“Excellent,” Khaadgrim said as he buckled his helmet back on. “But before I can officially induct you as a Freelance Carrier you’re going to have to complete a test.”
“What do I have to do?” Davian asked eagerly. Khaadgrim ushered him to follow and they traveled around a corner and into another hall packed with busy carriers, sidestepping and passing by them to reach a door labeled “Communications”.
“Let me first get you situated with our movers and shakers, so to speak.” The orc grinned as he opened the door into the room.
Heavy machinery lined the walls between the entrance. They resembled big, black blocks of metal that had little lights which lit up red once in a while and other little switches and buttons that had labels tagged over them. Above all the little bulbs were numbers that began from one and increased endlessly. Based on Davian’s assessment of the bulbs there could be thousands of numbers on the machines.
To the far end of the room was a huge, rectangular machine that had the same little doodads like the others except to the very left of it was a very old map that had little green dots over it. The map resembled replicas of Azeroth and Outlands, both showing their own territories for better organization. A gnome manned the large machine and slid from side to side on a wheeled chair, typing and working over the controls. There was some sort of device attached to his ear with a small arm extended to where his mouth was.
The brown-haired gnome had his hair cropped up slightly at the front. His violet eyes were calm and collected as his pudgy fingers nimbly trailed the machine and elegantly sifted through all the controls. From time to time his thick mutton chops would wrinkle from speaking into the device on his head and would contort as he focused on the controls before him. As with all Freelance Carriers the gnome was dressed in red but he had an armband instead of a tabard. After settling down from the task before him he let out a sigh of relief and spun around.
“Oh my,” he spoke with light surprise, his calm expression unchanged. The gnome patted down his vest and hopped off the stool, smiling vibrantly at the two newcomers. “I wasn’t expecting company, Khaadgrim! What brings you here?”
Davian stood to the side as the two members conversed, listening to the gentle hum of the machinery and gazing in awe at the technology around him.
“Davian,” Khaadgrim said, catching his attention, “this is Flynn Audsprocket, the majordomo of communications within the FCU. Flynn, this is Davian Lyremin, a newcomer.”
“They always seem to get taller every year.” Flynn brushed his mustache and shrugged, offering Davian a hand with a smile. “Pleased to meet you, Davian!” Davian took the hand and shook it firmly, returning the smile.
“This place is amazing!” Davian said with excitement. “Do you manage all of this? How does it all work?”
Flynn chuckled. “It’s actually very simple my boy! Here, come closer.” The gnome ushered the two closer to the large terminal and went through the controls. “As you can see,” he began explaining as he pointed to the map, “this is a map of all the known continents of Azeroth and beyond. Each of these green lights indicate a carrier and monitor their positions in case something happens.”
He explained everything very quickly but fluently enough for Davian to understand. Most of the switches were for auxiliary purposes such as regulating power or shifting focus to radio groups that were very far from the communication station. The buttons caused the dots on the map to change to red and alerted any nearby carriers of that carrier’s position if danger was close. The lights on the other machines lit up if a carrier was in danger and was requesting assistance through the radio.
“And you monitor all of this by yourself?” Davian barked out with surprise. Flynn simply nodded with a smile.
“Most of the time. Cham and a good friend of mine help when I need them but for the most part it’s not that difficult. I suppose tinkering with all this after a year or two helps.” He chuckled. Davian simply stared at him and then peered around.
“Did you make all this?”
Flynn shook his head. “I only helped power it with my own ends. Cham did all the work and had some acquaintances connect it with the ley lines over Azeroth.
“Is that how the machines know? Magic?” As Flynn snickered at the notion Khaadgrim chimed in.
“Every radio is connected with the terminal to know if a carrier activated a signal or not, and each radio has a tracking device on it to ensure the safety of our employees. The ley lines simply help the connections so we can acquire better signals.” Khaadgrim gestured over the main terminal’s switches. “In fact, since Cham did that there hasn’t been much use for the focus switches.”
Flynn nodded as he hopped back into his chair. “It’s eased the burden on my shoulders and now I can actually find some time to get some coffee!”
“One more question,” Davian asked, pointing to Flynn’s headwear. “What’s that thing on your head?”
Flynn tapped the device over his ear. “Oh this? It’s something to help me communicate with carriers if needed. I suppose you don’t peruse news about technology?”
