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Dec 16, 2018 10:28 AM
A Val and a Mica.
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Their faces are still untouched, the occasional scar the only altering feature. He dislikes this particular formality; there is no reason for him to see them now, when in days if not hours they'll be unrecognizable. Morale, the only reason he's been given, is a joke. No one else can get you through training. You get yourself through training.

"Recruits." Some of these won't make it; they hold themselves in manners that betray weakness and a lack of determination. Some half look like they're in the Guard already, their eyes the same eyes he sees every day. "Commander Erol Kamis. As Guards, you'll report directly or indirectly to me. I suggest you impress me before then."

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Val does not expect he'll be impressing anyone any time soon. But he squares his shoulders and smirks anyway.

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Yeah, that's better. Now they look like they came here for a reason.

Usually, he'd be done by now, but as things shook out, only one Guard could be here today, and he was the only one who had to be. For morale. "The tattooing process starts today, for as many of you as the artist gets to. One at a time, by number, through that door when the light goes off."

He does not have time to be babysitting these nobodies, but they shouldn't need to be anything but nominally babysat and these reports aren't going to read themselves. And who knows, maybe he can get some of these blank-faced recruits to squirm.

Shame the tattooing room is soundproofed.

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Val reads the posters on the walls and tries really hard to stop thinking inappropriate thoughts about the commander and serving his city. Erol had better not notice.

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That wasn't the kind of squirming he meant, but it works just as well. He makes a lazy circuit of the room and comes to a stop just behind his target.

"Something interesting, recruit?" he asks.

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"Um, yes, sir, I think it's really interesting that that slogan says 'sacrifice for your city and all will prosper.' Does 'all' include me? Is it really sacrifice if it makes me prosper?"

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That's...surprisingly coherent. "Temporary sacrifice for a prosperous future," he says evenly, letting a hand drift to touch the recruit lightly on his waist. "A...hard today for an easier tomorrow."

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Val will just pretend he didn't notice Erol touching him. Wouldn't want to embarrass the commander, after all, and that's such an awkward mistake.

"I see. Is it an easier tomorrow than today or just an easier tomorrow than the even worse tomorrow if we don't sacrifice today?"

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"The latter can always become the former." Squirm, damn you. "But you won't make anything easier until you're all trained up. You don't see the Krimzon Guard standing around so stiffly, do you?"

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Yeah, okay, he's not going to try to embarrass Erol, Erol's probably not going to try to embarrass him, and anyway looking awkward about it isn't helping. Very helpful pep talk! Val relaxes and smiles at Erol.

"Thanks. It's kind of hard to tell under the armor, honestly."

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"Ah, but you're not wearing armor. There's nothing to hide your stiffness...your distraction." Another touch, more firm, tracing a deliberate route. "You know it. I know it."

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Um? Um. Um?

"I'm very... excited to serve my city, sir. I don't, uh, know what you'd rather I, uh... do to... stay relaxed..."

He looks around the room. He almost doesn't want to but he figures he'd better get some idea of what the people eavesdropping on them are thinking.

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They're actually more interested in the pair having a heated argument about food toppings. It's...well, it's louder than the conversation Val and Erol are having, and at first glance more entertaining.

"No, stay excited," he says, and lets his hand drop lower.

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"Is there a reason for that, sir?"

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"Do you want there to be?"

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Oh no. Oh no. Oh no. Is he supposed to answer that. Oh no.

"I want to serve my city as effectively as possible and I certainly want to be in whatever condition makes me the most effective soldier I can be. I wouldn't have thought that being distracted would be helpful but you're the one who's a veteran, I'm assuming you'd know."

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"No one is effective all the time. Even I need to sleep, to eat. Some time for myself. A little bit of fun can go a long way, for mental rest if not physical."

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"That makes sense. Thank you. I really appreciate the advice! I'll try to find a girlfriend."

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"You're a clever one, aren't you." There's no sense pushing it right now, but there's also no reason not to give him something to think about. "Come put that clever mouth to use sometime."

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"Hm," Val says noncommittally.

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Oh well. At least he squirmed some; he'll be worth keeping an eye on. In the meantime, these reports are still not going to read themselves.

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Val is sort of relieved that that conversation was the least hot thing that's ever happened to him, counting hugging his auntie. He reads the walls for a while and listens to the other conversations in case there's one he could jump into.

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The food toppings argument has devolved into a severely misinformed discussion about agriculture.

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"Excuse me, when you say 'lurker shark farmer' what do you mean?"

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"You know, like, people who farm lurker sharks. Same as any other animal."

A different recruit jumps in. "No, lurker sharks breed their own kind and sell them, everyone knows that."

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"Huh, I always heard that all the lurker shark meat for sale is wild-caught. What do the lurker sharks even do with money?"

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