The sky was dark grey with clouds rushing by dropping a fine scattering of snow. Nothing was accumulating on the ground but the wind, mixed with the snow, cut deep as Captain Thomas (Kip) Kaplan was escorted by two military police to the headquarters building of the 198th Communications Command. It was galactic universal date 2312102 (Old Calendar - January 2, 2312), and the verdict of his court-martial would be rendered today. Kip was in his mid-forties with a thick head of black hair, brown eyes and a compact physic that was nicely muscled. He filled out his uniform in a pleasant and comfortable way. Even slightly bent against the hard, cold snow he maintained his composure and military bearing. Kip was accused of the theft of confidential information pertaining to troop movements within the galaxy and selling that information to the Manchurian Space Group. The galaxy was on the brink of war and had been for more than two years which had both sides aligning their various outposts and colonies to prepare for the upcoming conflict. By passing confidential information, instead of classified and secret information, Kip had escaped a charge of treason. Still, the charges were serious enough for the Americas Coalition military to convene the court-martial and subsequent trial.
Kaplan had been stationed for two years at Dover military base in what had been the state of Delaware on earth before the Americas Coalition was formed. It was a very old post and for the past two hundred years had become what many described as the backwater of military installations. Even its proximity to New Manhattan couldn’t make it a desirable posting. Kip was transferred from the Zenobian refueling center where he had been in charge of all flight schedules and pilot postings but at Dover he had little to do put push papers around. He wasn’t happy and had tried for eighteen months to get a transfer. Now, it was a moot point.
There was no question he was guilty. His attorney offered very little in the way of any type of defense. He did point out the need for money and the strain Captain Kaplan was undergoing due to the build-up of forces within the galaxy and his uninteresting duties at Fort Dover. Kip slowly walked up the few stairs to the entry doors and walked inside. His attorney was standing waiting for him in the lobby outside the courtroom.
“Well, today’s the day. I wish you had given me more to work with. It’s been hard to mount any type of defense.” he said.
“I had my reasons and now, let’s find out what they have to say.” Kip said.
after a short delay the doors opened and they were ushered into the courtroom by Kip’s escorts. He walked forward to stand in front of a table behind which were seated five men. The chief juror was opening and setting before his place ballots from each of the other jurors. All said dismissal. The proceedings had all been vid recorded and Kip knew this session would also be recorded. He stood at attention with his attorney behind him and to the left.
“This court is open. Captain Kaplan this court has carefully considered your case and has reached its conclusions based solely on the evidence presented in open court while you were present. The court was then closed and by secret ballot, in which two thirds or more agreed, you were found guilty of all charges and specifications. Then by secret ballot, in which two thirds or more agreed, the court decided your punishment; which is you will be sentenced to dismissal from the Americas Coalition Armed Services and will forfeit all pay and allowances now due or to become due. Is there any further business before the court?”
“No sir.” replied the recording clerk.
“Do I hear a motion to adjourn?” said the chief juror.
“So moved.” said one of the jurors.
“A motion has been made and seconded. As there is no further business, this court is adjourned.”
Kip turned and, followed by his attorney, left the court room.
Unescorted, Kip walked back to the BOQ. The cold wind and light snow continued to beat his face and Kip’s lowered head told more about the decision just rendered than any amount of discussion could reveal. His head was still lowered as he entered the officer’s quarters and crossed the entry to the lounge. He nearly ran into Captain Wilson, who was blocking his path. The other officers turned away, walked across the room or continued to play a type of billiards.
“Is something on your mind?” Kaplan asked.
“There used to be a custom centuries ago in the British army when a man disgraced his uniform. It’s a tradition I would like to reintroduce.” he said. He reached up and tore the epaulets of rank from both shoulders of Kip’s uniform. Kip didn’t move until Wilson had walked away in disgust. Slowly Kip finished crossing the lounge on his way to his room. Once again his head was lowered and he was deep in thought.
He still wanted a career in the military but worried no one would give him a second chance. There was nowhere in the America’s Coalition he would be able to re-enlist so he would have to find a mercenary army or possibly join the Manchurian Space Group’s army. The mercenary choice, he realized, would probably be more profitable but, his recent contact with the Manchurian Space Group might offer him a more favorable commission. Kip still had contacts within the fleet and, as part of his separation agreement, he would be allowed to use military transport for the next 36 hours. He reached for his communicator and spoke the contact name. Within moments he was speaking to one of his few friends, Marvin Boling.
“Kip, how are you my friend? I’ve heard what you’ve been going through and although I can’t sanction what they say you did I’m here to help if I can.” Boling said.
“Thanks, Marv, I knew you would be just the person for me to contact right now. I need a favor.” Kip said.
“Name it, buddy, what do you need?” was Boling’s reply.
“Can you get me on the first fast transport to any planet with either a large mercenary stronghold or a Manchurian Space Group outpost? I’ll also need transportation up to Delhi 7.” Kip asked.
“Whoa, that’s an awful tall order. I’ll need some time.”
“That’s the one thing I don’t have. I need to get aboard something within thirty-six hours; that’s when I lose all travel privileges.” Kip explained.
“OK, give me a couple of hours. I’ll get back to you as soon as I set something up. Will you be traveling as Captain Kip Kaplan?” Boling asked.
“No. List me as just Mr. Thomas Kaplan. The clearances are on the travel voucher I have so there shouldn’t be a problem. Be as quick as you can. And Marvin, I really appreciate this. I won’t forget your help.” Kip said as he closed the circuit.
He knew Marvin had the connections and clout to get what was needed and Kip started to pack and begin to prepare for his upcoming journey.