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Interlude by Bill Fawcett

Articles of War

Article II

Every Flag Officer, Captain, Commander, or Officer commanding subjectto this Act who upon Signal of Battle, or on Sight of a Ship of an Enemywhich it may be his duty to engage, shall not,

(1) Use his utmost Exertion to bring his ship into Action;

(2) Or shall not during such an Action, in his own person and according to his Rank, encourage his officers and Men to fight courageously;

(3) Or shall surrender his Ship to the Enemy when capable of making a successful defence, or who in Time of Action shall improperly withdraw from the Fight, shall, if he has acted traitorously, suffer Death; if he acted from Cowardice shall suffer Death, or such other Punishment as is herein-after mentioned; if he has acted from Negligence, or through other Default; he shall be dismissed ... without Disgrace, or shall suffer such other Punishment as is herein-after mentioned.

Heroes are an asset. It is one of the ironies of war that the greatest heroes are often too valuable to risk in combat. A modern war needs heroes, live ones, who can spread the word to the taxpayers about the good work being done with their credits. Even more than atrocities, heroes inspire the civilians to produce, donate, and even enlist.

Roj and Minerva were heroes. They had survived in situations where they should have been destroyed. They had opened the way onto Target by destroying its protective net of robot satellites. Most importantly, they had blundered into the combined Family fleets and survived. Therefore they suffered the traditional fate of heroes. During their thirty-fifth omni interview in two weeks Roj began to giggle. Even more surprisingly Minerva, linked from orbit by a narrow tachyon circuit, actually began encouraging his mirth with a string of highly esoteric puns. Having handled heroes before, the Fleet propaganda experts knew that it was time to get them off the air and into some safe, isolated position.

In a moment of uncharacteristic shortsightedness, Minerva agreed to do a calculation for Roj. At the top speed that the functional, if almost obsolete, dreadnought they now flew could fly, the Fleet Academy on Port was exactly two months, four days, five hours flying time from the nearest point any Syndicate ship had ever been seen. Roj often quoted this figure after spending several hours numbing his frustration with ethanol. They were in about as safe a location as was possible.

Unfortunately, in a modern war no place is really safe.

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