((Apologies in advance. This is super long. Also, cross posted to my 'Dresser' -- Legion))
|Alliance| Oh, Captain! My Captain! Pt. 2
Dixon, Spero, SCG.
Leslie Dixon, acting Captain for the Stormwind City Guard, arrived at the Westbrook Garrison in the dark hours of the morning, hours before her expected shift. She couldn't put her finger on what had disturbed her. The dreams, no doubt evoked from her confessions to Captain Landreth, seemed all-too clear to her waking mind. Memories, she corrected herself. But the theme was what perplexed her. "Got Captain on the brain, I guess," she muttered to no one in particular. As she approached the gates, the two guards at the entrance recognized and saluted her. It made her feel almost embarrassed, as if she were a child dressed up in her mother's clothes, pretending to be some grand lady. "Evening, gentlemen," she grated. "Anything interesting going on?"
The guards relaxed, sensing that she really wasn't interested in protocols at the moment.
"It's been quiet so far, ma'am," replied Private Wellsman. The guard across from him nodded in agreement.
"Aye, Captain. Unless you consider the nutjob we have in the tank, claimin' to be old Cpt. Spero."
Leslie froze in place. "What? Why haven't I heard about this?"
Private Wellsman answered. "He was picked up by the Moonbrook Brigade. Regular military handled the report after the medics declared the guy crazy. It's off our plate."
Leslie ground her teeth in frustration. It wasn't required that she be notified of things like that. But she really wished someone had thought she would want to know what was happening pretty much under her own roof. "Thank you," she replied. "I'll go take a looksee for myself." I would've known about something like this the moment it crossed our threshold, a few days ago, she thought sourly as she headed towards the detention block. For the moment, it couldn't be helped.
She had almost reached the door to the stairs leading down to the detention center when she paused. When the guard at the door saluted, she nodded and gave a half-hearted salute in return. "Shelby, I want you to let the cat downstairs in a few minutes," she said. "And be ready to let her back out." The odd request barely earned her a batted eye.
"Yes, ma'am," replied Shelby. "Do we need to escort?" It wasn't quite a joke.
"Nah," Leslie answered, as she turned towards barracks area. "She can manage her business on her own." A minute or two later, a small, black cat rounded the corner and looked at Shelby expectantly.
Shelby made a slightly mocking bow. "Your sandbox awaits, Your Majesty."
The cat stared at him with half-lidded annoyance until he finally opened the door. At which point, the cat gave him one last flick of her tail before darting down the stairs.
Once downstairs, the cat wove her way through the labyrinth of hallways which lead to the detention area. At several cross hallways, posted guards would spy the cat and actually challenge her for a 'password'. For each one, she would perform a precise and complicated series of paw movements and meows, all of which matched the weekly pass codes sent down from the Captain's office. The guards had dealt with the bizarre, overly-sentient cat for so long that they ceased to wonder about the peculiar animal or what her actual purpose was. They had simply come to regard her as a 'working animal' much like the guard and tracking animals used by other divisions.
Finally, outside the only occupied cell, the cat stopped, her little nose testing the air. Then she dipped and sniffed along the crack beneath the door. Her ears swiveled back and forth with growing excitement. She paced along the door, looking for an entry into the cell. Finally, she leapt towards the small, barred view-port high up on the door. She managed to get her front paws onto the opening, but not far enough to allow her to gain a foot hold. Instead, she scrabbled with her back claws for a few moments before dropping back onto the floor. The second try got the cat enough purchase to allow her to squeeze through the bars and onto the floor of the cell.
The man seated on the floor on the other side took no notice of the cat. He was thin and unkempt, with long hair and a straggly beard. She cautiously approached the man and mewed. The man continued to ignore her, either bereft of his wits as the doctors claimed, or simply too exhausted by his ordeal to recognize her. The cat continued to become agitated until she climbed partway into his lap, putting her face near his and crying again.
Still no response.
