"Can You Hear Me Calling You?"

Story by Adele
Story Copyright 2003
A story based on the series, "Voltron, Defender of the Universe."

The characters of Voltron are the property of World Event Productions.  All other characters are the copyright of Adele.  Please do not use them without asking for permission.  Thank you.

Enjoy!


Chapter 4
Mission: Arus

Lieutenant Commander Keith Hunter walked up to the office of Vice-Admiral Ian Marshall.  Before entering, he checked his uniform's look in a nearby mirror... just to make sure everything was in place and in order.

Straightening his voice, he pushed a button on the wall, that activated the door.  It slide open with a 'swoosh' sound, opening the way into the enormous outer office of the Vice-Admiral. 

A kind-looking, grayed hair woman rose to her feet to greet Keith as he entered into the room. 
"May I help you?" she asked sweetly.

"Yes," Keith replied.  "Lieutenant Commander Keith Hunter.  I was ordered to report..."

"Ah yes!  The Vice-Admiral is awaiting your arrival, Lt. Commander!  Please, have a seat, and I'll check to see if he's ready to see you." The woman replied.

"Yes, Ma'am." Keith replied politely.  "Thank you, Ma'am."

The kindly woman tapped on the door to he Vice-Admiral's office.  The door swished open and she disappeared behind it.  The door closed nearly as quickly as it had opened, leaving Keith all alone in the room. 

He stood at attention...completely still.  Just in case the Vice-Admiral had any sort of outer office surveillance system, he didn't want to be caught in a relaxed mode...especially since he somehow, knew that he was about to be fed to the dogs as a mid-morning snack.

It was no surprise in his mind why he was here in the first place.  He was about to get the chewing out of his life.  He lost three, very good men in yesterday's skirmish with the G'Donar.

More than likely, it would end up as a formal reprimand on his permanent record.  

Before Keith could think anything further about it, the door swished open once again.  The woman reappeared with a smile on her face. 

"The Vice-Admiral will see you now, Lt. Commander." she said.

Clearing his throat once again, he quickly walked over to where the door was.  The woman stepped aside, allowing Keith to walk in. 

The door swished closed once again.

"Good morning, Lt. Commander Hunter!"

The rousing baritone voice of Vice-Admiral Ian Marshall greeted Keith as he entered the room. 

But that was not all that greeted him...

In addition to the Vice-Admiral, Admiral Antonio Fiore and Vice-Marshall Jonathan Graham were there sitting on a coach, located just to the left of the Vice-Admiral's desk.  Both of the gentlemen immediately rose to their feet as Keith was greeted.

Now, Keith was scared...

"Oh great!" Keith thought to himself, trying desperately not to start shaking.  "Not only is Marshall hungry for a piece of me, but he invited some of his friends along for the feast!"

Keith suddenly gave a snappy salute to the three superiors... 

"Lt. Commander Keith Hunter...reporting as ordered, Sir!" he said with near shout to his voice.

Vice-Admiral Marshall smiled.  "At ease, Keith."

At first, Keith paused, not sure if he heard correctly. Did the Vice-Admiral just call him by his first name?  And did he just ask him to relax? 

"Sir." Keith replied, and then clasped his hands behind his back, parting his legs slightly as he stood before the three men.

"Keith, come and sit down...over here." Marshall replied, pointing to a high-back chair located adjacent to the coach.

Without so much as a flinch, Keith quickly made his way over to the chair and sat down as he was directed to do.

The Vice-Admiral sat down on the chair behind his desk, while Admiral Fiore and Vice-Marshall Graham resumed their seats on the couch.

Marshall began shuffling through papers on his desk, then, picking one up into his hand, he began to carefully read it. 

The silence was deafening. 

Then, after what seemed to be an eternity, Marshall finally began speaking to Keith. 

"I've been going over your combat performance records, Keith.  I see that you have been assigned as Team Leader for Yellow Squadron.  And, I have a report here from yesterday's run in with the G'Donar."

Keith shifted slightly in his seat.  "Okay...here it comes!" he thought to himself.

Marshall continued.  "I see that you lost three men yesterday while engaging the enemy.  What went on with that, Keith?"

Keith cleared his throat, attempting to not sound like a kid going into puberty. 

"Well Sir, we were on patrol in Jupiter section.  We had reports that the G'Donar were taking a stand somewhere in that region.  Once we had engaged the enemy, I gave specific instructions with regards to tactical and evasive maneuvers."

"But I see you lost three men, Keith." Marshall repeated.  "How did that happen?"

"Yes Sir.  Upon returning to base, I asked for the senor sweep records.  I wanted to see if anything I did directly caused those men to die."

"And your review showed...what?" The Vice-Admiral asked probingly.

Keith looked straight at the Vice-Admiral.  "Sir the results of that sweep showed that my commands had nothing to do with the deaths of those three men.  Their flight had been altered by a few oncoming G'Donar attack fighters.  In my opinion, Sir, the men simply lost their barrings...perhaps taking their mind off of what we were out there to do.  At any rate, they died, not as a direct result of my orders.  However, I realize that I share in the blame.  As Team Leader, I should have been aware of what was going on, and offered assistance."

Marshall listened carefully to Keith as he gave his report.  Then, he allowed the paper to slip from his hand, and drop on the desktop with the other papers. 

