It has been two months since the survivors from Earth arrived at planet Genesis. The ruler of this divided society, High Chancellor Jerome Hayes, has been in office for less than a year. He is aware that the Naval class, oppressed and tormented for almost a century by the faithful class or Churcher class, are resentful and likely to rebel if given the opportunity. The cleric feels pressured by the need to appear strong and unyielding in the eyes of the Chancellery Council and the faithful. Hayes knows that the well-armed Crusader army and its superior numbers are an effective deterrent to rebellious members of the Navy and Navy Marine Corps. That said, the longer the survivors from Earth remain aboard the ship, UNS Divine Scepter, the more explosive relations between Churchers and Naval class can become.
On this day, Marine Colonel Roberto Gallo is meeting privately with Navy Marine Corps Commandant Gerald Kingsley, about an urgent problem among some Marines that is spreading.
“According to your comm message, Colonel, you believe there is an issue that requires my immediate attention. You have thirty minutes, before my meeting with ArcGeneral Hastings.”
Gallo is a powerfully-built man, just under six feet tall. His Italian ancestry blessed him with a swarthy complexion and brown eyes. He admires Kingsley, because, beneath his gruff manner, he genuinely cares about the men and women under his command.
“Thank you, sir,” Gallo begins as he sits before Kingsley’s desk and holds his hat under his left arm. “I believe we have a more serious problem than the usual morale issues among the rank and file, which we can’t ignore.”
Kingsley has enormous respect for Gallo. He is an excellent leader, who always has time to talk to the Marines under his command. Roberto is a straight-shooter who isn’t prone to exaggeration.
“Colonel, morale issues have been simmering aboard Scepter since the ship left Earth almost a century ago. The UN saddled us with overbearing Churchers that we’re powerless to oppose since they’re under the protection of the Crusaders. Is there something new?”
Gallo knows that Kingsley has no patience for long preambles, so he takes a deep breath and voices his concern. “Sir, we may be facing a rebellion against the Church, spearheaded by our people in the Corps.”
The Commandant stiffens in his chair as if someone had slapped him. “Marines are planning to rebel? Are they insane? How do you know this, Colonel?”
“Yes sir, my information is that there is a group of Marines who claim they’ll not tolerate any more abuse from Crusaders. The aftermath of that unfortunate school trip to the jungle last month triggered their decision.”
Gallo is referring to the disciplinary decision made by Bishop O’Cleary of the Canadian pod and publicly applauded by the High Chancellor, to make an example of the teacher, Giorgio Pinto. He was put on suspension, without pay, for the balance of the school semester. The bishop was incensed that the local school authorities did not punish Pinto at all for the incident. The Marine security detail for the students was rotated back to Scepter and interrogated by Crusader Shaspa Hendricks (a Crusader general) assigned to the tribunal which oversees discipline issues involving the Navy Marine Corps.
Shaspa Hendricks is notorious for his total disdain for the Naval class – and the Marines, in particular. Marines have been well-schooled, in previous decades, about the necessity of maintaining cool heads and silence when anyone in the Churcher class ridicules or abuses Navy staff or technical class civilians. An affront to a Churcher or Crusader is tantamount to blasphemy against the Gods – and that is punishable by death. During that interrogation, Hendricks stated that they should execute the irresponsible teacher by spacing. Throughout the journey from Earth, the primary method of execution was to force a convicted person into an airlock and expel him or her into space.
Kingsley grimaces then stands up and walks a few steps before he stops and turns to Gallo. “Yes, I recall… that young Sergeant Ames misspoke in anger, defending the teacher. Hendricks had him up on charges in his kangaroo court and then spaced him.”
“That wasn’t the worst of it, sir.”