Colonel Richard 'Dick' Fitzherwel was an old school soldier, duty before all and be damned of the consequences. One of his uncles had died at Gandamak with the 44th and another had been blown to pieces charging the guns at Balaclava; his older brother had perished with Gordon at Khartoum. He came from an ever dwindling family of military martyrs and Softlove's conduct was an anathema to him. He was determined to remove the Captain to somewhere where he couldn't discredit the regiment further and two days later an ideal opportunity presented itself, courtesy of the Japanese Ambassador.
Softlove and Ruffbrute pushed through the thronging midday crowds of New Victoria, wending their way through the packed streets towards the Victoria Barracks. Earlier that morning Softlove had been requested to present himself at the Regimental HQ to receive new orders. Jackson, the ADC who delivered the message, didn't give any details but explained that "it was best the Captain wasn't late on account of the Colonel looking for any excuse to flog him". Softlove wasn't looking forward to the meeting, he'd managed to avoid the Colonel since he'd got back and he had hoped the whole affair would blow over. He'd fallen foul of his commanding officer once before and it was a very disquieting experience; fortunately the Padre's daughter was a shrewd young lady and without any solid evidence the Colonel had to let the matter drop, but this time he'd doubted he'd be so lucky.
"Ah, Captain, 'bout time" grumbled Fitzherwel as Softlove and Ruffbrute wheeled into the Colonels office and presented at attention. "I'll not beat about the bush Softlove, I don't like you. I'd have you shot myself for dereliction of duty but Horse Guards won't let me, apparently we've a shortage of officers on Mars. So I'm going to do the next best thing." He half smiled, half grimaced as he imagined the possible horrors that could befall the unfortunate Captain. "Those damn fool Japanese have a mind to go digging around in the sand looking for some Martian Atlantis or other such nonsense and their embassy think it politic that it's a joint endeavour". He paused and looked Softlove and Ruffbrute up and down, then continued. "I don't hold with it myself 'cause it aint real soldiering, but we need to show willing for the politicals." He paused again for effect. "Pack your kit Captain, you're off into the desert where you can't do the Regiment any more harm; and if God is willing you'll not come back. Dismissed."
Softlove and his sergeant stepped out of the Barracks into the bright Martian sunlight, and as Ruffbrute paused to adjust his pith helmet he thought to himself, "'ere we go again.”