
"For now, every one of you is to get to his combat post. You will find some of my crew at those posts. They will expect you to brief them on the post and your duties. Everybody leave now, except for you, Kaustin. You stay here with me." Everyone filed out of the room except the two Marines, who remained at the door. Wallek dismissed them with a wave of his hand.
"If you have something to say to me," Wallek said, "say it, because when I start talking I don't want to be interrupted."
"I don't understand!" Kaustin said, his voice almost a squeal. "I'm supposed to be the captain, and we're supposed to be on our way to Klegarine for full repairs and a visit to inspire the citizens. This is to be our reward for doing well."
"Listen, puppy," Wallek said, his voice rasping with all the contempt he could muster, "for you must get a grip on an entirely new view of your delusional little world.
"This ship has not done well, not at all. This ship has never made a kill, never pursued a wounded target, never taken a risk, never pushed its orders to the limit, let alone beyond the limit, to make a kill. You do not deserve to go home covered in glory; you will not be sent home covered in shame. You will rise to the standard that the Empire expects of you, or you will die in the attempt.
"This ship has the lowest standard of gunnery in the fleet. This ship does the fewest combat drills while on patrol. There is a connection to be made there, and the combat drill schedule changes now. This ship will conduct more drills than any other until we meet minimum standards. There will be at least one drill during every watch."
"But that means we'll never get a full night's sleep!" Kaustin protested. "We cannot function that way. I presume that those on off-duty watches are exempt from drills?"
"All off duty watches end now. You have not earned them. Not one of your crew has earned them. And I told you not to interrupt me. That was your one mistake. Do not make another one while I am Captain. Am I clear?"
"Are we safe here?" Kaustin asked.
Bridge, Police E4I Bold Raven, 16 October Y177
"Found it!" the sensor operator reported.