Davian shook his head. “Huh, that’s interesting.”
Khaadgrim looked to Davian. “Come, we’ve much more to see. Thank you for your aid, Flynn.” The gnome nodded and waved goodbye as the two exited the room.
“Did the headmaster really make all that?” Davian asked, sounding incredulous.
“It’s rather surprising isn’t it?” Khaadgrim scoffed humorously. “As stupid as he acts he’s actually quite the engineer. Shame he died.” Davian felt a pang of guilt for asking the question. They passed to the other side of the hall and entered a room called “War Room”.
Davian looked confused as they entered. “Why is this called the –”
Davian noticed there were already people inside discussing about something and cut himself off to avoid disturbing them . The room had a simple layout unlike the Communications room, furnished with only a clock, a large round table and several seats around it. The table was covered with a variety of maps and papers that looked like lists and other shipping eccentric work. The people surrounding the table were leaning in toward the large map of the known continents and discussing about travel paths and areas of safety and danger.
As Davian inched closer toward the maps he could see little figurines ranging from wagons to little dolls resting on them. The people discussing over the maps moved them from time to time and spoke their points of why it was a good idea to do this or that. Davian was expecting Khaadgrim to call their attention but he simply crossed his arms and waited alongside him, listening as the group conversed.
During the discussion the dwarf with the gray, twin-braided beard and thick mustache addressed the two newcomers without looking away from the maps. “I see we’ve got visitors.” When he glanced up all discussions stopped in favor of the two.
The dwarf was garbed in leather and light chain mail of brown and green, resembling those from Ironforge known as the Mountaineers. His hood was lined with a golden stitching and a green cloak concealed most of his body. There was something eerie about the dwarf that struck Davian and he could not look away from the dwarf’s half-bandaged face. It looked like the left half of the wrinkly face was burned by fire but a purple stain resided beneath the wrappings which suggested otherwise.
Davian trailed his eyes to the other people staring at him. The 5’8 human to the dwarf’s side was just as eerie, his right eye covered with strange plating and a dark, purple glow illuminating from where his eye should be. He had long, pitch black hair that was tied separately by two bands which rested over his shoulders and a beard trimmed and proper with the portion on this chin cut into a triangle. His organic eye was a stark, dark green and the man’s face was in a perpetual scowl, looking as if harshly judging Davian and causing him to quickly look away. Before he did he noticed the man’s purple and gold armor; it was shined to perfection but many scratches and damage from battle were prevalent.
The other person beside the dwarf was a female orc dressed in black and gold plated armor who stood up to 5’9 or so. Her charcoal black hair was bound and braided into a long tail that dangled just below her waist. Unlike the human she had a more lenient expression on her face, one of energy and optimism that calmed Davian. However when the orc’s hazel eyes sized him up a grin moved over her face and caused Davian to lose that sense of calmness from before.
Just beside her was another human who towered over everyone in the room, standing around at least 6’5. While the man’s black hair looked to be well cared for no strand existed at the top of his head and only furnished the sides. Davian thought he belonged to the Stormwind military due to his armor but he clearly had the FCU tabard on his person, suggesting otherwise. The man’s olive colored eyes looked to Davian for a moment and then returned to the maps.
The last two people were odd to see among the rest, an orc child with charcoal black hair and blue eyes and another human who looked to be around the same age and height as Davian was. The young man had slicked back orange hair and a thin beard and mustache. His leather armor was identical to the normal armor FCU carriers were presented with. In fact, he was the only one who wore standard issue armor; even the orcish child had his own clothing, wearing silver-colored cloth that covered all of his body.
The child and the young man were sitting while everyone else was standing. The child did not pay attention to the newcomers and kept his eyes on the maps until Khaadgrim spoke up.
“Karma,” the orc said with a pinch of scolding. “You’re not supposed to be in here, you know that.”
The little orc simply hopped off the seat, thanked the dwarf and then ran out of the room and closed the door behind him. Khaadgrim shook his head as he watched him dart off and then returned his focus to the others.
“Apologies for the intrusion, Berlshenk.” Khaadgrim gestured to Davian. “Davian, this is Commander Berlshenk Riflemot, coordinator of routes and defensive strategies.”
Berlshenk smiled wearily at Davian and nodded to him. “New to the union I assume?”
