It was so appalling, so disgusting and any other word one could use that expressed a feeling of irritation. What on earth was the meaning of what Lt Rikan had told Major Richard? He had done it to kill tension or maybe protect the Captain’s heroic image. That was what Captain Achor would have expected him to do. To say something that sounded as though they were fully in control of the situation. It was going to be a blame game should he have opened up that his Captain and six other able bodied men were missing. Not dead, but missing. Major Richard would have quickly sacrificed the estimable success record of the platoon in recovering the camp in such a brave and life-threatening counter attack on the altar of taking too much risk, insubordination, being thoughtless or some other demeaning expression that would mean that his captain had indeed been too foolish to try out such a speedy counter attack without waiting for reinforcement or orders from his superiors. He knew it was a disgusting thing to do, but he did not realise the extent of the disgust until Major Richard had called him into his office to speak with Faraj, one of the six-man team that had accompanied Captain Achor on their mission, over the phone.

‘Where are you Faraj?’ He whispered into the phone to prevent Major Richard from hearing him. The way his eyes darted from left to right and centre in contrast to the Major’s stern fixed gaze at him told him his whispering was of no use. Faraj had already communicated so effectively to the Major and he had only called in Rikan to hear first and then explain what he meant when he had reported to him that Captain Achor and his team of six men had successfully abducted the enemy’s captain, Captain Sirius, extracted useful information from him and were now conducting a reconnaissance on the next enemy camp they were going to storm. He had added that the captain had withheld some detail concerning their exact whereabouts from them for security reasons but had assured them of the safety of himself, his boys and the abducted Salamandine captain. How interesting it was to hear that they were held hostage by the Salamandine army and that Faraj was the only communication channel between them, their abductors, and their brave soldiers, including Captain Achor, of whom Faraj brought report that he had been beaten silly and that he bled from almost every opening in his body and that there was every possibility he was not going to survive the injuries if not given the immediate medical attention that the Salamandine forces have refused to provide. Rikan almost could not believe what his ears heard. He was in trouble with the Major for telling an obvious lie. The irritation in Major Richard’s bloodshot eyes was enough to pronounce his death sentence. But that was not the only thing that bothered him now. His Captain was brutally wounded and facing death. He had got to find a way to rescue him. That was what his Captain would have been thinking about now if he was in his shoes, but he felt so sorry within himself for not being up to it. He had got to first settle this issue with his Major. Achor would have stormed outside of his boss’ office with rage and rallied his boys for a reconnaissance that night. They would comb every bush and forest until they found their men; and after he must have found and rescued his men, the Major would forget the lie and envy his bravery, but he wasn’t Achor after all. Major Richard may have understood the lieutenant’s motive to cover up for his brave Captain, but not in a matter as serious as this, or not when he had already communicated Rikan’s report to his superiors. His mouth remained agape. His eyes were fixed to the open window, but saw nothing and though he held the phone to his ear he no longer heard a word, not that Faraj actually stopped speaking. He suddenly recovered consciousness and asked to speak with Captain Achor, it was turned down. Then he asked to speak with the abductors and just then the Major intercepted him.

‘Enough Lt Rikan! I’d handle it from here.’ He stretched out his hands and Rikan dropped the cellular phone in it and waited head bowed, shoulder slumped and fatigued to be dismissed from his office. ‘When I’m done speaking with Faraj, you have some explanations to do right?’

Rikan nodded his head and just remained put, carrying his heavy body on legs of noodles and just wishing the Major would dismiss him now and maybe call him back some time later, but he knew that was not going to happen anyway.

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