A decorated soldier appeared in the doorway. The multitude of badges adorning his vest signified him a man of status, but despite this he appeared to pale and waver before the doctor. "Mr. President... sir..."
Dr. Noble dismissed the greeting with a wave of his hand. "Sit." He commanded, gesturing to a chair positioned across from his desk. Swallowing thickly, the man obliged. Silence passed between them and, growing frustrated, Dr. Noble narrowed his eyes and drawled, "Your report, Commander."
The soldier jumped slightly in his seat before fumbling through some papers with shaky hands. Dr. Noble glared at him with his cold, black eyes as the man began to meekly deliver his news: "The fugitives, sir... we were unable to recover them. There was no trace of them sir... their camp abandoned... fuel shortage and inclement weather impeded efforts to track them down. The platoon decided to call off the search --"
"The platoon decided?" Dr. Noble interrupted, his brows drawing together as cold fury flashed across his eyes. "Your orders were very clear, Commander." "But the chain of authority sir-" "You'll find yourself in chains at this rate, Commander."
Both men fell quiet, only the rhythmic ticking of the clock perpetuation the tense silence. Dr. Noble stared across at the other man in thinly veiled disgust. At last, with a scowl of utter distaste, he waived his hand in dismissal. "Send for refugee #420-69 immediately. Bring him to me at once." The soldier left in haste, nearly toppling his chair in his scramble to exit the room. Dr. Noble was once again left in solitude to examine his photograph.
* * *A FEW WEEKS EARLIER* * *The young man was dirty, and smelt of horse and smoke and body odor. It would take weeks of daily showers to remove all of the filth. He'd been found just outside their doors, riding right across their borders on a patchy colored horse. There was nothing remarkable about him, per se, besides a certain name he had mentioned upon his arrival....
"You claim to know the wherabout of Dr. Herriot, and the rest of her accomplices?" "Yeh I know em, I know lotsa stuff. But if i tell yah... what's in it fer me?" "You're in no positioning for bargains, Mr. Valderiez. But depending on the quality of your information I am certain that a suitable incentive could be arranged..." "Babes," replied the young man, without missing a beat.
Perplexed, irritated, and yet also intrigued, Dr. Cain obliged. "That can be arranged," he placated, producing a holographic map that glowed above his desk. "Now show me..."