by Isegrim - 16th Aug 1999
After being so unceremoniously dismissed and sent on his way, Khantur was in a foul mood when he finally reached the other scouts. That feline really had a talent to get on his nerves, if they didn’t need her help so badly, he’d have... ....grrrrrr! As he stopped, Grimar turned to him and asked the question that was foremost in all their minds.
'Sir, any news on Tors...?'
The gray wolf’s eyes were unwavering, his amber gaze conveying his worry. A worry that was mirrored by the expressions on the other three scouts’ muzzles. He’d have to be careful how he answered their questions...
'No...nothing, nothing at all.' He paused a moment to grimace slightly. 'If the ‘bots got him, they’re keeping him under wraps. I was able to send a message to Captain Orion on VDS-1, he’s starting up a larger sweep.' Slowly, he panned his muzzle from left to right, catching their looks of anxiety. 'If anyone can find him, he can. He has the resources, we don’t.'
'But...can’t we do ANYthing...?'
Their reactions told him that they were NOT a happy group of furres. Under these circumstances, he’d better tread carefully. He sighed and let his shoulders droop slightly. 'Look, I understand what you’re feeling, it’s never easy to lose a comrade. But...' He held up a paw to stop their angry replies, and continued in a reasonable tone of voice. '...he’s not lost yet. Trust me, I’ll do everything in my power to see that this ends well.'
They still looked unhappy. He hadn’t expected anything else but he wasn’t going to coddle their feelings any longer either. They were either soldiers, or they were not. Their problem, not his. He resumed his usual posture and growled an abrupt order. 'If you can’t find anything useful to do, I suggest you get some rest. Now. Shanni, wake me when we reach VDS-1.'
Without waiting for a reply the dark wolf stalked off to a corner, wedged himself against an oily crate, and tried to find a comfortable position to take a nap in. He’d be damned if he was going to ask that Aruna wench for a place to bunk down. And what the hell was that godawful SMELL...?! His muzzle wrinkled in distaste. If he didn’t know better, he’d swear that that blasted Khalai female had rubbed herself against every bulkhead, doorway and deckplate...argh! it was everywhere!
What angered him most was the fact that he found the scent .... slightly interesting...
Khantur R’Tan woke up instantly, mind alert and eyes scanning the cargo hold. No weird crewmembers near and no sign of Aruna, which was even better. Resting a paw atop the crate, he smoothly levered himself up. 'Shanni, ETA?'
'Two minutes, sir..'
'Right. Go get the others.'
As she walked away, he took a moment to admire her swishing tail and swaying hips. So much more elegant than Derah’s brash posturing, hah. Vulpines were fun, but Shanni’s black-on-tan fur and athletic features were much more alluring...He looked up and caught Grimar staring at him from twenty paces away, coldly hostile. Hah, that was worth a shadow of a smile, which only seemed to anger the gray wolf more. Fine, so be it.
He raised his muzzle and called out in a loud voice. 'Grimar, over here! On the double!'
The wolf’s start of surprise did a lot to improve Khantur’s mood, and when Grimar showed a flicker of uncertainty as he stopped in front of his commander, the black lupine was hard pressed to keep from smiling. 'Grimar, after we dock I want you to gather our gear, ALL of it, leave nothing behind for these ... people. Get it on board VDS-1 and secured.' He turned to the others who had just come trotting up. 'You all got that?'
'Good. After that’s done, you all get some food and get bunked down. I’ll keep you posted on the search for Tors. Progress reports every half hour via the duty officer. Any questions?'
'*shake of head*'
Grimar, who else..? 'You have a problem with that, soldier?' Voice harsh, challenging. If the other male was going to go for his throat, it would have to be now. Hah, he’d done enough to provoke him, it would be fun to see how far he dared to go...
'......no. No sir.'
Satisfied smile, almost a smirk. 'Okay, get moving then! I’ll be with Orion.'
The door swooshed aside, barely avoiding Khantur’s boot. Inside the doorway, he stopped and executed a curt Fenrisian salute, the gesture nothing more than an insignificant formality. He wasn’t here to be polite. 'Captain Orion.'
'Commander R’Tan, I’m pleased to see you. For a time I was led to believe that you and your squad had perished along with the Dulwich.' The human was evidently preparing to enter into one of those interminable rounds of pleasantries that were so common among officers of the higher echelons. Well, this wolf was a trooper and had serious business to attend to. 'Your miraculous survival and superb performance in battle have greatly impressed my officers, commander, and I-...'
No more drivel, he’d have to interrupt. 'Sir, with all due respect...any news about my missing scout?' Careful, have to keep the tone civil. Didn’t want to antagonize the brass more than necessary...
Smile apologetically and shrug, textbook psychology. 'Sir, surely you understand my concerns...?'
'Yes. Yes, of course. My hesitation is due to the fact that I have no good news to offer you, commander. I’m sorry, but there is no sign of your squad member, all our scans have turned up negative.' He seemed to want to say more, then decided to do so, apparently. 'Commander, may I be frank with you?'
Several sarcastic replies came to mind, his patience was wearing thin, but he nonetheless chose a safe response. 'Yes sir. Please do so at all times.'
