Chapter 5
Kangaroo Court, Part III
Camp Beria, Phobos, Martian Sphere
Date: Tue 14 Apr 123
Time: UST 0508

Matt woke up with a start to the sound of the guards banging on the door to his cell.
"No sleeping!"
It was a wonder he had not gone delirious after all this time. How much sleep had he gotten since he was first apprehended? He had no idea.
He mostly just ignored the guards as best he could, but that did not work whenever they actually went into his cell. This was one of those times.
The guard kicked the wall just above Matt's head.
"Get up!"
Matt did not feel terribly inclined to respond with much of a sense of urgency. This did not amuse the guard much.
"On your feet, goddammit!"
He grabbed Matt by the collar and pulled him up. Though he briefly entertained the thought of going boneless just to make the guard's life a little more difficult in an act of petty spite, Matt thought better of it. Another guard stepped in carrying an Air Force dress uniform. It was a colonel's uniform. It was for him.
"Get dressed, Hero!"

* * *

Date: Tue 14 Apr 123
Time: UST 1024

Eight of the nine were lined up, standing at attention. Gunnery Sergeant Grisson was excluded due to the heightened threat she represented. For the past hour and a half, General Ryczek read out the findings against them. Except for a handful of minor charges from the general article, they were found guilty of every alleged violation imputed to them. At the end of each list was the same sentence: dismissal from service and life imprisonment. Technically, they would officially remain in service until their deaths in order to remain in military custody but stripped of all rank and honors.
Speaking of which, the older ones among them knew what was coming next. Cashiering--dismissal with ignominy--was a time-honored military tradition to shame those who dishonor the service, the uniform and the nation. It was revived by Defense Minister Jafaari back in the early years of the war to punish military offenders more dramatically.
The uniforms they were wearing had been treated beforehand to make the process easier. A stern-looking Marine private was selected for the task. Back in the old days, it was the CO or some other high-ranking officer who performed the ceremony, but Minister Jafaari thought it would be more degrading if a junior enlisted man did the honors, especially if the one being cashiered was an officer.
The private went down the line in order of rank, starting with Specialist O'Connor. First he snatched the beret off her head and threw it to the ground. Then he tore the epaulettes off her shoulders. He ripped off her combat patch, then her unit patch, her rank insignia, and her deployment stripes. He then worked his way in, starting at the branch insignia at her neck. Then he yanked off her ribbons and badges and proceeded to pluck each and every button off her jacket. He even went as far as to take her belt and scuff up the shine of her dress shoes with his foot. He capped it all off by spitting on the pile on the floor.
To the young Specialist's credit, she remained at attention the whole time, but tears streamed unbidden down her cheeks and she had to bite down on her quivering lip to keep from crying out. It was all part of the game, to get the disgraced servicemember to break during the ceremony. For most, it was a matter of pride, to maintain what little dignity they had left. The system did not put all its faith in the honor of the dishonored, though. There were, of course, consequences for those who no longer saw any reason to maintain military bearing, as Sergeant Grisson demonstrated for the group.
He stayed perfectly still until the private spat on the ground. In the moment the private lowered his head to spit, Sergeant Grisson snorted loudly and spat a large phlegmy glob right on the top of the private's service cap. The private did not rise to the provocation, simply straightening himself up while three guards rushed at Sergeant Grisson and jabbed him with stun guns. They did not break contact right away either, flooding him with electricity while he writhed on the floor screaming. When they did stop shocking him, they did not give him any time to recover, immediately hoisting him up to his feet.
"Get your ass up!" one of the guards shouted.
As his legs started to go wobbly, the guard D growled, "Do not even think about fallin' down, null. You stand on your own two goddamn feet or we'll motivate you with another bite from Ol' Sparky here."
Somehow, in spite of the extended shock, Sergeant Grisson managed to stay on his feet. The term D used for him, 'null', reflected their new status. Stripped of all rank and status, their new designation on the records was '0'. They had nothing. They were nothing.
General Ryczek said, "Let that be a lesson to you. You've sacrificed all honor. The least you can do is show some dignity. And if you can't even do that, know that a report of your behavior here will be forwarded to your place of detention."
There were no further incidents as the private continue to work his way down the line. Once he was finished, the nine of them continued to stand at attention, their uniforms reduced to stripped-down ruins.
"Take a good look at yourselves," General Ryczek said. "You have nothing. You are nothing. Bailiff, get these nulls out of my sight."
The bailiff and guards then led the convicted out of the courtroom. The end of the tribunal brought no relief, though, for all the torment they endured over the course of their detention would seem like a mercy compared to what awaited them.