A Warrior’s Place - 3068


"Colonel? The men are waiting as ordered."

Colonel Michael Grey O.T.T., the CO of Grey's Shadows, looked up from the HPGram on his desk, to see his second framed in the stateroom door. Jessica didn't look like she had slept much recently; something had to be bothering her badly, for her to actually show fatigue. He made a mental note to speak to her privately later.

"Thank you. Also, I am expecting an important guest shortly. I expect him to be treated with due respect, and properly escorted to the meeting when he arrives."

Leutnant Colonel Jessica Roshak's tiredness seemed to fade a little at that statement, replaced by curiosity. Colonel Grey was notoriously informal about VIP's; whoever was coming MUST be important. Especially since he had apparently made the arrangements himself. She quickly went off to arrange an escort and meet whoever it was.

For his part, Michael made his way through the corridors to the big Excalibur's galley deck. Awaiting him were two dozen of his most unique, and in his eyes, his most mistreated men. They came to attention as he entered, their heads nearing the room's ceiling as their broad shoulders jostled for room. Michael signaled them to be seated, and the huge Elementals complied, shuffling uncomfortably to fit even in the galley's large seats. Michael paused but a moment, and then began to speak very plainly.

"Each of you is a warrior, whom fate has placed with my unit, and I know that the lives you've led here haven't befit true warriors. And for that, I can only say I'm sorry. The Shadows simply don't have the resources to maintain your armor suits...we don't have regular access to HarJel, or the other specialized pieces required."

Michael's communicator beeped quietly...the awaited VIP had arrived. He continued, while Jessica and a quickly-assembled honor guard escorted the visitor aboard.

"That, gentlemen, is why I haven't used you in the field. It's not that I don't trust you, it's that I don't believe in one-way missions, for either men or their equipment. You have shown more honor by your patient service in other areas, than I feel I have shown you by not letting you answer your true calling. And for that, I intend to make amends, by finding you a warrior's place."

A knock came on the door. "Attention."

The scene of jostling bodies was repeated, and a man entered. His red cape, trimmed with gray fur, added a striking touch to his olive and brown uniform. Large red stars gleamed from the gold collar devices at his neck. The uniform was immediately recognizable to the captured warriors from Clan Jade Falcon...the dress uniform of the rival Clan Wolf. And the man who wore it was just as recognizable, to anyone who had fought along the Arc-Royal front.

The Exiled Wolf, Khan Phelan Kell.

"Colonel Grey," the Khan began with a smile and a rather informal shake of the hand, "I must commend you and your men, it has been years since we last met. The exploits of your unit since returning from the Circinus border, have made waves all across the Occupation Zones." As Colonel Grey smiled and nodded appreciatively, the Khan turned and looked very fixedly at the assembled Elementals, his manner changing very abruptly from the freeborn Spheroid, to the man who had clawed his way to the top of his Clan. "These are whom you wished me to see, quiaff?"

Michael's attitude was equally serious. "Yes. They have served the Shadows well, and I feel it is time for them to resume their birthright. Unfortunately, the Shadows cannot provide what is needed for that. To do them justice, they belong among the Clans. They are yours, if you will have them."

The Khan was slowly walking among the men, inspecting them, looking each one straight in the eyes. "Twenty-five men?"

Michael corrected him with a bluntness that raised the Khan's eyebrow. "Twenty-five WARRIORS."

The Khan smiled very slightly, then continued his inspection. "And what about their suits?"

"Chief Fetladral has seen to them as best we can with our resources; he is a credit to your Clan. They are staged for inspection if you wish."

The Khan paused, noticing a detail he had missed at first. He looked back over all the men as he frowned slightly. "No bondcords?"

Michael's voice was cold as death. "They are not bondsmen," he stated emphatically. "They are Shadows."

The Khan looked the Colonel right in the eyes for a long moment. "No," he said. And he turned to the assembled warriors, the Elemental Star, and smiled very slightly, his voice satisfied. "They are Wolves now."