Human nod. 'Do you seriously believe that you will ever see your lieutenant again, Commander? Please don’t get me wrong, I’m only trying to be realistic. Gyran’s forces have him and I have never heard of them sparing a prisoner, nor even returning any remains... I’m sorry to be so brutal, but that’s my view on the matter.'
Slight nod in return. 'I appreciate your honesty sir...and yes, I must admit that that thought had crossed my mind.' He could allow a bit of emotion to creep into his voice here, Captain Orion seemed susceptible to that kind of thing. 'But...I can’t let myself give up on him, not without trying.' The wolf shrugged his shoulders in a gesture of almost-defeat and weakening resolve. Time to wrap this up.
'There’s something else I want to do, sir, if I may. I’d like to use the GC relay facilities to get a message to my scout. If he’s alive, it will mean a lot to him.' Grim smile.
'A message, Commander?'
'Yes, sir.' He’d judged Captain Orion well. This was a request he couldn’t refuse. Although, in all honesty, a small corner of the wolf’s mind wished that Orion would say no, so he wouldn’t have to write the message...
'Very well Commander, I’ll see that the necessary orders are given...'
Smile, genuine this time. 'Thank you sir. With your permission I’d like to retire to my cabin to compose my trans.'
'Yes, of course...I’ll assign an aide to you, to guide you to your quarters. If you need anything...?' The captain seemed a bit bemused by his abruptness. He’d get over it.
'Thank you sir. I’ll be fine. All I can think of now is Tors Du’Ran.'
Commander Khantur R’Tan sat behind his desk, pale eyes gazing silently at the screen in front of him, his claws hovering over the keyboard. One of his scouts had been captured by Gyran forces and was now presumably being examined and analysed by the robots...and it was his duty as commander to try and prevent the enemy from learning anything about the Fenrir nanite technology.
'Damnit...' Heaving a sigh, he typed the opening tag and started dictating a message to his captured squad member, a message that would be broadcast over all frequencies and would reach to the outer edges of the Vendorian solar system. With any luck, his captors would let him receive the transmission, possibly in an attempt to weaken his mental resistance.
Broadband trans/Fenrir Special Forces/Recon/lt-2-cl T. Du’Ran/a0dt54-763-83627
From GC HQ/FSF/Rec/Cmndr R’Tan/Det Fenrir HC
Khantur’s voice was firm, his intonation conveying trust and authority...
'Tors, I sincerely hope that this message reaches you. I realize that you haven’t had an easy time under my command, but I want you to understand that I have always had your best interests at heart. I care for you, just as I care for the rest of the squad. At this moment, we have all available resources out searching for you, and it will only be a matter of time until we are successful.'
Reaching out to brush the screen with a pawpad, the wolf paused the recording, sitting back in his chair and contemplating his next words. The chances of finding private Tors Du’Ran were almost non-existent, and if he ever did get this message it would only offer him a brief flicker of hope...but that wasn’t the point, now was it? Grimacing, Khantur had to make an effort to keep the anxiety out of his voice and continued...
'In the meantime, I urge you to exercise the greatest caution in dealing with your captors. Give them what they demand, if you consider that it will ensure your survival. Cooperate if necessary and remember that Gyran’s forces operate on the basis of logic, and that logic will dictate their actions towards you.
Another pause, and another deep breath. This part of the message should guarantee that the robots would let Tors receive the transmission, he was practically telling the scout to surrender his hardware and offer them any information they might want to have. The next and final part of the message would be the most difficult though...
'Do not lose faith Tors, we have not given up on you. I will personally monitor the progress of the search parties, and I also promise to keep your mother advised of the situation. Never doubt that everything is being done to return you safe and sound, and never doubt that you are in our minds and our hearts, always. I look forward to welcoming you back, but for now I must say goodbye...'
'.......' Pale blue lupine eyes gazed at the screen.
The transmit icon beckoned, seeming to glow with an evil inner light....but that was his imagination, surely. Looking for an excuse to delay the transmission, he called up the duty officer. 'Ensign, R’Tan here. Any news from the search parties?'
'Nothing Commander, I’m sorry...' The ensign sounded young and genuinely chagrined that he couldn’t report any success. 'Nothing at all...?' Voice hopeful, despite what the rational side of his brain was telling him. 'N-no sir...' Growling an incoherent reply, Khantur cut the connection.
No use delaying the inevitable. Ignoring a slight trembling of his paw, he slowly extended a clawtip and tapped the ‘transmit’ icon.
After staring at the screen for more than a minute, the wolf shook himself and glanced down at a string of words on his notepad, muttering '...if I ever find the idiot that came up with this code ... heart ...care ...survival ...faith ...mother...goodbye... SHIT!' Snarling, he hurled the notepad against the bulkhead, shattering it beyond repair and sending fragments flying across his cabin. 'Damn this!' Stabbing down at the comm, his voice was harsh as he growled 'Ensign! I want no interruptions for the next four hours. Out!'
Still growling softly, commander Khantur R’Tan reached into a desk drawer and withdrew a bottle of spirits that he’d picked up on his way down, the amber liquid glinting in the subdued lighting. Twisting the top off, he tilted his muzzle back and took a long swallow, grimacing as the drink burned it’s way down his throat. Slumping down on his bunk, his thoughts turned to an image of a black-and-white canine with a friendly smile...
As far as he knew, none of the other scouts were aware that Tors was an orphan...