Heading into this chapter, we’ve finally seen the MC get away from the daily threat to his life. Things should come easy to him, right? Well, they should. But, I’m not going to let them. He still has so much to learn about living, forget the little things – walking around without orders, talking to people, or even thinking he’s their equal. All of that has to be learned too, but there’s something even more basic.
Remember, he’s been trained to kill anything that touches him. Or anything that moves like it’s threatening him. Or anything that comes within arm’s reach. And, he’s not supposed to kill it quickly, but make it an entertaining spectacle.
He’s also managed to miss out on most of the simple things in life – how to talk intelligently, how to interact with others (nice, mean, bully, or any other way). And, now that his heritage has fully awoken, he’s also dealing with another strike against him – though at the moment he doesn’t know about this yet.
So, I know he’s got to get away from the Arenas into some type of paid work. For this, he’s about out of place as the Meercat above – mostly with the “Now what?” mentality. He was signed into the guards in the last chapter as a raw recruit. Over the Captain’s personal objections, but who’s going to argue with a goddess that says, “This is” in person? So, the long, hard process of socializing the savage begins.
Now, he’s expected to look like, walk like, talk like, and act like a guard. All in one setting.
If you snorted your coffee, don’t be ashamed. I chortled my soda many-a day when writing this section. And, it became even worse when I got my hands on information regarding how feral children react to such situations. Sure, you can bring anyone out of a nasty funk by keeping them around others, making them part of the group, and generally ensuring they are included. But, that’s just it. No one wanted Nameless around. He spoke funny, he dressed (or in some cases undressed) funny, and he was obviously death on two feet. Just exactly what he had been trained to be. Now, he was told he could not kill, and he had to conform or else. (Or else what?)
Here, I’ll share a snippet of just how strange Nameless is to the “free” world. Just, please, do not take a swing of your drink before reading. Keyboards and monitors don’t do so well with wet sprayed on them.
“The squad leader was happy to turn this strange man over to the quartermaster for the time needed to get his uniform made up. He had expected the newly named Nameless to dress before following him through the public corridors. No one in his experience enjoyed parading naked in public. Nevertheless, the strange man the captain had just signed into the force had not batted an eye when he was ordered to follow, and to bring along his possessions. He had scooped them up (along with the bowl, but the quartermaster would see to its return), and done just as he had been instructed to do.
Nameless followed docilely enough, not looking left or right as if he did not care who saw him in his undressed state. Uncertain if this was sheer bravado, or if the man truly did not have any modesty, Demak added another item to the growing list of things this stranger was going to have to learn if he were to survive in the free world. Surely, slaves – even fighters – were subject to modesty! However, seeing the look on the quartermaster’s face had been well worth his own personal embarrassment for having to escort someone who had clothes… just not on them… through the general population of Headquarters.”
Once we’ve got Nameless suitably dressed (and, yes, there is a bit of humor to go with this as well. You just have to read to find out what), it’s time to send him out for his first day of work. For the other guards, this is hard work – walking your beat for a quarter of the day. For Nameless this is a joke. Though he is conditioned to obey a recognized superior implicitly, the Captain didn’t even consider this. So, things start to go awry quickly. Nameless was told by the Sargent to go with this troop. And, if the Captain doesn’t remember to treat the new recruit carefully, you can well imagine just how well the rank-and-file will remember this information. So, Nameless is sent out under orders to stay with the troop, but no one explains to him about the chain of command. (Any military, para-military, or police force in the crowd? How honest is it that your chain of command becomes so ingrained you don’t think about it?)
Things again get interesting (Again? Maybe should have said “stayed” since the problems haven’t really eased any) after Nameless is inserted into the troop for his patrol. There’s a very brief glimpse of how people move between social strata, though this was not intended. Saglen (the patrol leader) used to be army, now is in the Guards. But, he wants his unit to have the same snap and polish as a crack army drill squad. And, Nameless has no idea what lockstep is, much less how to march in formation. Oh, what joys!
Oh, and there’s a few other things that crop up here as well which are worth chuckling over, and wind up sending the squad back to headquarters with Saglen in a royal fit of temper. Right into a full blown riot. The squad fears for its life, and Nameless is in heaven. Now, he can finally fight. Saglen tries to put Nameless in the protected end of his riot line, but Nameless insists on working solo. Remember waaaay back when, before the finals? When Nameless was sent out in that small-ish Arena to learn about group work? Yeah, that lesson didn’t stick around too long. He’s always fought alone, and he thinks he will always have to fight alone. He’s never had anyone there to lean on, to work with, or to talk to. So, he has no idea what Saglen is trying to do for him.
After things settle down from the riot, the issue with Nameless’ heritage finally has a chance to shine. Oh, was it a nightmare to figure out how to write the conversation too! Ask a question, answer the question, then turn the answer on its head so that it’s not answering the question truthfully, yet contains a shred of truth. All of this with Nameless’ particular syntax mangle. OK, methinks I complain too much. I had a blast writing this entire chapter.
I’m going to sign off, with one last excerpt so I don’t go a spoil the whole thing. Happy reading. If you are intrigued enough, you can always swing by Smashwords or Amazon and pick up your copy today. Honestly, I don’t mind. You can even try a sample before you buy.
“Can’t you answer anything straight!?!” The Captain exclaimed, his frustration of a bad day falling over onto Nameless.
“Talk am straight. Question ask, answer do not make right wrong?”
“Gah! You are worse than any urchin we bring in. I am going to ask you simple yes and no questions. Answer with the correct answer. Understand?”
“Were you with Saglen?”
“Did he bring the patrol back to deal with the riot?”
Nameless shrugged, not knowing why the patrol had come back.
“Did you know about the riot?”
“Did Saglen explain about riot procedure?”
“Were you told to join the riot line when he saw the mob?”
“Were you told to stay out of the fight?”
“But, you joined in anyway?”
“No? The fight mysteriously moved to where you were, drew you into itself, and then pulled you back to the center of the street?”
“Hardly. I was outside when I saw your troop come up. Now, carefully, fully, in sentences I can understand, explain to me how you came to be in the middle of that row. It ought to be interesting to hear what you say.”
“Troop join, long walk long. Boots bad, feet good, boots lost. Long walk long, left-right, left, right, straight walk, listen watch, bright hurt, walk, stop. Fight start, here was, there was, here want, here am.” Nameless moved his hands to indicate that he had been outside the fight when it started, but he had moved himself into it. “Fight did, harm none as ordered. Fun had, better feel, end, walk you talk.”