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Dec 17, 2018 4:38 AM
A Val and a Mica.
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"Months. A lot."

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"Okay. Okay, so..." they're doomed. It's hopeless. If there were a cool hero going to save them how would he do it? Assault the nest? Build a different city? "...Why? Why is the shield wall not good enough?"

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Erol shrugs helplessly. He hadn't thought about it, because thinking about it would mean questioning it, and questioning it would mean...well, this, this mess where he's a traitor and nothing will ever be okay.

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"Okay, the shield wall isn't going to hold. Metal heads are going to get in. There isn't anywhere to fall back to except maybe the fortress. Are we going to let the entire population shelter in there when the walls come down?"

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"Not big enough, not prepared enough for a siege." There aren't--

No. No. Not after what he did. Not everything he believed has to be wrong. It had to have been the right choice. It had to have been.

"Infighting," he mumbles, tripping on the word like it doesn't quite fit in his mouth.

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"Yeah. Yeah, there'll be people turning on each other, it's - we have to arm everyone. Arm your grandma. Arm the lurkers, offer them freedom if they fight for us. Everyone. Anyone."

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"The rebels," someone says, it could be anyone, and the ground is falling away underneath him. He should have stayed in line. He should have stayed cold and unwilling to question orders. He should have burned his doubts and kept burning them and kept burning him and let the fire eat him rather than consider--consider--

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"Okay, yeah, good point. We need to know if they can stop fighting us and help with the metal heads. They haven't yet, but they probably don't know about this and maybe they'd take arming them as a concession and pay us back with a ceasefire. Or we can stick to sectors with less underground presence - I know I'm not unbiased but I think the yellow zone's pretty law-abiding, or the green zone, right?"

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Erol doesn't answer. He can't answer. He can't move. He can't breathe.

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"Okay, here's what we're going to do. You're going to help me get some extra weapons and ammo. You're going to cover for me if Baron Praxis wonders what I'm up to. If you can get me all the information we have on the rebels then you'll do that too. Secretly."

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There is no discernible response.

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"Wake the fuck up, we don't have time for this."

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He doesn't move and his eyes don't focus but he draws in a long, deep breath. "Weapons," he repeats.

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"Yeah. Inconspicuous ones. Secretly."

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"I can--" Pretty lies from the Baron, careful chains to keep him tame. "--do a lot--" Keep him busy, keep him starved. "--before anyone notices."

He was both asset and liability all along. He was the one who had to be played just right lest he turn on his master.

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"Good. And cover for me if he suspects. And see if you can get me what we know about the rebels, but if that's too much it's less of a priority."

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"Red district." Think. What information did he know that might still be useful? He doesn't know who survived. If anyone survived. He told the Baron everything.

They won't trust him or anything coming from him. They're no fools.

"They do dead drops. Watch any public space long enough and one of the things people leave will be picked up by someone else. They'd--" Breathe, Erol. "A lot of them would rather die than let the Guard know anything. This information wasn't useful enough to us. It was never acted on. If you..." He shakes his head. "I don't know. I don't know what they'd believe."

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"I'll see what I can figure out about them next time I've got time. Which is really not right now. Will you be able to, you know... not look like a mess?"

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"I don't know." Breathe in. Breathe out. Display the armor he's been wearing for years. He's Commander Erol Kamis and everything is fine and he's very busy and should not be bothered.

"858678," he says. "Report."

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"Just on my way to get lectured at some more, Commander."

How the hell does he rattle all those numbers off so fast, Val's going to ask that someday when there's nothing more important happening.

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"Do you know what you're doing?"

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"Making it up as I go along, mostly."

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"Try not to get yourself killed. Mar's embrace will hold all the death you need."

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Val thinks about that for a minute. "Oh. Yeah. Okay, good, I'll check in a while. I... really hope I'm not late right now."

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"Go. I love you."

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