Davian managed to let out a shaky “Yes sir.” He glanced to the human with the odd eye and then looked back to Berlshenk.
The dwarf grinned and looked to the man. “Yer scarin’ him, Rhemis.” The one called Rhemis kept staring at Davian and then returned his attention to the maps after a second or two.
“He doesn’t mean ill,” Khaadgrim assured. Davian nodded even though he still felt apprehensive. Khaadgrim then went on to introduce him to the others.
“The one with the mechanical eye is Rhemis Tamias. The very tall one is Orlom Gainsborogh. Both of them are captains you may assist during your time with us. The orc is Demura Roark and leads the Horde branch of the union; on rare occasions you might help her out but right now you don’t have to worry about her.”
“Cham give you the new-guy scare?” Demura inquired with a grin on her face. She leaned onto the table with one hand and put the other one on her hip.
“Don’t answer that,” Khaadgrim replied crisply and then continued, gesturing to the young man sitting. “You’ve met his sister, that one is Mikail Illmus. You’ll work alongside him as well so be sure to get acquainted.” Mikail did a lazy, two-finger salute and Davian waved timidly in return.
“Who was the child that ran out of here?” Davian asked Khaadgrim.
“Him? That was my son, Karma.” Davian looked between him and Demura and furrowed his brows.
“Whose eyes does he have?” Davian asked as he studied Khaadgrim’s brown eyes.
“We adopted,” Khaadgrim answered calmly. “His father died in combat and his mother died during conception.” To dissuade Davian from the topic Khaadgrim gestured toward the door. Before they exited Berlshenk spoke up.
“You gave’im the full view, right Khaad?” The orc looked over his shoulder for a moment and then continued through the door.
“He’ll get it. Aka’magosh, Berlshenk.” As Khaadgrim closed the door Berlshenk watched it, a stern expression on his face. He twinkled his mustache and then went back to business with the maps.
“What was that about?” Davian asked, feeling uneasy. Khaadgrim still had his hand on the doorknob, a thoughtful expression coming over his face. He cleared his throat and then leaned in toward Davian, looking him straight in the eyes.
“I suppose Cham’s wayward optimism has clouded my perception,” the orc admitted, causing Davian to feel even more uneasy now. “Let’s go somewhere quiet and I’ll explain.” Davian followed as Khaadgrim led the way. As usual they passed by carriers busily speeding off to get papers and other work done. After a few minutes of walking they finally reached a room called “Kids”.
Before Khaadgrim opened the door he looked to Davian and raised a finger to the spiked faceplate on his helmet, signaling for him to be quiet as they entered. Davian nodded and they carefully crept into the room without making much noise. Even though Khaadgrim urged silence the inside of the room was already bustling with activity.
Children ran around screaming and chasing each other while some others minded themselves or played quietly in the corner with building blocks or dolls. Despite all the sound some children were sleeping in cradles on the other half of the room and were monitored by union members. Davian gazed around cautiously as Khaadgrim finally closed the door behind them.
There was no hatred in this room as seen by the diverse amount of children playing around. From orcs to elves it looked as if the war outside was a mere play of imagination, garnering no standing whatsoever toward the opinion of the little ones. Davian watched with intrigue as a draenei and orc child wrestled over the soft, rubber play mats covering the remaining half of the large room.
To the side Davian spotted two peculiar women knitting a large purple blanket. One was very short, looking around 4’5 and wore black clothing lined with white. She wore a wide-brimmed hat, also the same colors, that masked her rotting features. There was no doubt she was undead but why she would be here of all places was the important question.
The other woman, around 5’4 or so had light blonde hair wrapped into a flat tail that hung just a few inches on her back. She wore silver and gray light plate armor and had dark green eyes which resembled Rhemis’s. Instead of a scowl however she had a disposition of kindness on her face as she worked on her knitting alongside the undead one.
“Why did we come here of all places?” Davian asked.
Khaadgrim did not answer right away and only smiled as he watched the draenei and orc children flounder about on the play mats. He glanced sideways at Davian and then gestured to the two children. “We’ve all had our mistakes, even ones which seem beyond redemption from the eyes of today.” Davian listened carefully as he watched the two children disperse and find something else to do. “But many of us have come a long way to find that the more radical approach to peace is the right one rather than the ideas of our peers.”
