“On a small planet in the deepest depths of space, was a thriving civilisation. In this civilisation, the great aristocrat, Baron Wolfgang Andres von Erstein, saw to the daily needs of the populace.”
“The Baron was a wise and just leader, even standing up to the monarchy when needed. All the people loved him. One day, he was going through the streets for his daily walkies when a small patched kitten caught his attention.”
“‘Excuse me, Sir,’ the kitten said. ‘Could you possibly spare some food for a poor cat who staved off curiosity at the cost of his home?'”
“The Baron’s entourage didn’t like this. ‘Damned Free-loader!’ They cried. ‘How dare you beg for favours from the Baron!'”
“‘Stop right there!’ The Baron ordered, with a resounding bark. He looked kindly at the kitten. ‘What’s your name, Lad?'”
“‘My name is Hyper, Sir,’ The Kitten stated.”
“‘Well, Hyper,’ the Baron said. ‘I could give you a bit of food or I can bring you to my mansion to serve as my Page. I can promise, you’ll never go hungry then.'”
“Hyper looked up to the baron with a mischievous wink in his eyes. ‘Beg pardon, Sir,’ he said. ‘But I don’t think writing would show up very well on me.’ He mewled out a soft laugh. ‘Very well, I’ll go with you.'”
“So it came to pass that young Hyper joined the Baron as his Page. For a while, all was well until, one day, a battered young sentry, a large adorable Husky, burst into the Baron’s conference room.”
“‘Baron,’ she bowed. ‘It’s terrible. Our borders are under attack! You must see the Queen and find us more troops.'”
“‘Please, calm down,’ the Baron said, keeping his voice kind. ‘How many do the enemy number?'”
“‘Just one, Sir,’ she reported. ‘But it’s a truly terrible enemy. A giant, squeaky clown!'”
“‘Those clowns are always up to funny business,’ Hyper stated.”
“‘A formidable foe indeed,’ Wolfie said. ‘Take her to the infirmary and lick her wounds. I’ll go to the borders and deal with this threat personally.'”
“‘Your eminence!’ His guards howled. ‘Let us deal with it. You stay here where it’s safe.'”
“The Baron shook himself. ‘No, I will go. You must stay here and prepare a defence, in case I fail.'”
“He began walking to the door when a voice rang out. ‘Wait! I’ll come too!’ Hyper ran to the Baron’s side. ‘I won’t be much good here. So, let me repay your kindness by helping with this.'”
“Wolfie thought about it for a moment and, finally, gave his assent. The two travelled to the border, seeing the devastation left in the wake of their great enemy. Wolfie put his nose to the ground and found his scent.”
“‘He’s close!’ Wolfie barked. ‘This way!’ The two hurried. The clown was just starting to delve into their kingdom, causing the peasants to flee in terror.”
“The two faced him courageously, though he was a very large clown and they were so very small. The Baron struck first, sinking his adorable little fangs into the clown’s leg. The clown flailed, mightily, but the Baron refused to give in. He held firm. Hyper scrambled up a tree, leaping onto the clown’s back and digging into it with his claws.”
“The clown went still for a moment and threw them off with a sudden burst. Hyper got to his feet first and slashed at the clown, determined to protect his friend and master. The clown squeaked, but kept coming.”
“‘Hyper!’ the Baron called. ‘Give me a boost!’ He ran towards Hyper. The small kitten spread out, letting the baron leap off of him. Wolfie brought his teeth around the clown’s throat, tearing his fluff right out and ending the threat.”
“‘We sure knocked the stuffing out of him!’ Hyper declared.”
“‘Indubitably,’ Wolfie agreed, letting out an adorable yawn. ‘Come, let us return home. It’s time we rested.’ So, the two went back to the Baron’s home and rested in a cute little pile of fluff.”
“Do you always make up stories like that about Wolfie?” Farah asked.
“Just when it strikes my fancy,” Grace said. “Sorry, did it bother you?”
“No, I liked it,” Farah said. “They do look cute sleeping like that.” She nodded toward Wolfie and Hyper, sleeping cuddled up together. “I almost hate to take Hyper back to my quarters.”
“You don’t have to,” Grace said.
“You don’t mind watching him?” Farah asked.
“Well,” Grace began. She rose from her seat and moved over to Farah and gently kissed her lips. “I was more thinking that you don’t have duty right now. You could stay.”
Farah’s face flushed. “I… I…”
“Do you not want to?” Grace inquired.
“It… Well… I…” Farah struggled for the words.
Everyone to the conference room. Ophelia’s voice announced.
“Damn,” Grace muttered. “Just when it was about to get good.” She held out her hand. “Shall we?”
Farah reached out and held her hand. The two hurried to the conference room.
“Yujin,” Ophelia said, indicating the image of a projected planet. “It’s been embroiled in nearly a century of a world war.”
“Don’t tell me we’re going there as mercenaries,” Kat stated.
“No,” Ophelia said. “We won’t be fighting unless we have to.”
“Our mission,” Lucy added. “Is to find a particular soldier, Thol Olison. His family holds a lot of influence.” She moved over to the projection and touched it, causing it to zoom in to a close-up of the area she touched. “He went missing in this area during a sortie.”
“He’s probably dead as shit,” Allison said.
“Probably,” Ophelia agreed. “But no one saw him die and they didn’t find a body. Our job is to find the proof of his death or to find him if he’s alive. Right now, the area is pretty definitively under the control of the Guyoin faction. If it stays that way, we should be able to finish the job without much trouble.” She looked around at them. “Time will be of the essence.”
“We’ll have four teams,” Lucy said. “Grace, Paul and Ophelia will stay here, monitoring communications and running support. The rest of us will be on search teams. Farah and Yuri, Allison and I, Leon and Kat.”
“If we see any signs that the area’s going to become a battleground again, I’ll order you all to abandon the mission and return as fast as possible,” Ophelia said. “Be careful down there.”