The cat then leapt up to the view-port and squeezed through the bars. She rocketed down the hallways, little claws scrabbling for purchase on the hard floors before racing up to the doorway leading into the main Garrison. She cried loudly and began clawing frantically at the door. Shelby barely opened the portal when the cat burst past him and into the Barracks. He had barely managed to re-lock the door and resume his post, when he heard the purposeful stride of Captain Dixon rounding the corner. Shelby blinked. The Captain was soaking wet, and dressed in hastily-donned, utterly mismatched clothes.
Leslie preempted his question. "Cat dragged me out of the shower," she said, curtly. "Get me a three-man detail. I need to get downstairs."
Shelby stowed whatever other questions he had, and immediately relayed the Captain's orders into his communicator. Then, he opened the door. "Detail should be here in about a minute-half, ma'am."
"That's fine," replied Leslie. "Just send them down after me -- I'm going to the detention center. Have sick bay on alert. I'm bringing our detainee up."
Shelby looked a little uncertain, but snapped a salute. "Yes, ma'am!"
Leslie descended the stairs almost at a run. She passed each of the cross-guards, informing them in turn that a detail was behind her, and to expect prisoner transport. She reached the cell, and stood on tiptoe to peer through the barred view-port. "Captain?" The man remained quiet on the floor, leaning back against the wall, eyes closed. Finally, the detail arrived. "Open up," Leslie ordered.
She watched as one of the soldiers opened the heavy, iron door. In response, the man slowly stood up and faced the wall without instruction. Only an officer or a career criminal would know to do that, thought Leslie. She stepped into the cell, followed automatically by one of the detail. "Dash?" she said, quietly. Silently, the man raised his hands and placed them flat-palmed on the wall. Her escort, Corporal Samhurst, wasn't a green recruit by any means. But he also wasn't known for keen observation. Hence his relegation to serve primarily as muscle and a meat-shield. He moved to interpose himself between Leslie and the prisoner.
"Captain, the prisoner has been very uncooperative. Medics already tagged him as insane." Beside him, the man against the wall coughed quietly. Samhurst gave the man a look between pity and disgust. "I don't think you'll get any information from him."
Leslie glared at the guard. "Has he been violent?" Samhurst shook his head.
"No ma'am. Just stubborn and completely convinced he's Captain Spero."
"That's because he IS," snapped Leslie. "Get him unshackled. He's going up to sick bay." When Samhurst opened his mouth to protest, Leslie cut him off. "NOW!"
Dashaun blinked and turned his head to look behind him. Dim, tired green eyes met Leslie's concerned, hazel gaze.
"Dash, it's me, Leslie," she said. "We're going to move you upstairs."
Dashaun turned fully, his gaunt face impassive. After several moments, he replied in a thin, even voice, "What in the Light took you so long to come down here?"
It still rankled her that she had found out so late, but she tried to keep the annoyance from her voice. "No one wanted to 'bother' me with the crazy guy in lockup. I came down as soon as the grapevine worked its way around."
"Too long," stated Dashaun, deadpan. "I'm demoting you." He smirked ever so slightly before a cough erased it.
Leslie shook her head incredulously and gave a short bark of laughter. "Well I guess that answers that!" She watched as Samhurst unshackled Dashaun. "Let's get you upstairs." She started to walk to one side of Dash to help steady him, though thought better of the gesture. Even though he had broken past is phobia of all things female, she knew that proximity still made him uncomfortable. Instead, she instructed Samhurst and one of the other detail to ensure that Dash stayed steady on his feet, while she walked just ahead on their way up to the sick bay. "I'm sure the Old Man will be tickled to see you, if he makes it back."
Dashaun thought for a moment. "What Old Man? Juls?"
Leslie shook her head. "Captain Landreth, sir" she replied.
"Landreth," echoed Dashaun. "Good man."
"He's a bit of a hardass, but yes he is. I just hope he makes it back. I've been hearing that the forces sent through the Dark Portal may not." As they entered the sick bay, they were intercepted by one of the medics. Leslie squared off with him. "Dr. Avery... who processed this man?" she said, indicating Dashaun. She folded her arms as the doctor looked past her head to the man in question.
