Chapter 7
The Icebox
Location:
Camp DeBoni, Pluto, Plutonian Sphere
Date: Mon 20 Apr 123
Time: UST 0512

"On your feet!" the senior guard barked. Once all the prisoners were on their feet, he shouted, "Face front!"
The columns did a left face or right face, whichever they had to do to comply with the order. The senior guard then gestured to the far right column.
"From my left, single file! For-ward march! Quick-like, quick-like!"
Not all the prisoners were military and the civilians had trouble keeping up. They'd stumble, start to move early, move too slowly, etc. The others in their file would grumble and curse at them. The guards would shout. A couple who screwed up too much were yanked out of line from some extra special treatment. The rest of them kept on moving.
They were marched into the processing center, where they were divided into four files. What followed was the gauntlet that is prisoner inprocessing at a federal detention facility. First they were all stripped by the guards. Under normal circumstances, the prisoners would do it themselves, but to avoid any outbreaks of hostility, the chains were kept on. The jumpsuits they wore were designed to break apart, so all it took was a few quick tugs.
They did not bother to separate the males from the females either. At least during inprocessing, the difference was not recognized. Actually, that was far from true. Guards making lewd remarks certainly could tell one from the other. In practically all other circumstances, law enforcement officers were not supposed to handle people of the opposite sex, but here there were male and female guards mixed without regard to the prisoners they were handling. The idea was to embarrass and degrade the prisoners and it was rather effective.
After being stripped, they got the clippers. For the military prisoners, it was a reminder of their induction into the military. Those same cheap electric clippers without the guards on them. That same rough treatment as they hastily raked the clippers over their heads. Only this time it did not stop there. Apparently the protocol was to shave all body hair. It was particularly hard on the more hirsute males, but the indelicate treatment was a painful experience for one and all that left plenty of nicks and cuts to bleed out as they continued down the line.
The guards got out of the way for the next phase. High-pressure jets of soapy water blasted them from all directions, followed by another blast to rinse them off and then the gust of industrial fans to dry them, at least partially, which was not much help. The processing center was already colder than the average warship and the water near freezing. It was little wonder the facility was nicknamed the Icebox.
The four files of prisoners then had to go through their medical exam and cavity search. They were handled roughly by foul-mouthed medics making disparaging comments while they checked them over like livestock. Those who actually admitted to any health conditions when asked only got more abuse heaped on them. The smart ones kept quiet. This was just another step in the humiliation conga. They had access to everyone's biometrics and could scan for any unlikely contraband without manual cavity searches, but that was beside the point.
The next station was a neat row of four chairs. The prisoners from each file went one at a time. They were strapped tightly into the chair so they could not move. Three automated needle guns immediately went to work etching ID tattoos on the inside of the left forearm, the back of the right hand and the back of the neck. The redundancy of them, the fact that they were used at all were entirely unnecessary, but as with just about everything else, the goal of the inprocessing was not about practicality. It was about completing a transformation from whatever the prisoners were on the outside into convicts.
The tattoos were the last thing before the prisoners were dressed again. The jumpsuits were color-coded to readily indicate the danger posed by each and every prisoner. Khaki was for prisoners who had not demonstrated any hostility. Orange indicated a hostile and yellow an even more dangerous sort of hostile. White was reserved for prisoners that were not only dangerously hostile but also mentally unstable.
The color code was in many ways self-defeating. Suspects that expected to be imprisoned would sometimes put up a fight just to gain the perceived safety of hostile status. However, hostiles would often be targeted by desperate prisoners eager to prove themselves. It created a savage culture, or at least it added another layer of savagery.
Once all the prisoners were dressed, they were marched into an assembly area and put into formation. The assembly area was overlooked by a balcony. There waiting for them was a bald, thickset, vicious-looking man flanked by two burly guards. The bald man was holding a book, an actual leather-bound paper book, and read from it in a loud voice.
"'I am the way into the city of woe. I am the way to a forsaken people. I am the way into eternal sorrow. Sacred justice moved my architect. I was raised here by divine omnipotence, primordial love and ultimate intellect. Only those elements time cannot wear were made before me, and beyond time I stand. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.'"
He snapped the book shut, the sound echoing through the barren chamber. He handed the book to one of the guards and then gripped the rail of the balcony with both hands as he surveyed the prisoners gathered before him.
"Welcome to the Earth Union Detention Barracks at Pluto," he said. "I am the commander of this facility, Major General Hiram Ulysses Watts. Hold the questions, comments, concerns, bitching and bellyaching. You will not speak unless spoken to, and when I speak to you, I expect the first and last words out of your filthy, stinking holes to be 'sir'.
"I hope you liked my introduction. Those of you who made it out of high school should recognize it. Little do the weakbody college kids realize that Mr. Alighieri was talking about this facility. This is the city of woe, you are a forsaken people, you will know nothing but eternal sorrow, and if you were entertaining even the slightest glimmer of hope, you'd do well to drop it.
"This facility was designed for the most wretched scum to tarnish the good name of the Union. Civilian scum I can stomach, but those of you who are military, you are without a doubt the most wretched pieces of shit to ever suck air. You are a shame to the uniform, to the service, to your comrades, to your friends and family, and most importantly, you are a shame to the Union.
"It is my job to see that you never forget that shame. And while you will never be allowed to forget your shame, the Union has forgotten about you. You no longer exist. You no longer enjoy the rights and privileges of a Union citizen. You aren't even fucking human. You are not people. You do not have names. You are numbers.
"You will obey any and all orders from me and the guards of this facility. If you fail to do this, you will be in a world of shit.
"It would be easier by far to shoot you out the airlock and be done with it, but the Constitution forbids capital punishment. What it does not forbid is pain. If your presence offends us, we will make you hurt. And if we should go too far, I should remind you that the Constitution does not forbid accidents. Should you die accidentally, no one will care. No one will mourn you. After all, you do not exist. All that is left for you is to decide how much you want to suffer, how nasty, brutish and short you want your last days to be."
Straightening himself back up, General Watts shouted, "Let's move 'em out! Alphas first, then Bravos, Charlies and Deltas! You know the drill!"
General Watts then exited the assembly area and the guards went to work dividing the prisoners by block. And so they entered into the city of woe.