"My exact conclusion as well, Lt. Commander." Marshall replied.  "But if I may offer some friendly advice... you were outnumbered in that battle.  You did the best that you could have...and you saved Ensign Roe's life.  It might have easily been four men dead yesterday.  But it was only three.  And I concur with your findings, Keith.  Those three men were off, and for whatever reason, they flew outside the pattern you laid down for them.  They died because of their own carelessness.  You were right to say that your command decisions had nothing to do with their deaths.  And yet, you seem to have trouble believing that yourself."

"Yes, Sir." Keith replied quietly.

"So, are you saying that you're questioning your own ability to lead, Keith?" Admiral Fiore said suddenly.

Keith turned his head so that his eyes were now focused in on Admiral Fiore.  "No Sir, that's not what I'm saying.  I am quite capable of any leadership ability that is presented to me."

"Are you sure of that, Keith?" Marshall Graham said next.

"Yes Sir, Marshall Graham." Keith replied firmly.  "I realize that the deaths of those men are unrelated to my command abilities.  It was an unfortunately accident."

"Well, no matter.   I called you here today for another reason, entirely different in nature.  I have invited Admiral Fiore and Vice-Marshall Graham here today for a specific purpose, that is already known to them."

"Sir," Keith said hesitantly.  "I don't understand..."

"Keith, I brought up your service record, for the purpose of commending you... not to chastise you.  You have consistently shown above and beyond performances in all areas of duty."

"Thank you, Sir." Keith replied

The Vice-Admiral rose up from his chair and walked over to where Keith sat.  There was another empty chair next to him. 

Marshall took a seat next to Keith...

"We have a very important job which must be handled very delicately and very efficiently.  We have just received word from one of our distant planets in the Denubian Galaxy...a small planet in the Azure Quadrant... called Arus.  The planet has been under attack for some time by the evil forces of a planet called Doom, ruled by a rouge member of the Drule Empire... Zarkon.   From what we've been able to ascertain, Arus has been the recipient of terror attacks, and the people of Planet Arus are in dire straights.  Arus's ruler, Princess Allura Adrianna DeVille, has requested the help of the Alliance, in battling against King Zarkon's evil forces.  You would be accompanied by four others, of which we would assign to you later, and together, the five of you will journey to Planet Arus, and aid Princess Allura in her struggles with Planet Doom."

Keith nodded to Vice-Admiral Marshall, and then, his attention was drawn to the couch, where Marshall Graham began to speak. 

"Keith, we're asking you to consider accepting the mission. We're asking you to go, rather than commanding it, because the assignment is long term.  You may not return to Earth for quite some time.   But you were the most logical choice for the position." Graham said.

Admiral Fiore chimed in next.  "Your performance records are exemplary.  We feel certain that you will do well as a lead representative of the Alliance to Planet Arus."

Keith nodded once again.  "Sir, I accept the position."

"We want you to be certain, so we won't accept an answer just yet." Graham replied.

"We would like you to take the day think things over.  Remember, this mission is long term!  You won't be coming back to Earth, for what could amount to several years." Fiore reiterated. 

"Keith," Marshall said suddenly.  "We feel you're our most experienced officer.  This position takes with it a promotion.  You will be elevated to the rank of Captain, 2nd class, with all the privileges and honors thereto.  But again, we can't stress enough that we want you to take some time to think it over.  Mill it around in your head.  But you must keep this thing quiet.  King Zarkon has operatives everywhere...and unfortunately, we can't rule out anyone in the Defense Force as possible liaisons.  So, you mustn't say anything of this meeting here today to anyone...not even your friends, understand?"

"Yes Sir," Keith replied.  "I understand."

"Good." Marshall replied as he rose to his feet.  "Now, I want you to go about your business today, think about what has transpired here this morning, and think very carefully, weighing out all the pros and cons of accepting a mission such as this.  This mission won't be easy.  There will be plenty of danger.  And you will be reporting directly to Princess Allura and her advisor, Sir Coran Anderson."

"I'm not worried about the danger factor, Sir." Keith replied bluntly. "I'm sure I can handle it."

"Indeed you can, Keith." Marshall replied.  "In that, I have no doubt.  That will be all, Lt. Commander."

"Yes Sir." Keith replied as he rose to his feet.  "Thank you, Sir... uh... Sirs."

"Dismissed." Vice-Admiral Marshall ordered.

Keith immediately turned and made his way to the door, quickly exiting the room. 

As the door closed, Marshall returned to his seat behind the desk. He sat down thoughtfully ...then let out a sigh.

"He's got to accept this mission." Marshall said to Graham and Fiore.  "If Arus is to have any chance of survival, Keith has to go."

"He'll go, Ian." Graham replied.  "If I know Keith, he'll accept."

"Why didn't you tell the boy about Voltron, and Zarkon's witch, Hagar?" Fiore asked.

"What?  And scare him off?  Are you kidding me, Antonio?" Marshall replied. "He'll find out about that later.  This was enough for him to chew on for the day."

"Shouldn't we have told him that Princess Allura is only 17 years old?" Fiore replied.

"I hardly think that makes a difference." Marshall replied.  "Whether the Princess is seventeen or seventy... this mission is extremely difficult.  Keith is our best pilot.  If he doesn't accept...frankly, I'm not sure who to send instead."

The three men let out a collective sigh at the thought that Keith might possibly decline.  A thought that no one wanted to ponder on too intensely.
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