He paused, then looked to the two women and their knitting. A group of children charged and fell onto the thick blanket, rolling around and laughing and causing the two women to laugh alongside them. For some reason Davian felt a huge tinge of guilt overcome him as he saw the children play around with the two union members.
“Being neutral has its advantages,” Khaadgrim continued, looking back to Davian. “While we are not critical of who we bring in, we are also prone to its disadvantages.” He turned Davian to the side and leaned towards him. Despite only being able to see his eyes Davian knew the orc was direly serious now.
“We may strive to find peace for all the races but we cannot please everyone, and those under our care have accepted their position once they agreed to consort with us.”
“What do you mean?” Davian asked. He knew he had to ask even if he did not want to.
“You are young,” Khaadgrim went on, letting out a quiet sigh. “You don’t know the true depths of the world but you will quickly realize that everyone has a reason to hate, just or not. Even if the motive is peace everyone sees a different way to reach that goal. Our way is probably the most hated.”
Davian was shocked. His jaw slacked a bit, unable to comprehend the words just given to him. “I don’t understand still,” was all he could muster.
Khaadgrim glanced to the side to where the children were playing. “About a third of those children were orphaned because their parents died fighting for our cause.” Davian tried to look over but Khaadgrim turned his head away. “Another third of their parents died because those of their own faction disliked who they were working alongside with.”
“What?” Davian almost cried out. The color in his face began to disappear as he stared at Khaadgrim with aghast eyes.
“The one great disadvantage of working on a neutral plane is that the people you’re trying to protect may lash back at you. We try to protect all our members but some situations simply cannot be contained.”
Davian leaned onto the door and let out a breath, eyes darting over the floor as he tried to find his words. “W-why,” he began shakily, “what was their reasoning for something like that?” Davian looked up to Khaadgrim, begging for any credible answer the orc could muster. He moved a hand underneath his helmet and rubbed his face.
“Everyone has their reasons,” Khaadgrim said calmly. “While some are more justified than others your question simply cannot be summed up with one answer.” He knew Davian was about to erupt with anger. Before Davian could do anything Khaadgrim put his hands on his shoulders.
“Davian,” the orc addressed him calmly, trying to subside the anger within him. “Many of us have sacrificed much because of what we believe in. Only a rare handful have transitioned smoothly from who we once were to who we are now but the troubles of the future have yet to reveal themselves.” Davian began taking long, quiet breaths, the anger in him slowly diminishing with each exhale. His fists uncurled and then dangled to his sides as Khaadgrim rubbed his shoulders to try and ease him.
“This is what I wanted to clarify with you,” Khaadgrim began again after several minutes. “If you decide to join us the days ahead of you may become infinitely shadowed with hate.” A pause ensued and Khaadgrim removed his hands from Davian’s shoulders. “If you do not wish to plague yourself of what may come from your peers then I do not blame you. But if you believe in our route to peace then prepare for the worst.”
The predicaments changed for him. At what first seemed like an easy-going job turned out to be a life decision. He barely knew the justifications for hatred and knew even less about the cultures beyond the Alliance. The words from the orc latched onto his heart, causing his mind to spiral down upon a precipice of unforeseen consequences. He wanted to understand but the fear felt overbearing. But then a thought passed through him which eased the decision.
“The wise man may have lost everything dear to him but he has gained knowledge which could spare the generation before him.” As Davian spoke Khaadgrim saw resolve surface in the young man’s eyes. The orc was only slightly convinced.
“Are you certain you understand the extent of your words?” Khaadgrim asked. “The man only suffered because his choices were thrust upon him, not chosen by his hand. You are still able to choose, Davian.”
The glint of resolve still lingered in Davian’s eyes as he spoke. “My mother and father wouldn’t have pointed me here without understanding the consequences, they aren’t fools. ” Khaadgrim furrowed his brows at Davian and looked at him hard. Davian kept his eyes locked on the orc until he glanced to the two members with the thick, knitted blanket over their legs. The undead one was distributing sliced pieces of spice bread while the blonde one rallied the children to get their share.
“The one in plate is Catherine Tamias. The one with the hat is Airolem Simes. Once they’re done the three of you meet me at the shipyard.” Davian smiled brightly and nodded. As Khaadgrim exited the room he let out a sigh and then whispered a few words under his breath.
“May the gods favor your resolve, Davian.”