"Kelben and Richards," he replied. "Why is he back up here?"
Leslie glared again. "For one thing, he's clearly sick, and for another he's ff-f-flippin' Captain Spero, THAT's why!"
Behind her, Dashaun coughed again, though it sounded suspiciously like a chuckle. In front of her, the doctor sputtered.
"That's... that's impossible!"
"The proof that it is NOT is standing right in front of you," replied Leslie acidly. "Can we please start seeing to his care?!"
The doctor muttered under his breath, but set about getting Dashaun into one of the beds and taking basic vital signs. Dashaun tolerated the impersonal examination with aplomb. "People have kept saying I was dead. It is not the first time," he observed.
Leslie stood nearby until Dash was settled. "Really sorry about your welcome home. What happened out there?"
Dashaun looked at her, wearily. "I am not up to doing a lot of talking at the moment. I advise you to read the report. I was given the chance to do a written supplement, and it should be there." He then glanced over to the small iron stove nearby. "To whomever adds more wood to the fire, I will remember your name." Dash watched as Leslie grinned and then went to add some more wood.
Recalling their conversation on the way to the sick bay, Dash struggled to sit up, looking concerned. "The Dark Portal to the Horde's broken homeworld -- I have been there and come back. What are our forces up against that could wipe them out?"
Leslie turned from the stove, and blinked at him. "You... haven't heard about the invasion?"
"Yes, of course," answered Dash. "The Horde invasion of Pandaria. But why would they send the SCG Captain through The Dark Portal? That is the jurisdiction of the Nethergarde Fortress."
Leslie briefly dropped her head into her hand. "Makers! Where to start..." She looked at Dashaun. "I don't know where you've been, but clearly 'in the loop on basic world events' wasn't part of the tour." She sat at Dashaun's bedside. "For starters, we finally sieged Orgrimmar and won. We captured Garrosh and they were holding a trial for him in Pandaria. But some Light's-damned Bronze dragon broke him out and did...something... to The Dark Portal. Some kind of time thing." She gestured vaguely. "Sarkell could explain it better, but they've snagged him at the Nethergarde front to help try to keep what portals we can make, open. They rotate mages back pretty often though." She shrugged. "Trying not to burn them all out, I guess. So, he should be back in-Garrison soon." She paused for a breath. "Anyway. Garrosh came back with a vanguard for a HUGE army through The Dark Portal. We managed to repel their initial advance, but the King has sent armies through to set up forward-garrisons on the other side. They attached Landreth to the 8th Legion. Wanted him to be Provost Marshal for their outposts, or something."
Dashaun looked thoughtful as Leslie finally wound-down. "Did you say that we razed Orgrimmar?"
Leslie nodded, then hedged. "Well... maybe not completely razed it. But we beat back Garrosh's troops. Actually, it was a joint effort. Seems that many of the Horde races were unhappy about what Garrosh did. Vol'jin is their new leader."
Dashaun smiled. "That is all I needed to hear, Clerk Dixon. We bested Garrosh." He lay back, looking contented. "If I may make a request? Something rich to eat, and the garrison barber with his portable shave kit?"
Leslie cleared her throat as she stood up again. "Actually... sir... I'm ah. I'm the acting-Captain while Landreth is away. Though I'll be happy to arrange both."
Dashaun suddenly glanced over at her, "You... you said what, now?"
Leslie looked at the ceiling as she rocked back and forth on her heels. "I'm, the -- y'know -- the, ah, acting Captain. For the Guard," she answered, trying to pass the information off as inconsequential. "Technically only a 1st LT... but Captain needed to declare a second in case he doesn't make it back."
Dashaun lay in a long silence. Finally, he said, "Congratulations on your commission, First Lieutenant."
Uncertain whether Dash approved or not, she replied, "Ah... thank you? Not exactly what I would have wanted for myself. But some good things have come out of it." She paused. "I think."
