Pass in Review
The vehicle deck was so silent you could hear a pin drop. If the lights were out, there would have been no way of telling that over two hundred Marines were standing there at attention. The sound of the Commodore’s boots echoed through the chamber along with the footfalls of Mr. Ayers and the clockwork canine at Maxby’s side. The group made their way to the reviewing stand deliberately. No sooner had the Commodore set foot on the platform than the music began. Maxby had always preferred the Æther Marine March over the naval march though he would never have mentioned the inclination.
Each squad passed in review with crisp heel beats pounding a perfect cadence. The spectacle reminded Maxby that marines were not individuals. Each and every one was a part of a single organism called the Corps. When the Marines were back in place, Maxby descended from the stand to review the troops. Accompanying the Commodore, Commander Blackpool followed two paces behind him. Anubis was to the Commodore’s right between Maxby and the marines he was inspecting. Unbeknown to any of the Marines, the Commodore had programmed his mechanological companion to scan each marine and compare it to the official marine regulations. Anubis would wag its tail if it detected any irregularity then it was up to the Commodore to find it. This inspection only yielded two wags, one for a smudge on a private’s glove and one for lubrication leaking from the Color Sergeant’s mechanological arm. Maxby was impressed with Anubis as this type of an infringement would not be listed in the marine regs. Maxby petted his dog to demonstrate his satisfaction.
The Commodore mounted the platform again and looked into the enthusiastic eyes of the ship’s troops. Maxby wondered how many of these Tommies would curse his name before it was over. He was about to lead them down a road that would besmirch those things that the marines held most dear, their reputation and pride. Hopefully it would only be temporary and the sweet taste of their redemption would wash away the bitterness of scorn.
“You, loyal and brave defenders of Britain, I salute you.” Maxby paused. “As you may have heard in the next thirty days, I will be asking much from each and every one of you. Your training will be intense and your shipboard duties will be mentally and emotionally demanding. I would not order this level of effort if I were not absolutely certain you could meet it.”
“On this ship, I am king, the crew are my subjects, and all of you are the king’s men. Your duties onboard are to enforce my will.” A second pause framed the silence. “I am aware of the division that exists between sailors and soldiers but make no mistake about your chain of command. You will serve me, not only by way of your Commander but directly. You would come to pity the marine who hesitated in following my direct order.”
“You are aware that your training will focus on boarding activities and intrusive tactics. It is my goal in the next thirty days to make you all Engineers. It is not my intention that you perform backup for the Dauntless engineering staff although it should benefit us in damage control. You will be studying engineering so when you do get aboard that enemy vessel you don’t have to spend your time capturing half the crew before the ship surrenders. Each and every one of you will be taught just what pipe to shoot at to disable life support, what junction to demolish to bring down the defensive screens, where to plant the bomb to breach the ship’s Core. Your engineering training should yield you the ability to disable a ships in a fraction of the time it would take other marines. Klinkon ships have self-destruction devices that you will need to disarm. Romlian cloaking devices needed to be disabled to prevent their escape. The reason you will all become expert engineers is that currently a boarding action result in an average of fifteen to forty percent casualties. Marines left in space, marines killed in their moments of victory by a dead-man’s switch, marines captured aboard fleeing ships, these are the reasons you will become engineers. I anticipate that you will have many opportunities to use these skills in combat and I want all of you to use them to their full potential.”
“My most regretful duty is writing your loved ones regarding your death. I would ask you to spare me this task by keeping you and yours alive. It would be easy if I could order you to stay alive because I know, as Royal Marines with your sense of duty, you would carry it out, but the enemy has other plans.” Maxby’s voice was sincere. The men could feel his honest concern. “That is all.”
The men were dismissed by section. Maxby stayed to watch. The color sergeant was the last in the column. Maxby called to him by name and gestured for him to approach. Maxby returned his salute and apologized for his earlier demerit due to the oil. The commodore knew it could not have been avoided.”
“The cross on your chest and the sash at your waist are notice that you have paid your dues, Sergeant Rook. I want you to do me a special favor.”
The sergeant waited attentively.
“Keep all those boys alive. I may not be able to order them to do it, but I know I can count on you.”
Without giving the sergeant time for a response, the commodore saluted and started for the lift. Sergeant Rook stood at attention and in a whisper said, “I’ll do my best.”