“I will only agree to this if you volunteer, Jake,” the colonel stated as he called Jake by his first name, bringing his attention back from the strange men in the other room.
Jake looked at the colonel. “The service has been my family for nearly fifteen years, sir. It has given me a home, training, even companionship with my fellow soldiers. It has given me purpose when I really didn’t have one. If the army needs me to volunteer for a project that could potentially save our world, consider me a volunteer, sir.”
Col. Brighten chuckled. “Somehow, I knew you’d say that Jake. Are you sure?”
“Very good. I’ll have someone go to your quarters and pack your belongings. In the meantime, come out and meet your new commanding officers.”
Jake followed Col. Brighten out into the other room and across to the small group of people standing together in front of the wormhole entrance. It was only as he got closer to the three tall tawny haired warriors that he realized that what he thought was dark golden tanned skin was actually a light covering of tawny colored fur.
Jake curled his hands in to quell the urge to stroke his fingers through it.
“General Marten, I have spoken with Maj. O’Connell and he has volunteered for the project.”
General Marten nodded. “Very good, Colonel,” he said with obvious relief. “Maj. O’Connell, these are your new commanding officers, Commander Rhada, Commander Ruvia, and Commander Rayed. You will be answering to them from now on.”
“Yes, sir, General, sir,” Jake replied, standing at attention. He turned towards the three warriors and saluted. “Major Jacob O’Connell, at your service, sirs.”
The tallest and biggest of the three warriors stepped forward. His voice was low and deep with a raspy gravelly sound to it when he spoke. “Me, Commander Rhada. You, me, Ruvia, Rayed, matelotage… yes? You understand, yes?”
“I believe so, sir. Col. Brighten explained matelotage to me and I have agreed to it, sir.”
The large warrior stared down at Jake for several more moments before nodding his head. “Good. We continue now, general.”
The general gave a relieved sigh before turning to the men beside him. “Open the wormhole.”
Commander Rhada and the other warriors took several steps to the left, Jake joining them and standing behind his new commanders at attention as the wormhole began to swirl again. Several moments later a number of large warriors stepped through.
They walked to stand in formation in front of the three Commanders until all of them had come through the wormhole. Commander Rhada began talking to them in a language that Jake had never heard—it sounded much like Old Russian—before nodding and stepping back to stand beside Jake.
Jake watched as the warriors walked up to the line of volunteers in sets of three and picked one soldier until nearly all had been chosen. There were only three volunteers left unpicked by the warriors.
Commander Rhada turned to the general. “General, these no good. More please.”
The general looked startled for a moment. “There are no more.”
“Commander, sir, if I may?”
Commander Rhada turned to look at Jake, making him feel slightly nervous for having interrupting. He nodded for Jake to continue.
“I believe I know of several well trained soldiers that might be willing to volunteer.” Jake knew of several fellow soldiers that he had worked with in the past that he believed would be willing to volunteer for this mission. They were good, honest men that he trusted with his very life.
Jake looked to the general for permission to continue. Upon receiving a reluctant nod from the general he went to a nearby phone and dialed his barracks. Several moments later he hung up and returned to stand next to the commanders.
“They will be here momentarily, sir.”
Jake felt really uncomfortable as the three warrior Commanders stared down at him for the next fifteen minutes while they waited for the other soldiers to arrive. He could read nothing in their facial expression or body language. Being able to hide their reactions to things, either mental or emotional, was a good trait in a soldier. Every soldier desired being able to mask his emotions during battle. But, in this situation, it was kind of spooky.
At six foot three, Jake stood at over a foot shorter than the three warriors and had to crane his neck to look up at them. For one as tall as Jake, that was unusual for him. He also had no doubt that he was at least a hundred pounds lighter than the massively built commanders.
Finally, the guarded doors opened to admit five soldiers who quickly marched forward to stand at attention in front of everyone. They snapped their legs together and saluted their superior officers.
Before anyone could say anything, nine of the Talamachait warriors stepped forward and appraised the new human soldiers for several moments before turning back to nod at their commander. In sets of three, they went to stand behind one of the soldiers until only two were left standing alone.
Jake, understanding that these three had been chosen, directed that the other two could leave. He looked briefly at the general then Commander Rhada. “Commander, if I may?” Once he received permission, Jake turned back to the three remaining, and slightly confused soldiers.
“Gentlemen, you have been asked here to volunteer for a particularly interesting mission, one of which, I have already volunteered for.” Jake went on to explain the situation, as told to him by Col. Brighten, to the three soldiers before asking them to volunteer. It was no surprise to him when all three agreed. They were all good soldiers.
When all was done, Jake stood back in line next to his new commanders, the three other warriors standing behind him as they waited. There was a lot more discussion between the Talamachait warriors and the men in suits. During that time, duffel bags with their personal belongings were delivered to Jake and his fellow soldiers.
Finally, the general reached over and shook Commander Rhada’s hand, then Commander Ruvia’s, and finally Commander Rayed’s. Well, seemed things had been settled between them to everyone’s satisfaction. Jake nodded to Col. Brighten, a man he respected, before turning towards the alien commanders.
“Come,” was all that Rhada said as he started towards the wormhole.
Jake took a deep breath and followed him through the swirling gray mist, Commanders Ruvia and Rayed following him in. It certainly wasn’t what he expected. Not that he knew what to expect.
He was heading to an alien world.