Changing the subject, Dash said, "So what is all this I hear about my own funeral?"
"You fell from a Gryphon. You were dead... the inspection showed a worn harness strap had snapped. So, there was no formal autopsy or further investigation." Leslie sighed. "It was a nice funeral though -- if there can be such a thing. Captain Landreth put on his 'Church' hat, and said some really heartfelt words over you. Then, you were buried... well something was buried... near Moonbrook."
A shadow passed over Dashaun's features. "I think it was me." He frowned. "That investigator may have been right. I was not being buried at the time -- they may have been digging me up."
"Really?" Leslie squinted at him. "Now, I'm wishing I'd had a chance to see that report, big time."
Dash pondered quietly, looking at the ceiling. "So... I am dead."
"Technically?... Legally?... Yeah." Leslie winced, as Dashaun coughed and sniffled. "You look pretty good for a walking dead guy," she quipped. "But there's going to be a lot of paperwork over this. I can feel it. Plus, I haven't met with the Oversight Committee yet. Or with Shaw. Landreth warned me that would be coming."
Dash's expression was unreadable. "Send in a Priest when you can. I may be dead, after all. I may have Plague, or whatever the Forsaken carry."
Leslie made a face at the mention of Forsaken. She wasn't sure if Dash were joking or not. But a priest actually was a good idea, given the peculiarity of Dashaun's re-emergence from the grave. The last thing she needed was him suddenly breathing fire or claiming to be the Herald for the Burning Legion's "We-Were-Just-Joking-The-Last-Time Tour" or something. She nodded, "I'll get on that next. Though I imagine we'd already know by now if you were only sorta-dead."
Dashaun shrugged. "Defias were involved. That alone makes all possibilities possible."
"Yeah, I'll need to go get that report. I have a feeling that we're going to have some work to do because of that."
Once again, Dashaun was pensive. "I am a civilian now." He said it as if having trouble believing the words.
"I ... guess? Technically?" replied Leslie, unsure. "I'll have to find out if there's a process for becoming un...dead. Anti-dead? Retro...dead." She gave up trying to find the best term for it. "We'll get it sorted out. I assume you... wouldn't want to be a civilian, would you?"
Dash shook his head. "No."
"Didn't think so. Like I said... we'll get it sorted out." She tried to sound confident, even though she had no idea where to start. "Besides, I can't imagine they'd want me to continue functioning as Captain if they could clear you...." She rolled her eyes and made a sign to ward off evil. "Though Makers forbid they try to throw you at the Draenor War."
Stoically, Dashaun replied, "I will go where needed."
Leslie grimaced. "Don't be too eager. They just might. They're snapping up every able body they can it seems. Anyway, I should go get them to send in the barber and get you something to eat. Let you rest a bit."
Dashaun looked at her, offering a rare smile, "Thank you, Leslie."
At first, her expression was unreadable, but the answering smile that blossomed on her lips soon after was sincere. "It's good to have you back, Dash."
As she moved to leave the sick bay, she beckoned the doctor to follow her. Once they were outside and out of earshot, she turned to him. "We are placing the man in there under quarantine. Furthermore, no one, and I mean NO ONE is to discuss this man's identity. Until we understand what has brought him to us in this state -- whatever that state may be -- I don't want anyone outside the few of us who have handled him today to even entertain the idea that he is who he says he is. Are we clear on this?"
Alarmed, the doctor nodded. "Yes, ma'am."
"Good," stated Leslie, flatly. "I'll go secure the others. Call in a priest ASAP to conduct an inspection of our subject. Make sure that the priest speaks with me before his or her examination."
"Thank you," replied Leslie. "Dismissed." Her mind was churning as she left to speak to the other guards who may have some inkling that Dash had returned from the dead. In some ways, she really hoped that whatever happened to the erstwhile Captain was supernatural. Because the other possibilities raised a lot of ugly questions like "Who would do this?" and "Why?" Leslie started down the hallway towards the mess hall. The least she could do was get Dashaun something to eat.